How old is too old to father?
April 27, 2006 8:22 AM   Subscribe

Was your father 45+ when you were born? Were your own children born later in your life?

Is it unfair to have a child whose father with be 70 when they graduate high school? 80ish...or 95 when they're considering having children of their own? Am I crazy to consider someone for a life partner who may be in his early 50s when we're ready to start a family? My thoughts on parenting are that a strong home, love, and support are what's essential, not sticking to a traditional family structure for its own sake. But is his age an issue to consider (for the sake of the children having a father present more than 30 years of their lives)?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (34 answers total)
Absolutely not. I married late to a much younger woman, and I'm a great dad. My kids and I are very active. It depends entirely on the man.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 8:37 AM on April 27, 2006

I don't think it's all that crazy. I had a friend in high school who's father had children continuously from his twenties to his fifties, so not only did this guy have brothers and sisters old enough to be his parents, but also his father was quite old when he was in high school, probably 65 or 70. I thought it was odd at the time but it seemed normal/regular to him.
posted by RustyBrooks at 8:37 AM on April 27, 2006

I am 36 and unmarried with no prospects at the moment (I'm a guy) and I always ruminate about this. The answer I always come up with is: I imagine a scenario in which I ask a child if rather than having had a father who passed away while the child was in junior high or high school they would have preferred not to have been born or to have never had a father at all. Every time I imagine that scenario, the question becomes ridiculous.
posted by spicynuts at 8:37 AM on April 27, 2006

I can only give my anecdotal experience here, but my dad was in his 40s when I was born, and I never felt like I was short-changed in any way. I'm 24 now, he's well into his retirement, but he takes care of himself, has obediently diminished his vices, and gets very frequent checkups with the help of friendly nagging from my mother. We may be delusional (and of course, nobody knows for sure), but we all feel like he's going to be around for a while. People on the whole live longer and longer now, especially people who are conscientious about it.

And I don't think it's non-traditional to have a large age difference between husband and wife.. in fact that's really the traditional way of doing things, if my casual knowledge of history and literature serves me. Children whose fathers die when they're coming of age is pretty much the heroic model. But that's neither here nor there, I guess.
posted by Hildago at 8:48 AM on April 27, 2006

My father was 48 when I was born; he passed away at the age of 79. He was the best dad anyone could hope for.
posted by ikkyu2 at 8:50 AM on April 27, 2006

Just as a women's eggs get old & pose risks for the health of the baby, so do men's sperm. For instance, schizophrenia has been associated with having an older father.
posted by zarah at 8:52 AM on April 27, 2006

I ask a child if rather than having had a father who passed away while the child was in junior high or high school they would have preferred not to have been born or to have never had a father at all. Every time I imagine that scenario, the question becomes ridiculous.

My dad was 50 when I was born, and 63 when he died. That is a ridiculous question. It never occurred to me, at 13, to question my own birth.

What did happen is that we lost our house, my mom had to go to work full time with two kids, there was no one to help her, and we all became hardened and bitter and exhausted.

Do I wish I had never been born? Of course not, but what the heck does that have to do with the reality of my life? I was born, my father died, and it was awful.
posted by Maisie Jay at 8:53 AM on April 27, 2006

First off, chances are by the time the child graduates high school 70 won't even be retirement age. Beyond that, while age is not a non-issue (I'd think it prudent to make extra sure an older man definitely wanted children, for instance, and whether this person was a generally healthy liver would seem more relevant) I don't think it should be even close to a deal-breaker for the situation you describe. We're all going to die and a lot of us won't be expecting it, frankly. Is he the one for you? Does he seem like good father material, age aside? That's what's really going to matter for your future children, not their father's age.
posted by nanojath at 8:53 AM on April 27, 2006

My father was 60 when I was born. Wasn't inherently problematic by any means.
posted by ed\26h at 8:53 AM on April 27, 2006

My father was in his 40s when I was born and I never felt shortchanged growing up. I never really noticed that he was different from or older than anyone else's father.

