Is 49 Too Old to Become a Dad?

He’s older and thinks he’s too old to become a dad. I read that in so many comments. In fact, I received such a comment from a man this week. “Ezz” says he’s 49 and his wife, 33, agreed they didn’t want kids when they got married five years ago. Now she has had a change of heart and wants to have a baby. He’s still not into it and feels that he’s too old. Sound familiar? Sure did to me since my husband and I were almost exactly the same ages when we got married. I hear it a lot. The guy says, “Nah, I’m too old.”

Is he? We know that while women’s time to procreate is limited, men can keep producing sperm all their lives. We know that some celebrities, like Paul McCartney, Rod Stewart, and Michael Douglas, fathered children when they were in their 60s, and they claim to be very happy. But what about your average guy?

My husband had three children from his first marriage and didn’t want to do it again. The thought of going through all the stages with new children just made him tired. As it was, he was the oldest dad in every setting with his youngest son, who arrived as a surprise when Fred was 39.

As I write this, I realize that if Fred and I had had a child in 1986, the year after we got married, that child would have been 14 when his dad was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, would have spent his teen years watching him deteriorate and would have been 21 when he died. But nobody could have predicted that. Fred might have stayed healthy and full of energy into his 80s or 90s. Would it matter that people mistook him for his child’s grandfather?

There are practical considerations. An article from Time magazine,“Too Old to Be a Dad?” by Jeffrey Kluger, certainly raises some concerns. It suggests that babies conceived with older men’s sperm might be born with autism, schizophrenia and various physical problems. We don’t hear much about that, but it’s certainly something to talk to the doctor about.

Another concern is that the father may die, like Fred did, when the child is still relatively young. He might not live to be a grandparent. And the child’s grandparents might already be gone when they’re born. I was blessed to have my mother till I was 50. My dad is still alive at 94. And I had all four grandparents for a big chunk of my life. Two of my great-grandmothers were still alive when I was little. Are we cheating these children out of important life experiences by starting our families late in life?

Think about that older man. Just when he’s looking forward to retirement, to having time and money to travel or pursue new interests, there’s a kid needing to be taken care of and educated. If he has a baby at 50, the child will be a teenager when he’s ready to retire. When you look at it that way, it’s hard to blame the guy for being reluctant to start a family.

But what about this younger woman who wants to be a mom, who is and will be an appropriate age? She and her parents are likely to still be around. Is it fair for the husband to deprive her of children because he’s older?

I don’t know the answers to these questions. I would love to hear what you think about this, especially if you’re in this situation now.

 

Check out these articles that offer a response to the Time Magazine doom and gloom piece:

“What My Son has Taught Me in the First 100 Days   by Robert Manni

“What Time’s Article on Older Dads Did Not Report”  by Len Filppu

P.S. Today is Fred’s birthday. He would have been 79. Our mythical child would have been 29. Big sigh. Thank you all for being here.

 

 

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27 thoughts on “Is 49 Too Old to Become a Dad?

  1. I think one thing that’s important is not comparing ourselves (or our husbands/mates) to extremely wealthy celebrities – who no doubt have full armies of nannies, housekeepers, personal assistants and private chefs to take care of themselves and their offspring. Sure, for them it might be easy to be a dad at 60+ , or a mother in her mid/late 40s…but what about a typical run-of-the-mill average joe working nine-to-five (or later) just struggling to still pay basic household expenses?

    At 44 now myself I know there is no way I’d want to be trying to take care of an infant or toddler while struggling with the very real issues of growing older and just struggling to keep my own health and energy up – while also having to spend increasing amounts of time taking care of my aging mother. I spend so much time helping her I don’t know how I could do it while managing an infant. I understand now why my partner, who is 9 years older than me, was hesitant to want to take on the burden of parenthood when I was pressing for it and agonizing over the issue in my late 30s some time ago and had to make my choice to stay or leave. I’ve seen a few of my high school girlfriends who finally got pregnant (through assisted technology) in their 40s now regretting their decision and/or talking about how difficult it is to rework their life at this stage when many of their friends have their kids now out of the house in college or in their own jobs.

    So no, I don’t blame a guy for being hesitant at 50 even if the biology may still be functional. And I think we should be aware it’s not easy on women either, at even 40+, if they’ve spent their lifetime childless whether by choice or circumstance. We can have a lot of dreams of what might have been but the reality of aging is still there and not something to just ignore, no matter what the baby-crazed celebrity media might espouse.

