Choosing to be an older parent can be an agonising process. You face the stress of trying for a child, and the depth of despair when it doesn’t work out is not even to be wished on an enemy.
Most who embark on this journey don’t do it lightly I’m sure. Questions and concerns pepper the mind: can I afford to have a child? Will he/she be embarrassed by me being the oldest parent at the school gate? Will I live long enough to see her/him graduate, have a family. Will he/ she be healthy? Will I be healthy?
But people-watching in the UAE tells me that many expats aren’t letting this stop them having young families at a time when parents would traditionally be preparing to become empty nesters. Whether it’s choosing to have second families, or experiencing it for the first time, I know of many who are doing this close to or beyond their fifth decade of life.
Reasons vary. It could be that the expat plane-hopping lifestyle didn’t help with meeting the Mr or Ms “right” when younger, or that you left your home country and a past marriage, to seek a sense of self and create a firm financial base, meeting your dream partner in the process.
It could be because your only teenage child died in a car crash on the roads of the UAE – a woman I know of had a miracle baby with her very last egg after her child died this way – going into menopause straight after the birth.
Or as in the case of a grandmother and single mother of 13, it could be the desire to fulfil a young child’s wish for a younger sibling. In case you missed it, a 65-year-old German gave birth to three boys and a girl on Sunday to please her 10-year-old daughter, or so she claims.
Here is an extreme case, the subject of many a moral debate. Partly because she chose to have children at such a ripe old age, but also because to do so, she had to use donor eggs.
Many of us expats fit often-cited reasons that lead to older parenthood: focusing on careers, not happening upon the right partner, having cash to spend on assisted pregnancy.
I wonder what the knock-on effect will be? A few things spring to mind: if we are older parents, then the grandparents will be older too – not that they can be easily called upon to help with childcare if they live thousands of miles away. But even if they were closer, their health and ability might mean they are not caregivers, but in need of care themselves. This can lead to a giant emotional and financial tug where older parents are split caring for their own dependent offspring while juggling to provide for their parents – whether financially, emotionally or physical every day needs such as arranging food deliveries.
When the time comes to leave the UAE – only a few will be able to stay beyond retirement age – where and how will you live and provide? Your child(ren) could still be at school, your retirement fund depleted, and your ability to find employment dented by ageist policies or decision- makers.
Older parents might start out with more finances and assets, but this doesn’t mean they are set for life. It costs to have and keep a young family – figures out of the UK show that the first year of life costs £11,224 (Dh63,550). This figure takes into account household bills and loss of wages owing to maternity leave. Older parents are less able to make up for these financial losses once their little ones have grown.
My personal belief is that there is no right time or age to build a family. If it happens later in life then congratulations are in order – plus, a good sit down to sort out priorities.
The conventional splitting of money for the family’s future needs to change.
I would suggest funding retirement is the priority – or let’s call it the time when you are no longer able to earn, or earn as much as you currently do, along with health cover and life insurance.
There are many ways for offspring to be educated, but not many ways to fund retirement and what life can hold in store for us when we are less able.
I’ll say it again: older parents must put their own financial well-being – by this I mean their financial sustainability, not luxury cruises – front and centre.
If you are lucky enough to become a parent when those in your peer group have teenagers or young adults, then rejoice – the joys of parenthood at any age are many.
But save yourself and your little one much future heartache by making your future financial needs a priority. As for worrying about what people might think, don’t.
Nima Abu Wardeh is the founder of the personal finance website cashy.me. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org