Older fathers are great but NO man should deliberately father a child past 75, argues TRACEY COX – as she reveals 3 major downsides to having a baby later in life
- Sexpert Tracey Cox argues against fathering a child once over the age of 75
- READ MORE: TRACEY COX reveals 5 ways to be intimate without having sex
What did you think when you heard Al Pacino just fathered another child at the age of 83?
A wonderful illustration that age has no barrier when it comes to giving life? Yet another example of the unfairness of men not having a biological clock when women do?
Or, there’s another old man trying to hang onto his youth by proving he’s still ‘got it’ and having sex? Possibly an element of each of them struck a chord.
My over-riding response was, ‘That poor kid!’.
I’m not disputing having the star of The Godfather as your dad would be cool. You’re certainly not going to lack nannies, money or opportunity!
Sex and relationship expert Tracey Cox asks: ‘What did you think when you heard Al Pacino just fathered another child at the age of 83?’ (pictured, Al Pacino with Noor Alfallah)
But you could easily end up with a father you don’t remember because they died while you were so young.
Here, you’ll find the pros and cons of parenting very late in life, personal stories and the varying opinions of a cross section of people.
We consider ourselves too old for lots of things late in life – partying, doing drugs, staying up all night, working all hours. Surely one of the most important jobs of all – parenting a baby and young child – should be added to the list.
Dads are important
We live in an age when lots of children are being raised perfectly well by a single parent. But very few make that choice: it’s usually a life situation that’s foisted on them.
It’s certainly the case that most men fathering a child post 80 are either famous or rich: most women wouldn’t go for a man that old otherwise.
These children will be protected by money and privilege. But the average child born to a much older father will not.
I have nothing against older fathers – in fact, I think they tend to make better dads.
But seriously. Shouldn’t we draw a line in the sand somewhere when it comes to age and parenting?
And shouldn’t that line be around 75…maybe even 70?
THE PROS AND CONS OF HAVING A MUCH OLDER FATHER
There are two sides to the older dad argument with ethical, social and biological considerations.
THE GOOD BITS
Emotional stability and maturity
It’s not always but is often the case that men become more reliable and sensible the older they get. The more stable the home, the healthier the child’s emotional development. Older fathers bring wisdom, patience and life experience to their parenting.
Older fathers are most likely to have established careers and accumulated financial resources. A quality education, better healthcare, other opportunities poorer parents can’t entertain…money helps.
Studies show children who grow up in economically advantaged households tend to have better educational outcomes and higher socioeconomic status later in life.
NOT SO GOOD
Health risks for the child
Semen quality diminishes with age.
Children born to fathers over the age of 45 are more likely to develop psychiatric problems and struggle at school, according to a large-scale study (2014) of more than 2.6 million babies born to 1.4 million men.
The study found they are more often diagnosed with autism, psychosis, ADHD, schizophrenia and bi-polar disorder. They often report more drug abuse and suicide attempts; and may have worse grades and fewer years in education.
Researchers admit it’s difficult to say conclusively that all the findings are directly a result of having an older father. But genetic mutations that build up in sperm as men age do bring serious risks.
Less time together
Tragedy can strike at any age but the older the parent, the higher the chance of them getting illnesses which leave them physically or mentally less available to their children.
There’s also the obvious: your dad is more likely to die while you’re still young.
Less physical and mental energy
It takes a lot of energy to bring up a child. It’s not just having the strength to play rough and tumble, it’s the relentless late nights and early mornings that take their toll. Helping with homework, ferrying your kids to friend’s places, getting up in the night when they’re sick; parenting is an exhausting, relentless task that never officially ends.
Children might fly the nest but the constant worry about them never leaves you.
Men DO have a biological clock
For years, it was assumed that advancing age only mattered for women when it comes to making babies.
But now we know men DO have a biological clock: an age after which having children carries considerable risks for the child, both psychological and physical.
It’s the mental toll that worries me.
I interviewed lots of people who had older fathers – most were over the age of 50 when they were born – and their stories were poignant.
