Are you wondering whether it is wise to have a baby at 40? Or trying to find out if a baby at 40 or later in your 40s will even be possible? Well, grab a coffee or a cup of tea and read on. Here you will find out about all the positives about having children when you are 40 or over 40.
And why am I the right person to write this article? Well, I had twins when I was 42 years old. This wasn’t what I had expected. I was keen to have a third child and, after three miscarriages, we tried one last time. I almost fell off the ultrasound scanner’s table when I found I was expecting twins.
by Seana Smith
Our family was so lucky to have these children, both born healthy and well at full term.
Now, I have never claimed that having kids in my 40s has been all great. It certainly has not been easy every day. I cannot sugarcoat the downsides and I get very concerned when I hear of younger women who believe that any woman can have a baby in her 40s. That just isn’t the case.
I have written an article called 9 Reasons NOT To Have Babies In Your Forties which lists all the drawbacks that there are in general, like fertility issues, and that I have found myself, like being tired and worrying about possibly being too old to be a supportive grandparent for my children when they have their own kids. That article has had many comments over the years and has been heavily criticised. I still stand by it.
But here, I would like to express all the joyful feeling and experiences of being an older mother. I want to tell you about all the benefits that our twins have brought to my husband and myself and to their two big brothers. So read on, and I hope that this article will help you in some small way as you make decisions about your own family.
First of all, I run through the 10 main reasons that having a baby at 40 is a great thing. After that, you will find more about my family’s own story and our experiences over the 16 years we have been proud parents of twin babies born when I was 42.
10 Great Reasons For Having A Baby at 40
1. There is no right time to have a baby, or perhaps all times are right times
Very often, we do not have the luxury of planning our families the way we might have chosen to. If you find yourself trying for your first baby at 40 or in your 40s then it is probably because the time has just never been right before.
You might not have had a partner, or you had a partner who did not want a family or could not have children. You might have lost a partner. Or you might be choosing to go it alone and you have waited until you are financially secure enough to do so. Your biological clock might have suddenly started ticking and given you a shock.
And for those people who, like me, did have kids earlier but found themselves longing for another baby after 40, then, well…. it’s Mother Nature working her magic through your body. The urge to have just one more child is very strong, and if you feel it and know a baby will be loved and cared for, then why not go with the desire you have and try for a baby?
Babbies are delectable, gorgeous little creatures and who does not love them? Why wouldn’t you be keen to have one or to have more when you get older. I have written about the downsides of waiting until you are older but most people do not have the choice. It’s good to be aware of the pros and the cons, but here we are celebrating all the good things.
2. You are a wiser parent
No-one gets to their 40s without wising up, at least to some degree. Life experience will have taught you many lessons, and you can use all of these to make family life better for the whole family. You will know yourself better at 40 than you did at 20 and you will be aware of what works for you in life, what brings you happiness, what you find tough and what you cannot tolerate. You will, hopefully, have good boundaries and established self-care habits, all of which are absolute gold for new parents.
And I am not dissing young parents at all here, they also have great strengths because of their youth too. It’s just that this is an article looking at the strengths and joys of older parents.
3. You are a more patient parent
As an older parent, I have certainly been more patient. I had seen how fast my older two boys grew up. We had all sorts of ups and downs with them, some of which felt they would never end. But they did end.
With the twins, at whatever stage they are at, from smearing poo, to throwing food, to being a grumpy teenager, I am very aware of the stages and know that they will pass.
In some ways, I was trying to rush my older boys, was keen for them to learn to swim, eager for them to learn to drive themselves, and I expected that I would be happy when they left home – so much less food to buy, so much less washing. Of course, I miss them hugely, much more than I expected. I am happy that they have become independent adults. I am perhaps happier for them than I am for myself.
So I know my dear 16-year-old twins will also leave home one day, just as I knew that they would leave primary school and that I would miss those days. I am so much more aware of how fleeting each stage is and therefore get a lot less concerned or uptight if, for example, they are being rude to me. I know that even the grumpy teenage years do end!
4. There is more free time with the kids
This may not be the case for everyone, I know, but for many older parents there is greater freedom. In my own case, my husband Paul worked like a maniac all through his late 20s and 30s. When our older two boys were little, he was often working at the weekends and he had long stints overseas too. He once spent four months in Papua New Guinea with just a two-week break in the middle. He spent months in West Africa and in China. I worked less and the boys are I became a tight unit.
When the twins were young, and we were both in our 40s, Paul worked in the Middle East, but that was on a 28-days-oo, 28-days-off rotation. He had much more quality time with the family, which was helpful as the older boys were teenagers and the twins needed a lot of looking after.
Then when the twins turned 12, Paul retired from his main career; he studied and now works part-time. All through the twins’ high school years he is truly co-parenting with me. He washes, cooks and irons and he drives them here and there. He spends time with the older boys too. But it’s the younger kids who benefit the most from having both parents around, both working part-time from home.
In our 40s and 50s, many of us do not need to work as hard as we did when we were younger because we can work much smarter. If we have been able to get the family onto a comfortable financial footing then a lot of the stress of the younger years has passed. We can choose to work a lot less and spend extra time with the kids. More on that below.
5. Babies will keep you young
Children do keep you young, there’s no doubt about that. You may age in years but when you have children older you lead the life of a much younger person and you will seriously feel younger than your years.
Yes, you might feel old and exhausted when your baby is little and you are not getting much sleep, but all parents share that. When you catch up on your sleep you will be living the life of a younger person and most of your friends made through your child will be younger and you will naturally just need to behave like a younger person.
