I’ve just finished at the gym, another 7.3 miles today. Very happy with that. While on my cool down I was checking twitter and saw an article published by Mens Health UK titled ‘Too Old for Fatherhood?’ The article summary “With career, financial and social pressures mounting up, an increasing number of men are putting off having children, but are they leaving it too late?” intrigued me and so I read on.
You can find the full article here - https://www.menshealth.com/uk/fitness/lifestyle/a40311398/too-old-for-fatherhood/
There were three key points in the article I noted:
The average age of a first time father in the UK is now 33.6 years old (from ONS)
The range of medical difficulties that can happen more frequently after the age of 40.
The increasing financial pressures and difficulties individuals, those in relationships and families currently face.
An interesting and informative article for sure. It built on things I believed, rather than knew. My approach to this blog post, is less focused on the above article and more prompted by it.
When I was younger I had a desire to have a family, to have a wife and one or two children, to live in a house with 3 windows and a door at the front of the house, with a garden and white or brown fence (depending on pens and imagination available). You may have seen something similar in a 5 year olds work of art. That’s what I wanted.
After my first marriage ended and my initial experience with depression and self harm ideation that changed. I couldn’t see months into the future. Planning or my expectation of things changed. Essentially I no longer expected anything.
Every extra day was one not necessarily planned for. The idea of a ‘future’ seemed ludicrous, unachievable and another failure just yet to come.
At that time, and for a long while, the thought of having a family seemed both unlikely and undesirable.
Then two things happened. Time kept going, I continued therapy and living. And I met Laura.
Over time I continued to recover (a journey I am still on) and our relationship grew. I began to see a future. Not the same one, but a new beautifully imperfect one that acknowledged and made space for our lived experiences and attempts to grow.
We have during our relationship had conversations about what we would both like to do in the future and what our concerns may be. Mine still involve the worry my depression could worsen and the impact that could have on any family unit. It still feels such a huge change from a day to day survival mindset; even if I do feel less connection to that now, it still feels ever present.
Conversations are definitely something that help. But. My inability to open up and trust makes ‘real’ conversations like this very hard to have. I think other than Laura I have spoken to maybe 2-3 friends about some of these thoughts and what our future could look like. It’s tricky.
That lack of trust also means I feel a very strong need to be able to manage alone (myself and Laura) mentally and financially. I do not want to be reliant on anyone else for support; now or if we have a child. That’s a very difficult situation to accommodate on a moderate income and with the life experiences we’ve had. All the more reason to wait, grow a career and continue that wellbeing journey right?
We are both also very aware there are no guarantees. We both know people that have struggled to have children. I’ve had a few conversations on the podcast, that have been with people who have experienced multiple miscarriages and or are unable to have children. So you never know and it shouldn’t be an expectation.
Additionally, I know plenty of people who have no desire to have children. Right now, as weird as it still feels to say, we are happy. We are happy with our relationship and how things are. Yes, there’s difficulties and aspects of our lives we struggle with or are working on. But, in general, we are happy.
It is with that personal background I read the article today. While there’s similarity with the wanting to have the right job, finances and home, I have been more focused on fighting to have stable mental health and re-learning how to love. That’s taken time. Something I think not everyone can understand.
The average age of a first time dad increasing to 33.6 I think may be in part because as a society we also have so many pressures now. Something that feels as though it has gradually increased over the last 10 or so years. I now find myself at the age of 35, 36 next month, and getting closer to that 40 mark. This Fathers Day has involved some reflection on wether one day I would like to be a Father and wether we would like to extend our family of two. Or maybe actually we like things as they are.
This is a massive life decision and potential change, wether we decide to try for children or not, wether we can have children or not. There’s no expectations.
Everyones experience of Father's Day and any potential journey to parenthood is different, including those that do not lead to parenthood.
Lots to reflect on.
For now I hope you are well and looking after yourselves this Sunday.
Fathers Day can be a difficult or thought-filled day for many different reasons. If you are expecting thoughts or difficulties this week please consider checking the below links.
Parenting with mental health illnesses - https://www.mind.org.uk/information-support/tips-for-everyday-living/parenting-with-a-mental-health-problem/parenting-and-mental-health/
Parental mental health problems - https://learning.nspcc.org.uk/children-and-families-at-risk/parental-mental-health-problems
What you might feel after losing a parent - https://www.cruse.org.uk/understanding-grief/grief-experiences/losing-a-parent/