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The Problem With Having Kids When You’re Older

pilotThe world is a safer place than when I grew up in the ’70s. I know this to be true. Facts, science, innovation, rules have made it true.

So why am I so paranoid? I asked my mom about the bubble wrapped generation of parents I belong to versus what happened when she was a young parent.

And that’s exactly what she said was the difference – she was a young parent, I’m not.

“We were in our 20s,” she reminded me. “We didn’t know what we were doing and didn’t really care. You guys, having kids later in life, you’re more aware of the world around you and you are more cautious.”

The less you know, apparently.

The older we are, the more aware we are of the big bad world and the more likely we are to be a Marlin or a Grug, it would seem.

There is news this week of a 9 yr old who ran away from home and boarded a flight to Las Vegas from Minnesota without a ticket. Okay, there are many issues here, but let’s look at the one of people gasping that a 9-year-old was flying on his own.  In 1981, my parents placed my 6-year-old sister on a flight from Vancouver to Toronto. By herself. That’s a nearly 5 hour flight.

“In those days, we were allowed to take her right onto the plane and as an unaccompanied minor she was seated in the front row so as to be near the flight attendants,” she said. “She didn’t express any concern other than excitement and to be honest I really didn’t give it too much thought either. The importance of visiting grandparents was the overriding emotion I guess.” 

I look at my 6-year-old, and while he has already flown dozens of times, and in my head I know he’d be okay, I wonder if I’d let him fly cross country by himself. I guess it doesn’t matter, I’m not allowed to anyway. Nowadays, the youngest an unaccompanied minor can fly on some airlines is 8, and a $100 “babysitting fee” will be added to the cost of the ticket.

And all that fear I have is because I had kids when I was too old.

My wife was 35 when our oldest was born, our second arrived a week before her 38th birthday. I was a few weeks shy of 40 by the time both boys had arrived.

I spent a weekend camping with them in a small town recently. The moms of tweens looked barely into their thirties. They came from towns where you settled down with a high school sweetheart and got about to having a family quickly. They were full of energy, I was exhausted.

According to a 2003 study, the average age women become mothers in the US is 25.1. I’ll be honest, I wasn’t ready at 25 but I wish that I would have hit the fatherhood closer to 30.

When you have kids older, you’re also more likely interrupting a career to have them, instead of it getting out of the way before you build up a full head of steam on your resume.  Could that be contributing to the “maxed out moms” who are finding it harder to “lean in?”

From bubble wrap to life stress to back pains trying to carry the kids and groceries, I won’t say I have a regret about having my kids when I did, but things certainly might have been “easier” if I’d settled down earlier, before I knew too much.

When did you have your kids? 20s? 30s? 40s? When do you think the best time to become a parent is?

 

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