January 25, 2013

is older parenthood a natural progression?

I've been reading a blog entry from A Child After 40: How Will More Babies After 40 Impact Our Future?"

...and it's got me thinking. It's kind of a chicken-and-egg question. I think one of the questions we, as developed nations, should ask ourselves is this: Is the trend of older first-time parents a cultural shift, or is it the result of a cultural shift?

Decades of encouraging young people to pursue careers and put off marriage and family (particularly women) is bearing fruit in this way. Also true is that our society no longer really promotes the pursuit of marriage and family as high-priority institutions. Increasingly and for various reasons, people just don't find suitable partners until later in life. And if they have trouble conceiving naturally, well that introduces further delays to parenthood.

Are we really so surprised at the rise of 40+ parents?

As to the increasing attention to the subject by the media, most of me wants to respond with a flat "Who cares?"

I have friends who are 30+ and single, some of whom are already starting to panic. How long will it take to find Mr. or Ms. Right? Will I have trouble conceiving? Should I freeze my eggs? These are tough questions that no one can answer, and frankly I don't think it's fair to start putting pressure on them. I do think it's fair to encourage all of us to consider the long arm of time when we purposely decide to delay parenthood (as was the case for me).

Meanwhile, there are voices we aren't hearing from: the children born to older first-time parents who have grown up and experienced this for themselves. What do they have to say about this? Is it no big deal, or are there concerns that we haven't even started thinking about?

I have one friend who fits that description, and she's wonderfully well-rounded and intelligent and married young and has two awesome kids. When I was concerned about starting a family at 40, she remarked that her mom was 40 when she was conceived and didn't think it was a big deal. In other words, don't let it stop you from starting a family. It's worth it.

Next month, my son will be a year old. We're already wondering how we'll find the physical stamina to chase after him once he starts walking (which isn't far away). We wonder how we can strengthen relationships with relatives that are almost all at least two states away, let alone grandparents that he may or may not grow up with. We wonder about siblings.

But you know what? One day at a time.

If God thought it was cool to bring Isaac and John into the world with older parents, then who are we to question the limits of parenthood?