When faced with first-time fatherhood at the age of 49, I didn't know whether to celebrate with champagne or hemlock... whether to jump for joy or jump off a cliff. But it's turned out to be the most interesting and rewarding thing I've ever done. I believe delaying fatherhood for most men would benefit the children and help solidify the marriage or parental partnership. Here are seven reasons why:
1. Live out your dreams, your fantasies, first.
Fatherhood is a serious undertaking, and if you're overwhelmed with distractions of youthful unfulfilled desires, you may be taken under. Get your ya-yas out first. Sate your itch to date, dine fine, scuba Aruba, leave it in Vegas. Family responsibilities at too early an age can make some men feel imprisoned. I might've paced the baby's room, blamed my wife and kids for my confinement, scraped a sippy cup across the crib bars, grown resentful, then bitter, and planned my escapes. That's not healthy for the kids or anyone else. So, live it up before children. Go hang glide over Kilauea. Get it out of your system. Then have your family.
2. You'll have more money later on in life.
Marriage and baby carriage is not a mercenary proposition, but the truth is, parenthood costs money. When you're a bit older, chances are you'll be more established in your career, have more money saved up, and know a few more things about investing and money management. A steady income and larger cash cushion can soften the endless cascade of costs for baby paraphernalia, clothing, healthcare, kid activities, and the like. You'll be busier than ever with offspring, so a little extra for help with babysitting, gardening, and house cleaning will help keep you sane. Lack of money is one of the single greatest causes of familial stress and divorce. So, give yourself a fighting chance, man. Be sure you can handle the cash before you do the delivery room dash.
3. You'll be farther along in your career so you can spend more time with the kids.
Today's workaday world demands that young men and women double down the knuckle down to establish their careers. That can mean 50-60-plus hours on the job. When you add children to this schedule, overtime can be overwhelming. The most formative years for children are in their first four to six years of life. This is when they gain confidence for living and learning primarily through a close relationship with their parents, both parents. If you've been on the job for a while, whether in the office or at the shop, it's more likely that you've achieved some degree of success, skill, and trusted longevity. That trustworthiness translates to greater flexibility, more freedom of choice and time, more loosening of the job tether, even if occasional. You'll treasure that flexibility of time to attend to the fascinating events ahead for your children and you. Enjoy the Thanksgiving play.
4. The psychology of maturity fits the demands of fatherhood.
Men age well. As we mature, we generally become more patient, more empathetic, less self-centered, more willing to give back. Most of us mellow with age. These are useful qualities to apply to fatherhood, and they will be tested, several times daily ("pop" quizzes). Patience is a virtue learned over time, and frankly, you'll need it when raising children. The secret to patience is empathy. Once you realize that your child is only two feet tall, completely dependent upon you for life itself, can't perform any of the activities he or she watches you do with ease, and has a growing need to become an individual entity with intrinsic power, then you may be a bit more apt to smile and patiently help with the fourth change of clothes or read the same silly book for the tenth time or reply, "After a while, crocodile" to the newly discovered alligator prompt offered endlessly.
5. You'll be a more wily coyote.
We older dudes have been bloodied by life more. We have a greater body of life experiences that have exposed our capabilities and limitations, taught us our strengths and our weaknesses. We've learned, been burned, and we're wiser. Hard knocks taught us to measure twice and cut once, how to get the job done, even when multitasking mysteries. As we live and learn, common sense becomes more common. And when you become a dad, you'll be glad to have your years of seasoned experienced resourcefulness on your side.
6. Maturity allows you to be immature.
Youth is wasted on the young. Being locked into the restrictive strait jacket of image and what others may think is for younger folk. We mature men know ourselves better, and for the most part, possess the perspective to look back at our formerly held-fast fads and fashionable beliefs with a knowing sense of humor. We can laugh at ourselves a bit more easily (maybe because there's a longer record of bewildering personal behavior to inspire us), and in general, are less fearful of the perceived social consequences of acting silly. Are we fools, then? Au contraire, this willingness to shed decorum is manna from heaven for our children. Kids love silly play, the prat fall, games of make believe, the adult who can play Captain Hook to their Peter Pan. Your maturity is magical pixie dust.
7. Spiritual depth increases with maturity.
Plato is credited with saying, "The spiritual eyesight improves as the physical eyesight declines." As we mature, many of us increasingly search for and require more meaning in life. We seek it in healthy ways such as spiritual growth and charitable endeavors, and we seek it in unhealthy ways such as flings, substance abuse, and out-of-control consumerism. Becoming a parent is arguably one of the most meaningful roles one can play in life. It's serious business. Nurturing, teaching, and guiding a child through the passage of time is a sacred journey. The mature man may better understand, appreciate, and live up to that noble goal. I argue he's more ripe and ready to move forward along fatherhood's rewarding path from the poverty of me to the majesty of we.