May 22, 2007 8:37 PM   Subscribe

I'm on the fence about having a BABY! Please see more inside.

We might be a bit old for child rearing/raising. We're both 38. I'm the step-pop of two fantastic boys who are 8 and 9. We are a very happy family, but the Mom and I are very much in Love and want to have a kid together.

I know it's silly to post this but I really respect and appreciate all of the facts, opinions and related tales that are shared here on AskMe.

Should we just go for it?

Concerns: I'm a gulf war vet-possible bad sperm, we're kinda old, cost of day care, will the boys react well, do I have to give up my martini habit?

Seriously, any anecdotes, ideas or opinions are appreciated.
posted by snsranch to Health & Fitness (39 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Speaking as the father of a five month-old, "on the fence" means no.

Unless you really, really want to have a kid do not do it. It is several extra full-time jobs and you don't want to risk losing interest. Bad thing for a kid to a face.
posted by codswallop at 8:51 PM on May 22, 2007 [1 favorite]

Mom and I are very much in Love and want to have a kid together

I think that's all you need to know (except for possible medical information about bad sperm, but I have no information on that point).

Anecdotally: My parents were 37 when they had me, and they certainly weren't too old and creaky to run around after me or do all sorts of great things with their kids (they still aren't, for that matter). My great-grandmother was 43 when she had her last child, for heaven's sake. If being too old to parent is your main concern, I don't think it's anything to worry about (except possibly in problems with conception).

You shouldn't let the possible reaction of your stepsons be a factor here. Sure there may be some sibling rivalry, but if you're a reasonably happy family to begin with, it's probably more likely that a baby will become an adored younger sibling (esp. since they're several years older -- again anecdotally, see my 10-year-old nephew and his new baby half-brother, whom he takes great pride in helping out with).
posted by frobozz at 8:56 PM on May 22, 2007

Do it!! Don't let the Bush clan dampen your optimistic spirit(s)EXXCLAMMATIONNPOINT. / 38 is the new 28. Deal with the challenges, which you seem to understand. Cheering you on.

Martinis involve gin, dry vermouth, cracked ice, an olive or two and nothing else. So rare to come by. save for special occasions
posted by longsleeves at 9:01 PM on May 22, 2007

I'm with codswallop - if your answer isn't loudly and without hesitation "YES!" then I'd vote to just be happy with the stepchildren and family you have. There are plenty of ways to express your love besides having a child.

However, the other side of the coin - is it that you are ambivalent and the concerns are making more of a case, or are you really worried about those issues and trying to lessen the disappointment you are afraid of feeling if you decide to not have a child? Because your concerns could also sound like somebody who would be a great parent and look out for the best interest of their child no matter what (ie - not having them even though you want to).

Short answer - follow your heart, and trust in your family. When it comes to the decision to try to have a child, I think that faith, love, and hope are the most important things. Because it won't be easy - but if it's something you want, every single minute & each dollar sent to daycare is worth it 100 times over.
posted by Iamtherealme at 9:05 PM on May 22, 2007

No. Don't do it.

And then, next time anybody mentions anything about global warming, you can say "I've done my bit".
posted by pompomtom at 9:14 PM on May 22, 2007

If you have step kids you already know something first hand about parenting, even if you haven't you haven't done the baby thing yourself before, so no great looming unknown about parenthood. So, if you still want a kid, you're probably not in for any great shock.

As for age, 38 is not specially old. My father was 38 when I was born, I was 38 when one of my kids was born -- it seems normal to me. It wasn't harder at 38 than it was at 34.

My brother's three kids were each six years apart -- fewer jealousies than I've mostly seen with the standard three years, though the 12 year gap means a different kind of relationship between the oldest and youngest than you see with a closer spacing. Not worse, just different.
posted by Quinbus Flestrin at 9:29 PM on May 22, 2007

Research the opinions of those who consider themselves "childfree" and you may opt in their (our) direction =)
posted by Quarter Pincher at 9:35 PM on May 22, 2007

How does she feel?
It is her window that is closing.
posted by Methylviolet at 9:48 PM on May 22, 2007

Also, this question may be of interest to you.
posted by frobozz at 10:03 PM on May 22, 2007

In my personal opinion: Anything other than a definite 'yes' means 'no'.
posted by ysabet at 10:17 PM on May 22, 2007

My closest sibling is 8 years older than me and he always treated me wonderfully--just old enough to take care of me, still young enough to be a brother.

