The other day while out walking, I found out that 40 was too old to have kids if you were a man.

Alec Baldwin, 54, is about to become a father again. Photo: AP

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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27 comments

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    • Neil says:

      05:20am | 18/02/13

      I think the problem is this 60 year old is still living in the 50s. My father was older and this was really the only problem. Apart from that I had a good childhood.

    • bj says:

      06:24am | 18/02/13

      I wouldn’t base any major decision on anything said by the sort of bloke who chats up random women in the street. In fact, i would’t believe anything he says. There are plenty of 40 year olds who run rings around some 20 year olds.

    • Pedro says:

      11:29am | 18/02/13

      I call BS onthe tenuous premise on which this article is based:

      “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. “

      A. Men are the ones who let women have a sleep in.
      B. Old blokes falling into stride beside you the street. As if.

      Don’t take us for idiots. Could not read it after those first two paras.

    • Rose says:

      01:47pm | 18/02/13

      Pedro, you’re not really up to date with how the world now works are you? Many couples take it in turns to get a sleep in and many older people are actually quite fit . I’m also thinking that as she was pushing a pram she probably wasn’t breaking any land speed records either.
      You should probably get out and have a look around you at the way people live their lives nowadays, you might actually learn some stuff!!

    • Timmeh says:

      07:45am | 18/02/13

      As someone who just squeezed in under the cut-off age, he’s not too far off the mark. Get them borned by 35 if you can. That way you’ll be still energetic when they’re 21.

    • Ewan says:

      12:52pm | 18/02/13

      Well I got married at 46 to a woman 10 years younger. We had our son when I was 48 and she 38. Because I own a couple of properties outright and we can afford a housekeeper 25 hours a week, no one misses out on anything. We get to go out to dinner, my wife gets to stay sane by working three days a week and I get to keep my responsible job. Our housekeeper is frmo the Philippines and is with us most weekdays from 3 til 8. Sures gives you a life if yuo don’t have to wash, clean and cook. Gigi is like a part of the family and little Finbar loves her. She stays over when ever she wants to and plenty of our friends in Mosman employ her as well so Gigi gets to send a lot of money back home. I’m even teaching her to drive - which is scary. Sadly she is very attractive so my wife is not as enoured with her.
      If I become a parent when I were younger, then I might not be financially secure. I’d hate to have a mortgage and a crap job and have to try and provide too.

    • bloke says:

      04:02pm | 18/02/13

      ewan, are you kevin for double bay?? i couldn’t work out if your post was authentic or taking the pi$$

    • Joe says:

      08:04am | 18/02/13

      Actually there IS a perfect age for parenthood, but it is different for each of us.  Though while most of us have some idea what that age is, it is not really important unless we miss it by a wide margin - particularly in the younger direction.

    • Rose says:

      08:15am | 18/02/13

      It all depends on mum and dad’s mindset and physical health. Now, assuming that mum and dad are fit and healthy, it’s up to them to ensure that they don’t allow themselves to be old and stale, increasing the generation gap. It would be so difficult for kids who are going through the normal teenage angst to also be alienated from their parents who refuse to understand the modern world.
      The thing is though, that becoming old and stale is not just a problem with older parents. There are heaps of parents who, even though they are younger, think that the world is the same s it was when they were younger. It isn’t. The basics might be the same, but the layers are very different, particularly with technology changing the way people interact and making kids ‘switched on’ 24/7, with no respite from peer pressure and bullying.

    • Fiona says:

      08:34am | 18/02/13

      I wonder if the issue with the older man in the article was that he had already raised kids and was doing it all over again. Being in the same position (although younger) myself, it does your head in a bit when you find yourself looking at cars/houses to buy/wedding reception venues with one child and discussing pimple treatments/after (primary) school activities with another.
      I too, love all my kids, but look forward to the day when my protracted period of active parenting has been completed. I also couldn’t stand having teenagers approaching retirement age. I know a few women who will be in that position and don’t envy them.

    • Milly says:

      09:16am | 18/02/13

      Having had our children in our late twenties we find ourselves in our late forties free from the responsibilities of young children. We have a number of friends our age who left having children till their late 30’s and early 40’s and are now in their mid 40’s chasing toddlers around. Our kids are at university, driving cars, pretty well independent.  Of course it’s ‘possible’ to parent young kids in your 40’s and 50’s but I ‘m glad we chose our timing, rather than our friends’.

    • Meh says:

      09:41am | 18/02/13

      Running around playing with the tikes is mainly before they are teenagers and quickly ditch you for their mates, so even if you have them at 45, as long as you are taking care of yourself you are fit enough for games.

      The guys problem was he mentally couldn’t relate and didn’t want to see his kid as growing up, which is normal. It is creepy to see the “My best mate mum and me blazing it up at the nightclubs picking up guys” facebook posts.

      The best age would be around 30, you have had time to live life prior to the kids and when your kids have their kids, you are young enough to have games with the grandkids.

