Why age doesn’t matter in marriage or parenthood

Guest post by Ruth Dawkins

ruthtomfamily

My husband is a beat poet, a professional fundraiser, and the proudest father I’ve ever known. He also happens to be 35 years older than me, and 60 years older than our son.

Believe me, if you had asked me five years ago who I imagined marrying and starting a family with … a man old enough to be my own father would not have been top of the list. But love is a wonderful and surprising thing, and as we tell people who ask how we met, we just kinda bumped and stuck.

To those on the outside, there are many disadvantages to our unconventional relationship. The mistake people make is thinking that we haven’t given consideration to those ourselves. Of course we’ve thought about the future, of course we know that things won’t always be as easy and fun as they are now, and of course we realise that we look a little odd when we go out … we dated for six months before moving in together, and several nights a week we would linger over dinner, drinking wine, talking about all the reasons we shouldn’t commit to each other. It is a standing joke between us that, due to those six months, there is no good restaurant in Edinburgh that I haven’t cried in.

It is tough, when you are giddily falling in love, to stand back and look at your relationship with objective eyes, but we knew we had to. If we were serious about making things work we had to persuade our family and friends that this was the real deal, and we couldn’t do that without believing it ourselves. All that talking paid off, and because we became completely confident in the strong foundations of our relationship, others did too. To anyone who sees us together, it is very obvious how deeply we are in love.

Believe it or not, there are advantages to a relationship with a large age difference, too. Knowing that we will never celebrate our fiftieth wedding anniversary means that we don’t have time to waste. We make the most of every single day, and refuse to get caught up in the petty arguments that consume many couples.

Having a child has made that “live for the moment” philosophy even more pertinent, because obviously my husband and son won’t get as long with each other as most families do.

Again, we knew it was an enormous decision, and we talked about it endlessly, making sure that we were doing it for the right reasons and not purely selfish ones. We knew that we could provide a safe, happy and loving home for a baby, but how would we work things out financially when my husband retired? How would our child cope if his Daddy’s health declined? What if he or she were bullied because their Dad looked like their Grandpa?

We really believe, though, that there are no guarantees, whatever your age. Both of us had somewhat turbulent upbringings, and we are convinced that having an awesome father around, even for a short while, is preferable to having a crap father around for life.

And he really is an awesome father. To have your first child at sixty is no small thing, but to throw yourself into the job with as much energy and enthusiasm and excitement as my husband has done is quite incredible. Despite holding down a demanding full-time job, he is never too busy to read a book with Tom, or get down on the floor and wrestle with him.

My two boys love each other so dearly. When I was struggling in the early days of motherhood, it was seeing their love for each other that helped me come to terms with our new life. Now that my son is nearly two, their relationship is even stronger. Seeing Tom perched on his Daddy’s shoulders, giggling away at some shared joke, makes all those early sleepless nights and periods of postpartum depression worthwhile.

We still do get some odd looks when we go out, and I am sure there are those who think our relationship is wrong. But what could be wrong about two people in love, happily married, bringing up their son? When it comes to building a family, age really is nothing more than a number.

Comments on Why age doesn’t matter in marriage or parenthood

  1. This is wonderful to read. My own parents were 25 years apart (I was born when he turned 50 and my sister at 55).

    I don’t know if I could do it in their shoes, but they did it and it worked. He was the best father I could ever have imagined having, but the downside is that he did not live to see me graduate from college or get married or meet his grandaughter. Yet still, I wouldn’t have wished for anything different.

  2. This is truly amazing! I just wanted to say that I know a lot of people whose parents are 40 to 50 years older than them and I’ve never heard any of them complain about ever being teased. Age doesn’t matter – like mentioned thereare no gurentees at any age. My father was only 24 years older than me and was sick my entire life. I still loved him, he was my best friend. He got colon cancer in 2004 and then again in 2008. I looked after him, help pay bill, ect starting at fifteen [2006]. He passed away at the age of 42. He did not see me graduate, or have my son and won’t be around to walk me down the aisle.
    No matter what age we love our parents, we help take care of them and we sad when they pass.

  3. Every relationship will have advantages and disadvantages and no one will ever have an “ideal” one (in my opinion). So screw nay sayers and congratulations on finding love and creating a loving family!

  4. I love this, one of my best friends is married to a man who is 25 years older than her. They don’t have any kids yet, but being married to her has inspired him to live a much healthier lifestyle (quit smoking, less alcohol, exercises etc.) so that he can be around for her as long as possible 🙂 Seeing their relationship evolve of these past 4 years has completely changed my perspective on age and relationships. When she first told me about him I was so creeped out, because I had a lot of prejudices against older men who date young women, but the moment I saw them together, I could tell they were perfect for each other and so very in love. After that it seemed like the most natural thing in the world when they got married. Love really does transcend the limits that our culture and prejudices can put on people. I guess the only thing left to say is “all you need is love” 🙂

  5. Thank you for this post. It was a breath of fresh air for me, literally and figuratively. I think it’s incredible not only that you’ve found this love, but also that you’ve dedicated the time and energy to make it work. You’ve gone through those difficult conversations. There is a somewhat sizable age gap between my partner and myself, I am 23 he is 35, and we’ve been together since I was 19. He is still younger than my parents, but only by 5 years. We have been together for 4 years and have dealt with so many shocked faces, so many “sit downs” to tell us it’s wrong, so many people not willing to spend time with us as a couple. Eventually, those closest to us began to see our relationship for what it was, positive and loving, and couldn’t imagine either of us without the other. We knew this from the start, but it took time for others to catch on. Thank you for reassuring me that when we do start a family, there are others in this circumstance, and ultimately the only thing that matters is our love and commitment to each other.

