Older fathers. Becoming a father at a later age. Challenge or exhaustion?
'What an energetic guy,' the woman remarks, laughing as she looks from her deckchair with pleasure at how a man is busy working together with a little boy to build a supersonic sand castle. The man is fit and well built but his gray locks and a slightly fuller stomach area betray that he is not the youngest anyway.
I wish Sam his grandfather was so fine, "her friend replies while she slowly rubs some sunburn on her legs, but my father is just too old to play with his grandchildren." Yes, too bad. to have such a young grandfather, "her friend says approvingly and together they enjoy watching the man take part in the fantasy game about knights and dragons of the boy.
Dad? What sick!
After some time the castle is finished; the boy looks defiantly at the man and calls tough: Now swimming, Dad. Who is first in the water! " As the man pulls a sprint and the boy runs after him, the two women look at each other in shock. 'Daddy?!' Jemig, it's his father. "What sick!"
Rightly or not, there is a great prejudice against older fathers.
It seems like a fashion trend, but it is only a logical consequence of all kinds of demographic changes in our society that men later raise a young family. Why therefore that prejudice?
More accepted for women
For women it is generally accepted that they will have their first child at a later age. Despite the many warnings currently from gynecology, women give priority to education, work and career and maternity is deliberately delayed. In our article 'Primaries' it became clear that the right biological age for women to have children is between 20 and 30 years, with gradually declining fertility until menopause.
Decrease in activity
Although spermatozoids decrease very slowly in numbers and activity, men do not limit their fertility. The limit of social acceptance is, however, sharp: men who become fathers again after their fiftieth birthday are considered worn out or disapproved for grandpa.
In Hollywood and in Holland Medialand it seems a real hype to have children in old age: Harvey Keitel (65) recently had a child and also Michael Douglas (62) was very proud in 2003 because of the birth of his daughter.
At a later age father
With us are Harry Mens, Peter Faber, Carl Huybregts and Felix Meurders who re-entered paternity later in life. Whether there is a relationship between being famous, a fad and a dear father wish is still unclear, the fact is that it is always a result of a change in the form of a society where a certain young lady plays the leading role.
Disapproval for older fathers?
In our preliminary investigation into men who start (again) to a young family at a later age, pennea.org noticed that it was difficult to reach these men.
On the other hand, many women reacted to our petitions, which a: had an ex-partner who had children again, b: daughters were of a father who later had a baby again and c: women with young partners who could not picture forms with old fathers. The content and tone of the reactions spoke for themselves: misunderstanding, prejudice and even anger / jealousy prevailed. Oudersezno.nl slowly began to understand why these men would rather not be in the spotlight.
Going with grandpa?
"I was recently with my son at the bakery and someone said unsuspectingly:" So, are you out and about with grandpa? ", To which my son reacted in amazement:" This is my daddy! "Sometimes that happens, but I have no problem with it. It is a fact that I might as well have been a young grandfather - after all, my other son is already thirty. "
Leo is sixty and father of two sons; he experiences paternity with his youngest son Rocco (3 years) much more intense than at the time with his first son.
At the time I was very focused on education, work and social status. I am completely free of that now: Rocco comes first.
I experience the time and space I now have to occupy myself with Rocco as a huge luxury, an enrichment of my life. '
The image in our society is changing. Families in their traditional composition with a father, mother and (two) children slowly make way for increasingly varied forms of living together. The role of fathers in these forms of society is also more varied: you have single fathers, fathers who form a family with their children and the children of a new partner, home fathers, weekend fathers, homophobes, and older fathers.
Second lay fathers
The latter are also called 'second leg fathers', a derogatory name for men who start a family with a younger partner later in life.
Qualities for life
"When Marion expressed her desire to have children, I had to think about it," Leo confesses honestly. He met his current partner after living as a single person for a long time. 'I was 55 by then and had lived alone for years; a baby was not at the top of my list: the care, the responsibility, but also doubt about your health and age, it all plays through your head. So 'thoughtless' and of course I chose for the first time for fatherhood, so this went well with Rocco and in the end I dared to do it.'
Aged as an advantage
Leo experiences his age as an advantage and only once as a disadvantage.