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  2. Sue,

    This post was very thought generating. In my opinion
    49 isn’t too old for fatherhood.
    Although many men think it is.
    The way I see it if an older man has children in a prior marriage, then remarries a younger and then doesn’t want kids with her is
    patently unfair. Excellent post.

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    • Disagree Tony, if he made it clear from the start of relating to the younger woman. It was then up to the younger woman to accept the deal.

      Or clarify were she independently adopt or use AI to have a child, established as solely her responsebility, all established while living separately- would need to be if adopting – would he be still interested in having a relationship with her as a single parent, and if so to what extent and what way. Many men are too old at 50 to take on the full extent of fatherhood yet not mind a child’s presence if not their shared lifelong responsibility practically/financially/emotionally.

      Some may even balk at the presence of any little kids, and such an older guy means just him and no kids. It’s unfair and pointless with the no-kids steadfast older guy who was honest in the first place to resent him for his authentic life choice position.

      The younger woman sadly made a reckless wrong choice regarding later desires, it’s entirely her problem to resolve without it being fair to wish he’d be otherwise or imply his unwillingness to change is a source of her grief in any way. She can only fairly share the grief. She failed to recognise the pain she now feels in underestimating not having children became for her. Not that he has denied her anything. She let herself end up where she lost that option, and it is an awful position, but ultimately only her failure to wake up in time. You live and learn, but some lessons are too late for the learning!

      Younger women need to grasp if an older man who has raised his kids and doesn’t want to go there again, won’t change his mind, so don’t waste time with him.

      Anyway, unless you are dateless and desperate, why does a younger woman without her own kids want step kids in the background to start with, plus an aging “had enough of breeding” older man? Maybe this woman is just lucky to find such an older chap as a good partner and be grateful for that. She may have otherwise still ended up childless and single anyway.

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  3. Whether 49 is too old depends on the person, but I could certainly understand someone not wanting to have a new baby at that age. They may have plans on the horizon for retirement and a certain kind of lifestyle, and having a child will delay that, possibly forever.

    On the other hand, if that’s the way the guy feels, is it really right for him to marry a 20 something woman who is in a completely different stage in her life and then insist that she adjust for him and instantly fast forward to a late 40s pre-retirement sort of lifestyle and mindset? I realize that people can’t help who they fall for. I wouldn’t be a reader of this blog if I didn’t understand that all too well. Still, I think a 40 something year old man who feels he is too old to have children should be dating a 40 something woman who is also past the age of wanting or being able to have children. If they want the younger woman, I think they should be more prepared to take on everything else that comes with that.

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    • Very early 20s, it’s unethical in that developmentally the woman’s too immature to have chosen a spouse 20 yrs older or grasp what that age gap or not having children entails. Though it’s technically fair if spelt out from the start. Sensible too to deny having children as he doesn’t welcome any child (awful to be born unwanted). Secondly, she is young enough to wake up to the age/stage disparity and divorce him. She will be still young enough to get real deal. Least harm done by that kind of marriage than where he being an old fool trying to do what a younger man would and being inauthentic to his age/stage needs.

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  4. My husband wavered on his decision in his mid 40s so I started seeing a doctor for artificial insemination. But as time went on, I could see he just wasn’t into it at all and he admitted he regretted telling me yes. So I stopped seeing the doctor. Fast forward 15 years later, he has been diagnosed with an incurable and untreatable degenerative brain disease and I am now slowing watching him slip away. I could not imagine taking care of him and a teenager with raging hormones right now, I know that would be beyond anything I could manage gracefully. I’m struggling just to hang on as it is now.

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    • Candy, I’m so sorry you’re going through this. As you know, I experienced the same thing. And yes, it would have been harder with a teenager. Hang in there and try to love him as he is. Someday it will be over.

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      • I so love him… He is my world and watching slowly deteriorate is breaking my heart. It scares me to think my time with him is being cut short. Although I am saddened by not having children, I wouldn’t have traded him in for anything. He is a good man and loves me to the ends of the earth. I am very blessed.

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  5. I have stumbled on this brilliant blog just today and this post could not be more relevant to my life right now.

    I am 32, madly in love with a 53-year-old man who treats me better than I could ever have imagined. We haven’t been together long (only 6 months) and we aren’t yet ring shopping or anything like that. But it’s clear this is a long-haul situation in the making.

