THE BRAZEN CAREERIST- Get married: Leave career for later

Find a husband first, then a career

Women should find a husband while they're in college. I know I sound like a throwback to the 1950s. But maybe that's what we need right now. Most of you are not in college, and not everyone is heterosexual. But wherever you are, if you're single and want to have kids with a partner, start looking very seriously for one right now.

There is no evidence to show when in a woman's career is best to have kids. At any point, she's thrown off track. At any point when a woman has kids, statistically she will start to earn less money even if she takes no maternity leave whatsoever. There's no evidence to show that it's easier to have kids at a certain point in a career.

There's lots of evidence to show that a woman's biological clock takes a nose-dive at age 35. A huge percentage of fertility statistics get bad at 35.

There's also lots of evidence to say that having kids three years apart is best for the kids. There's a distinct advantage for first-born kids. They are richer, smarter, and as if that's not enough, year after year 90 percent of Harvard's incoming freshmen are first-born. You can mitigate the impact of birth order on your second child by having three years between kids.

If you start when you're 28, you can have two kids, three years apart, before you're 35. But this plan doesn't take into consideration that about 20 percent of pregnancies end in a miscarriage. This means you have almost a 50 percent chance of having to go through three pregnancies to have two kids, which means you should start when you're 27.

If you want to have babies when you're 27, then you probably want to be married when you're 25. This is good news because if you marry very young, you're more likely to get divorced, but the statistics get much better if you wait until you're 25. For a healthy marriage, experts think people should be married two or three years before they consider having children. A reasonable expectation is to meet someone, date for a couple of years, and get engaged with almost a year's time to pull off a wedding. So you need to meet the person at age 22.

Which is, very inconveniently, one year after college graduation­ maybe the hardest year of your whole life to meet someone: Sixty percent of 22-year-olds are living with their parents, many have no idea what city they will live in next, most feel disoriented and lost. So you may as well meet someone in college. College life is perfectly set up to meet lots of people who are similar to you, and you have lots of discretionary time in your life at that point to figure out who you like.

The good news here is that a large body of research shows that you will gain more happiness by being married than by having a good job. Yes, you should not have to choose between a good job and marriage. But this column is not about what is fair or what is just. It is about what is real.

You have a biological clock that does not pay attention to issues of social justice. You cannot control your biological clock, and you cannot control the workplace. But you can control where you spend your time and energy, and you should look hard for a husband early on. Take care of the marriage first, then the career.