    • Just dont have kids says:

      09:41am | 18/02/13

      my parents had me and my 2 sisters at the start of the 90s, we are all 18-23 now.
      they split in the late 90s and dad remarried and had another kid when he was 50 with my step mum who was 40.

      God its terrible, please any women out there, do not do this to your children and the family that your in, terrible. My half sister is wrapped so tightly in cotton wool at age 9 she cant even wash herself, her mum needs to adjust the shower temp. My dad has no idea whats going on and doesnt get it (like the bloke in the story) and my step mum cant handle having adult kids (apparently she forgot kids grow up when they married) and is trying to tear our family apart.

      just avoid it if you want to avoid family councilling

    • Greg says:

      09:54am | 18/02/13

      My youngest daughter was born a couple of weeks after my 45th birthday. I have no regrets, although I think that I was pushing the limit for the maximum age. I recognise that I am now getting too old and grumpy to have any more.

      My first child was born when I was 35, so I’ve always been an older dad.

      My wife and I had quite a few overseas trips in our twenties, and saved the house deposit, so there are advantages in having children later. We enjoy our children, and have no regrets about what other things we could be doing.

      We were lucky though, as several of our friends had the same plan, but then couldn’t get pregnant when the time came. (My wife is very fertile, and always got pregnant within a couple of months of trying, even at 40 for our last baby). We didn’t realise the extent of the risk we were taking, and just assumed that getting pregnant wouldn’t be a problem. We have only subsequently realised just how lucky we were to have 4 healthy children at a later age.

      The other issue with older dads is that while they can still have babies, they are not immune from ageing, and sperm quality decreases significantly after age 45, increasing risks of genetic illnesses. So even if they can still have children, it doesn’t mean that they should.

      I think that it is probably best for dads to plan to have their children by 40 in most circumstances, with an upper limit of 45 to cater for unforeseen contingencies. For mothers, nature reduces their age limits by 5 years anyway, so the age when they “should” stop having babies is usually preceded by the age when they can no longer have babies.

      There are so many celebrity women having babies in their 40s that it almost seems normal, but they are usually paying tens of thousands of dollars in IVF treatments. For most, it is a lot more difficult.

    • Paleoflatus says:

      10:29am | 18/02/13

      If a man has kids in his fifties or sixties, he’s no longer a parent. He’s a grand-parent and a poor substitute for a young father.
      If a woman in her thirties or forties has kids, they’ll miss out on lots of attitudes and activities that younger mothers share with their kids and she’ll be an old woman when they finish their education.
      Becoming a parent in your twenties opens up a whole new world which is far easier to share with your growing children and you’ll still be spry enough to share a good relationship with your grand-children.

    • jade (the other one) says:

      12:32pm | 18/02/13

      Most so-called “mothers and fathers” I know in their twenties are still out at the pub most weekends, and too hungover to do more than put the tv on on a Sunday while grandma and grandpa actually raise the child. Contrast that with the later-in-life parents who did all that early, and now actually are interested in being parents. Their weekends consist of family outings, occasional date nights, and kid centred venues, where their child can play, and not be made to feel like a nuisance or a burden.

    • Sickemrex says:

      02:17pm | 18/02/13

      @ jade, I have to admit that has been my experience as well. I’m an older mum and have used the lovely grandparenting babysitting service to go to the pub twice in 3 years. My younger sibling-in-laws do it most weekends. No judgement, just an observation.

    • jade (the other one) says:

      03:33pm | 18/02/13

      @sickemrex - I think there are heaps of advantages to having a child when it is right for the couple. Some young couples have really made the most of parenthood, and some older ones have not.

      I just hate the sanctimonious idea that the disadvantages of being an older parent are somehow far more significant than that of younger parents. It’s not better or worse, just different. And for some people, waiting a bit longer makes them better parents. For some it doesn’t.

    • Tubesteak says:

      10:52am | 18/02/13

      Mid- to late-40s is the best time for a man to have kids. By that time his career is established (no 18 hour days trying to prove yourself and your income has reached its plateau), his finances are established (that house is mostly paid off and you’re no longer living in dingy apartments) and he knows himself well enough to know what to tolerate from women and children and what not to tolerate.

      By the time you’re in your 40s you’ve reached that level of zen where you accept what you are, what life has to offer, where you are in life, and where you’re going.

      As for relating to your kids: you’re not meant to be their friend. You’re their parent. Set boundaries and rules and punish them if these rules are not followed.

      Find a woman less than half your age and pop out some kids wink

    • marley says:

      11:11am | 18/02/13

      Some of that I agree with (is this a record?) but I’ve gotta say, the line about not doing 18 hour days is a bit of a question mark in my mind.  My brother in law is a high powered executive, and he’s doing long days, plus he’s on the phone or the ‘net on weekends, plus he’s away from home for weeks at a time.  I’d bet he’s averaging 18 hours - and he’s in his sixties.  So I guess it depends how ambitious you are and how high up the ladder you climb.  He’s nowhere near a zen state, I can vouch for that absolutely.