My folks were in my mid forties when they had me, and credit me with keeping them young.
posted by stray at 10:21 PM on May 22, 2007

Old? I was 43 when my wife and I had our twins, and they actually make me feel very much like a younger man. Bad sperm? Science has answers. for that. Agree with Methylviolet that if your wife is similar in age to you, it's her clock that's running down, although, again, science has answers that address that. Good luck.
posted by jaimev at 10:23 PM on May 22, 2007

How does she feel?
It is her window that is closing.
posted by Methylviolet at 2:48 PM on May 23

As her life partner, it's his window too!
posted by Lucie at 10:26 PM on May 22, 2007

I'd have to say if you have to ask then the answer is no.

Its not like you dont already have children, so you're not missing out on much - except they're not your spawn - consider the reasons for wanting a child - most reasons for wanting children are completely selfish and thats not necessarily a good reason to reproduce
posted by missmagenta at 10:37 PM on May 22, 2007

You call those reasons not to have a kid? You're 38 and like a martini...? Good reasons not to have a child are slightly better than that.

You are NOT kinda old. 38 is nothing these days. You're coping with two boys already (who will love having a new sibling around the house). And you say, right there in the second line, "the Mom and I are very much in Love and want to have a kid together." WHAT MORE DO YOU NEED? Get going right now. You heard me. NOW. Turn off the computer and run to the bedroom.

Whoever this kid will be, you will love him/her to absolute bits, and there isn't a child in the world who ever got miffed 'cos his daddy liked a martini.
posted by humuhumu at 10:41 PM on May 22, 2007

posted by tristeza at 10:52 PM on May 22, 2007

I had my son at age 35, and I don't think it's been an issue. However I agree that if you're on the fence, it's probably better not to do it. Having a child completely changes the dynamics of your relationship and I think many people underestimate how the relationship becomes much more vertical (parent to child) and less horizontal (SO to SO). So I think your marriage needs to be in nearly immaculate condition and that you and your SO are good at working out problems and getting along. Otherwise you risk unhappiness, the prospect of marital problems, or divorce, which negates the good things about bringing a child into the world.

You said you and your partner are very much in love but your post was so short that it's hard to tell whether it's new love or a long and stable relationship.
posted by rolypolyman at 11:38 PM on May 22, 2007

don't have a kid unless you absolutely can't imagine your life without one.

if you can imagine your life without one, you can list a million and one reasons why you shouldn't have one.

and if you can't imagine your life without one, all the practical reasons in the world won't matter.
posted by wayward vagabond at 11:49 PM on May 22, 2007

Whoever this kid will be, you will love him/her to absolute bits, and there isn't a child in the world who ever got miffed 'cos his daddy liked a martini.

posted by Krrrlson at 1:13 AM on May 23, 2007

you are already raising kids so it's not like you don't know what's involved here, so the fact that you have to ask whether you should bring another child into the world should be your answer: if you don't, without a doubt, want to have a kid, then don't.

i can't get my head wrapped around why on earth anyone would encourage you—or anyone for that matter—to have a child when you are unsure whether you want to, regardless of your reasons.
posted by violetk at 1:13 AM on May 23, 2007

if you don't, without a doubt, want to have a kid, then don't.

i just re-read that and that came out confusing. i meant that if have any doubts about whether you should have a kid, then don't.
posted by violetk at 1:16 AM on May 23, 2007

I'm going to nth the idea that if your answer isn't an unqualified yes, it should be a no. That said, only two of your listed concerns seem valid: the fertility one and the money, and the first of these isn't a reason not to try.