'Of course you sometimes think of later: how long can I experience Rocco, whether I will be there when he goes to study, or even gets children. But it is not about later. We live now, very intensely, and I am convinced that what I now give him to qualities for life, will shape him in such a way that he does not need me at his graduation ceremony. By that time he is a full-fledged man with a stable background and sufficient spiritual baggage for the rest of his life - even without his father. What does age really mean? I know fathers of thirty or forty who are older than me. "
As Leo said, it's about here and now: worrying about the future is lost time, Sandra knows all about it. When she was 38 and her first son 15, she was spontaneously pregnant with a second healthy son. For her slightly older partner (46 at the time), this first fatherhood came like a thunderbolt in clear skies; he had very mixed feelings about the arrival of a baby, especially since he was a bit older. The birth of their son Maikel, however, made a lot of him and fatherhood was an experience that deeply enriched his life! His joy for Maikel, however, was short-lived because five months later he was killed by fate.
"All the mishaps about that he would later be a very 'old dad' were suddenly so trivial, 'says Sandra, who now stands alone with a teenager and a toddler. "I hold on to the enormous joy and intense fatherhood that brought about the birth of Maikel in my partner. The joy of fatherhood is not age-related; it was precisely his experience that my partner experienced and appreciated everything with Maikel so intensely. I will try to give my son a good picture of his father later: an extremely proud and loving man who enjoyed his son too short but intensely! '
Never before goodbye
Maikel is an exception but due to the increasing life expectancy of men, children of older fathers do not necessarily have to say farewell to them earlier: figures from the Central Bureau of Statistics show that fathers from 1975 spent an average of 43.9 years with their child. had to go, against 43.4 years in 2005.
Again the question: where does that prejudice come from older fathers?
Peter Cuyvers, father of six children and director of the consultancy and development agency on the family site 'Family Facts', says:' On the one hand it is almost a fashion phenomenon - becoming a daddy again later - but on the other hand a taboo. Yet the shift in the age of fathers is a very logical consequence of the major changes in our family composition. Just as well as that mothers getting older with their first child, father's parents become their last child.
Old gray father
The image of an old gray father with a toddler is indeed strange, but that image actually does not exist: nowadays men are no longer 'tired, old and gray', but very energetic and longer 'young'. For most, a toddler poses a challenge and certainly no exhaustion. "Peter got his first child at the age of 21 and at the age of 43 his son Hugo was born; a surprise because with 48 years his wife never thought to get pregnant.
Your experience changes
"I'm still the same kind of father, I was not a game man back then and I still am not. Look, your personality does not change, but your experience does mean: Hugo now means everything to me while I was swallowed up by evening study and work. '
Time, money, peace and space are the key words for Peter when talking about older fathers. 'Age, maturity and life experience make you look at things differently, set different priorities and experience your emotions more intensely. At that time I made my children subject to myself - to my work, education, career - but that would be unthinkable with Hugo: he is the first. '
Personally, Peter has little prejudice; all six of his children have been conceived with the same mother with whom he has lived together all these years. 'It is not a second marriage or something and I am not therefore of' the second leg '. I actually do not experience any disadvantages with the older fatherhood, maybe the only downside is that my role as a grandfather is different than with most families. Hugo was an absolute present, as friends of ours said so nicely, and he was immediately warmly welcomed into our family. "
A special family, incidentally, where the age difference between Hugo and his nephews / nieces - Peters grandchildren - is less than that between Hugo and his eldest brother.
For paternity the same applies as for motherhood: the ideal biological age to have children is between 20 and 30 years, but in many other ways this age may be less ideal.
Because let's be honest, every person, every relationship and every circumstance is different after all.
Once the child has become healthy and without complications - despite warnings for late motherhood and a possible relationship between autism and older fathers - age no longer plays a role. Because the parents are now in their twenties or sixties, the most important thing is that a child is welcome and grows up in a loving environment.
Quality of sperm in older men
The age of the man is of less importance for the emergence of a pregnancy than for the woman. The quality of sperm remains constant for a long time and will only show defects in the genetic material later in life.
No direct need
Although there is no direct need to use a maximum age limit in IVF and ICSI for example, it is important to know the risks of late (fifty plus) paternity. The number of miscarriages increases and research has shown that there is a relationship between a higher age of father and the development of autism and / or related disorders in the child (in addition to the age of father, other factors play a role such as the year of birth). and the socio-economic status of the parents). However, anyone who falls in love with his ears and has met a partner who would like to start a family with him, will not let himself be held back by the arguments.