The Grayest Generation: Older Parents

Monday, December 31, 2012

Americans are becoming parents at older and older ages. The average first-time mother is now four years older (25) than she was in 1970. Judith Shulevitz, science editor at The New Republic and author of their cover story "How Older Parenthood Will Upend American Society" talks about the impact for society, health, and families.


Judith Shulevitz

Comments [13]

Diane from nyc

I had my children at ages 37 and 39. I met my husband at age 32 and married at age 35. I am now 59 years old. I, and most of the women I know, had long-term relationships in our 20s with men who we never considered would be fathers of our children, but instead kept us feeling that we could stay young forever. When I met my husband, I wished I had met him 10 years sooner instead of wasting all those years. All we can do is try to make the best choices we can at any given time. I don't know anyone who "waited" to have children. We all wanted children immediately when the right man came along. The fact that I have been happily married for 23 years with 2 healthy children who have 4 healthy grandparents is mostly just luck. There is no other way to explain it.

Dec. 31 2012 12:09 PM
Inquisigal from Brooklyn

This conversation failed to acknowledge one of the most important components to child-rearing - finding a spouse, and one's own personal maturation. What part of the country you live in, what your educational level is, and what your peer group's norms are informs how soon one is ready to be an adult, find a spouse, and be a parent.

As a college educated urbanite living in the Northeast, most of my peer group were still establishing themselves as adults well into their early 30's. Establishing ones-self wasn't solely about career - it included everything. People today are not rushed into adulthood by the same peer and parental pressure that they once were, and in general, I think this is a good thing. It means people can travel, focus on interests unique to them, figure out where they want to live, spend money they way they see fit, and know what their priorities are, etc. BEFORE they enter into romantic relationships that are supposed to provide life-long commitment to shared values and lifestyles.

Having children isn't as simple as making the biology happen for women at an earlier age. What about finding a mate? What about being in love first? What about actually being able to handle a committed relationship? Today's divorce rates and broken families strongly suggest that rushing women into earlier parenthood is not a fail-safe solution. Shall we go back to having women who aren't fully yet in control of their lives marry older, financially-stable men?

Dec. 31 2012 11:03 AM
robyn lee shew from Brooklyn, NY

I am a product of older parents. My mother was turning 41 the year I was born. I have a younger sister and five older siblings (all 11 plus years older then me). My father died when I was 17 leaving me to be responsible for my younger sister while my mother coped with being a single parent. Two years later, my mother had a debilitating stroke that nearly killed her. I found myself, at the age of 19, looking after a household, a pubescent sister all while I was developing into an adult prematurely. I gave up my collage social life and my early 20s to be a caregiver. While I did this out of love and duty, I also grew angry at the situation. My older siblings had their own young families and careers to take care of so it was all up to me. I have since developed sever depression which boarders on bi polar disorder. The personal struggles have been immense.

As an adult, I swore I wouldn't have kids after 40, yet now I find myself at almost 41 still single and childless. I have just met someone who I can foresee having a family with, but I have already passed my threshold and I am conflicted...this is an interesting topic! One that I have lived and one that I may perpetuate!

Dec. 31 2012 10:36 AM
Bree neumann from Washington heights

I do wish I had children earlier because both sets of grandparents have died and my son will grow up without knowing his wonderful great grandparents....luckily my parents are alive and well though!

Dec. 31 2012 10:32 AM
Sheldon from Brooklyn

30 years ago, one could expect to have a well paid union trade or a stable white collar job - both with practically lifetime security and a pension, together, with a mortgage or a rent-stabilized 3br apt by the time they were 25 - those days are gone.

If you are in your 20's today, you are lucky if you have your own place, much less a decent job - having kids isn't exactly a priority.

Dec. 31 2012 10:30 AM

"Assisted reproductive" bla bla? Ever heard of acupuncture? Get a body in balance and it can do all kinds of amazing things. My sense is that vitality starts in a body well cared for.

Dec. 31 2012 10:30 AM
annmarie from Bellmore, NY

First, I believe the research about the impact of loosing a parent in the 20s and 30s. Longer life spans have changed the family life cycle psychologically and emotionally. There are 'delays' in maturation due to these longer life spans and I believe children need their parents longer into their lives than they ever have.

I became a mother at 38. My son will soon be 12.

I was established education and career wise. I was ready to put my son first and it has been a very rich and gratifying experience for him and me.
It has kept me active and engaged in contemporary culture, the education system, politics, and physical activity.

My son was born with cancer. It was caught early and he is fine. I can't help but blame my old eggs and his father's old sperm.
All of his cousins are older. I had him out of sync with the rest of my family, so he's missed a lot of family events and experiences I had growing up. His step sister is 15 years older than him. He's lonelier growing up I think from having older parents.
He sees me as old compared to his peers' moms - ouch.
Kids are expensive! I could have saved more for retirement and had more assets if I had children younger.
If I had children younger I would have had more than one.

Overall, I believe I am a better parent now than I would have been if I had him when I was 28.

Is this older parent trend good for society? No. I tell every young person I know to have their children young regardless of the struggle. Children should not have to worry about a parent's health or welfare when they are in their 20s and trying to establish their own lives.

Dec. 31 2012 10:29 AM
Amy from Manhattan

On how having children late affects how old they'll be when you die, it's not just that parents didn't live as long in earlier times. At the other end, people have always had children at older ages--just not their 1st (few) children. Before there was reliable birth control, women kept having babies until they couldn't, & the later children would be younger when their parents died. So it's nothing new.

Dec. 31 2012 10:27 AM
Just Curious from In Park Slope

Is anyone having babies in their 50's?

Dec. 31 2012 10:24 AM
John A

This to me reads emotionally as another "Are Men necessary?" article. I know it cuts both ways, M,F so call it: "Are 40something DINK's necessary?"

Dec. 31 2012 10:24 AM

Oh please! This is so narrow - go to Mexico or France or another place where they marry earlier and interview them about their parenting results - tighter families from what I can see.

Dec. 31 2012 10:23 AM

Why are hearing this drivel before the New Year? Ms. Shulevitz speaks of manly white, educated parents. Her study seems narrow, her tone uncharitable and unnecessarily alarmist. Making older parents feel guilty for having children late will some day seem very passé. Her interests fail to acknowledge the positives . Why such a Debbie Downer today?

Dec. 31 2012 10:21 AM

this is barking up the wrong tree - scare tactics - links links links to - this research is very new - this is an asinine discussion based on flimsy maybes which what makes up a lot of our allegedly scientific medical research.

I smell big pharma somewhere

Dec. 31 2012 10:11 AM

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