I have to face the reality all Older Fathers face; getting older while my kids are still young
As I type this, I’m on the verge of turning 53. I have a 10 1/2 year old daughter, A 9 year old daughter and a 3rd daughter coming in just 3 months.
I know there are benefits and challenges older fathers face.
But I won’t lie; sometimes I’m sad. I want to always be there for my wife and kids; and not using a walker! I want to play with them, support them and champion them. And yet, I’m faced with the question of what life will look like in 20 years.
Will I be physically and mentally able to do everything for my family that I need to do?
My own father was 32 when I was born and that was considered older at the time.
But I became a Dad for the first time at age 43! I may have the Moves like Jagger, but I certainly don’t have Mick’s resources and finances. Sorry. Nothing says “old guy” quite like a dated Maroon 5 reference.
At any rate, I’ll be pushing 60 by the time my oldest daughters graduate high school. And I’ll be 70 when Layla, my soon to be born daughter, graduates high school.
If that’s not enough to intimidate you, I’m not sure what would.
Older Fathers may not be there for their kids by the time the kids are 50
My Dad, who was 32 years older than me, passed away in 2014.
My most popular post details my story with him of Growing Up with a Gay Father. I wrote it wondering who would possibly find it interesting only to see widespread acclaim for it, so check it out if you haven’t already.
At the time my Dad passed away, I had just turned 50. But with my age difference being a decade beyond his, I’m not sure I’ll see my kid’s 50th birthdays.
Mortality and the realities that come with that can affect the best of us. I’ve cracked more than one Dorian Gray joke in my day. Only I was only half joking.
As anyone who knows me will attest; I don’t like the idea of getting older.
How I plan to be around longer
I won’t lie. I’d like to live until age 90, minimally. I also don’t intend to be in a nursing home or be otherwise mentally or physically incapacitated.
My own mother suffers from peripheral neuropathy from taking the synthetic antibiotic Cipro. And while she’s sharp as a tack, the nerve damage caused by the drug has definitely impacted her physically.
I see the frustration she feels at not being able to get around like she used to and how that impacts her ability to interact with us.
I want to be healthy & strong; to be able to handle whatever life throws at me and look good doing it. I don’t want my daughters to have to take care of me and I always want them to know they can physically count on me.
Now according to my wife, my hearing is already gone. But I actually think it’s OK.
— @BCSocSciDept (@BCSocSciDept) July 18, 2017
I train in martial arts 3 times a week. True, martial arts is something I only occasionally dabbled in over the decades, but since 2013 it’s been a regular and integral part of my life.
The training not only makes my body stronger, but also my brain and the calm and peace that comes with better regulating stress & tension definitely will help me live longer and stronger.
I’ve also moisturized my face since I was about 37 (thanks Jessica!). I’m admittedly a little vain. I like to look younger than I am. But it’s not just that I want to look younger. I want to be younger so I can be there for my wife and kids longer. I want to play with my grandkids; heck I’ll settle for just seeing them.
Lastly I drink about a gallon of water each day and try and eat healthy.
Older Fathers do bring great life experience and wisdom into parenting
— Stillness Speaks (@Tweetstillness) July 14, 2017
I see Dads in their early 20’s. I hate generalizations as everyone is different, but often these Dads are lost. And not just about parenting. No offense, but most guys in their early 20’s just don’t know a lot about anything yet.
I remember being that way and luckily I wasn’t a father then.
No; there is a certain benefit to having lived 43 years on this planet before becoming a Dad. Not because I’m so much smarter than everyone else. But because of all the mistakes I’ve made!
Mistakes are the cornerstone of knowledge. The trick is simply making sure we learn from the mistakes and don’t make the same ones over and over.
One of my most popular posts deals with that exact subject, so check out how Failure Can Inspire You to Greatness if you’d like to dig in a little deeper on what I mean.
As a 43 year old Dad I had failed a lot; at relationships, at work, as a human being. I had also failed financially. Make no mistake; there was and still is a lot I don’t know. Yet. But I knew a whole lot more than my 23 year old self did.
And that knowledge and wisdom that comes to older fathers can play a key role in raising happy, healthy and smart kids.
