There was a discussion on the feisty feminist blog feministing about the current trends where women are waiting until later in life to have children. Several women talked about how the years in a woman's life that are physically optimal for childbearing may not be a time when she really feels ready to be a mother.
I'm cool with that IF it is really the woman herself who is unready. If she feels that her emotional development is unfolding on a different schedule than the physical development, that's fine. She'll decide for herself what is the best balance between the two.
But the types of unreadiness women referred to the most were both emotional and financial readiness. Often, those two factors were mentioned in the same breath. But we really need to separate those.
Purely emotional readiness is an internal state. Only the woman can decide when she is in the kind of relationship she wants to be in, feels ready to devote the emotional energy and attention that a child needs, etc.
But what about financial readiness? That's an external concern. Here's one of the commenters from feministing:
Well, I didn't get married (or otherwise have a stable partner) until I was 27, and we were hella poor for the first few years. So it really wasn't about me going "oh la la, I'll do it later" so much as "Wow, I really don't want to be pregnant on an all-ramen diet."
I personally won't be having kids until my mid-30's because I'll still be in residency making about 30 grand until I'm 34.
The implication is that they may be ready in their hearts for motherhood, but not ready in the pocketbook. If women who might be both physically and emotionally ready to have children routinely feel like they can't because of finances, then our society is failing to meet the needs of women and families.
What are the factors that make so many young adults unable to afford parenthood? Entry-level jobs with lousy pay and no flexibility? Oppressive student loan debt? Do prejudices against older workers or workers with kids make it necessary for women to spend their early years establishing their careers and postpone childbearing until later? What if some of them would have preferred to do it the other way around?
You all know that this is one of my hobby horses. We talk about valuing motherhood, but are we ready to build a culture that really supports it?
Choosing when to have kids should mean that women can decide based on their internal factors of physical and emotional readiness, not because they're financially backed into a corner.