When I met Bob, he wasn’t really the ideal candidate to be my husband and the father of my children. He was, after all, twenty years older than me and divorced with two teenage sons. Still, I was totally interested in him and we went on to date anyway and eventually fell in love. The whole time, this big question loomed ominously over our heads – could we really have a future together if I still wanted children?
At 28, I was still very much in my prime childbearing years and had always wanted a family. Early on, Bob told me he was open to the idea, but that didn’t mean we didn’t have a lot to discuss. And I worried that he wouldn’t really be an engaged father at his age, that he would he just be doing this for me.
A few months into dating, he addressed my concern one afternoon in the car, when out of the blue he declared, “You know, if we had kids, I wouldn’t just be doing it to keep you. And I would love them as much as I love my other kids.”
Over the next few months, we discussed concerns like his health and finances. When the time came, we made the choice to create a family together. My husband became a father again, at 51 and 53, to two more little boys who love and adore him. There are benefits and drawbacks, as there are with any other major life decision, but I have never regretted our choice to take this step together.
Truth #1: Its great having a partner who’s had kids already and knows what they are doing.
It had been many years since my husband took care of a newborn, but nobody had to teach him how to hold our infant son or change his diapers. I basically took this for granted until a cousin of mine brought it up one evening. She said she basically had to raise her husband at the same time she raised her child, since he needed a lot of help navigating first-time fatherhood. She spoke enviously of my experience having a partner who was prepared for a baby. It was the first time I realized that not every husband inherently knew how to take care of a newborn like mine did. And for me, a first-time, anxiety-ridden mother who was scared to death to do something wrong, it was reassuring to have someone there who could comfort and encourage me that everything would be alright.
Truth #2: Having babies is stressful on a marriage, but it’s easier when your spouse knows what to expect.
Over the years, I’ve watched friends of mine struggle in their marriages because their spouses had different expectations of what would happen once their children were born. Couples I knew argued or grew distant when they no longer had as much time for one another, when babies took priority and time alone between the two of them waned. My husband was more realistic about it and didn’t seem to resent how much our babies needed our attention. Because he had been down this road before, he knew this was temporary and so he was patient. He also helped me to see how important it was for us to find private time together, even if it wasn’t as frequent as it had been before kids.
Truth #3: It’s still new for him because it is new for us.
A friend of mine who took a more traditional route to building her family lamented that she would never want to have kids with someone who had already gone through it because it wouldn’t be as exciting for them. But that never seemed to be my reality. It was new for my husband because I wasn’t his ex-wife, and our relationship and our children were different. Since he is doing round two some twenty years later, life is a lot different as well. (Case in point, he could not believe I was putting the kids to sleep on their backs when clearly, every doctor tells you to put them on their stomachs in case they throw up!)
Truth #4: Sometimes, I do worry about the future.
There are a lot of benefits to having children with someone older who has done it before. For me, I’ve found that over the last four years, my husband and I have grown closer than I could have imagined and I’ve loved parenting with him. Still, I know my husband won’t have as many years with my children as he will have with his first two, and this makes me sad. I pray all the time for a long and happy life together and envision us taking long vacations once they’ve all left the nest or dancing at their weddings. I know that may not be the case, but whatever happens, I know my children were meant to be a product of the two of us.
I feel especially lucky when I see how much my children love their father. His age means nothing to them. When my older son recently announced at daycare that it was his father’s birthday and he was turning 56, he did so with pride and excitement. And my husband, in turn, owns it. He can laugh when others joke about his age, because he is proud of our family. Our choices may surprise some people, but I practice gratitude every day for the life we have built together.