I’m Finally Becoming a Father for the First Time — at 53

Image Source: Chris Kokenes
Image Source: Chris Kokenes

At 53, I’m at an age when most men are contemplating winding down their careers or celebrating a silver anniversary; or perhaps even anticipating the arrival of a grandchild. But I’m taking a different course: I’m about to become a father for the first time — and a stay-at-home dad, at that — to my soon-to-be child.

Contrary to the typical sequence of life events that most of us grow up modeling, I didn’t find the love of my life in my late-20s or early 30s, only to get married, settle down, and have kids long before I saw my first gray hair. Instead, I met and married the love of my life in my early 50’s. And now, here we are: embarking on a new journey as parents, which oddly enough, has instilled a sense of youthfulness to come.

Becoming a soon-to-be stay-at-home dad has made me ponder just how times have changed, though. My former past included a tenure at CNN for nearly 29 years, where I served for a long stretch of time as the Assignment Editor. Even after all these years, I consider myself incredibly lucky to have been part of a news organization that has contributed some of the finest journalism since its inception in 1980. As an editor, I had the pleasure of running the Northeast Bureau desk in New York, where I had a front row seat to coverage of some of the biggest (though sadly, often horrible) news events throughout the country and the world. And I loved it.

I began my career back in the mid-80s, and have worked with an incredible number of individuals along the way, all whom I considered my work family. At first, I started out as a lowly intern on a talk show that no one ever heard of — it was called The Freeman Report and it preceded The Larry King Show. (And I’m sorry Larry, but it was a MUCH better show.) But eventually, the internship led me to my first full-time job as a news assistant (for the princely sum of $13,500 a year). I was overwhelmed, to say the least, but I can still remember saying, “I’m getting paid to do this? Cool.”

And so, the world as I knew it shifted, and hard news became my life, for three decades running. That is, until 2014, when I was cast adrift following an “organizational restructuring,” that left me and several hundred other coworkers unemployed.

But soon will come a new light. A new beginning. A fresh wonder for the world. 

Now, I’m pursuing a new career: as “Mr. Mom.” And not that I am unsettled by this new role, but I admit it has made me reflect w the stereotypical family structure has been evolving for some time. If Michael Keaton can do it, so can I.

My wife says ‘you’ve worked for nearly 30 years. Relax.’ And yet there is that constant back and forth conundrum that I want to be back out there and work.
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Of course, this change from breaking news man to stay-at-home dad isn’t always a natural transition. Is this a place I want to be? I often ask myself. I always felt that being the product of a divorced household at the age of eight, contributed to my apathy about marriage and heavily on in my life. Ironically, all of my childhood friends said I’d be the first to get married. Instead, I was the last. I just didn’t want to settle down. I felt that I had to be 100% sure about the woman I would marry, and I hadn’t found that yet. It also helped to have an understanding family who did not constantly rile me about getting married, even as I marched well into my 30’s and 40’s. And so, to those who are single and of a “certain age,” I can say to you it’s not too late. Just don’t settle.

My wife says “you’ve worked for nearly 30 years. Relax.” And yet there is that constant back and forth conundrum that I want to be back out there and work. I’ve been working since I was 14, where I started as a newspaper delivery boy. And I like the whole routine of it: Of dressing up, wearing a tie, and commuting into Manhattan. Buying that first cup of jet fuel in the morning to get the juices flowing. The thrill and adrenaline rush that came with a breaking news story was simply satisfying.

Whether it was directing the flow of personnel, gathering information, or just getting it “right” and on the air first, that was what it was all about for me. Would the live shot work? Would we find that perfect character to help tell the story? Seeing the story you helped develop or write finally make it to air or published online is like crack cocaine for any journalist worth their salt.

But soon, my life as an editor — dealing with fast-paced, breaking news — will be transformed into a new role: of changing diapers and sleepless nights. Even my social and email preferences have already changed. Instead of press releases and promotional emails from West Elm and Bed, Bath and Beyond, I now receive emails from buybuy BABY and Babies R’ Us.

Recently, a former colleague of mine who also became a stay-at-home dad many years ago, told me to just relax and enjoy it. “The time goes by fast,” he said. “It may seem scary at first, but it’s not.” That was very comforting to hear.

For now, though, I’m mostly eager to impart all of the knowledge, curiosities, and interests that my wife and I share onto our kid. While she’s already planning to introduce our child to a nice bowl of the Vietnamese classic, Pho, I’m warming up my arm for our first toss of a baseball.

And I can’t wait.

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