To Have Children Now, or Later, That’s the Question: Sequencing of Life Decisions

By Leanne Zeppenfeldt

Many young women face the choice whether they want to have children before, during, or after they study and start their career. While all choices are valid, they will most likely influence the life and career of women. 

Namely, if woman A decides to have children during her studies, she is probably delayed in her studies due to the delivery and the time her children take up. Furthermore, money is likely to be an issue. However, as woman A starts working, she is less likely to be stalled in her career by pregnancy/discrimination.

Woman B decides to have children after she finished her studies. While she is not affected by her children during her studies, they will affect/delay her career. Nevertheless, money might be more affluent due to her increased availability to work, but saving and building capital might remain difficult, as she is less likely to get promotion(s) and move forward in her career.

Lastly, woman C decides to have children when she is already advanced in her career, partly due to her ability to devote more time to her career, as family life was not a ‘distraction’. While this probably resulted in more available capital, age and pregnancy (leave) might influence her ability to have children and her ability to advance further in her career afterwards.

Hence, what becomes apparent from the comparison above is that the sequencing of the ‘events’ of studying, investing in one’s career, and having children is significant to the outcome (career/capital/family). Furthermore, as the comparison of woman B and C illustrates, it is not only the sequence that matters, but also the relative timing of events. Other factors will obviously also play a role in determining the outcome, but in identical situations the sequence of events can explain a lot of the variation of outcomes.