    I have never wanted kids, probably in part because I hadn’t found anyone worth partnering up with. But also probably because I have a very busy, undefined professional life. And, the way things are going, it will be that way for a while. So, when Mr. 53 told me at the VERY beginning of this relationship that he’d had his children (they’re grown now) and would not have anymore, I was okay with it; they weren’t anywhere near the radar.

    But now, as I’ve found myself in a good, healthy relationship with a wonderful person, and have begun to trust my own judgment again, I have realized that I don’t feel comfortable shutting the door. I am in no way ready for a child. But I am not comfortable with the idea that it’s already off the table before I have really had a chance to consider it.

    Mr. 53 said that if I felt motherhood was something I needed to take on, he and I would have to break up because he couldn’t be responsible for holding me back from experiencing something so wonderful. He also told me that he didn’t want to reproduce again because he’d done it, he doesn’t make very much money (we’re both freelance, artsy types), but mostly because, when he was 17, his father died of a heart attack and it devastated him. He refuses to put a child (or me) in that kind of situation.

    It’s sound reasoning, and I wouldn’t dare ask him to reconsider. But the idea of this relationship, which I treasure, already having a big, fat caveat stuck onto it is heartbreaking.

    We’ve only recently had this discussion. Neither of us wants this to end. We’ve left it at “take it a day at a time,” but I can’t help but feel like I’m never going to get any further. I mean, yes, this is a very new relationship. But I know I want to be married some day and, from where I am standing, this man would make an excellent husband if we end up staying together for a while longer. If the question of whether or not I’m going to suddenly come down with Baby Rabies is always looming, do I have to give up the idea of being married to this guy? I love him. I just don’t love that I’d have to decide about kids right away in order to move forward with our relationship.

    Do I leave now and find someone I love with this much of my heart and soul who doesn’t have any restrictions? Or wait it out, enjoy what we have, and see what happens down the road?

    I am so happy to have found this blog. Your comments have been illuminating. But, I still can’t help but feel like I’m headed for woe no matter what I pick.

    Can anyone relate?

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    • Ttlizzy, I wish I had an answer for you. The situation was similar with my second husband, but I didn’t quite believe him and he was not as definite about it as Mr.53. Also, I was almost 32, and I had been divorced and been through a series of rotten relationships, so by the time I met my Mr. Right, I had come to believe I would always be alone, so just having him was a bonus. When you have such a great relationship, it’s hard to know what to do. Maybe some of our readers have better answers.
      Thank you for your kind words about the blog.

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      • Thank you for replying. I just hate careening for regret.

        It’s horrible to admit this, but I find myself half-hoping that something happens and I am rendered infertile. Just so it’s out of my hands and I can go on with my life. Horrible. I know.

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    • Hi ttlizzy,

      I was in your situation and feel like I can give some insight after eight years of marriage. I never really wanted kids until I met the right guy for me (when I was 36) who happened to be ten years older and a divorced dad of one son. We were both ambivalent about kids during our (too brief) conversation about it before we were married. I just told myself that I wanted to be married to this guy and kids would be icing on the cake. And it was true.

      But after we were married about three years, I got bit by the bug BIG TIME and my husband said he enjoyed our lifestyle too much and did not want kids after all. I hated that he used the word “lifestyle” because it sounded so shallow and selfish to me. It was the biggest fight we have had. Our only fight. He graciously and through tears said that if I needed to go do this, he understood. I had to ask myself, do I stay or do I go? I stayed but it was a very difficult time for me. I questioned everything. But now I don’t regret a thing.

      That isn’t to say that I’m not sad. I’m still very sad. And my husband is, too. We talk about how we wish he had met years ago. We joke about his young nephew who is so like us, he “should” have been our son. It’s that shared camaraderie that is of great comfort to me now. It cuts through “I should have’s … !” and “Why didn’t we … ?” and “Why life why’s … ?”

      And I have developed my own personal plan B. Because while I love being married to my husband, I’m still a person. We all are. So I have developed relationships with my nieces and nephews. I travel with my husband. And without (with friends and through work). I volunteer and became a Big Sister. So my pieces of insight for you are:

      • allow space for questions and sadness, because that will never go away (that’s just life)
      • even though the decision is made and is non-negotiable, talk with your boyfriend in a way that you both are very clear on each other’s feelings and you can both (HIM included) can come to an acceptance of them … this leads to a mutual peace and love from which you can support each other in times of sadness (counseling was helpful for us) and even enjoy the shared camaraderie of it and laughter (through sadness)
      • enjoy your own plan B activities to help fulfill your other dreams

      I hope that makes sense! It’s taken me a while to be able to even articulate these feelings. Reading blogs like yours, Sue, have been a big part of my healing. Hugs to you both!