Far more apparent now, is the age gap between he and my mother. It doesn't affect me, but she's 20 years younger and wants to work and travel and do stuff, while he's in his 70s and is quite content with a quiet retirement at home in front of the TV. I don't know if you're considering an older man, or are an older woman, but that's something to keep in mind. When he's 70 and you're 50, and the children have moved out, what will you have in common?
posted by jacquilynne at 9:04 AM on April 27, 2006

You could argue that you have a better conception of your future child's genetic makeup by looking at a fit 45 year-old man. You can't easily tell how people will age when they're twenty-five.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 9:05 AM on April 27, 2006

My father was 46 when he had his last child,....29 years ago. He's still alive. I've got at least 3 friends whose 50-something fathers have passed away in the last few years (heart ailment, cancer, suicide, respectively). There are no guarentees in life.

By the way, none of my regrets or problems with my father have anything to do, directly or indirectly, with the fact that he was 20 or so years older than the other neighborhood dads.
posted by availablelight at 9:09 AM on April 27, 2006

I'm 16 years older than my youngest brother who was born when our father was 42. I have absolutely no complaints but I think he was a better father to my brother than he was to me. I also think the reason has everything to do with his age. My kids were born when I was 23 and 24. I think I'd be a better father today at 45.

I have a friend at work whose father died in his forties while the friend was in high school. My 72 year old father is out in my garage working on his motorcycle.
posted by Carbolic at 9:12 AM on April 27, 2006

I know someone who was adopted when his parents were in their 40s. He had a solid family life. However, his parents were not very "hip" -- his mother is conservative today even for someone approaching 80 -- and this has always been a source of strife. I think it's probable that this would have happened even if his parents were younger, though. His father died when he was 17. His father was retired and died without insurance. This was the major problem and it really devastated the family. His mom was almost 60 and had no "job" skills, so she couldn't even go out to work. Fortunately, they managed to hang on to the house and get some scholarships for university. It was pretty rough, though.

In comparison, I know someone else who was born when her parents were about the same age. I think it was occasionally difficult to have parents who were older, but she didn't seem to mind too much. However, she's one of the most conservative and easily shocked people I know -- much, much more so than her siblings who are up to 20 years older. I think her general demeanour has much to do with her parents' age.

That being said, today's 40- and 50-somethings are a lot more hip than those of the past. I think the real things that matter are love, support, and life insurance. And those go for any age.
posted by acoutu at 9:12 AM on April 27, 2006

you know, our 60 is not anywhere near our parents' 60. we age differently, we are staying younger longer. I think of my attitudes and my drives in life, and compare those with my mom's and dad's when they were my age. there's a vast difference. I'm at the tail end of the baby-boom generation (almost an X-er), and I am being dragged into the later years, kicking and screaming. I am much 'younger' and 'less mature' than my parents were, at the same age.

I don't think that the argument about being a 'certain age' to have kids holds anymore. People have kids at all ages now. My cousin had her son when she was well in her 40s. A good friend of mine is trying for her third child now that she is closer to 50 than 40.

Medical care is better, our mental outlook and attitudes are more open - parenting in later years can be easier because of this.
posted by seawallrunner at 9:12 AM on April 27, 2006

Both my parents were older: Mom, 43, Dad 49, and I have a "normal age" set of siblings. . .fifteen years older than me. I don't think it's the age gap itself, as much as the generation gap issues. If the person has old fashioned values and doesn't keep up with technology, as my parents did not, there will be some discomfort between your young child and his or her peers. Of course, you could have the old fashioned dad and the younger, hipster mom. It's more of an attitude than a number. You never know. If your gut tells you to take the leap: leap.
posted by rainbaby at 9:20 AM on April 27, 2006

My dad was 50 when I was born. I remember thinking it was a bit weird at the time how much older my father was than the other fathers but that's about the extent of it. And even though he was 20 years older than the other fathers, my dad was still the assistant coach of my soccer team and played in all the father/son games (OK, he was the goalie).

I was 26 when he died and yes, of course I wish he was around longer. But I'd say that no matter what age he died.

If you've found the right guy, don't let the age question get in the way.
posted by gfrobe at 10:00 AM on April 27, 2006

A little younger than what you're asking, but my mom was 39 when I was born. That's not a big deal now, but having your first kid at that age in the early 70s provoked a lot of "you'll be using a walker at her high school graduation/you'll be dead before you get to know your grandchildren" commentary.

