herald

Sunday 4 December 2016

The Parent Zone: 'I've just turned 40 - do you think I'm too old to have and raise a child?'

Halle Berry and her husband Oliver Martinez had children later in life
Halle Berry and her husband Oliver Martinez had children later in life
Pamela Flood and Ronan Ryan
David Carey

Having children later in life and making friends with your partner's ex

Q: I just turned 40 and have been with my partner for a while now.

We would like to try to have a family but I'm concerned that we're too old - he is a few years my senior.

Outside of the physical hurdles we might face, would there be any psychological implications on children whose parents are older?

What an interesting question. I am so glad you sent it in because there are a lot of people out there who are wondering the same thing. Let's look at some of the pluses and minuses of the older parent.

On the plus side, you will most likely have already sown your wild oats so the endless demands of children are not going to take you away from those younger-year fun times.

You are also more likely to be financially stable and, therefore, better placed to support children through the expensive years of childhood.

You are more likely to be well-educated and in a stable career so you won't be spending a lot of time wondering about the purpose of life and other esoteric matters.

Since the number of children born to over-40 parents is increasing, you and your children are likely to have a decent cohort of same-age parents to mix with and to socialise with together.

Research indicates that children of older parents tend to do better in school and have higher IQs also.

You can see from what is written above that there are a lot of advantages to being an older parent.

There are, of course, some minuses as well. Everyone knows that the incidence of possible birth defects and developmental difficulties increases with the age of the parents.

Some conditions such as Down's Syndrome increase in frequency in the older parent group. This is not a reason to refrain from having a child in your 40s, however.

You might have less energy to cope with the constant demands of children when you are older. Pregnancy itself may be more taxing on the mind and body when the mother is in her 40s.

It is a sad reality that despite the fact that being an older parent means you are likely to live longer than a younger parent, your child will spend more of their lifetime watching you age than the children of younger parents.

Although these facts seem depressing, it is important to keep them in perspective.

What's the bottom line here? If you have enough love in your heart to want a child, then you should not be deterred from having one!

Q: My partner has two children - 15 and 13 - and we've all been getting on pretty okay. It's early days, but so far, so good.

Because of busy schedules, I have been helping out more and more, especially with the constant taxi service at the weekends!

My question is: would it be helpful if I became friendly with his ex-wife? My partner says there is no need, but it might help in the future and would it be better for the kids to see me and her getting on?

Now here's a thorny issues if ever there was one. It's great you are helping out with the children and let's face it, having teenagers means being a taxi driver far more often than one wants to be.

It doesn't sound as though you have a relationship with your partner's ex-wife so I would tread very carefully here. If she hasn't made any comments one way or the other about your ferrying the children around, it probably means she has no problem with it.

I can't help but wonder if she has offered to do some of this and why is it that she isn't on duty some weekends. Since I don't know the details, I will have to leave that for you to think about.

I also wonder what sort of relationship the children have with their mother and how often they have contact with her.

Your partner is clear in his communication with you - he doesn't want you to get in touch at this time.

I think you and he need to sit down and have a talk about this. It will be helpful for you to understand his motivation. Unless you and your partner can have a chat about this, you will be operating in the dark.

It is important to remember that there are more people involved here than just you, your partner and his children.

There is also his ex-wife and possible her new partner and maybe even her new children. Acting rashly out of your good intentions can end in difficulty some time.

You need to be careful. Have you ever heard the expression "Let sleeping dogs lie"?

I tend to think it is one you need to reflect on at this point.

I would not do anything at all without having a conversation with your partner.

David is a psychologist; send your questions to davidcarey@herald.ie

 

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