The following conversation could take place between two unmarried missionaries who are not contented with their singleness and know each other very well.
Pat: “I’m beginning to wonder if I’ll ever get married. I’m already 39 and even if I got married today, I’d be over 60 when my oldest child finishes college.”
Chris: “That’s nothing. I’m 39 too, and within a few years I may not even be able to have a child at all, even if I did get married.”
Both Pat and Chris are keenly aware of their ticking biological clocks.
Male and/or Female Issue?
Both men and women get older, so these clocks are issues for both; however, they tend to be a greater issue for women than for men for three reasons.
- Menopause. Usually somewhere between 40 and 60 years of age women gradually stop menstruating and are unable to bear children. This is why Abraham and Sarah both laughed when God said she would bear a child (Genesis 17:17 and 18:12). Drastic hormonal changes also occur at this same time. Although some people talk about male menopause, men may father children into their 80s, and hormonal changes slowly decline all during adulthood with no drastic changes at any particular age.
- Ratio of single women to single men. Among long-term missionaries today there are far more single women than single men. These ratios vary widely by agency, field, and team, but they often range from 3:1 to 7:1. With so many more women than men, it is less likely that women will find spouses while serving in a host culture.
- Genetic birth defects. Nearly everyone has met someone with Down Syndrome. The incidence of this defect increases with the age of the mother. At age 30 the chance is one in 1000, at age 35 the chance is one in 400, at age 40 the chance is one in 100, and at age 45 the chance is one in 30. Although the incidence also increases slightly each year with the father’s age, the increase is trivial compared with the mother’s age.
What is a woman to do if she wants to marry and have children? Likewise, what is a man to do? Here are several options with some of the major advantages and disadvantages of each.