40 Reasons You're a Better Parent After 40
That happiness and stability were well worth the wait.
Anyone who's had a kid can tell you that parenting ain't exactly easy. And if you believe one recent study, raising kids right now is actually harder than ever. Sixty-three percent of those polled admitted to experiencing "parenting burnout" at one point or another. (Yikes!) But there was one group of participants in the study for whom the experience of having children wasn't nearly as grim: those over 40. In fact, for new parents in their fifth decade, the experience of building a family is only getting better and better.
This isn't nearly as surprising as it may seem, especially once you've read many of the countless ways in which being a parent over 40 actually beats raising rug rats when you're in your 20s. Curious what they are? Read on, because here we've rounded up 40 definitive ways you're all but guaranteed to be a better parent after 40!
You're in a better place financially.
Money isn't everything when it comes to raising children, but it's not nothing, either. According to the think tank New America, the average cost of sending one child to daycare for a year is more than in-state college tuition. Fortunately, older parents are tending to near the peak of their earnings potential, which comes slightly before 40 for most women and closer to 50 for most men, according to PayScale.
"Many people, specifically women, spend time getting their education, gaining traction in their career, to pay for their livelihoods. It takes significant time and effort to be stable and be able to afford having a family," says therapist Erika Miley, M.Ed., LMHC.
Your relationships are stronger.
While your teens and 20s may have been plagued by a cycle of breaking up and getting back together, by the time you're in your 40s, you're likely enjoying more relationship stability than previous decades afforded you.
"Couples may be better parents when they are older because of some key factors—more specifically, their relationships are more likely to be stable," says Miley.
You have more overall stability.
It's not just your romantic relationships that are more stable as you age, however. Everything from where you live to who you spend your time with tends to be more routine when you've got a few decades of adulthood under your belt.
"People are more likely to have stable friendships, jobs, and living situations once they reach their 40s," explains Miley.
You're less afraid of asking for help.
Asking for help may feel like a big deal when you're younger and trying to navigate the world as an adult for the first time, but by the time you're in your 40s, you know well enough to ask for help when you need it.
"During our late 30s and 40s, we are more likely to be able to ask for help when we need it," says Miley. "This speaks to having more of an ability to understand having help is not weakness."
There are fewer unrealistic post-pregnancy expectations.
Having a baby is hard both emotionally and physically. However, after 40, as overall expectations about a person's appearance tend to diminish, there's less pressure to immediately look and feel as confident as you did before you gave birth.
"Do not have expectations of your body," suggests Miley. "It takes roughly a year for a female bodied person's body to normalize after pregnancy hormones. Do not take the diet bait."
You have more life experience.
At 20-something, you're just getting your sea legs when it comes to adulthood. However, by 40, you've seen it all, done it all, and have more wisdom to impart to your children—and perhaps more patience with yourself—because of it.
"Parents in their 40s are often better parents because they have more life experience to draw upon," says Rabbi Shlomo Slatkin, a licensed clinical professional counselor, Certified Imago Relationship Therapist, and co-founder of The Marriage Restoration Project.
You're more confident.
A little confidence goes a long way when you're a parent, whether you're trying to reason with a tantruming toddler or trying to convince a teenager that a bike helmet is a necessity, not a choice.
"Parents who have had kids in their 20s will recognize that their parenting in their 40s is much more relaxed and confident," says Slatkin.
You're more willing to compromise.
While your newfound confidence may be helpful, parents over 40 tend to eschew the perfectionist tendencies that younger, often more insecure, parents find themselves facing. Instead, older parents are often more willing to compromise with their kids for the sake of everyone's wellbeing.
"Older parents are typically more mature and flexible. Often younger parents are more stubborn and perfectionist in their attitude. Once they have gotten worn down with the ups and downs of life, they become a little less idealistic and more practical and easy going," says Slatkin.
Your kids might just be geniuses.
Want to raise a super-smart kid? It might just pay to have your family a bit later.
According to a study published in Translational Psychiatry, having kids later in life might just yield you a budding genius. The research reveals that older fathers in particular were more likely to have kids who scored highly across a wide range of criteria on the researchers' so-called "Geek Index," including having higher IQs and greater concentration than their peers of younger parentage.
You're likely to live longer.
If you want more years to provide your kids with your incalculable parenting wisdom, it pays to start having them a bit later.
A study published in the journal Menopause reveals that women who give birth to their last child after the age of 33 had double the chance of surviving into old age than those who had their last kid before age 29.
You're a better communicator.
As you get older, it becomes easier to communicate your needs, wants, and boundaries. With age comes increased confidence, and an increased ability to get your point across, no matter how unpopular it might be—an essential skill when you're trying to explain to your kindergartener why they can't wear their sibling's newborn-sized pajamas to bed.
