“I’m scared of having children,” said Carmen, a 23-year-old graduate student, and she’s not alone- most of my classmates react exactly like her when I show them pictures of my son.

I have a one-year-old baby boy who is the love of my life, but not the whole purpose of it. I study, I work, and I try to build my career in a very competitive men’s world like Carmen, and all my other female classmates do. The only difference is none of them have children.

There are various reasons behind this fear, but the one I hear the most is: “I want to build my career first.” and this is a valid reason, my only problem with this answer is that it often hides the real reason: “I don’t want to fail my chance of a career by having children.”

20-something women don’t need to be stressed about having a family or comply with their parents’ expectations about grandchildren. Still, they should not be afraid of having children or the possibility that it would ruin their professional future.

“Once I told them I was pregnant, they put me off the promotion track.”, said Lin, a long-time lower and a mother of two. Studies across Europe and the U.S. show that mothers are less likely to be promoted and earn less than other women. The child penalty is a regular practice that most female professionals consider before getting pregnant and build their personal and professional lives around it.

As a result, maternal age in developed countries rises. According to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), the average age at which women in 28 developed European countries first become mothers is 30. South Korean women are the oldest to first give birth at 31 on average. That brings up the risk of age-related fertility problems which scientists tackle by freezing eggs and performing in vitro fertilization (IVF), by which an embryo created in a lab is implanted in the uterus.

More than 8 million babies are born from IVF since the world’s first procedure in 1978. IVF is an amazing opportunity for childless families and same-sex couples for biological children. Still, procedures are painful and costly, and success rates vary considerably depending on the age of the woman.

But is it worth pushing back motherhood for older age? Can you imagine rising teenagers in your late 40-ties and 50-ties or even later? Can you imagine quit your life once you finally feel accomplished to start changing diapers all day and nursing all night?

It is hard. It’s the hardest thing I ever did, but it helped me grow as a woman and a person. It’s a choice every woman should make for her self but never out of fear.