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Although it is not uncommon for women to bear additional children in their middle years, it was once quite uncommon for a woman to have her first child after the age of 35. Today, many women choose not to have a child until they are in their 30s. The reasons for this are many. Many couples choose to become established in their lives and careers before turning their thoughts to childbearing. Many see their 20s as a time to experiment and experience freedom. At that age, some men and women don't feel psychologically ready for the commitment of having children. Some single women may have such high expectations for themselves-and others-that they're unable to find mates who meet their qualifications for fatherhood. Though these women might opt to have children sooner, they often don't find a suitable situation for doing so until they're older. And then there are the couples who, for some reason, appear to be biologically unable to conceive until, just when they have about given up, they finally conceive.There are a number of positive aspects to having a first child in midlife. There are also some drawbacks. First, the positives:
- A new parent who is between 35 and 40 years of age has about 15 to 20 years of adult life experence and so has more inner resources to draw on in times of stress than does a younger parent.
- Middle-aged parents are usually at the height of their earning power, so they have more financial stability to support a child.
- Having had many experiences, many middle-aged adults are ready to be parents. They have a sense of identity -- the child will not have to provide them with it.
- Having a first child in midlife provides a real sense of renewal.
- Adults in midlife may have a deeper sense of the value of life itself, and so tend to place high value on the time they can spend with their children.
While many of the positive things about having a baby in midlife involve the joys of raising a small child, the drawbacks have mostly to do with the future and with the parents' concerns about aging:
- Older parents may have lower energy levels. They may wonder if they will have the energy to be as active as their child needs them to be.
- They wonder if they will live to see their child become an adult. Will they ever see their grandchildren? Will they very quickly become a burden to a child just as he is trying to get on his feet as a young adult?
- When the age difference is 40 or more years, quite a schism is created; parents worry whether their values will be at all relevant to their child. The age difference may be particularly apparent when a child becomes a teenager -- a difficult period for even young parents to deal with.
Another consideration when having children later in life is the possibility of having siblings with large age differences. We'll cover this topic in the next section.