My mom and I maintain that I kept my her young. She sure as heck is a lot younger in outlook than many of the 72-year-olds I know. And she is less old-fashioned than a lot of women her age because she had to concern herself with issues (relating to raising a kid, etc.) along with the other moms, who were all at least ten years younger than her.
posted by desuetude at 10:07 AM on April 27, 2006

i had a kid when i was 38 ... at the least, your life partner had better get used to the idea of people walking up and thinking he's the kid's grandfather ... i get that fairly often

i would be pretty hesitant to do that again, now that i'm almost 49 ... but that has more to do with my personal feelings and probably isn't real relevant to what your man feels about it

i do think that as long as he can make it until the kids are in their 20s, then they shouldn't feel that it was "unfair" to them ... and the odds are, he will

one issue i think you should be concerned about is age difference between you and him ... people at different stages of life want different things and have different views ... my ex was 14 years younger than me and it was a factor ... sometimes for the good, sometimes for the bad ... it is something to think about ... at the least, odds are that you're going to be by yourself at some point at a relatively young age
posted by pyramid termite at 10:52 AM on April 27, 2006

A friend's parents were both quite old when she was born (she was a surprise, guess you're still fertile after all). Both parents were old enough to be mistaken for her grandparents. Her mother died when the friend was in her 20's, devastating her a little earlier in life than most people.

The friend wishes her parents had been younger; more active, more doing things together, less old and cranky. I think this is an internal factor as much as anything - will the potential father be a couch potato with arthritis who doesn't do anything with the kids or help out around the house? Or is he young at heart and young in attitude and a healthy go-getter?
posted by jellicle at 11:03 AM on April 27, 2006

A little younger than what you're asking, but my mom was 39 when I was born.

Same sort of thing here, with the addition that this has happened over three generations. My grandmother was born in 1880 and had my father at the age of 40; I was born when my father was 38; I have a son who was born when I was 38. I don't know that this has altered the parent/child relationships that much but it does mean that you loose out on grandparents. My grandmother wasn't especially young when she died but it was in 1963 so I only have a very few memories of her, and my grandfather was dead long before I was born. Similarly my son has only ever had one live grandparent.

Your children not having living grandparents is not a reason for you to avoid having your own children late, but it does alter family dynamics, and does cut down on some often taken for granted practical help. I definitely envy the fact that everybody else seems to be able to dump the kids with the grandparents and go away for the weekend, something I've never been able to contemplate.
posted by Quinbus Flestrin at 11:03 AM on April 27, 2006

A good friend of mine in college (now in his late 30s) and my boyfriend (now in his early 40s) were both born to dads that were in their 50s. (My friend's dad died a few years ago; my boyfriend's dad is still goin' strong at 95 -- proof that being an older parent doesn't necessarily mean that they'll be around for less of their child's life.) I don't think either of them feel particularly short-changed -- they both still had living grandparents, and my boyfriend in particular seems to have appreciated his dad being from a different generation from that of his friends (his dad was in vaudeville in the '20s!). Sure, there's a difference enegry-wise being a dad at 50 than being a dad at 25, but it's just that -- different. Not necessarily better or worse.
posted by scody at 1:26 PM on April 27, 2006

My dad was 47, mom was 46. I'm now 38 and both are alive and healthy, whereas almost every single one of my friends, whose parents had them at much younger ages, have lost at least one parent. There's just no way to tell these kind of things. I feel blessed to have had my parents -- they were mature and yet fun, and never wrecked my growing up because they themselves hadn't had their chance to grow up yet, as some of my dear friends' parents did to them.

Older parents rock, in my biased opinion.
posted by GaelFC at 1:27 PM on April 27, 2006

My dad was 45 when I was born. He's now 78 years old and doing great. He and my mom are 17 years apart in age and are celebrating their fortieth wedding anniversary this year (only marriage for both of them).

My only regret about his age is that I wish I could be more confident that I'll have him in my life for several more decades.