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      • Wow. Thank you very much for taking so much time to reply.

        It is so encouraging to hear that your life was made full by yourself, by your love of your choses activities, and by the love you have for someone who really seems to be a partner to you.

        Considering I have a very full life, a happy and healthy relationship, and a dog who could win World’s Most Spoiled Animal, it is nice to hear from people who use these as their life purpose, instead of motherhood.

        I have always been of the mind that motherhood should not ever be something I do just because it seems like the next culturally acceptable step. Even though my fear of regret is a big one, I know in my heart that doing something because that’s what I think I am supposed to do is not going to go well for me, and could end up hurting my other relationships in a big way (it’s happened before, in other areas of my life).

        I also appreciate knowing that, just because it was the right choice, doesn’t mean it wasn’t hard. That is the kind of realistic thing I need to hear, so I know what is in store for me, should my decision be to remain childless. I guess a lot of this depends on having a true partner in everything.

        Really, really thank you from the bottom of my heart. Expressing my feelings on this blog was something I was doing with the very small sliver of hope that I might find some insight, but I sure didn’t expect all of this.

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      • Thank you so much for this reply. So helpful for me. I love especially the “plan B” piece. I realize after reading your writing that I have done this myself and not even realized I’m doing it…and that’s okay. It’s an okay thing to do!

        My fiance is 15 years older than me, doesn’t want kids, and I used to feel like I didn’t but am reconsidering now. I have since been involved in a mentor program where I’m matched with an at risk child. My fiance is completely open to being involved in that with me. He’s even okay with the child coming over, staying the night, camping with us, etc. He just doesn’t want the financial commitment of a child at this stage in his life.

        Am I “settling” because I decide that I’m okay with that? I don’t think so. I think other people in my life tell me that I am settling…but I don’t think they get it. I’m also so in love with my fiance and I want to marry him! And this still feels hard off and on…and it probably will continue to. And we need to ride this wave together.

        Bringing him into riding the wave with me would be helpful. I want to bring him to see my therapist with me. Right now he’s pretty unsure about how to do this and what it will look like…he knows what he wants, he loves me too much to talk me into anything, so how can he be of help in therapy with me when he’s not willing to change his mind? But having his support there and being able to talk about the sadness without him feeling like he needs to fix anything…that’s important to me.

        Love the Plan B. It’s okay to have one! It’s not settling. It’s finding a balance within the gray area. Life is never black or white.

        Thank you so much for sharing this, I feel as though a weight has been lifted for me!

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      • @Anonymous
        December 14, 2016 at 2:09 pm

        I’m so glad my comments helped you! Plan B is totally an okay thing to do! In fact, Plan B is going to happen aways. It’s life. We might as well have a say in it.

        The funny thing is, the older my stepson gets, the more I’m seeing my husband having to figure out his own Plan B i.e. who he is when he doesn’t have to a hands-on parent every day. Maybe this kind of thing happens to everyone, even parents, at some point. That’s a new idea to me.

        That’s great about the mentor program! And as far as therapy, just getting my husband and myself in a room with a therapist we agreed on went a long way. Having a third party present and able to guide us through our blind spots and encourage us and support our talking about hard stuff made a lot of difference. We wouldn’t have been able to go that far at home.

        ((hugs!))

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    • Ttlizzy, if he is telling you he doesn’t want kids, he means that. I learned the hard way, thinking our relationship would continue to be great and he’d change his mind. 17 years later, he still doesn’t want kids still, I’m almost 40 and our relationship is extremely strained. Just my opinion though, wish you the best!

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  6. TTLizzy – I confess that I feel the same way sometimes. I never really wanted children all that much. I got married and it was good, at first, and then really hard. Now it’s wonderful and I’m starting to think I made a mistake by delaying motherhood.

    At 42 I have friends that are done with raising children (one is a grandmother already!). I also have friends who started late and are having their third at 42. I feel like anything could be possible and yet I’m at a crossroads. I love my life now. I’ve worked hard and I should enjoy what I’ve built in terms of marriage and career. Sure, having a child COULD be amazing. But then it could also go another direction and I regret motherhood.