My personal feelings are that unless you're really hung up on the whole biological offspring thing, don't do it. You've got two kids already. You don't need a third. If you do want one, consider adoption. The world has enough kids as it is.
posted by Arturus at 1:27 AM on May 23, 2007

I'm with wayward vagabond and Arturus. 6.6 billion is already way too many, and making more is just plain selfish. If you're serious about sharing the rearing of another child together, there are many existing kids in dire need of loving parents.
posted by flabdablet at 2:14 AM on May 23, 2007

Go for it.
posted by The Monkey at 3:58 AM on May 23, 2007

I'm a person who was on the fence, and fell on the "no" side, primarily because of the money issue, which was a bigger problem for us than it probably is for you, and I didn't want to have a baby and be constantly worried that we couldn't sufficiently provide for him or her. (I'm not talking about poverty-level concerns, and I'm not talking about little prince/princess child luxury - I just didn't want to have a child and not be able to afford things like high quality medical care, piano-or-whatever lessons, nice-enough things, and of course, university education).

During this decision period (essentially our last-gasp window of fairly reliable opportunity) everyone urged us to do it, because we're such an awesome couple and would be such great parents, etc., and "money is never a reason not to have a child" (- which argument I'll never understand, if it negatively impacts the quality of the kid's life), and we were nearly persuaded, but realized, if nothing else, we just didn't want to be raising a kid in an atmosphere of stress and anxiety about money. For myself, I can eat potato soup five days out of seven if I need to, but even having a pet that I couldn't afford to buy the better (not best) pet food for would make me feel rotten... so, no.

Now, manyseveral years later, I don't regret this decision. We are now financially more capable, but only because we were able to make career decisions that we wouldn't have made (because they involved lack of security, travel, lack of medical insurance, etc.) if we had had a child. My husband, for sure, would not have been able to follow the career path that he loves and has now had a great deal of success in. We're not selfish, and we are both loving, warm and nurturing - and we would have made awesome little people, but everything didn't come together for us at the right time (we didn't even get together until the age at which hopeful parents are often advised that they better do it or get off the pot so to speak).

But I'm not a person who believes I can have everything, and my feelings of regret are far, far fewer than I thought they would be. We even sometimes say things like, "omg, thank heavens we don't have a teenager now - can you imagine?" and we're only partly joking. I kind of love it that we can be much more carefree and spontaneous than most people our age, and that we can still do crazy things and make leaps that most parents can't. You already have kids, so your situation is different, but in another 10 years, you will be much more free to indulge yourselves a bit and spend more attention on you two as couple, as opposed to the family - and just be able to breathe out. If you have a baby now, this won't happen for another 18-20 years. Some people are totally energized by family and parenting, and may feel bereft, lonely, and unmotivated once their kids are on their own, and some are willing to give it everything while the kids are at home, but are going to feel a bit relieved (while still loving and missing their kids) and inspired by the opportunity to pursue their own interests once their kids leave the nest; how you imagine yourself in that situation many years down the line may help you come to a decision.
posted by taz at 4:47 AM on May 23, 2007 [6 favorites]

Anyone who can answer that question with 'an unqualified yes' hasn't really thought it out. I had both my kids without a moments hesitation when I was too immature, financially unstable and in a bad marriage. I have many regrets about the type of mother I was but not one about having the kids themselves. If I could do anything again it would be to focus on 'is now the time for a kid to have to experience me' and not the other way around. Kids are the bomb but some parents suck.
posted by InkaLomax at 4:53 AM on May 23, 2007

I have four children aged from 21 down to 4 - the last was born when I was 41, so you won't hear any arguments against having kids at an older age from me.

I have never been in a position to be sure that I will be able to provide the good things in life for my kids - we struggled mightily to put my eldest through private high school and will probably have to struggle to give the others this (to us) essential opportunity to be the best they can be, so you won't hear any arguments against having kids for financial reasons from me.

But the above are things you need to think about in the context of your own needs and wants and those of the rest of your family. By the time my youngest graduates from high school, I will have had children at school for a continuous period of 28 years, which is a very long time to deal with the financial pressures, time constraints and stress that this entails. I will be 59 before our youngest is 18, an age where health is likely to start putting constraints on cutting loose and acting like a teenager myself. If these are no problem for you after considering them seriously and you really want to have a baby, then go for it and enjoy every moment.

The bottom line, though, is that it sounds like you aren't really sure you want this. This alone is reason enough to say no.

