This article is from Issue 60: Nov/Dec 2012

The Kid Effect

Whether or not they're yours, kids come into the picture in your twenties, and they change everything.

"Enjoy your life ... while you still can!"

My husband was mostly joking, but slightly serious, as he teased our friends who’d just shared their surprising news: She’s pregnant. The news for them—and for many couples in their twenties entering parenthood—was a mixed bag of joy and excitement topped off with a good deal of trepidation.

How would their life change? What about their careers, finances, free time, marriage and cultural cache? Were they destined to become a couple bedecked in burp cloths, mom jeans and a Baby Bjorn? Would their identities be swallowed up in the new monikers “Mom” and “Dad”? Would their sex life fade into oblivion? Would they become “those people”—the ones who never go out with their friends anymore and can only stick to a subject if it involves their seven-pound-three-ounce bundle of joy?

The worry—even dread—many twentysomethings feel about parenthood and the inevitable lifestyle changes it brings may be one factor in the current demographic shift toward later parenting. The average age for a woman’s first birth is 25 years old.

In fact, according to a Pew Research study, the number of babies born to women over 35 has grown 64 percent since 1990. Later marriage, more schooling and acute dedication to one’s career are significant factors leading many young couples to wait longer to have kids. The reality is, no matter your age, babies really do change everything. As soon as crying and cooing enter the scene, the landscape of life is radically altered.

But what changes—and how it changes—may not be what you expect.

Your Freedom Changes

Perhaps the most enduring sacrifice of new parents is the reality that it’s no longer just the two of them. They can’t spontaneously hop in the car to catch a late-night movie, hit the beach for the day or even sleep in soundly on the weekends. They can’t upgrade their smartphones without keeping an eye on the diaper budget. And, sadly, baby isn’t welcome at the wine bar on Saturday night. Life’s former freedoms are a thing of the past, as now every decision, purchase and plan must be made with a third party in mind.