All over the country, women are having babies later in life. They are redefining the boundaries of age and reshaping the profile of motherhood and family life. Why are women waiting so late in life to have babies? One big reason is careers. Many women are waiting until their careers are established, and they feel more financially secure before having children. Others have simply put off marriage and children in favor of a career. Divorce and remarriage also play a factor. Women who remarry after a divorce or the death of a spouse often long to establish a “new” family. These “new” families are often established when couples are in their late 30s oven 40s.
There are definite advantages to being mid-life parents.
- Older men tend to be more involved fathers. “Men’s attitudes about what it means to be a father have dramatically shifted,” explained William S. Pollack, Ph.D., Co-director of the Center for Men at McLean Hospital, Belmont, Mass., and assistant psychiatry professor at Harvard. Many middle-aged men choosing fatherhood today are well-established baby boomers. Fatherhood in the 1950s usually meant a distant male who went to work, supported the family, but left the child rearing to mom. Men of this era may not remember having much affection or physical contact from their dads. Today’s dads are part of the team and are more committed to fatherhood.
- Parents are more established in their careers. If career issues are ironed out, children are less of a threat. Parents feel like they have time for both their career and a family. Parents are also more financially stable. They probably own property or a house. This is one less financial burden. This also means that they can probably better afford quality child care.
- Older parents say they are more patient, calm, and better able to go with the flow than they were when they were younger. The farther away from childhood that you are, the easier it is to understand it. Many parents feel that if they had become parents in their 20s, they were still too much a child themselves to be a good parent. They’ve reached a new level of maturity. They don’t worry so much about their children’s position on the developmental scale. They realize now children don’t have to be perfect. They don’t need children to fulfill their ambitions and prove they are good people. The children are freer just to be individuals and grow up in loving, supportive atmospheres.
- Older parents have more time to spend with their children. They realize what a precious gift they have been given and want to make the most of it.
Issues Older Parents Face
Being a mid-life parent does affect some aspects of parenting. It can make you feel isolated among parents who are much younger than you are. This often happens at school events and even during childbirth classes. It can also bring out varying personality traits from perfect strangers who so rudely ask, “Are you are the parent or the grandparent?”
Bending and squatting isn’t as easy as it was when you were younger, but parents today are very health conscious, and exercise is often a part of the daily routine. And you’ve heard parents say they get tired so easily – but what parent doesn’t? No one likes to have his/her sleep interrupted in the middle of the night.
You may also worry about how your children will feel about having older parents and how old you’ll be when they graduate from high school. You may also worry about having enough energy to play soccer at age 50.
Having a baby at any age is a big decision. Whether you’re 20 or 40, most parents will tell you that becoming a parent is one of the most satisfying things they’ve ever done in their life.