Becoming a Dad at 55: What You Need to Know

Maybe you’re considering being a new dad at the age of 55. What do you need to know to decide whether you should be a dad at that age? Or perhaps you’re already a new dad in your 50s. What do you need to be successful? Here, we use our expertise to answer those questions!

Deciding to be a dad in your 50s: yes or no?

Are you deciding whether it’s a good idea to be a dad in your 50s? The most important part of this question is whether you want to be a dad at all.

Good reasons to not be a dad include:

  1. You don’t have the resources to take care of kids: children are expensive, in both dollar and time space. If you don’t have the resources to take care of a kid, that’s probably a valid reason. Resources here include being put-together enough to take care of another living being. It also means money: you have a few thousand dollars a year (at least) to take care of a kid.
  2. Your own life is a mess. This is more than just not getting that promotion, or a 2-month gap in employment last year. This is if you’re clinically diagnosed with multiple debilitating issues; if you aren’t even able to organize a small party, etc.
  3. You can’t get enough of living like you’re 25. At this point, you can have had 25 years of living like you’re 25. Yet if living like that the thrill of your life, like you still enjoy dating a ton, then perhaps you should continue waiting.

Bad reasons to not be a dad include:

  1. You’ve never had fun playing with babies before. Some people think that the past is the best predictor of the future, and in many ways it is. However, your own child is different than other people’s children. Many dads, including me, feel a special attachment to their own baby that is way beyond their past experience with babies. Of course, your mileage may vary, but the above “shift” is very common from discussing with friends.
  2. You feel some pressure from society to have kids (but this is not majority reason). Many people realize that society (parents, friends) may exert implicit influence on them to have kids, and they push back. However, as long as society is the *top* reason you’re having kids, pushing back this way may be unwarranted, since the main reason you want to have kids is internal.
  3. You feel life is meaningless and bringing kids into the universe would make it even more meaningless / difficult. Actually one of the main things having kids cures is meaninglessness. Most parents that I talk to say their children is one of the most meaningful things in their lives.

A special consideration if you’re in your 50s: why did you decide not to have kids before this time? Maybe you were working on the first list. You were gathering resources, partying until it’s not fun anymore, setting your life straight. In that case, this is a great reason to start having kids now. If you’re young right now, the above list also gives you good reasons to wait versus not.

There are several differences between having kids in your 50s vs 20s though:

  1. You’re more put together and probably will make a better dad behaviorally. You know how to empathize more with people, including the mother and the baby. You probably have a higher paying job. You probably have more resources.
  2. You might get more worn down physically through the baby waking you up at night, demanding your time during feedings, and playing sports with you. Even fathers in their 20s and 30s have it rough with the insomnia. This is not a reason to not have a kid, but just to go in with your eyes open.
  3. There is some genetic degradation in sperm quality: studies show slightly higher chances of autism, mutations, etc. But most of these are screenable via the normal pregnancy process.

Some other fathers in their 50s complain about the potential of not seeing your children grow up to be full adults. But in my experience, these are simply narratives — no father lives to see all iterations of his children, grandchildren, etc, become adults.

How to Be a Dad When You’re 55

Again, the most important factor is the same as being a good dad at any age:

  1. Provide support for the child in all ways you can: this may mean financially for you and your spouse, but also means stepping up to take care of the baby when there’s no one else around to take care of her. If you’re not the sole caretaker and have a nanny, your job is to hire and manage the nanny well — you’re responsible for being a good employer partially in lieu of being a direct caretaker. Likewise, if the mom is another caretaker, you also need to support her emotionally and with work.
  2. Be Proactive In Your Childcare: Much like you would study up for your next promotion, you should consider childcare the same. Do high agency tasks like looking up books for tips, asking friends for advice, and proactively intervening if you see something’s not right.
  3. Think before you act: is it helpful? The first two pieces of advice are calls to action. Many dads are not active enough, and trying to put in effort is the first-order right thing to do. However, you might be the type of person that overdoes things. If so, before you act, think about whether it’s helpful or not. There’s a lot of bro-science in taking care of babies, and espousing a strong belief about the baby’s health that’s not scientifically backed is a surefire way to get into arguments that don’t yield anything of value.

There are some special considerations being at 55 though. Specifically:

  1. You have many friends who have had kids: use these as a resource to get advice. The best thing is that not only do you have data about how they retreated their kids, you have data about how the kids turned out. Look for the kids who turned out most like how you want your kids to turn out, and then ask them for advice!
  2. Consider hiring young help: if you’re in the fortunate position of having more cash because you worked longer, consider getting a relatively younger nanny or caretaker. They can take the baby off your hands for a while — even a few hours a week is a big help.
  3. Be confident: men of all ages have had great kids. History demonstrates a number of great examples, ranging from Pierre Trudeau to Charlie Chaplin.

So there we go, hopefully you’re now armed with the data to both make the choice of whether to be a dad and also how to be a great older dad.

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