    • Interloper says:

      12:18pm | 18/02/13

      @Tubesteak,
      That’s all fine as well as it goes - but remember that you’ll be pushing 70 by the time your kid is 21. It’s not just about looking after a newborn.

    • Tubesteak says:

      12:31pm | 18/02/13

      marley
      Yes, it does depend a bit on career and circumstances. I know you can get yourself to a good cruising altitude and keep that going. If you really want the senior executive type of gig or partner in a law/accounting firm then you will always have long hours. Personally, I think a decent cruising altitude paying about $200k pa and working about 10 hours per day 5 days per week (including travel time) is better for raising a family. I’d never try to raise a family whilst you’re working long hours. It simply can’t be done. The wife will resent you for never being there and will divorce you. You’ll never know your kids and they’ll resent you.

      Interloper
      So what? by 21 they’re practically out the door. I was by that age and my kids will only be supported by me as long as they’re doing full-time uni and studying towards a real degree. I’ll never support them if they want to be a “professional student” (the type of person that changes courses 5 times and is nearing 30 and still doesn’t even have a Bachelor’s degree) or do something useless like an arts degree.
      Once they start full-time work they’re out the door. That was the rule for me. I won’t be suporting kidults that want to spnge off their parents. I managed to buy myself a place after spending the 2000s renting in Sydney. So can they. It’s called getting a real job and going without most luxuries. I didn’t have a car until the very end of last year.

    • Rose says:

      03:27pm | 18/02/13

      Tubespeak, so what you’re saying is that you’ll only support your kids as long as you get to control what they do. What makes you so sure that getting an arts degree is not exactly what your kid needs in order to pursue the career that they want? There are many, many vocationally targeted arts degrees and you are doing your kids a disservice if you don’t allow them to work out their own path.
      I’m not sure you’ll have to show them the door, I’d say that judging from your attitude they would be wanting to get the hell out of your kingdom not long after potty training!

    • JoJo says:

      11:17am | 18/02/13

      I was an “accident”, my mum was 37 (she had three kids in her twenties and it had been 11 years since she had her last kid and my dad 47. I guess I was lucky because my partners are both really, really fit and healthy.  Plus they have incredibly good advice to give and raised me in an “old school way” i.e. didn’t dole out praise when I didn’t deserve it, they put each other before me, I had to do things I didn’t like (if they were good for me).  I wouldn’t change my parents for anything…but I do wish they had ALL their kids later as i sometimes feel like I missed out on the “family” times.

    • Jamo says:

      11:27am | 18/02/13

      Maybe the bloke has tried to talk to his wife and found that she is more into the communication style that is her talking and him listening. Women seem to be encouraged 100 % to share their ‘feelings’ and problems with who ever will listen. Men are often constrained to having a quick conversation with mates at the pub, who often are experiencing similar things, hence why thats the only time they ever get to air their grievances. Or they get a chance to get a female’s perspective of things and have a chat with someone like you, only to find out that you could really give a rats about his situation. If there is ever a survey done on what men experience in relationships with women, alot of these things may come out. But surveys are solely reserved for females as no one is really interested in what men think collectively, find me evidence to dispute this and I’d love to see it.  Ali, you made the assumption that the blokes wife is receptive to discussing his issues, it’s quite possible that she isn’t. That maybe why he bounced a few things off of you, and it sounds like you may have blew him off. Nice one. Just as we are told that a man will never walk a day in a womens’ shoes, the opposite must true. That in itself explains alot about some females attitudes towards mens issues in regards to relationships and children. We hear alot about the problems of women, everyday, newspapers, radio, magazines, tv, Internet, and when a bloke wants to ‘share’, it’s basically ‘man up and go and talk to your wife about it’. Do you ever wonder why ‘men aren’t listening’ ? Men are better listeners by far simply because we get much more practice.

    • Big Nana says:

      11:42am | 18/02/13

      My mother had her last child at age 42. We 3 older siblings were all teenagers and found ourselves doing most of the playing/entertainment for our baby brother. Not that mum didn’t care, she was just exhausted from housekeeping for 4 children plus you tend to lose interest in childish games as you age.
      I had my children in my late 20’s, early thirties and thought that menopause would see me childfree and able to do my own thing.
      Not so. Circumstances saw me having to take on the care of an autistic granchild at the ripe old age of 51. He was a toddler at the time, I was still working, albiet part time after he arrived, and I can attest to the fact that caring for children is a young person’s game. Past 50 and you want to sleep in on Sundays, not drive miles to attend a soccer game. The last thing you want to do after a hard day’s work is sit down and battle through homework with a struggling child. And don’t ever forget birthday parties! Twenty screaming, running, crying, overexcited children is not something middle aged people should ever have to endure. My grandson is 16 now, I am pushing 70 and believe me, puberty is not a good mix with encroaching senility!

    • ol matey says:

      05:25pm | 18/02/13

      “Being the bear”? How about being a provider, a source of quality advice, a decisive and confident leader, and a source of inspiration? My father was made a quadriplegic before I was born - I couldn’t ask for a better role model. Age is trivial, as is physical ability.

 

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