You're more likely to maintain your social circle.
They say it takes a village to raise a child, and that's undeniably true. But you're more likely to preserve that village if you have your kids later in life. According to a study published in Demographic Research, individuals who had children later in life found it easier to maintain their friendships than those who had children at an earlier age. And with that increased social circle, you're more likely to have adequate time for self-care and the expertise of those you trust to help you through those parenting rough patches.
You're more patient.
Patience is a virtue no matter your age or station in life, but for parents, it's essential. And fortunately, for parents over 40, they've got a whole lot more of it stored up.
"[Parents over 40] are patient and have more tools at their disposal," says parenting expert Donna Bozzo, author of What the Fun?!: 427 Simple Ways to Have Fantastic Family Fun. In fact, "Researchers have found older moms are less likely to physically discipline their kids compared to younger moms."
You're more likely to see parenting as part of your plan.
Getting pregnant at 20 might be a happy accident. But for those starting families over 40, it's much more likely to be an intentional act.
"Older parents didn't find themselves parents by happenstance, they deliberately chose it," says Kristi Andrus, a parenting coach and founder of Luxi Coach. This "provides gratitude, confidence, and a deep sense of accountability."
You can offer fuller commitment to your children.
Self-discovery can be a wonderful thing, but it pays to already know who you are by the time you have kids. Fortunately, older parents tend to have a better understanding of who they are and what they want, making it easier for them to focus on their children's needs instead.
"Older age parents often have more of themselves to give because they have less of themselves to figure out," says psychologist Carl Pickhardt, author of WHO STOLE MY CHILD? Parenting Through the Four Stages of Adolescence.
You're more self-aware.
A little self-awareness can go a long way when it comes to raising kids—and fortunately, by 40, you've got it in spades.
"People are better parents after 40 because they're more self-aware and comfortable with themselves which means they can be more comfortable and generous with their children," says Andrus. And for more ways to improve your parenting game, make sure you never utter these 40 Things You Should Never Say to Your Kid.
You're done with FOMO.
Having kids early in life is difficult enough as it is, but it's exponentially harder when you add in FOMO—or fear of missing out. By the time you're 40, those Instagram pictures of friends drinking on weeknights and spending every spare second at some lavish party will be few and far between, if not altogether over.
"[Parents over 40] have had the opportunity to have more time to live their own lives (and have fun with them) before sacrificing to care for their child," says Bozzo.
You have access to better childcare.
If you're a working parent, finding childcare is essential, but not all providers are created equal, and a little money can make a big difference in terms of the quality of care your kids get. In fact, having a little extra padding in your bank account can mean you get the care you need to be a better parent, whether that means regular therapy or weekly massages, too.
"They tend to have advanced further in their careers, so they have more disposable income when starting their family and can oftentimes provide better childcare," says Bozzo.
You're more emotionally prepared.
While it's hard to tell how parenting will affect you, parents over 40 tend to feel like they're ready to tackle the challenges of raising children head-on. According to a study published in the journal Human Reproduction, parents over 40 reported emotional preparedness as a benefit of having kids later in life. And for more reasons to get in touch with your emotional side, check out these 30 Ways That Emotional Intelligence Can Make You Better at Everything.
Your career is likely to be more flexible.
"Older parents are often more patient and also more financially secure," adds Dr. Lori Whatley, a clinical psychologist and licensed marriage and family therapist. "Because of this, they can spend more time home with their families as they have more flexible schedules."
You have better communication skills.
Communication is everything when it comes to being a good parent, from navigating those disputes with your spouse in an effective manner to trying to help your kids figure out the world around them. And fortunately, by the time you're in your 40s, you've got those communication skills down pat.
"Older parents often have more work experience and thus have strengthened communication skills when engaging with pediatricians, daycare providers, nannies, and teachers," says Elizabeth Malson, President of the Amslee Institute. "These life skills provide better parenting skills but more importantly, allow the parent to use what they have learned to be a stronger role model for their children."
You'll likely have fewer children.
According to researchers at the University of California, San Francisco, older parents were likely to have fewer children—and more only children—than their younger counterparts. And considering that research suggests that having fewer children brings about greater maternal happiness, being an older parent clearly has some major advantages.
You're happier if you have more children, too.
However, if you do choose to have a big family, you'll be happier with that choice as an over-40 parent, too. Researchers at the University of California, Berkeley found that parents over 40 are actually happier with more kids than their younger counterparts.
Your kids may enjoy greater longevity.
According to research published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, having an older father may lengthen a child's telomeres—structures found at the end of a chromosome—which is associated with a longer lifespan.
