Parents of a Certain Age

<a href="” title=”Delaying Pregnancy and Parenthood”>I recently watched a panel discussion online from the Harvard School of Public Health entitled “Delaying Pregnancy and Parenthood.” You can find it here.

The panel centered around the relatively recent middle-class development of delaying having children, often in order to establish a career path, and the medical and other consequences that happen because of that. One of these consequences that Harvard Law School Professor I. Glenn Cohen mentions is a “world without grandparents.” Actually, he means the middle class as a world without grandparents, because if you’re older having kids and your children follow suit, you’ll be pretty old (and thus have fewer active years) when your grandchildren arrive. This was actually I thought about years ago as I was ready to leave Japan after three years and had turned 30. But the truth then was also that I wasn’t quite ready yet either. While I wasn’t a doctor or lawyer, there were a number of things that I wanted to do before having children (all but one of which I did before Maya arrived).

Maya was born when I was already in my 40’s and Becky was in her late 30’s. Sam was born more than two years later. During both, I was amazed at the science and technology that surrounded us, much of it discussed in the panel. The reality of having kids later is that I just don’t have the same energy I had 10 years earlier, and so doing things with Maya and Sam are just harder. I also know that if Maya has kids at say 30, I’ll be 70+, and if at 40, then I’ll be in my 80’s. On the other hand, I was ready at 40 in more ways than just physical. Perhaps chief among these ways is I found the person I wanted to have these children with. Being ready for children is a pretty complicated thing, and getting to the point of “being ready” is a tricky proposition. Some are “ready for kids” earlier and some later and some never. All of these are good options, but to choose one requires a lot of honesty and a pretty good idea of where you are and where you want to be.

We made our decision to be parents of a certain age. We knew that the risks were greater and that the parenting would be harder. Of course, we didn’t fully appreciate any of that until we were neck deep in it. Some of those risks are for the future–will my grandchildren (should I have any)–live in a world where I’m not there or just too old for them. At the same time, those future risks are shared by every parent. Still, this was a personal decision, and one that was right for me. If you’re thinking of following the path I took, I do recommend watching this panel and giving some serious thought to the whole matter. Some of the things that the panel talks about were not readily available when I was in my 20’s or even 30’s, and some things we faced with Maya had changed by the time we started trying for Sam. There are a lot of aspects to the decision, some of which can be obscure or are in a state of legal or scientific flux, and it’s well worth researching before making that decision.

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