The financial impact of older fathers and their families
One of the challenges that older fathers face are financial issues. At my age, life insurance is more expensive.
But because my kids are still young, it’s crucial that I carry life insurance at least until my kids (all 3) are out of the house and our retirement nest egg is strong enough so my wife no longer needs my income.
People get confused about life insurance.
It’s not for newborns and it’s not for inheritance. It’s to give immediate family enough money to replace your salary in the event of your death, while they still are being sustained by your income.
Once your kids are out of the house or you have a million in retirement savings, it’s no longer necessary.
But until that point it’s crucial that you have it, and it can be downright cruel to not have it; our families are counting on us!
If Life Insurance is one of those things that confuses you or that you’ve been putting off, you MUST check out my post that breaks down the 5 Key Life Insurance Tips you need to know!
Aside from life insurance, I also have to ponder retirement and how much I have saved. Trust me; the only thing worse than being older and having to deal with insurance and retirement is not having a plan for those things at all!
You can bet I’ve blogged about Retirement Savings too, so if you’ve been putting off or are behind on that, take a moment and check out my post on that as well.
Life insurance isn’t the only financial aspect that increases with age. Health insurance goes up too. After all, according to the CDC, the average life expectancy in the US is only 78.8 years! If that’s true for me (which it won’t be), I’ve only got another 25 years. So you can bet those insurance companies will start charging me more!
On top of those things I also have to look at social security.
True rumors of it’s demise have been circulating for decades, but even if social security is solvent and going strong, it will only provide me about half of what my current income is. I don’t know about your town, but my expenses are going up, not down!
So all in all, increased financial challenges are a huge concern for older fathers.
What are the health risks for kids of older fathers?
A recent study was done by 3 scientists in Stockholm, Sweden, along with the Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences, Indiana University.
They found that older fathers were “associated with increased risk of some psychiatric disorders (eg, autism, psychosis, and bipolar disorders) but decreased risk of the other indexes of morbidity . . . Compared with offspring born to fathers 20 to 24 years old”.
Their study goes on to state, however, that their results have “been questioned because most studies have not rigorously ruled out plausible confounding factors”.
Pressure’s off? Not exactly.
The Nature International Journal of Science published a study that found that rates of birth defects caused by the Dad’s genes doubled every 16.5 years. In other words a 33 year old father was twice as likely as a 16.5 year old father to have a child with birth defects.
Granted the chances are still pretty low.
But they go on to imply that older fathers may be the cause of the sharp rise in autism over the past few decades as men have been becoming fathers later and later in life.
And it’s not just older fathers that contribute to increased health risks. Moms in their 40’s have a 30% chance of chromosome abnormalities such as down syndrome compared with 2-3% chance of women in their 20’s.
But it’s not all bad news!
Apparently older fathers produce geekier kids (a good thing in my book)!
— Rachael Jess (@RachaelJessBlog) July 1, 2017
Nature also published another study that found that “Evidence from evolutionary and psychological research, however, suggests possible link between advanced paternal age and a phenotypic advantage.”
By “phenotypic advantage” they mean “high IQ, strong focus on the subject of interest and little concern about ‘fitting in’ .” Or to break it down, older fathers are more likely to produce geeks for kids.
I can’t imagine where my kids might get nerdy or geeky traits from (he says as he takes a sip of coffee from his Dr. Who mug where the T.A.R.D.I.S. disappears with the changing temperature of the mug)
As I head into fatherhood for a 3rd time, I know there are benefits and risks that come with older fathers.
But I know my age brings me knowledge I wouldn’t have had decades ago. And this being my 3rd child might just make me an expert!
I’ve lived, loved and screwed up. I have made all the mistakes a man can make and then some. And I’ve come out the other side of that life experience a wiser, happier, more well-balanced man, husband and father.
I’m the same age as Brad Pitt, Trent Reznor and Johnny Depp, so that’s not too bad either.
I’m also joining an elite group of recent older fathers like George Clooney, George Lucas, Mick Jagger, Steve Martin & Robert DeNiro gather. OK. Maybe I’m not joining their group, but I’m at least adjacent to it.
And I wouldn’t have it any other way.