Your kids will be more relaxed.
Older parents tend to have higher levels of educational achievement than their younger counterparts, which research published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology links to more relaxed children.
You have more parent friends to help you out.
Sometimes, being one of the older members of your friend group to have kids can yield major rewards. As you get older, the more likely you are to know other people who've had children—and have expertise in all those parenting woes currently plaguing you—making it easier to figure out how to effectively tackle them without losing your cool.
Your kids are more likely to do well in school.
Want to raise a straight-A student? Starting your family later in life might just get you there. A study published in the Journal of Family Psychology reveals that parental education and income—both of which tend to be higher in parents over 40—are strongly correlated with a child's academic achievement.
You're more fulfilled by other aspects of your life.
Having children can be fulfilling for some people, but expecting it to be a source of fulfillment can yield disastrous results. But after 40, you've had plenty of time to figure out what else fulfills you—your romantic relationship, your career, or your hobbies, to name a few—which allows you to enjoy your parenting experience for what it is and not what you hoped it would be.
You'll be more mentally fit as you age.
Keeping your mind working like a well-oiled machine and having children later in life go hand-in-hand. According to research published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, individuals who had children later in life remained more mentally sharp as they aged than those who had them earlier, giving you more years to provide your children with all that sage advice you've been saving up.
You're ready to roll with the punches.
"It seems when parents wait to have children until they are older they think through parenting more and are better prepared. They have lived life and matured a great deal and are ready for the settled and challenging life of parenting," says Whatley.
You're less resentful.
While younger parents might find themselves resenting their children for the changes they've caused to their lives, parents over 40 have had plenty of time to do the things parenthood might otherwise preclude.
"Sometimes younger parents are growing up with the child. Older parents have likely matured a great deal by childbirth and have less resentment of the settled life parenting involves," says Whatley
You're more likely to have sustained earnings.
Not only are you more likely to be more financially stable if you have kids later in life, but you're also more likely to sustain those earnings down the line.
In fact, the results of a study published in PLOS One reveal that women who gave birth for the first time after age 31 had higher lifetime incomes than those who gave birth under 25. And to boost your earnings. This Is Exactly How to Ask for a Raise.
You're better at self-care.
A little self-care goes a long way when it comes to being a good parent. Stress and emotional volatility tend to go hand-in-hand, and neither have a positive effect on children. But with the increased self-awareness and financial cushion you're likely to have in your 40s, you can take the time you need to decompress and tackle those parenting challenges head-on.
You're more laid back.
While parenting at a young age—particularly if you don't have friends who are also parents—can be a nerve-racking experience, as you get older and have more experience with children and parenting in general, it tends to be less so. The result? You're a more laid-back parent, and your kids aren't on edge all the time, either.
You're more emotionally stable.
"Those at 40 have additional wisdom which translates into a nuanced parenting philosophy and greater emotional stability. Both contribute to a more harmonious family," says parenting coach Dr. Richard Horowitz, founder of Great Growing Relationships. "As far as the science, the adult brain is fully formed at about age 25. Parents under 25 might not be as emotionally centered as those over 25, which will reflect in their parenting."
Your kids will be healthier.
Research published in Population and Development Review reveals that children born to older mothers are generally healthier than those born to younger parents, possibly due to increased awareness of information on health and nutrition. "The benefits associated with being born in a later year outweigh the individual risk factors arising from being born to an older mother. We need to develop a different perspective on advanced maternal age," says study co-author Mikko Myrskylä, director of the Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research.
You're more committed to your role as a parent.
"Parents at 40 have most likely made a strong commitment to being parents at this stage in their lives," says Dr. Horowitz. "Younger couples might be more on the fence about being parents and waiting to see if pregnancy happens."
You have more experience with kids.
It's simple math: the more years you've spent on earth, the more kids you've interacted with.
"They have seen other friends and family members go through the ups and downs of parenting, and hopefully, because they want children, they have volunteered to babysit and learned by experience," says Tina B. Tessina, PhD, (aka "Dr. Romance") psychotherapist and author of The Ten Smartest Decisions a Woman Can Make After Forty.
You're more likely to know what you're doing.
"These parents are more likely to take classes in parenting, nutrition and other aspects of child care," says Dr. Tessina.
You're not alone.
While, at 20, you might not have a ton of friends to commiserate about the good, bad, and ugly of parenting, at 40, you're likely to have an ever-growing team of people on your side. And if you feel self-conscious about being the oldest parent on the playground, it's likely all in your head. While birth rates are going down across the United States, there's just one group with birth rates on the rise: parents over 40. And if you're still on the fence about offspring, check out these 20 Subtle Signs You're Not Ready to Have Kids.
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