I was 38 before I felt ready to become a father and I was 41 by the time it actually happened.
There were various reasons why I had waited so long. Some were circumstantial; I simply hadn’t found myself in a stable, loving relationship until then – and some were selfish; I had been busy travelling the world and enjoying my freedom and I was reluctant to give that up too soon.
The funny thing is, at the time, I never considered 41 to be ‘old’ for becoming a first-time father. It all felt very natural and exciting and I never once stopped to think that perhaps others may have considered me quite old.
I was aware that many of my friends of a similar age were about 10 years further along the parenting journey, but I also had many other friends who were still just starting, or waiting to start families, well into their 40s.
It’s only now, as we are starting to think about baby number two and possibly three, that my age is becoming a factor in my thought process.
It’s not that I feel old right at this moment. To be honest, I have never felt better. The issue is when I do the math and calculate how old I’ll be when these future kids are just turning 18 and probably still living at home. That’s when I start to think that perhaps we should get a wriggle on.
I’ll let you do your own research on the potential challenges and medical risks of being a male in your 40s and trying to conceive.
We all know the pressure that women are subjected to as they get older, with both the media and their friends constantly reminding them of their ticking biological clocks. Not to mention some pretty derogatory labels that get slapped on women once they pass the age of 35, such as ‘geriatric pregnancy’ or ‘advanced maternal age’.
However, there’s also plenty of less publicised, but readily available research that can portray a similar doom and gloom story for men.
There’s no doubt that a man’s sperm quality deteriorates as he gets older, which can make it harder to conceive and increases the chance of potential issues once you do conceive. But at what age, and to what level, is still inconclusive (in my research) and it obviously varies from one person to the next.
Regardless of this, the fact is that more men than ever before are now becoming fathers well into their 40s and beyond. It’s a trend that’s unlikely to change anytime soon, and as with many things in life, there are both pros and cons.
What I can tell you from my own experience is that whilst there are some obvious disadvantages, there are also several advantages of being a bit older when you finally join the dad club.
Firstly, I am far wiser and more emotionally mature than I would have been if I had kids when I was younger. This has given me the ability to provide more support to my partner and be more emotionally aware of both her and the baby’s needs. I can’t say for sure how it would have felt ten years ago, but I know that I’m definitely making the most of any additional life skills that my extra years have afforded me.
Secondly, in our case, waiting a bit longer meant our relationship was in a much stronger position to start a family. My partner and I took longer than some to arrive in our happy-place as a couple and to find ourselves on the same page about most things. And again, I’ll never know for sure, but I don’t think we could have handled the pressures of a baby as well as we are now when we were still finding our own feet in the relationship.
From a practical standpoint, we are more financially secure. I’m not suggesting this is a reason to hold off, but it certainly removes one of the most common stress points that younger couples often face and presents an advantage if you do find yourself having kids at an older age.
And whilst many people have said that they immediately feel a lot older when they have kids, in my case the opposite is true. Having a baby has in many ways made me feel younger.
Suddenly I’m reconnecting with my childhood and engaging with other young parents and children in a way I was not previously. I’m also very motivated and determined to stay healthy, fit and flexible so that I can continue to play with my kids as they get older.
By my age, perhaps some of those younger dads who started earlier than me would now be approaching their existential midlife crisis. You know, that phase when men hit their 40s and wonder, what next?.
For me, however, my purpose for being and my objectives for the future have never been clearer. I’ve got no time for a midlife crisis, I’m now focussed on raising a kid for the next 20 years.
They say there is a ‘before and after’ phenomenon with having a child. That once you become a dad, you are never the same again. And that you never stop being a dad for the remainder of your life.
So for me, given I’m roughly halfway through my life, I’m quite content with how I spent the first half and I’m even more content to be dedicating the second half of my life to being a dad. Somehow it feels symmetrical.
I don’t know about you, but the older I get, the more I appreciate life in general and particularly the little things. This is true for a beautiful sunset, a kiss from a loved one and a glass of fine whisky. It may therefore also be true for being a dad. I definitely think I am appreciating every moment and cherishing every laugh even more because I’m old enough to know just how lucky we are.
Given the choice, in a perfect world, would I now choose to start having kids in my 40s rather than my 20s or 30s? Possibly not. There are clearly some disadvantages and age-related challenges in doing it this way.
But would I choose to have kids in my 40s over never having kids at all? Absolutely.
So my advice for other would-be, could-be or soon-to-be fathers is as follows…..
Regardless of your age, if you and your partner both feel ready (or almost ready) then don’t wait. Start now.
Firstly, you may never feel 100% ready, but having kids will make you ready. And secondly, you never know how long it may take.
If you happen to be in your 20s or 30s when you reach this moment in your life – then go for it. No point waiting for the perfect conditions. Near enough is good enough I reckon. You will work it out as you go and there are pros and cons at any age.
But, if like me, you find yourself in your 40s before you are in a position to have children, the same advice applies. Go for it!
Don’t stress about your age. Focus on the positives, throw yourself in and give it everything you’ve got. Take care of your health and use your secret weapon of ‘maturity’ to be the best dad you can.
When your kids are young, they won’t notice you are older than other dads, to them you are just Dad. And let’s face it, by the time your kids are teenagers they are going to think you are ancient regardless of your age.
The reality is that life is short and you never know when your time might be up. So quit worrying about your age and just try to live in the moment.
And trust me, nothing makes you live in the moment quite like having children in your life.