Five Tips for Having Children after 40
by Michael J. Orr
My first wife and I were responsible adults. We waited to have kids until life had stabilized: careers in full swing, financial stability, personal maturity had progressed (kind of). When we were both 33, we decided it was time. Thank God that we did, because we were blessed with triplets. No that isn’t a typo. Triplets. Despite the difficulties of the first year, it was fabulous. We raised our kids knowing that we had gotten the child-rearing thing done all at once. We were done!
After our divorce some years later, I swooped into my Silver Sage years with a sense of peace. The kids were growing up fast and brought joy to everyone who encountered them. I remarried, thinking my new wife and I would just cruise together calmly toward the golden years. Then, gasp, at 43, a new bundle of joy decided to grace us with his presence. It was a blessing in every way, but while it was only one this time, I was ten years older than the first go-round, so the golden years looked to be delayed a bit.
With the explosion of in vitro and other fertilization techniques, a rising number of Silver Sagers are becoming first-time parents. So here are five tips for surviving and enjoying the experience.
- Learn to Sleep Whenever You Can
This is easy for some, but many of us, as we age, simply don’t sleep as much. Staying up late and getting up early has been our modus operandi, and we’ve built our lives around that. Now we must adapt to our previous patterns of sleep deprivation being broken up further by midnight feedings and 3 a.m. diaper changes, not to mention those fussy nights that seem to have no particular explanation. Learning to grab a 20-minute nap whenever your child takes one, or whenever someone comes to give you a bit of respite, is critical to your sanity as the days pile up. Even if you know you need to do laundry or clean the kitchen or do any other pressing chores, go take a nap. Ensuring you are rested will help you manage the everyday stuff more efficiently.
- Be Present
When you’re an older parent it can be difficult to adjust to the changes in freedom, spontaneity, and life patterns. We tire more easily and, as we tire, it is easy to get to a point that we are mindlessly going through the motions of things that we know need to get done. I urge you to try to relax and be present, aware, and mindful. Especially if this is your first child, because it is easy to miss some of the first precious moments if we simply aren’t paying attention. Be mindful and focused not just on your child’s needs, but on the child him- or herself, and rewards will melt your heart.
3. Remember Your Spouse
Remember that relationship you had with your spouse: impromptu weekends in the Hamptons, spontaneous concert outings, dinner dates, romance, sex? None of that will be a priority anymore . . . unless you make it one. Often new parents get into such a routine around their new little one that they shy from anything that throws off the schedule. But even if you have children, it is important to find ways to keep the spark in your relationship. This is truly an action step: you must make the effort. Too many parents forget that they are a couple and evolve into distant “co-parents.” Even through sleepless nights, fussy babies, and unfounded fears about leaving the baby in someone else’s care, remember to be a couple.
4. Speak, Sing, & Play Music
Talk to your little one. Make funny noises, use funny voices, but talk . . . with real words. Baby talk won’t help your child start to understand the nuances of language. Speak of the things around you and point them out. Cuddle and share the joys of their new world, but don’t coddle. You will be glad down the road that they are not relearning proper words.
It doesn’t matter whether you think you can sing or not. I am a guitar player, mostly because I have a terrible voice, but at 3 a.m. with a fussy baby, very few things will soothe them as well as your familiar voice softly singing to them.
- Forgive Yourself
You will make mistakes. Get over it. Babies are resilient. You will realize that you should have changed their diaper sooner, and now there is a rash. You will make them bleed while cutting their nails. You will sometimes fall asleep rocking the little one, and they will slide off your lap. Then they will cry, and you will feel horror and shame. But they get over it and stop crying, while we feel like the worst parents in the world. You have to get over it. Learn from it certainly, but let it go. Babies do not come with an instruction manual. We are simply humans doing the best we can in a given moment. Lamenting what happened yesterday can make you miss the joys of today (see Tip 2, again).
Whether this is your first child or your fourth, you will survive. Sure, as you get older, your energy level becomes more problematic. Eat good food, arrange a break now and then, and do the best you can. It won’t be long before they are grown and off on their own, so enjoy every minute that you can.
Photo credits by: pixabay.com, medicalnewstoday.com