For example, when my twins went to school, I did find one mum who was actually older than me. She had had her son aged 46. However all of the rest of the parents at school were at least ten years younger than me and we all hung out together at the school gates and then took the kids to parks and beaches in school holidays. I was living the life they were and doing the things they were and just felt like one of them.
It doesn’t really matter is you are 25, 35, 45 or 55 when you are playing with Lego or sliding down a twisty slide with your children. You are living the life of a parent and it is heaps of fun. You will be fitter in your 40s and 50 than you would be if you didn’t have kids, that’s for sure.
6. You are grateful to your body and take better care of it
An older parent knows that they have been fortunate to stay fertile into their 40s and also that they have a duty to keep as healthy as possible so that they can look after their children and see them grow up and flourish. No-one can guarantee the future, but eating well, exercising and making sure our family relationships flourish can really help to ensuring an active, longer life.
We owe it to the kids we had to live as long as we can. A healthy lifestyle also makes us feel well in each day that passes too. It’s truly a win-win. Not smoking, stopping drinking or minimising alcohol intake will all help, and will also make you a great role model for the kids you have in your 40s.
7. You might be more financially stable
This is similar to having more time. Many older parents will be more financially stable, though others will not. And remember, of course, that it isn’t money that creates a family, but love. As long as basic needs are met, having a heap of money often makes people less happy. Stability though, is important.
I know in my situation we were definitely more financially stable in our 40s. We paid off our own home in our late 40s and that did feel wonderful. In our 30s and early 40s when we had a mortgage the raising of the interest rates could make us feel nervous.
In your family, you might be very happy to have less money for the less necessary things, like glamourous holidays. A return to a simpler way of life where money is less important, so long as your needs are met, might work really well for you, and fits in ideally with having kids, whose needs are super simple. Having children can cost a lot of money, but it really does not need to.
8. Is it selfish to have a baby at 40? No!!!
In comments on my previous article about the downsides of having babies in our 40s, I have been rightly criticised for describing would-be parents as ‘starting late.’ Many people have pointed out that they did not choose to wait until their 40s, but have faced all sorts of delays and difficulties and could not start before. So I would like to retract that notions and just talk about starting to try for a baby – at any age.
Taking good care of yourself and being fit and healthy might not guarantee fertility, but it must help, surely? And taking care of yourself will also make you a more cheerful parent. I do not like the word ‘selfish’ to be applied to any aspect of parenting. People who know they could not care for a child as they age are not likely to ever be trying to have one. People who know their lives might not be long will not be on this parenting path.
Let’s talk instead about self-care, about loving ourselves and caring for ourselves as we try for a baby and then doing even more self-care when we do have babies in our lives. How can we care for our children if we do not know how to care for ourselves? Wanting to have a family and good self-care are not selfish. End of story, please!
9. Age does not diminish the capacity to love
Love is what children need, love and care and compassion and time and interest and stability. Age might well help a lot in making all these available to your kids. I know for myself that I would have been an appalling parent in my 20s, I was an OK parent in my 30s, but in my 40s and now in my 50s, I have more time and space, and much more of a long view of life.
For myself and my family, age has not been a negative. I feel that I was truly blessed to be able to become pregnant with my twins in my 40s. I had had three miscarriages before they came along and there were no guarantees.
My oldest son, who was born when I was 33, was diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder when he was three years old. I knew that there is a greater chance of having a child with autism the older you get, and it absolutely does run in families. It turns out that, truly, we are all a bit neurodiverse in our family. My oldest son does have the most delays but he’s also the best guitar player. Autism wasn’t a concern to me when I started trying to have more kids when I was 40. Fertility was a much bigger concern and the miscarriages I had were heart-breaking.
But I am so glad that we kept trying and we were so lucky as to have our twins. They are 16 now, and so very loved. Am I saying that I love them more than the first two boys, who I had when I was in my 30s? No! I love them all. Madly. But I do think that there have been as many advantages as disadvantages to being an older parent.
10. Most importantly – the chance to be a parent
For the people reading this article who are not already parents, trying for a baby in your 40s is a much bigger deal. Trying now to have a child of your own is going to present you with the chance to be a parent. Time genuinely does run out completely – certainly for women – by the end of your 40s.
Yes, I met a bloke the other day whose mother had him when she was 50, she thought it was menopause that had caused her periods to stop. Yes, I have a friend who had a baby at 46 and another who had a baby at 48. But these are the outliers. You might be an outlier too. You might not. You can only try and see whether you can have a child of your own in your 40s. I do not think that anyone should not give themselves that chance to have a child in their life.
And if you are not able to have a child of your own, naturally or with assisted reproduction, then there are other ways to be a parents. Adopting children, and fostering children, is an enormously valuable and rewarding experience, my friends who have done this are sure of it. And caring for a child is life-changing, both for the child and for the fostering or adopting parent.
Being a parent is the world’s hardest job and the world’s best job rolled into one glorious mess. Don’t let anyone put you off trying to make having a family of your own a reality for you.
I hope that you have enjoyed this article on the positives of being an older parent. A baby at 40 can be a wonderful addition to the family! If you’d like to read the less positive aspects, do pop over to read my letter of advice to my daughter in 9 Reasons Not To Have Babies In Your 40s. A lot of people do not like that article at all. This one is the counterpoint. I would lie if I said having a baby at 40 is ideal or easy for anyone, it isn’t. Life is full of ups and downs and there are many shades of grey in parenthood as in everything.
It is wise to be aware of how and when fertility declines in men and also in women. But if you feel the urge to have a baby, why not start trying? Chat to your doctor, of course, and then see how things go.
My family and I wish you our very best wishes on your journey!