‘It’s certainly the case that most men fathering a child post 80 are either famous or rich: most women wouldn’t go for a man that old otherwise,’ suggested Tracey (pictured)
Much older dads make kids feel vulnerable
‘I have always been haunted by the shadow of his death,’ was how one woman described having an older father. (Her father was 51 when she was born.) ‘He had a heart attack at 55; he got cancer at 62,’ she said. ‘My friends all took it for granted their dads would be around when they had kids. I knew that was never going to happen and it broke my heart.’
Another woman told me, when she was 15, she’d worry every time she heard her father step into the shower. ‘He fell once and broke his shoulder. Such an ordinary thing – taking a shower – became a stressful event for me. I’d hover outside the door and hold my breath until I heard the water turn off and him step onto the bathmat and safety. I’m an anxious adult and am sure this didn’t help.’
Another man said when his life was beginning, his fathers was winding down. ‘It was hard not to feel jealous of friends who had Dads who were more physically active. My father was frail, the thought of him kicking a ball around with me was laughable.’
‘YOU HAVE TO PLAY THE CARDS YOU’RE DEALT’
Carmen, 45, has a three-year-old child with her partner Terry who is 73.
‘I didn’t set out to have a child with a man in his late 60s, it just happened that way. I got married in my early 30s but there were issues with my husband’s sperm, and he wouldn’t entertain the idea of me getting sperm from a sperm bank. I left five years later because I felt resentful and angry about this.
As time marched on, I considered going solo but didn’t think that was fair on the child. Increasingly desperate, I tried in earnest to find a partner. I was on all the dating apps, went out on dozens of dates but didn’t find anyone I liked who liked me back. Men were suspicious of me – but just because you want a child, doesn’t mean you don’t want a great partner as well.
I struck up a friendship with a man I met in the park who was in his late 60s. We both had dogs and got chatting. I’d entertain him with my disastrous dating stories but it didn’t occur to me to consider him a prospective partner. He went on a few dates as well – his wife left him for another man ten years earlier.
About one year after we met, something odd happened. He went on a date, and they seemed to be getting on well and I felt jealous. A few days later, he said he didn’t think the spark was there and before I could stop myself, I blurted out ‘Good!’. I’m not sure who was more surprised, him or me, but our relationship started after that.
He knew I wanted children and said he’d be honoured if I’d consider having one with him. He has two daughters – now in their 40s – and is very close to them. They were nervous of my motives at first – he’s quite well off – but, over time, we’ve all grown very close.
Terry and I moved in together and had unprotected sex for a few months, but nothing happened. I was 41 and nervous about conceiving so we went to a fertility clinic and through IVF, had a daughter two years after we got together.
Terry turned 70 the year our child was born and is the best father any child could ask for. Seventy isn’t like it was. Plenty of people in their 70s are still fit, healthy and active. We live longer and live better.
Money isn’t an issue, our daughter is growing up in a beautiful house in a great area and will have the option of private schooling, if that’s what she wants. I still work but Terry is retired and looks after her when I’m not there. It’s not his first time at the rodeo so he’s infinitely patient with her. He’s certainly hoping to be in her life for a long time but even if he only lives another ten or 15 years, he’ll have been a far better father to my daughter than any of the men I met from those dating sites.
His age is a plus in many ways. He’s reliable and dependable and our future is secure. I feel loved and cared for and so does my daughter.
Having children isn’t always possible earlier in life. I didn’t know my husband was infertile and tried my hardest to meet someone my own age after we split. But things aren’t always black and white and it’s not always as clearcut as ‘have children before this age’.’
Embarrassment and shame are common
‘You want to be like everyone else when you’re a kid. You don’t want a dad who looks and acts differently from other dads,’ was a comment that summed up a lot of people’s feelings.
There was also shame for feeling that way.
‘I let everyone assume he was my granddad because it wouldn’t look cool to have a dad that was so old. What a tosser I was!’ one man told me, still guilty after all those years.
Generational difficulties made life difficult.
‘A gap of two generations creates a massive cultural chasm. My father never showed his feelings, never told me he loved me.
He was the man of the house who brought home the bacon. The ‘mamby-pambying’ – as he called it – was the job of my mother.’
For more advice on relationships and sex, listen to Tracey’s podcast, SexTok with Tracey and Kelsey, at sextokpod.com. Check out her books and read her blog on traceycox.com.
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