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Being an Older Parent

Pros and cons of "later in life" parenting

October 2013

It seems hard to believe that at 35, women are already considered to be of "advanced maternal age" – meaning that pregnancy for them could include greater medical risks. Yet many women are choosing to have children later in life, and find that the social and emotional aspect of being an older parent may be even more complex than the physical component.

In an informal Indy's Child Facebook survey, we asked readers to share their thoughts on being an older parent.

For many moms, the number one benefit of having a child later in life is their own increased maturity. One reader responded, "I am a 50 year-old mom of a 7 year-old child. I have more patience now than I did as a 20 or 30 year-old. I definitely choose which battles to fight, and I don't sweat the small stuff."

Others cited financial security as an advantage of waiting to have children. Father of four, Chris, was born when his parents were both 40. He says, "I had the advantage of entering into the family dynamic when my siblings were nearly grown and my dad was at the pinnacle of his career. The result was that I got to experience a lot of things my siblings didn't – simply because we had the financial means."

Chris's parents – who are now in their 80s – agree. "It was definitely a different and unexpected experience having Chris at 40," his dad admits. "We were sending our oldest off to college while we were potty-training our youngest. But that age difference kept us on our toes."

"'Advanced maternal age' may be a readily accepted medical term," says another Facebook respondent, "but age is all simply a state of mind. I'm as young as I feel, and being an older mother has kept me energized. Our pace may be a little slower than some of our 20-something counterparts, but I don't see that as a disadvantage. Instead, I relish the time I get to spend with my daughter. I'm not as frantic and frenzied as I was when I was younger. I'm able to let go of more – to truly enjoy the time we have together."

Many children born to older moms and dads, however, fear for the physical health and well-being of their aging parents. "When I was in third grade," Chris remembers, "I feigned illness almost every day. I was worried that something would happen to my mom while I was at school. She was so much older than the other moms, and I was convinced that meant she was going to die sooner. Now, I'm fairly certain she's going to outlive us all!"

An Indy's Child reader shared a common concern. "Losing my own father at a young age definitely makes me worry about my son losing his father (who became a father at age 58). For me, the loss of my father was a devastating blow, and I don't want my son to have to experience that prematurely. I know there are no guarantees of what may or may not happen, but because my husband is so much older, it's a thought that's always at the back of my mind. And it doesn't help quell my fears when strangers call him 'grandpa' – which they often do."

As is often true with many important family issues, a broad spectrum exists for what works with different people. Although the advantages and disadvantages of becoming a parent later in life may depend on individual circumstances, the majority of our respondents agreed on one key point. Being an older parent is a decision they wouldn't change and certainly never regret.

Tags: In This Issue, Parenting

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