And regarding the decision to choose a life partner who is older than you: my mom met my dad when she was 18 and he was 35. They married four years later. I asked my mom why she decided to marry someone so much older than she was, and she said, "I just couldn't stand the thought of anyone else getting to have him." They are in love with each other to this day. That has had far, far more influence over the quality of my childhood than any question of my father's age.
posted by woot at 3:16 PM on April 27, 2006

I was born to a father in his 40s, and 20-some years later, he's probably in better health than I am.
Although it's not exactly unfair to the children, I do wish my parents had the energy as some parents in their late 20s/early 30s to get as hands-on involved in my life, seconding jellicle's reply. Personal experience - my father seemed tired from having had much older children and having to go through everything again more so than being older than most fathers. Starting a new family is a different dynamic.
posted by ruevian at 3:19 PM on April 27, 2006

I win!

Oh, wait, it's not a competition. Sorry.

My pop was 67 when I was born. I loved that man fiercely until the day he died. I can't imagine the person I'd be today (well, duh) without him. I learned three generations worth of knowledge from him. I'd say that is reason enough to have kids later in life.

Which is not to say that I wasn't devastated to realize he'd never see me graduate, get married (assuming I could/can someday) or have a family. He died twenty years ago this month. I was 16. I miss him every day.
posted by FlamingBore at 3:40 PM on April 27, 2006

My 16 year old girlfriend's father just turned 80 and if you asked her she'd tell you that it's probably not a good idea.
posted by fearandloathing at 7:28 PM on April 27, 2006

My father was 45 when I was born. If anything, having me around has probably forced him to stay "young"--he's at the same age as my friends grandparents but is MUCH cooler. *grins*

He has recently retired, and is taking good care of himself. My sole complaint about his age is that my entire life I've had mild but constant anxiety about losing him--but then, I'm sure most kids worry about losing their parents, regardless of their age. The fact that he takes care of himself and is active and loving life really helps with my worries.

The two of us will be taking England by storm next month, our first father-daughter vacation.
posted by stray at 8:04 PM on April 27, 2006

I had a friend with older parents - mom was 40, dad was 45 when she was born (they had been told mom couldn't get pregnant - oops!). Her dad died when he was 70. Her grandparents were already dead or they died before she had any real memory of them. She felt really cheated and felt her kids were going to be cheated as well.
posted by deborah at 8:19 PM on April 27, 2006

My two little sisters were born when my step-Dad was in his forties. It didn't matter a single bit. He will be getting on for seventy when little Sophie finishes University, but I don't think it'll matter. He's very active his relationship with them isn't hindered (and won't be hindered) in any way by his age.

I think children help keep their parents young and fit and vibrant. Yes, of course there is a higher risk of the Dad dying before the child is self-sufficient, but this risk is always present in any parenthood.

The *only* reservation I'd have is the fact that your kids might not get to relate to their Dad as an adult. Assuming there are three ages in life (kid, adult, old), I relish being able to relate to my parents as an adult when they are still adults (as opposed to being old). It's nice because you can really get to know your parents after the trappings of the parent-child relationship have been dispensed with and before the relationship becomes hampered by the old age (and more ingrained character, views, habits etc.) of the parent. But this is a small concern.
posted by pollystark at 8:47 AM on April 28, 2006

My dad was 44 when i was born. he died when i was eight and we had a pretty hard time growing up.

something we learned a lot later: he knew he had a heart condition and never told my mother about it. he died of a heart attack.
posted by mirileh at 1:26 PM on April 29, 2006

My grandmother had my mother when she was 40 and her husband was in his 60s. Her husband (my grandfather) died when my mother was 10. However, her mother lived to be quite old and certainly got to see me and my sister grow up. The only regret my mother has is that she is an only child, since her parents had "no time" to fit in one more kid because they started so late. It's just something to think about, depending on how many kids you want and how far apart you would like to space them. My mother's family experience was generally very positive, but I know she is really unhappy to be an "only."
posted by piers at 9:56 PM on April 29, 2006

My father was 49 at my birth and I was born with cerebral and central nervous system problems. I urge men to father before 40 and freeze semen at a younger age. The disaster of genetic mutations in children of older fathers is permanent and causes great agony. There seems to be a stronger effect, at an earlier advanced paternal age, on daughters. Increased rates of breast cancer, premenopausal, has been found in daughters of older fathers. Also many other problems have been associated with mutations in sperm of olders fathers. Epidemiologist know of this research.
posted by leyna howe at 10:43 AM on October 19, 2006

check this out please
posted by leyna howe at 3:26 PM on November 14, 2006

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