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Old Dog, New Tricks: The Reality About Becoming An Older Dad

Luke BenedictusBy Luke Benedictus.
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Thirty-three is the age that Bon Scott, Vincent van Gogh and Jesus Christ (reportedly) died. But it’s also now the median age of a first-time dad in Australia. All of which means that a significant number of guys are firing out children even later in life. Here, four men talk about the reality of becoming fathers in their 40s.

Jules became a dad at 42

“If I’d had kids younger it’s possible that I might have found the early years less exhausting. It’s also possible I’d be in a better financial situation, too. I expect I’d probably have settled down and bought a house earlier, spent less money on motorbikes, travel and surfing trips.

But I don’t regret becoming a dad when I did. My daughter was born when I was 42 and my son on my 44th birthday. By then I was ready to knuckle down to being a dad. I’d had more than my share of hungover weekends, I’d lived overseas, I was ready for something new…. Not that having kids is just another experience to tick off the list. But I was ready to be a dad.

For me, having kids later kind of makes sense given that we’re all meant to be living longer now – fingers crossed. If you’ve got more time to play with, doesn’t it makes sense to stagger things a little bit more?”

Mike became a dad at 45

“My brother and I had a complicated childhood. My dad wasn’t in the picture and my mum had a lot on her plate, so we had a few spells living with grandparents and aunts. They were good people – it wasn’t traumatic or anything like that. But at the time, I did resent changing schools and moving interstate. I guess I always wanted to feel more settled.

Maybe because of that I put pressure on myself to provide this kind of mythical family set-up. I wanted to give my kids that sense of security and stability. And I didn’t want to become a dad until I really had my shit together. I felt I had to sort myself out before starting a family. I’ve struggled with depression on and off over the years and I didn’t want that to affect my kids.

But what I realise now is that no one truly has their shit together, do they? We’re all winging it. In fact, becoming a dad has been amazing for me. It’s shaken me out of that self-obsession and broadened my focus. You can’t spend hours agonising about some trivial bullshit when you’re trying to keep an eye on a toddler. In that respect, I think I could’ve been more open-minded about having children earlier. Because I love being a dad.”

Martin became a dad at 44

“I didn’t plan to become a dad so late. It’s just the way things turned out. But on the plus side, I felt that I’m older and wiser now. I’m financially secure and probably a steadier presence than I’d have been if I’d had kids in, say, my 20s.

The only thing I would say is that this stage of life has turned out to be full-on. I’ve at a stage in my career when I’ve got a senior role and responsibilities that mean I’m constantly on call. Throw in young kids and the fact that my parents are now at that age where they’re struggling to look after themselves and, well, it’s the perfect storm.

I’m sure that raising children is demanding whatever age you do it. But right now life is a juggling act. Can it feel overwhelming at times? Absolutely! But you do what you got to do…”

Mitch became a dad at 40

“There was this dad’s race at my six-year-old’s school sports day. Just a bit of fun. I got involved in this relay – I used to be fairly quick back in the day when I played football. But that was 20 years ago now. Anyway. The relay started and I ended up pulling my hamstring. I didn’t even complete my leg.

That was a wake-up call for me. It made me very aware that I’m not as young as I used to be. But it also motivated me to start looking after myself a bit more. I was already a member of a gym but I actually started going regularly. I lost a fair bit of timber and felt better about myself.

At the age of 46, I’m more health-conscious that ever before. I try to eat well, I watch my cholesterol, all that stuff. My wife reckons I’m obsessed. Although I reckon that seeing me hit the gym is making her conscious about not exercising more herself. But the big thing for me is that I’m going to be 50, when my son is 10. I want to make sure I can still run around and kick a footy with my kids. Even if I have to do a few stretches first…”

Names have been changed