Try this - choose a date about six months from now when you will decide, once and for all. If you can maintain the desire for that long, having kept it in the back of your mind as you explore what not a baby, but a lifetime commitment will mean, go for it.

Babies are easy to have - all sorts of unqualified people manage to spit them out with little effort or thought. Bringing up a human being is hard, as you have already had a taste of (I don't know how long you have been a stepfather, so don't know how big a taste).

Good luck, either way - this is not a trivial decision. [/understatement]
posted by dg at 5:20 AM on May 23, 2007

Babies are easy to have - all sorts of unqualified people manage to spit them out with little effort or thought. Bringing up a human being is hard, as you have already had a taste of (I don't know how long you have been a stepfather, so don't know how big a taste).

These are wise words.

There are 14 years between my brother and myself - he was born when my mother was approaching her 40s. Yes, there might be additional precautions medically, but as everyone else has said, late 30s are the new late 20s. Age shouldn't be a factor.

I say this as the older child in the situation - please take the time to talk to your step children. You're introducing not only a younger sibling during prime developmental years, but completely changing the dynamic of their family. You will be adding an "our" child, and they'll still be "step." And don't take the age difference lightly - as Quinbus Flestrin mentioned above - dynamics are much different when there's an age gap. Don't assume your step-children are going to be 'built-in babysitters' or that when they hit teen years they're even going to be interested in the needy toddler in the house. That can be hard on the toddler. "Why doesn't my brother want to play with me?" Now that I'm an adult, and my brother is rapidly turning into one, we have a fantastic relationship. But it was years of screaming, tears and resentment in the making. Think seriously if that's how you envision your 40s.

(Also, I attribute my powerfully strong childfree belief for myself to the fact that I had a toddler at home when I was a teen. Perhaps the best birth control my parents could have hoped for a teen girl. I saw it happen first hand, and decided - No - that is not for me.)
posted by librarianamy at 5:33 AM on May 23, 2007

Yeah, my eldest (a girl), 12 years older than the next child, is adamant that she is not going to have children because of seeing first-hand what those cute little bundles are really like day in, day out.
posted by dg at 5:38 AM on May 23, 2007

why do you want to have a baby? to strengthen or symbolize/complete your relationship? bad reason. because you feel the urge to parent and feel you want to raise another human being with your values? good reason.

also, you might want to consider not just wanting the baby in your life, but the child/teenager/adult that baby will grow up to be. if that's attractive to you, then you should consider it.

oh, and you're not too old. my friend was 39 when she had her first.
posted by thinkingwoman at 5:45 AM on May 23, 2007

All I read was "I'm on the fence about having a BABY! Please see more inside." and I say no.
posted by thilmony at 5:46 AM on May 23, 2007

Hmm. Well, 25 months ago, I was on the fence about having a baby at age 39. Now I'm 41 and the little rugrat is playing at my feet. Life is strange. I like her much more than I thought I would. And it has been interesting and fun and crazy and tiring and ultimately satisfying to care for her and nuture her and run around after her.

Plus, I'm teaching her to mix a very fabulous martini.

There are pluses and minuses to both outcomes. Only you can decide what will ultimately be important to you.
posted by jeanmari at 6:30 AM on May 23, 2007

Just my opinion...

- Your age: 38 is not old, but how is your health? You need to be able to chase around/worry about/otherwise care for this hypothetical kid for at least twenty years. How's your family medical history? Any conditions with early onset? What does your doctor think?

- Finances: If something basic like day care will be a stretch for you financially, then you might want to think twice. With thousands of needy kids out there already, if you're going to create a new one you ought to be able to provide it with reasonably good child care, health care and educational/extracurricular opportunities. It also wouldn't be really fair to your other kids if a new baby would cause your standard of living to change significantly. ("No Little League this year because of the baby" = resentment.)

- Other kids: This is purely anecdotal, but the two people I know who had a large age gap in between them and their older siblings really weren't close with their siblings growing up. Also, kids tend to resent all the attention a new baby gets. (Corollary: your stepkids will be teenagers soon, so don't expect them to want to babysit toddler bro/sis all the time while their friends are out doing teenager stuff.) It might be worth it, if you start to consider this seriously, to talk to your stepsons and see what they think.