  6. I am married to a man 20 years older. He is 50 and our son was just born. We have been married for 8 years and I dare say things are perfect. He is an amazing dad to our new little guy and an incredibly loving husband. I know I gave up some things when I decided to marry someone so much older than myself, but I think of all the things I get in return and it makes it worth it.

  7. well, when he gets a little older you will get citizens discounts!

    my ex’s father was 60 when he had him as well. his mom was 30 something. my ex is 27 and his father passed away a few years ago. my kids do not know their grandpa. but despite that, he was a fun loving involved dad that was full of energy all the way up until the end. my ex is proud of his dad and loved him dearly. he just wishes he was around longer to see his grand children grow up. but i think that in the long run, my ex was better off having a great dad to raise him… in the end, all the matters is what you give to your child, not how old you are when you have them.

  8. My husband is 65, I am 35 and our daughter is 5!
    We have grown with each other in every way possible way over the past 7 years. He credits me for bringing him back to life and I credit him me making the woman I had hoped to be!

  9. It’s especially stories like this one that keep me coming back to Offbeat Mama. My husband and I are only 3 years apart and still in our early to mid-20’s, and honestly with so many other couples we know who fall in the same range, it’s refreshing and completely beautiful to read about couples from all ranges and age differences. Love is love is love. There’s no right or wrong or number attached to it.

    More power to you and your family!

  10. This is the first post on offbeat mama that has made me cry. My stepfather took over the role of dad when he came into my life when I was 4, I’m 25 now. He is a great deal older than my mom, and even has grandchildren older than me. He became my dad, and has been the most wonderful father I could have ever asked for. All the things you said about your husband’s relationship with your son really hit home for me. Your son will no doubt truly value his father and love him dearly. Thank you for writing this!

  11. I love that Offbeat Mama gives us these glimpses of love. When viewing any untraditional family from the outside–be it due to age differences, gay parents, or families deep in a subculture–it can be so easy to feel your own eyebrows knit and an unbidden “That’s really weird!” pop into your head. Hearing these stories makes me remember that every situation is made up of real people living their lives in their own beautiful ways. Thanks for sharing your story!

  12. Mazel Tov to you and your family!!!

    My father is 61, his wife is 41 and my half brother is 6 months (@ 30 years younger then me and my other siblings). I had a great time helping them plan and then coordinate their wedding last summer, and it was so wonderful to have a new baby brother to hold at Christmas. Family is a wonderful thing. 🙂

  13. Ahh, you are so kind – thank you all so much for all your lovely comments and thoughts, and for sharing your own stories too. I’m so touched 🙂

  14. I know Ruth, and when I first heard about her love I was as dubious as those folk she worries about judging her. But it didn’t even take seeing Ruth and her husband together to make me realise how wonderful and special their love was, it only needed getting to know Ruth better. Meeting her whole family has only reinforced my wonder and excitement at their superbly exciting relationship, but has also made me endlessly envious.

    It is rare to find good love, finding true love is exceptional, and I will always be envious of Ruth for finding that. I will also always be there for her when life brings the inevitable, as she so frankly acknowledges in this post.

    I love you Ruth, you have changed how I conceive of love.

    Juliet xx

  15. this post is just delightful. My girlfriend is 40 to my 25, and I never know if people are staring at us because we’re so different in age or because we’re both women. there are special joys and challenges to every single relationship, no matter what. love, in it’s many, many variations, is so, so awesome!

  16. Go Ruth! My partner and I are 17 years apart with a 15 mo. old son. And man there is judgement! But just like you said, once the eyebrows relax and let the eyes do the work, no one can deny our love.

    Congratulations!

    So proud to see that even ageism can’t sneak its way into the OBM world!

  17. My father was sixty when I was born. He died when I was seven but he was the best father I could possibly have had and I would not have wished for anything different. As other commenters have pointed out, no one knows where they will be in five years. Even young parents need to face that. So good to hear stories like this!

  18. A great post, and a side note.

    To those who judge older parents, by the probable time they have left, rather than how well that time is spent: My brother was only 39 when he died, leaving behind an 8-year-old, who will be 11 this year. No one knows how long they get. The quality of a life is what matters.

  19. I just had to say that this essay is lovely. If only MORE couples had to put the kind of intentionality into their relationships as that which you describe!

  20. You’re all making me so emotional with your kind comments and support, thanks so much! I really appreciate you taking the time to post 🙂

  21. Wonderful piece, Ruth. It makes me smile to see so many age gap couples (and children of older fathers) chiming in here. It’s a refreshing change from the subtle ageism that can pop up from time to time in discussions around parenting. I’m 28 and my partner is 56, and we’re expecting our first child in June. Like you, I might not have pictured my family this way, but now that I’m here I wouldn’t change a thing. He’s the love of my life. There are no guarantees, and my husband’s age is a great reminder to live life to the fullest every day.

    Best to you and your family!

  22. wow, wow, WOW.

    What really hit home for me was the part about knowing you won’t celebrate your fiftieth wedding anniversary so you know you need to make every day count. Really hit home. Thanks.

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