Why age doesn’t matter in marriage or parenthood

Guest post by Ruth Dawkins


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. “Having an awesome father around, even for a short while, is preferable to having a crap father around for life.”

    Absolutely agree!!

  2. What a beautiful story and congrats on your lovely family. My husband’s mother was only 34 when she died (he was 10) — death is something that young couples can have happen as well. He still wouldn’t have it any other way.

  3. I loved this piece, and it really hit home for me. My husband and I have a significant age gap, as well as him being from another country. I remember having conversations together about why our relationship would or wouldn’t work. It all came down to the fact that we love each other and wanted to share our lives with each other. Thank you for sharing your story.

  4. Thanks for the post! I’m 27, my husband is 53, our daughter is 2. He’s an unbelievably incredible dad and I couldn’t imagine my life any other way 🙂

  5. I love hearing about all the other families with big age gaps out there – thanks so much for sharing your stories! So many lucky kids out there with awesome Moms and Dads who really understand the meaning of love 🙂

  6. I can’t explain to you how happy I am to have read this article! I’m 19, my SO is 48. You have NO idea the amount of looks we get, and every negative glance makes me question everything. Not my love for him, but for what type of situation I chose. But I’ve realized I don’t let stigmas and standards dictate any part of my life, so why should this be any different?

    We both want children, but I’m planning on finishing school before that happens. So its nice to know that even as he gets older, our life and dreams don’t have to change.

    I didn’t mean to include personal things, but if you only knew how much this article just made my day and perhaps settled my anxiety about this! Thanks much 🙂

  7. I’ve never commented on forums or anything before but felt I had to with this.
    Thank you- I’ve just read this with tears in my eyes. My boyfriend is 25 years older than me, and I know this is ‘wierd’ or ‘wrong’ to many of my 21 year old contempories, who don’t even try to understand. It’s something I struggled with for a while, telling myself we could never be together and all the reasons why it wouldn’t work out. Then I thought ‘If two people love each other does it really matter what age, race, religion or gender they are?’ I’ve been happy ever since.
    We’re planing on getting engaged this year, but talk of starting a family rasied again a few of those nagging doubts…your post just reminds of all that really matters. Thank you so so much.

  8. My own parents are the same age and 36 years older than myself, but my dad’s hair had already gone completely white by the time I was born. I had many comments and questions growing up about whether he was my father or my grandfather, but none of them were ever malicious or bullying, so I hope your son has nothing to worry about in that respect. It was mainly a point of innocent confusion for most people.

  9. This is best! My husband is 20 years older than me. And although it is hard to look at the reality that we may not be together for 15-20 years down the line, I would not give up the time I have with him now

  10. “But what could be wrong about two people in love, happily married, bringing up their son?”

    Absolutely nothing! Best wishes to you :o)

  11. Oh my gosh, THANK YOU SO SO MUCH for this article.

    My boyfriend is 16 years older than me (we’re 23 and 39) and we get a lot of awkward looks from strangers, even well-meaning friends and family. People don’t like seeing something they’re not used to. They don’t think we couldn’t possibly have enough in common to have a deep, meaningful relationship.

    It does hurt sometimes when I see people point and whisper from across the room, and I want to yell at them until they understand. But it’s really not important that they understand. It’s what makes US happy that’s important.

    Your family is so beautiful.

  12. Hey, I just checked in to look at this article for the first time in months, and I’m so touched to see there are still people reading it and finding it helpful. Thanks so much for taking the time to read and comment, and for all your good wishes, I’m really moved.

    • Ruth, I can’t exaggerate the gratitude I feel, as a guy in his early 60’s, for you writing this. The best way to describe my feeling is that it must be analogous to the joy a woman must feel after she has been told she could never have a baby is informed that she is pregnant.

      “What did you say? Are you sure? I’d given up all hope.”

      The words “Thank you.” are not nearly enough in this case.

  13. Thank you for this story. My partner and I are also quite a few years apart in age and I am pregnant with my first child. Our age difference has caused issues for me with my family and with my previous command. (I am also active duty military and under DADT several fellow sailors thought our relationship was a cover, one even came out and asked him) Your story and those of the other couples with age differences that commented have given me the pat on the head that I need. I see our age difference as an advantage in someways, he no longer works full time and will be available for baby care while attend grad school full time.

  14. Thank you so much for this post. On 11.11.11 I married my soulmate of 6 years. he is 44 and I am 26. Today was the first real discussion we had about making the family in our heads a reality. Thank you for reaffirming my beliefs.

  15. Thank you for this. The age difference between my husband and me isn’t as big (8 years), but we are planning on starting to try for our first baby soon–and I’m 37 and he’s going to be 45 this year. I worry about that sometimes, but this is reassuring.

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