    The last 10 years DH and I have been very casual about sex, thinking that “if it was meant to be . . .” Nothing is happening and it’s almost a relief. I can argue with myself over whether we should “try harder” to become parents or not. I can’t very well argue with God (or nature). Menopause should be a relief for me. I’m sitting on the edge of my seat wondering if one of these months I will get pregnant. Menopause will close that door.

    Either way it’s a blessing to have this forum. It’s hard (for me) to fit into my own life without a child. Doesn’t mean I’m “supposed” to have a kid. Just means that most of the people in my life have children and since I care about these people I need to figure out how to be be my best self and be confident in my own value, without a child. Good luck to you. I don’t envy that sort of decision. I hope you find peace.

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  7. Anon S-

    Thank you for this. I relate so much to the idea of menopause being a relief. Then the decision doesn’t have to be actively made!

    When you said, “Sure, having a child COULD be amazing. But then it could also go another direction and I regret motherhood,” all my nerves lit up. That is ABSOLUTELY how I feel. How does one make such a truly life-altering decision comfortably?

    Not arguing with Nature is something I work on every single day. I think a lot of my fear and frustration on this issue comes from a deep compulsion to have all the answers right away, when the reality of the situation is that I just need to relax, enjoy my life and trust that my body and my life will tell me what the right thing for me is when the time comes. (As woo woo as that may sound.)

    Once again, I really appreciate your reply to this. I am so grateful for this blog.

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    • “How does one make such a truly life-altering decision comfortably?”

      I guess we can’t. That is where faith comes into play in my personal life. How many times have I driven home late after a full day of gratifying work and said to God, “is this all there is for me? If so make me do something great with it. But if I’m meant to be a mother I know you will make it so.”

      Medical conception is not something I’m interested in. Adoption will probably be too costly. At this point I should be working really, really hard to conceive naturally or figuring out a way to have peace. It will have to be a huge sign and a huge push for me to KNOW that God wants something from me. I live in fear of that push some days and other days I wait for it in eagerness.

      I find myself grateful, at least, to not be a person who desperately wants a child and has exhausted all possible avenues only to still be childless. That must be a special sort of loss for those folks. An angry, unfair disappointment. For the most part I am able to just say, “whatever you want God.” And life goes on.

      The Book Studio has some great advice. I find that when I’m most sad that it helps to meet up with someone with a child. I enjoy them greatly but when I watch mothers in action I can’t help but somehow know that isn’t my path. I’m looking for my real “Plan B” but until then work, friends and faith help me along.

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  8. I’m 23 in college, he’s 39 with a 10 year old daughter. We broke up a few days ago because I want kids and he doesn’t want more. He has chrons disease and almost died from it a few years ago resulting in a colostomy bag. He had his surgery reversed 5 months ago and is doing fine with no sign of chrons at this present time however he’s afraid of having a child and something happening to him and leaving me with a young child to care for. We mutually broke up but I feel so empty and from what I hear he is too. We’ve texted a few times due to stuff I had remaining at his place and what not and we realized neither of us is doing well in the slightest. I from a huge family and all my siblings have children and I want one so bad but I want him too… He made me feel so alive and happy (I’m manic depressive) and that’s a huge thing for me to feel the way I do with him.. I don’t want to be told what to do I just need advice because I feel lost and broken..

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  9. Obviously, physical and mental health problems can happen regardless of parents’ ages at conception. And while those aren’t things to push aside, no one can be sure what will happen to anyone when. My husband is concerned about passing on some health issues to his children…well, he had them a few years ago, so too late, huh? He really shouldn’t use that as an excuse as to why he won’t give ME a kid when he gave HER 3.

    But I work in behavioral health, and mental health issues are awful. Schizophrenia can often present itself at age 13 or older, so a kid can have a healthy childhood, and then boom, debilitating mental health issue. It’s awful. But also, there can be no family history of an illness and then it shows up in someone, or a family can run rampant with an illness and then it skips a person…you just never know. Is that reason to not go forward? I agree with Sue- at least consult a doctor about it.

    Why: My eyes are misty after reading your story. If you do get back together with him, just know that you should have the mindset of “I will not be having a child with this man.” Giving yourself false hope is not a good thing. I think it’d be easy for many of us to say “You’re so young, you have so much time to find another person,” but when the person you want is right there, that’s not what you want to hear.

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