There’s no perfect age for parenthood
The other day while out walking, I found out that 40 was too old to have kids if you were a man.
I’d hit the streets pushing our littlest in the pram in an effort to give hubby a rare sleep-in, and as can happen ran into an older gentlemen who was walking his dog.
While I was expecting a quick nod and hello as per usual early-walkers-protocol, this gentleman fell into step beside me and struck up a conversation by asking about the age of bubs.
He then asked if I had any other kids to which I replied, “one, a three year old” and then the flood gates opened.
He told me that he had two adult children but had remarried a younger lady and was now bringing up a tweenager as he was heading towards his 60s.
I didn’t have to read between the lines to work out it wasn’t going well. He told me.
“She had a friend over the other night and they got dressed up. Her mother thought it was fine, but I thought she looked ridiculous in her skimpy skirt and top”.
“I just can’t relate anymore and while of course I love her, it’s just so much harder”, he continued finishing with the pearler; “Yep, if you don’t have them by the time you’re forty, you may as well not bother.”
Clearly his relationship with his daughter was playing on his mind (why else would you blurt out your family history to a complete stranger dressed in lycra before sun-up) and if I wasn’t so blown away I probably would have said something more than just, “riiiiiiiight”.
We always hear about the pressure on women to hurry up and have kiddies and the ‘freakish’ or ‘selfish’ nature of those who leave it until later in life, but aside from the occasional story of an aging rock star who insists how happy he is with his newborn as he hands them off to the nanny, we don’t often hear about where the men sit.
Just as women are having babies later these days, it seems so too are the blokes and for much the same reasons: waiting for compatibility as well as educational, career and financial pursuits.
And while the boys aren’t as limited biologically, consider the role they are culturally expected to take with their kids.
Traditionally it falls to the fathers to throw them around, give them horsy-back rides, pick them up when their legs are too tired and (as hubby does) pretend to “be the bear” and chase the kids around while they scream endlessly “do it again daddy, do it again!”
It must be a different bonding experience if the artificial hip keeps getting in the way.
I also read an anecdote from a woman who found her 63 year old father after a stroke when she was just five. She wrote about living in fear from that moment on that he would not be there for her. Interestingly he lived for quite a long time, but then she was faced with the emotional strain of looking after him as an invalid.
Obviously there’s a massive difference between fathering at 40 and at 73 as per Charlie Chaplin, but even now as an older couple we talk about how we were going to stay fit and healthy so we can keep up with the kids at their twenty-first(s).
But what about the positives?
Greater financial confidence, more experience, mistakes made and learned from and being in a better place after achieving some set goals.
In reality there is no perfect time for kids and they’ll always bring challenge and delight in equal measure no matter what age you are.
I guess the trick is to stay confident, persist and do the best you can.
And although I enjoyed the experience, maybe talk to your wife and child instead of strangers in the street.
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