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How old is too old?

By Anonymous January 24, 2009 - 2:22pm
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I just had my basement carpet installed and I was a little interested to hear that the 60 year old gentleman that was installing my carpet had a 6 year old daughter. His wife was 45 years old at the time of her birth.

I thought there were several issues with having children at an older age. How old is too old to bear children?

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It's one thing to be a woman bearing a child in her 40's, and another to be the 60-year-old father. For him, it's a virility issue; for her, it's probably something quite similar. Where are the statistics showing that older parents are less inclined to feel they are "missing out" on a social life by having young kids, and are generally a bit more mellow?" I think it's more a feeling of proving to self and the world that you can still bear a child, even at whatever risk to yours or the child's health.

There are plenty of second-time-around-dads raising kids young enough to be their grandchildren. Like my dad, and he's not exactly "mellow" with his second family. His wife is younger than I am!

Let's not make generalizations about what it's like to be older parents. Did you have one? I've seen how having a 60-something father negatively impacted his teenage son, and how having that young child negatively impacted the elderly parent. At an age when you expect to be enjoying your golden years, do you want to feel strapped to children - again?

Age may be a state of mind, but it's also a physical and chronological reality. Personally, I wouldn't want to be raising a little one at my age - a hair shy of 60 - and neither does my DH. Sure, we might be better off financially now than when we were younger; but, we were actually better prepared to have our children when we were younger, if that makes any sense to you.

I think of the child, first, and what it would be like for him/her to have an "old" parent. I'm lucky enough to have the energy to keep up with kids, and the ability to admit that I also like having my DH to myself in our second half century. There is no way I'd want to be dealing with a teenager at age 80!

January 26, 2009 - 9:10pm
EmpowHER Guest

Thanks for the great information. In a position of being 31 years old without any children, the carpet man really gave me hope that I am not ‘too old’ to have children.

It really feels like a totally different world when all my friends have 11-12 years olds already and I haven’t even started a life with children. It appears with modern technology and differences in culture, there may be a better chance to have children later in life. Thanks again for all your input.

January 26, 2009 - 9:38am

I think it's interesting that my mom's generation tended to have kids really young. Well, what I consider really young, anyway. Like early 20's. If you were nearing your 30's, you were considered pretty old to start having kids. It's so different now. I have several friends who didn't get married till their late 30's and early 40's. Families are starting later and later. As far as the 60-yr-old with the 6-yr-old daughter, that does seem a bit extreme since realistically he may not be around for her graduation or to be able to walk her down the aisle on her wedding day. And he'll most likely miss out on grandchildren.

January 25, 2009 - 11:09pm

Miscortes, your question is a good one and I think the answer may depend on who you ask because I believe the answer does have broader, perhaps even cultural implications. In many societies women start having kids earlier (15-16 y/o) and end their child-bearing years when natures takes it away. While men in these social groups may never be concerned about age and opt for a younger wife.

I think men and women in western societies such as the United States have different reasons for wanting to stop having children at a certain age. The fear of down syndrome is a western culture concern over other societies, but we also carry the fear of dying and leaving the kid(s) parentless. Our reasons may not be shared by other ethnic groups even within the borders of our own country. There are some religious groups also when men are procreating until very advanced age. Women have a clock and when that stops, if we want more kids, we go to the adoption office....although hormone therapies today could stretch that "clock" much further, we still worry about dying and leaving the kid behind if mom or dad dies while still young.

January 24, 2009 - 11:25pm
HERWriter Guide

That's a good question and one that is much debated, particularly in an era where it's possible for a woman to have a child naturally well into her 40s, or even into her early 50s, usually with some technological help. Going through fertility treatments is both painful and costly, not to mention sometimes filled with heartache.

I'll only speak for women here. Although there are studies that show that the older a man is having a child, the more likely the child may be to have autism as well as other conditions, I'll focus on women, for now.

From a medical point of view, a woman increases her odds of having difficulty conceiving after the age of 35 and this becomes very apparent after the age of 40. There are always exceptions, of course. Everyone has a cousin or a neighbor or a sibling who had a child at the age of 48 who was in the best health ever! But trying to get pregnant at 40 is a lot harder than trying at 35. And once a woman is 40, it gets significantly harder every single year. So a woman may get pregnant after one year at the age of 40, but that same woman might never get pregnant by the time she is 44.

The reality is that at the age of 20, the odds of having a child with Down's Syndrome are 1 in 1500. By age 35, the odds are 1 in 350 and by 43, the odds are 1 in 50. Most DS babies are born to women under age 35 but that's because most babies in general are born to women under age 35.

There is also the risk of having twins when you are over age 40. While the notion of twins may sound like a great two-for-one special (and it might well be!) there are also risks involved, for both mother and babies. In addition, twins are a lot of work.

After the age of 40, we are often just a tad more tired than we were at 20. many of us simply don't have the same kind of energy. We need to bear that in mind, if considering starting a family, or extending one.

And remember, the older one is, the closer one is to death. That sounds a bit morbid, but it's true. While there is always the chance of a mother dying young of an accident of illness, it's far less likely. In my graduating class of 100 girls in high school, I was the only one with a dead parent. Having a kid at the age of 60 will mean that the odds that you may not see them graduate high school is very, very real.


There are also great benefits. Where to begin? Firstly, older parents (say, between 35-42 or so) tend to be more financially stable and anyone who thinks that doesn't matter has never had a kid. Enough said.

Older parents often have more patience, are less inclined to feel they are "missing out" on a social life by having young kids, and are generally a bit more mellow. And since most of us woman are living to be an average of 80 years old, unless we want a kid at the age of 60, most of us are going to see them graduate college and get married!

Remember, there are also drawbacks to having kids at a young age. We tend to have less patience, less life experience and less education. We also tend to have less money. This stuff matters!!

So what does one do? It's a very personal choice. I chose to not have kids until my 30s. To tell you the truth, I had no interest in having kids until then. So I had my kids at the ages of 34, 35, and 36. Obviously I had none of those fertility issues I spoke about! In fact, I had issues in NOT getting pregnant. But thinking about it, I'm extremely lucky. And I was far more emotionally stable by then, I had some money saved, I was happy, had an education, a career, was well-traveled, was in good health and I had a husband that I loved (and still do!) and that I had a very good relationship with. These were all pre-requisites for me. I needed to have a life first, before changing that life to have kids. Because holy cow - everything changes - everything!

Now we have date nights and a good social life but I'm happy to spend Saturday evenings with my kids, reading or watching a movie by the fire. I've done pubs and clubs from San Francisco to Sydney. I was happy and ready to hand it over for something else - something better.
Upon saying that, I personally would not have a child after 40. I know many who have and all went well, I also know of several where it did not go well, and it was mostly due to maternal age. I'd never tell someone to not have kids after 40, but I just wouldn't do it.

As to your main question, Melissa - how old is too old? For me, it's about 40. For others, it could be 50-52. For others still, it could be 35. It's deeply personal. We just need to make smart choices and remember that the bests interests of the child(ren) are what really counts.

January 24, 2009 - 6:04pm
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