The statistics are eye-opening:  one in five women today are postponing having children until thirty-five years or older; the number of women having children in their forties has doubled in the last twenty years;  between 2007-2009, the fertility rate in women ages forty-five to forty-nine increased by 17% in the U.S., and a similar trend occurred in other industrialized nations. In short, many women are giving birth at an age previously associated with the end of their reproductive years, and starting families with men nearing the age usually reserved for a mid-life crisis car, not a minivan. In this blog, Collin County family attorneys discuss a few of the pros and cons of being older parents, and the effect of later life parenting on children.

One of the factors leading to older parenting is better forms of and increased access to birth control. Being better able to control when they become parents means that women are truly choosing to become pregnant when they do, and that choice hopefully translates into a happy and ready parent. Another factor contributing to later life parenting is that more and more women are postponing pregnancy to pursue workplace opportunities and further their career. Having a child when their career is stable usually means that they will have more income with which to care for a child and create a stable lifestyle as a family. Of course, reproductive technology has increased the window of fertility for women, allowing many to conceive well into their 40s and some even into their 50s. The advantages of older parenting--in addition to those noted above--include fewer regrets by parents that they "missed out" on single, carefree days, and a stronger, more stable relationship with their spouse or partner.

Of course, being forty-six and chasing a rambunctious two year old around can have its downside. Older parents report being tired and having a difficult time keeping up with their little miracles. Furthermore, grandparents may not be physically able, or still around, to help out like they might have been if the children had been born fifteen years earlier. Very often older parents feel awkward, or that they do not "fit in" with the other parents of the children in their child's class who look much younger and are interested in different things. The older parents may even be mistaken for their child's grandparents, although this may change with the increasing number of later life parents. Although most people assume that financial stability is an advantage of older parenting, Collin County family attorneys point out that parental obligations such as college costs and early adulthood expenses can push retirement beyond the age that the parents would have preferred.

Finally, the effects of older parenting on the child or children are rarely taken into account, but should be. Older parents often have only children, since giving birth twice after forty is still against the odds. Births after forty have an increased risk of birth defects, and recent studies have shown an increase in psychiatric and neurological disorders linked to older paternal sperm. As mentioned above, older parents may not have the energy or physical ability to be as involved in their children's lives as younger parents, and they may not be around for much of their own grand children's lives.

Choosing when to become a parent is a very personal decision. Be informed, be honest with yourself and your partner. If you have more questions about the legal issues and rights with parenting, consult with Collin County family law attorneys of Nordhaus Walpole, PLLC, for more information.