- Martinis: Unless you're an alcoholic, no, that won't be a problem. But you probably won't have much time to yourself (for martinis or whatever) for the first couple of years. If you really consider what that means, are you still okay with that?

- Etc: The following are not good reasons to have a child: you want someone to take care of you when you're old, you think it will spice up your marriage, everyone else you know has one, you need someone to carry on the family name. Not that I get any of this from you; just throwing it out there.

Returning to my first point, though, 38 is not that old. You don't need to decide right now if you're not sure. Why not let the idea simmer for a little longer, let yourself have those "I wouldn't be able to do this if I had a baby" or "Wouldn't this be great to share with a little tyke?" moments, and as dg suggests, see what you think in a few months?
posted by AV at 6:51 AM on May 23, 2007

Whenever you're called on to make a new child.
And you're hampered by not having any.
The simplest way to solve the dilemma is mild -
Simply by flipping a penny.

No, not so that chance shall decide the affair;
As you're passively standing right here.
But as soon as the penny is up in the air,
You'll suddenly know it's a bad idear.

--Piet Hein's Cousin
posted by cashman at 7:00 AM on May 23, 2007 [2 favorites]

Our situation is very similar to yours. I'm 37 and DH is 40. I have a ten year old daughter, and we have a 14 month old daughter together. It's generallly gone better than I had feared, re the sibling relationship. My daughter had been an only child for a long time, then had to adjust to a new stepdad and a new baby in a short period of time. She does much better than the baby than she does with her parents :) (she's a challenging kid). The baby adores her, and they are great friends. For me, this age gap has worked well-I don't have two toddlers hanging on me at once, the oldest can do little things like keep her entertained in the backseat of the car, hand her a toy, watch her while I shower, etc. They have a fabulous time playing together.

One thing I wonder, though, is how that dynamics change when the older child already has a sibling, especially if they are a close team. I do believe strongly that how your siblings like each other has more to do with their personalities than anything like spacing.

The things that are hardest to adjust to about having a baby again are the lack of sleep, and little things like not going to a movie as a family without a lot of planning-9 or 10 year old are much easier to do activities with. On the other hand, we'll continue to do things like travel and eat out as we can afford to, as I think those are great things to do with kids.

The zero population argument has merit, and I do struggle with it as we vaguely contemplate a third (I don't think my husband had a clue how much he would love having a baby). Good luck deciding.
posted by purenitrous at 8:31 AM on May 23, 2007

I was a strong NO. Not a fence sitter. Then I relented to a fence sitter. But things being what they are and going where they want to go, I ended up not having more say in the matter than that. Now, after baby 1, I am a firm yes, in ways I never imagined. And NOW baby number 2 come TOMORROW! Woohoo!
posted by BrodieShadeTree at 9:45 AM on May 23, 2007

the Mom and I are very much in Love and want to have a kid together.


That means that you WANT TO HAVE A BABY. Have the baby!

38 isn't "too old". (At least in the big, liberal cities I've spent my life in, 39-year-old parents of an infant are totally normal.)
posted by thehmsbeagle at 9:49 AM on May 23, 2007

Anyone who can answer that question with 'an unqualified yes' hasn't really thought it out.

I totally agree. Who the hell is 100% sure they want a baby? I sure wasn't.

Having a baby is so hard. There are phases you will hate. You will have less money. You mentioned daycare, so I assume you will both continue to work. My husband and I both work, and yes this adds a whole new set of difficulties and guilt.

But I don't regret it at all and I'm so glad we just went for it. In fact, my son is almost 18 months old, and the "Oh hell no more kids" feeling is just starting to wear off. It's becoming "well, maybe."
posted by peep at 9:53 AM on May 23, 2007

Response by poster: Well, this has been one of the best threads ever! Thanks to everyone, especially those sharing personal accounts.

I'm feeling a need to describe how I feel after reading these comments, but I guess you're gonna have to wait for the follow up in 9 months or so.

Seriously, thanks folks, for taking the time. I've learned a lot!
posted by snsranch at 6:22 PM on May 23, 2007

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