Today more women than ever before are making the conscious choice to wait until they’re older to have children. Whether it’s because they don’t feel emotionally or financially ready, they want to be more established in their career or they just want to see the world before they settle down, statistics show that nearly 20% of women are choosing to wait until after the age of 35 to have a baby.
You might think that younger is better when it comes to parenting, but there are actually many benefits that come with being an older parent. Of course, there are a few detractors as well. Here are 14 pros and cons of being an older parent.
Pro – Older women do have healthy babies
It’s a common misconception that older mothers are more likely to give birth to unhealthy children, but this isn’t necessarily true. While older mothers do have a slightly increased risk of having babies with Down syndrome, it’s also been found that older mothers are up to 40% less likely to have children with non-chromosomal deformities, known as major congenital malformations. Older women are also more likely to have planned pregnancies, meaning that they eat better and avoid alcohol while trying to conceive, as opposed to younger mothers who often don’t know to make these changes until they are several weeks along.
Pro – More financially secure
While children are certainly a blessing, they’re also an expense. It’s estimated that most parents will end up spending almost $245,000 on their children before they turn 18. One advantage that comes with being an older parent is that with age comes financial security. Older parents are generally more established in their careers, receive higher salaries, are in less debt, are more likely to own their homes, and have more savings squirrelled away than their younger counterparts.
Con – Lower energy
Chasing after a toddler is a lot of work and requires a lot of energy. Obviously, we have less stamina in our 40s than we did in our 20s and 30s. A survey of older parents has shown that nearly one third of women and a quarter of men who had children later in life admit that their lack of energy was a parenting disadvantage. However, longevity technology is expected to advance by leaps and bounds in the coming decades, so low energy in our old age may soon be a problem of the past.
Pro – More relaxed and patient
Young parents often feel pressure to do things by the book and follow every parenting rule that’s been set out for them in order to assure themselves that they’re doing the best job possible. However, older parents in general are much more confident and through life experiences have come to learn that there is no one way to do anything. Studies have shown that older parents are less likely to scold or punish their children, and take a much more relaxed approach to parenting.
Pro – More experienced with children
While it’s true that simply spending time with other people’s children doesn’t really compare to having one of your own, any experience you can get is good experience. Older parents have had more time to spend with their nieces and nephews, and their friends’ offspring. They can also rely on the wealth of experience that their friends and family have had raising their kids, better preparing them for the day when they have their own.
Con – You might miss out on grandparenthood
The only experience that can top parenthood might be grandparenthood. You get to enjoy the perks of being a parent all over again, without having to endure every single late-night feeding or temper tantrum. Parents who have children in their 40s, who also in turn wait to have children later in life, could possibly miss out on the joys of being a grandparent. Worse yet, you may be frequently mistaken as your child’s grandparents instead of their parents.
Pro – Older parents are better educated
Oftentimes, younger parents have been forced to abandon secondary education in order to devote their time to their children. Older parents, especially those who chose education over having children in their youth, tend to be more educated, which studies show can have numerous benefits for their children. Kids of educated parents are not only more likely to pursue secondary education themselves, they are more likely to engage in pro-social activities, like volunteering, and are less likely to pursue damaging behaviors, such as smoking and drinking, when they’re older.
Pro – They have fewer children
People who wait longer to have children tend to have fewer children, and although there are benefits to having a large family, overall studies show that the more time a parent has to devote to their individual child, the better off that child tends to be. A study conducted by the National Bureau of Economic Research analyzed 26 years of familial data and concluded that with each additional child born, the other sibling’s quality of life decreases, and they are more likely to have behavioral issues and lesser cognitive abilities.
Con – There will be a wider generational gap
Let’s face it, it’s hard enough trying to relate to someone who is 20 years younger than you, let alone 40 years younger. Waiting longer to have children will only widen the generational gap between you and your child. It might get to the point where you feel like you’re from completely different worlds, especially when your child becomes a teenager.
Pro – They have fewer regrets
Although it’s a bit taboo to discuss parental regret, it’s a fact of life that while we love our children, it’s sometimes difficult not to harbour some resentment over the responsibilities that come with parenthood. Younger parents, especially those whose pregnancies were unplanned or who had children after marriage because they thought it was the next logical step, are more likely to feel as though they missed out on their youth. For older couples that wait, parenthood is more of a choice than an obligation, leaving less room for regret.
Pro – More stable relationships
A very important factor in raising well adjusted children is to do so in a healthy environment that’s free of tension and instability. Couples who have been together longer or found each other later in life after they’ve figured out what they want in a partner tend to be better communicators and are less likely to get divorced. Children are highly perceptive and can pick up on tension between their parents, so a secure marriage tends to mean more overall security for the family unit.
Con – Your children will have to take care of you sooner
If you wait to have a child in your 40s, by the time you are 80 and in need of assistance in your old age, your child will still be establishing themselves in the world and possibly starting a family of their own. Having children when you’re older could mean that your child is forced to become your caretaker before they’ve even learned how to fully care for themselves. Once again, we’re hoping this worry becomes a thing of the past when new discoveries in the fields of genetics, regenerative medicine, and disease research are made.
Pro – Post-menopausal benefits
A study at the University of Southern California found evidence that suggests that waiting to have children doesn’t just benefit the child, but the mother too. After studying over 800 women of different ages and backgrounds, researchers concluded that women who had children later in life enjoyed better brain function and a decreased risk of memory loss after menopause. The theory being that hormones can have an affect on long-term cognitive functions.
Con – You will leave your child sooner
One of the hardest moments in anyone’s life is the day they lose a parent, and it’s a common fear among many children. However, it’s thought to be even more prevalent amongst the children of older parents who feel that they have less time to enjoy with their parents than their peers will with theirs. However, this can also be a positive thing; it’s not about how much time you have with someone, it’s about the quality of the time you have together — which goes for parents and children of all ages. So, whatever you choose to do, make sure you take the time to appreciate your loved ones while you have the chance.