When you delay childbearing, how old is too old?
Well, as technology advances, the answer may well be “it’s never too late,” but that ignores some very important non-technical issues.
I know a little bit about this topic because I had my first child at 27 and my last at 51—two years ago. It’s much harder to be an older dad. Arthritis and chasing toddlers is not a good combination. I have less patience. I miss the easy life most of my friends have. After working hard at the office all day, I can’t just flop on the couch. I can’t go play hockey much, and golf has become significantly rarer.
On the flip side, hardly anything matches the spontaneous eruption of a little person, gleefully yelling, “Daddy’s home! Daddy’s home!” That never goes out of style. Trust, me, your 16-year-old won’t do this, at least without a smirk on his face. It’s just as fun to take my 10-year-old to hockey as it was 14 years ago. It’s a little harder to get up at 5 a.m. to do it. We do things differently: We hire more help. We don’t expect our kids to be perfect.
(Digression: Doesn’t the parent of every firstborn Jewish son think he’s going to be Jesus?)
We enjoy the moments more, except when we don’t. We don’t keep thinking, oh, she’ll be this some day, or she’ll do that some day. It’s about what’s happening—right now. Mostly.
One of the big attractions of parenthood at a young age, at least for us achievement-oriented Baby Boomers and early Gen Xers, is that our kid will grow up to be something special—president, prime minister, famous actor, doctor, lawyer, hero, etc.
Because we’ve been through the process to adulthood already, we’re a bit jaded about that. Even in the cases of some of my friends, where their kids are stars at something, there are challenges in their lives that make them ordinary. So it becomes more about developing adults who are decent people and able to take care of themselves and contribute something to the world. That’s enough.
Bottom line, when you have kids later, you generally have more money, more perspective, less angst, and less physical and mental wherewithal.
I haven’t become a grandparent yet, but I’ve heard that’s even better. I’ll update you when I know.
This post originally appeared on Quora.