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At the age of ten life seems simple, it's all about running jumping and climbing trees. By eighteen you have discovered the opposite sex, alcohol and nightclubs. By twenty five you are your own person, confident and full of life. Suddenly you hit thirty. You find yourself questioning your choices from the years that have past, feeling slightly left on the shelf, wondering where your life is heading, juggling family and friends and faced with ever aging parents. You are not alone, welcome to 30 years and countinga sideways look at life in your thirties.

Children: To have or not to have in your thirties?

By the time you hit your thirties one subject that is bound to have raised it’s ugly head is that of having children. In my experience men find themselves under pressure to settle down, commit and start a family leaving the party years of their twenties behind them while women face the unstoppable ticking of their body clock. Only a few decades ago in the age of our parents things were clear, you married in your early twenties and quickly started a family but in this modern age the path to a family is anything but simple.

Personally I don’t have any children. I would like to at some point in the future but believe that life is full of surprises and don’t agree with setting deadlines or saying I want them by a certain age or time. For most people by the time they reach their thirties you release that the real problems in life are not created by failing to live your life by some master plan but rather are the ones that rear their head at 3am on a rainy Sunday morning which you never saw coming in the first place. My experience with having children instead comes from my Sister, Julie, who gave birth to my beautiful niece, Lacie, some four years ago now and who I have had the pleasure of watching grow up. 

When it comes to my friends they are pretty much a mixed bag. I have some friends how have had children at a young age including while still in their teens. Some of my friends have formed relationships with people who already have children and a further few are married and have had children of their own. On the opposite end of the scale I also have friends who have been married and separated because their partner has put pressure on them to have a family. My friends then pretty much cover all possibilities on the child front but most fall into the camp of being in long term relationships knowing that the topic of getting married and having children is looming over them. 

One friend of mine is expecting a baby very soon in actual fact. A few weeks and the little bundle of joy should be here. While this is of course a joyous occasion I must admit that I am somewhat worried for the child. You see my friend in question never really wanted children in the first place and I suspect that they are only doing it to keep their husband happy. This in itself I think is rather sad. Doing something as big as creating a new life just to pleasure your partner when really it is not what you want. My view is that a relationship should be built on honesty and that you shouldn't just go along with something that you are apposed to just to please someone else but I digress. The problem is that my friend so far seems to regard the yet unborn child as nothing more than lifestyle accessory. Her plan is to have the baby, stay off work for six months and then dump it into the care of other people so it doesn’t get in the way of what she wants to do. She is justifying this to herself by saying that putting the child into care will be good for it’s social skills. In reality anyone who knows anything about children knows that their social skills don’t develop until about the age of three and a half and until this time they couldn’t care less about others.

Now of course everyone is entitled to raise their children how they see fit but is putting a child into care four days out of seven really in a child best interest or is it doning what the parent wants instead regardless of the childs needs? Taking into account the amount of time a baby sleeps in the first few years and the fact that they are only planning on having the child three days a week this means that by the time the child is of school age less than half of it’s life will have been spent with it’s parents. In my view that is not bring up a child. Instead it is more like renting one. Ironically I bet if you told this family to be that they could only see their child every three weeks out of seven they would fight with everything they have against it yet this is pretty much what they are doing. Maybe things will be different when the child actually arrives but I am less than hopefully.

Perhaps my views are somewhat old fashioned. I still view bring a new life into the world  as a very serious thing. Our world is full of joy and wonder but it is also a place of terror and horror at times. The life that you create will (one hopes) out live you and my view is that you should set out to give that new life the best start you can. I sometimes think that people put more thought into buying a dog than they do having children. 

I was brought up in a traditional family unit with a Mother who stayed at home to raise my sister and me and a Father who worked. That said my Dad always took time off to come to every school play, parents evening or other important event in my childhood and since he was self-employed this invariably meant going unpaid for his time. Although the world has changed since then I still believe that if it is possible for a parent to stay at home with their child at least until school age then this is best option. Before anyone jumps down my neck accusing me of being sexiest please note that I said parent and not Mother specifically. I have absolutely no problem with the idea of stay at home Dad’s. A child is an equally shared responsibility. Now of course this is not always an option in this day and age especially with single parent families but given the wide range of employment law in the UK accommodating parents from job shares to flexi time there really isn’t any excuse for a child to spend more time away from their parent(s) than with. If a family finds themselves to be lucky enough to be in a situation where one parent can stay at home and they can still maintain financial security and a comfortable standard of living then there really is no excuse at all.

Money is of course only part of the argument. A child only takes their first steps once, they only speak for the first time once and they only call someone Mummy or Dad for the first time once. I personally wouldn’t want there to be a possibility that some stranger in a crèche was the first person to experience these things rather than me. These little moments are what matters in life. No one on their deathbed has ever said “I wish I spent more time at the office!” Interestingly current research points toward children who are raised by a stay at home parent in the first few years are more advanced than those put into care. Personally this makes perfect sense to me. Even with a fulltime Nanny a child will not get the same level of interaction they get with a parent at home yet alone one that is in care with up to twenty other children at a time from nine to five. My sister has stayed at home to raise my niece and now that she is heading off to school my sister is returning to work. As a result her preschool test results indicate that her Maths, English and art skills are advanced for her age. Something which I truly believe has come from the time and attention my Sister and our family in a wider sense have given to her during these important first few year. Quality time and experiences which she would not have got had my Sister not been their for her.

I guess in closing then that having children and how you bring them up depends upon your view of children as a whole. For some people they are the centre of their world while for others they are only in the way. My view is that if you are not willing to give children the time they need then you shouldn’t be having them especially when some many parents are heartbroken because they can’t or tragically lose theirs.

So what is your view then guys? Are you looking to have children or maybe you already have them. What are your plans for looking after them and how do you maintain a work life balance? I would love to hear your views on this one.

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