SCAGGSVILLE – Laurie Collins once thought she might never have children. When she finally did have her first, in 1992, she was 33 years old — more than eight years older than the average first-time American mom was at the time.
By then she had remarried, finished graduate school, and had a good job that would allow her to spend a lot of time with her newborn. She and her husband, Ken Chow, who planned Brian’s birth carefully, felt secure and ready.
What they did not feel was old.
“It didn’t feel at all late to me,” Collins said, especially since the other first-time moms around her in California’s Silicon Valley, where Collins and Chow lived at the time, all appeared to be around her age.
But when she had Brian, the average age of first-time American moms was 24.4 years old.
By 2000, the average had inched up to 24.9 years, capping a steady rise since 1970, when the average age of first-time moms was 21.4, according to a 2002 report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Health Statistics.
The increase was even greater in Maryland, where the average age for first-time mothers rose 4.5 years, from 21.6 years in 1970 to 26.1 years in 2000. Maryland was one of eight states that reported an increase of more than four years during the period.
Massachusetts had the highest increase and the highest average age, rising 5.3 years to and average age of 27.8 in 2000.
The CDC report attributed the delay in births, in part, to women’s education and career goals.
Collins, who changed jobs to be able to spend more time with her children — Brian’s brother, Evan, was born seven years ago — said managing work and kids remains a challenge.
Like many working parents, Collins and Chow struggle with what she calls a “time battle.” She works full time as a resource teacher with the Howard County public schools, and Chow is the vice president of marketing for Group One, a local software company.
The challenge starts with the long days. For Collins, weekdays usually start at 4:45 a.m. and do not end until after 9:30 p.m., when the kids go to bed. They are not much shorter for Chow, who rises later, but works longer hours.
“We don’t get to sit down until the kids go to sleep,” she said.
On a recent Sunday at their Scaggsville home, Collins and Chow ordered pizza and wings for dinner. Brian and Evan had a friend over, and the boys played video games and watched television — a treat, since they had no school on that particular Monday. On a school night, the boys would be doing their homework.
Collins, 44, and Chow, 43, say their life is not any different from younger parents’ lives. Their age did not mean they had more parenting knowledge. They balance work and spending time with their kids. They rush to the doctor and to parent-teacher meetings. They calm sibling spats.
And they learn how best to manage as they go.
“We don’t know anything more than they do,” Collins said.