30 is suddenly the new 20 and 40 has become the new 30: Many people aren’t considering marriage until age 26 and many aren’t even having kids until after age 30. This means a lot of children with older parents. My parents were born in the 1950s and did what most people did then: Married at 19, had kids by 20 and dedicated their lives to parenting.
Things are different now. Millennials are basically forced to attend 4-year colleges—at a minimum. Attending grad school and getting your doctorate have become the new norm, and in some cases, necessary. By the time millennials finish school, they are laser focused on securing a job to pay off their student loans. Those thoughts of marriage and family come later—much later.
In my personal experience, my husband and I have had very different circumstances. He is 16 years my senior. When we met, I was just shy of turning 21. He was 37 years old, just shy of finalizing his second divorce. He had lived (what felt like) lifetimes before me. I was just starting out. But that didn’t stop us from falling in love. We moved in together when I was 22, engaged before I turned 23, married at 24 and I was a mom by 25. I basically grew up overnight.
My husband never had any children from his previous marriages. He was 41 when our son was born and it wasn’t until that moment that I realized our age gap was going to be an issue. My husband grew up in a different time and place. We share the same values and morals, but our parenting styles are grossly different.
Like most fathers I imagined, he wants to raise a strong, independent, “tough” little boy. He is a no-nonsense kind of dad. If my son gets hurt, my husband’s response is, “You’re fine, suck it up.” I know what my husband’s trying to do. I get it. And I think every child needs a little push once in a while, a nudge outside of their comfort zone. But sometimes, I think my husband pushes a little too hard.
What does my son think about all this? “Daddy’s always teasing me. He never says nice things,” he says. I don’t want my son to feel like his father isn’t proud of him. I understand my husband’s intentions but sometimes, I think they miss the mark.
He thinks I’m too easy on him, that I’m soft—I probably am. But isn’t that what a mother’s role can be, at least to some extent? We are their soft place to land. Our children will be met with controversy, struggles and disappointment in life. I want to be my son’s salvation: His place of trust, safety and consistency.
I have to laugh sometimes because I know if my son were a girl things would be very different. My husband would encourage our daughter to be a daddy’s girl. My son is what some might label a “mama’s boy”—but I disagree. He’s my pal, my buddy, my best friend. He is slowly finding his independence. He loves to run around and play, go to school and be with his friends.
As the primary parent—my husband has a very demanding work schedule—I make most of the decisions when it comes my son’s upbringing. My husband agrees with some and there some decisions he doesn’t. But nine times out of 10, he defers to me and I value that.
My husband and I often have a good chuckle over the fact that he’s sometimes mistaken for my son’s grandfather. He’s now 48 and his beard and goatee have grown in silver. His focus in life is different from mine. He dreams of retirement. He needs to check his prostate and get a Body Composition Test. My husband is tired. He has a hard time getting on the floor to play with my son. After work, he wants to sit, not play ball in the yard. Meanwhile, I’m dreaming of my next career move, checking my calendar for lunch dates and taking Cosmopolitan’s sex and beauty tests.
But my husband’s age also brings a different perspective to parenting. He places a lot of value on hard work. We require our son to respect adults and authority figures. He addresses adults as “Mr.” or “Mrs.” He says “please” and “thank you.” Our son knows the difference between right and wrong and works to make us proud.
So, no matter the age of a parent, the requirements of being a parent don’t change. And even though my husband may be an older dad than most, he still lives and breathes for his family—and I couldn’t ask for a better partner.