A new parenting trend shows many men are becoming fathers later in life. The trend, parenting considerations, and the studies I shared on the TODAY show.
“My father didn’t tell me how to live;
he lived, and let me watch him do it.”
~ Clarence Budington Kelland
I sat down with Matt Lauer on the TODAY show and discussed a fascinating subject: “Do older men make better dads?” (Full disclosure: I readily admit to being a bit biased. I am the product of an incredible dad who waited quite a while to marry–a war entered into the pictured and a delay in the wedding–then voila….I finally arrived). But there appears to be a a new parenting trend emerging: men are waiting to father later in life. Just a few celebrity examples include: Elton John Paul McCartney, Jack Nicholson, Rod Stewart, David Letterman, Mick Jagger, Clint Eastwood, Larry King, Steve Martin and Donald Trump.
Why the new trend? A number of reasons cited for the increase are due mostly to today’s society such as delaying marriage and child bearing to jumpstart that career and a high divorce rate, And then there’s that factoid that many older men are marrying younger women. (Hmmmm. I’m not going there). The wonders of science and medical advancements have also increased life expectancies. But regardless of cause, it appears many men are simply living longer and are deciding to start families later in life. (There’s also a whole special category called “S.O.D.” which stands for “Start Over Dads” –though I’m sure their first wives might have another name for it–and are starting a second and later family altogether).
Three Fascinating Facts About Older Dads
Perhaps the fascinating part is that research suggests that older dads are actually better at fathering. To be fair, this is such a new phenomenon and all the data isn’t complete, but it’s enough for us to review and believe me, have some very interesting discussions. Here are just three of the most titillating findings about older dads gathered from several studies that I shared on TODAY:
1. Older Dads Are More Involved In Child Rearing
No more absentee dads here. These men are visible and want to be actively involved in raising Junior. And that is always a huge plus to the kiddos. One of the highest correlations of children who do well in life is that they had actively involved fathers in their lives. Kids with involved dads generally have higher self-esteem, more confidence, are more secure, handle stress better, and display more empathy.
2. Older Dads Are More Nurturing
Older dads are often warmer, more generous with affection, and more nurturing to their kids. Some of this may be due to a drop in testosterone levels, but regardless the studies show that these older men are more likely to be mellower, more relaxed, and appear to be much calmer in their parenting.
3. Older Dads Are More Willing To Share Child Responsibility
This one is sure to make mothers cringe (especially their first wives and children), but studies always show that older dads tend to share in more of the daily child rearing tasks than younger fathers. In fact, older dads are three times more likely to be be active care-givers than younger dads.
The Disadvantages of Being an Older Dad
Now there are also disadvantages to fathering at an older age, and I’d be remiss if I didn’t include them. There are milder issues like the embarrassment when you’re introduced as “Grandpa” at those school events or trying to bond with other dads who are 20, 30, (or even 40 years younger).
Scientific evidence also warns of more serious genetic risks to the unborn to later fathering including a rise in birth defects, dwarfism, autism, schizophrenia, pre-term birth and a list of other genetic diseases in their offspring.
Health concerns with advancing age are also a risk. Many men admit that the possibility of dying before their child grows up is their most pressing worry. Interviews with these fathers also point out that though the “mortality issue” weighed heavily on them, their decision to have children was always a conscious, deliberate choice. (Amen on that one).
The researchers concluded the older fathers for the most part are far more reflective about parenting than their younger counterparts. Most of these older dads admitted that during their “first round of fathering,” they were too caught up in their careers and didn’t spend time with their children. Suddenly the kids were grown and they realized that they missed out on the most important role of their lives–“Daddying” and vowed to not make the same mistake again. Here are a few tips I shared with Matt Lauer:
~ Be Sure To Introduce Yourself As “Dad”
Just a firm, confident, “Hi, I’m the father of this great kid,” will do. Better to introduce yourself correctly than have to point out you’re not Grandpa.
~ Don’t Stress The Stuff You Can’t Do
Forget camping out in that pup tent with your child on those scouting overnighters. You’ll hate yourself the next morning. Playing those rough, quick game of hoops on the asphalt won’t do much for your knees either. Don’t stress over what you can no longer do with your child.
~ Focus On Activities You Can Share with Your Child
Attend those musical, ballgames, movies, and dinners with your kids. Find and do the things you will enjoy together.
~ Spend Quality Time Together
Kids really spell love as T.I.M.E. together. Keep doing what you’re already doing with your child. The most effective quality of a good parent is the relationship he has with his child.
Whether you agree that men should father later in life, research shows that these older dads are taking their parenting role very seriously–and loving every minute. For the most part they are also more patient, nurturing, and more involved with their kids than younger fathers or when they were first time dads themselves. It also appears that with age comes wisdom.
I guess the real $64,000 question is: “Why does it take so long to figure out what really matters most in life: savoring the time with our kids and making every moment count?”