By Ana and Mario Vela
Photograph by Isaac Joel Torres
In the Couple Chat series, we pose one or two topical questions to a couple and ask each person to answer privately. Each person then reads the other’s response and the couple discusses their thoughts on the topic. They share their discussion together in the reflection.
For today’s Couple Chat, we asked Ana and Mario Vela, expectant parents, about their decision to wait 10 years after being married to have a child. Here’s what they said.
How long did you wait to have children after you were married? Why did you wait that long?
Ana: Mario and I married young, at 21 years old. We have been married for 10 years, and now decided to finally have children.
Where we grew up, it was very common to have children at a young age. There were lots of teen pregnancies. There were also many young couples that ended up unexpectedly pregnant, and decided to marry afterwards because of that child.
I saw the struggles parents went through, and the regret that they didn't get their education, pursue a career, and enjoy some of the things life had to offer. Unfortunately, a large percentage of these couples ended up separating or divorcing because they got together for the wrong reasons.
Ever since I was in high school, I knew I wanted to enjoy my life before having children. I didn't want to feel like I settled and end up resenting my child, which I saw many people do.
Growing up, my family lived in poverty and struggled financially. Although that shaped who I am, I didn't want my child to experience that, so it was essential for me to get an education and establish a career.
Mario: Ana and I made the decision that we would try to be as successful as possible in our educational attainment and careers before having children. We decided that we would be the first in our families to earn a bachelor’s degree, and then I eventually earned a master’s degree.
We also decided to travel, move to Chicago from San Antonio, and focus on and have fun with our marriage. We thought we would start trying earlier, after about five years, but the move to Chicago made us reevaluate our timing. After recently buying a townhome, we both felt comfortable in our career and financial stability to provide our child the life we wanted.
Did other people question your decision to wait?
Ana: When Mario asked for my hand in marriage, my father gave us permission with the condition that we both graduate from college. After that happened, my parents did question when the grandchildren were arriving. But after working so hard to get our degrees, why would we dive into another time-consuming phase of our life? We wanted to enjoy ourselves, so Mario and I made a list of things we wanted to accomplish before having children. On that list were things like travel, get promotions, make a certain salary, and move to a big city.
Throughout the years, we were constantly hounded by people to have children. My parents stopped though. Actually, I think they were starting to think we were never going to start! It wasn't until this last year that they finally put the pressure again that they wanted grandchildren. Except this time, we were on the same page.
Although marriage is a commitment, having children was an even bigger one to Mario and I. We wanted to be sure we were going to be able to stay together through it. We needed to go through ups and downs, work hard, struggle, fight, and experience successes in order to be fulfilled and ready to bring a life into this world.
Mario: Yes, but nowhere near what Ana experienced. When we would be together, family and friends would be antagonistic and confrontational to Ana on why she would wait that long.
I also noticed higher levels of confrontation with lower levels of socioeconomic status and educational level. Since in our families we’ve far surpassed educational attainment, the questions were frequent. However, with friends of ours who have higher levels of education, questions didn't start until Ana started approaching 30. I believe that in both of our families, no one has waited until they were over 30 to have children.
Ana: Since we have talked about this for 10 years, we weren't surprised that we had similar answers to these questions.
During this exercise we started to think about our family. We don't believe anyone had children after the age of 25. Mario's mother was even 17 when she had him. So deciding to have children at age 31 was very out of the norm, even though biologically it's a very healthy age to do so.
It was funny to me that Mario said I experienced more pressure than he did. I didn't realize that had happened, but it's true. It's based on gender roles. People would ask me when we were having children in front of Mario to add pressure. And it was very awkward. I had completely forgotten about that!
Trying to explain to some people that we valued education, our careers, and our marriage over children was such a challenging concept. Sometimes I felt like people reacted negatively towards our decision to wait.
This is what we felt worked best for our lives. We respect any couple's decision regarding their own family.