It was the struggle that dominated my early 30s. As my partner's desire to procreate
became more and more intense, I became more and more intent on finding excuses to eek out another year or two of blissful childlessness.
Don't get me wrong. I wanted a family, in that vague, sometime-in-the-future way that men want families. Just not quite yet, and probably not quite next year.
So I pointed to our financial situation, our desire to get on the property ladder (this was back when you could get on the property ladder) and the age of our cat (old) as reasons for further procrastination.
Now this may sound like selfishness, or even immaturity, but new research has confirmed what I'm 100% sure I totally, instinctively knew at the time. The extra years I spent refusing to grow up were wasted in the service of my unborn children.
What the research actually says is that older dads
may pass on a survival advantage to their offspring. This isn't in the wisdom of maturity, it's in the DNA of sperm. The children of older fathers tend to have longer telomeres than the children of younger dads. Telomeres protect chromosomes from damage, but shorten with the passage of time.
To put that more succinctly, the researchers think that children conceived by older dads may have a better chance of living to a ripe old age. You see, I knew that spending another year in bars would work out for the best.
Of course, once I judged the DNA of my sperm to be sufficiently mature, I succumbed. Today, at 42, I have two young children. This doesn't put me in the Charlie Chaplin league of decrepit fathers, but it does put me at least half a decade beyond the UK average.
And do my children get other advantages from having an older dad? You betcha! Andrew Watson, author of Down to Earth with a Bump: The Diary of a First Time Dad
, says that older dads tend to have more control over their careers, which means they can spend more time with their kids.
I can relate to that. I'd be lying to say it was part of some grand plan, or that I'd reached the pinnacle of my ambition. It might be more honest to say that, by my late 30s, my career had hit a wall. It wasn't going backwards, but nor was it going forwards. I could have tried climbing over the wall, but the wall was constructed from the smooth, well-greased bricks of economic uncertainty and personal laziness. When my son was born, I rebranded failure as downsizing and headed for the park.
Had I been 28 I would still have been scrambling for position. Late night conference calls and lunch meetings with potential clients would have seemed far less pointless than they do today.
Beer with the boss would have been a common evening routine, rather than bath time with the baby.
And taking of beer, the other advantage I have, as an older dad, is that by the time my son was born my social life was pretty moribund anyway. I didn't miss clubbing or gigging because I'd long since stopped doing them. By my late 30s I was content to sip the odd real ale in an old man's pub, and I still am.
The call of the club, or at least the gig, would have been strong in my early 30s. I also went travelling for eight months around that time, which makes me think a bit less bitterly about the decade or so I have still to endure (did I say endure? I mean, of course, enjoy) without a relaxing holiday.
Which all means I spend more time with my children than I would have done 10 years go, and I do so willingly. Nor have I simply swapped quantity for quality. Yes, a younger dad may have more energy. His spine may creak a little less. But he hasn't got a project.
This, I think, is the nub of it. By the time many men reach early middle age we've got as far in our careers as we're likely to go, our athletic powers are on the wane, and our youthful yearnings are gone. In other words, we're looking for a project.
For previous generations of dads who had their kids young, that meant growing vegetables, tinkering with classic cars or building scale models of famous sailing ships out of toothpicks. Because by that time their kids were teenagers, and didn't want to be seen dead with them.
But for us older dads, who reach the same stage with kids still young enough to like us, all the obsessive focus of the middle age male can be directed at family life.
Though I hate to compare my beautiful daughter with a metre-long Eiffel Tower one of my own dad's friends constructed out of Meccano, it's with the same sort of loving attention to detail that I interact with her.
Are you an older dad? What positives have you seen for you and your children?
My children have become my hobby, and if I shower them with as much love and attention as some men of my age shower bathroom extensions or motorbikes, they should be OK.
- Elton John
Elton was 63 when he adopted baby <a href="http://www.parentdish.co.uk/2011/06/02/elton-john-and-david-furnish-jet-off-with-baby-zachary/" target="_blank">Zachary </a>with partner, David Furnish. The little lad was born on Christmas day via a surrogate mum, and Elton and David later said they had “left it to chance” as to who was his biological father.</p>
<strong>Elton says:</strong> “I know it'll be hard with my life, but we want him to have that same normality and for things in life to have real value. So we don't intend to spoil him.”</p>
- Des O'Connor
TV’s Des was 72 when his fifth child, his first with wife, Jodie was born. He claims to have good genes, with his own father living until 94, and reckons he can still give his son, Adam the odd piggyback up the stairs!</p>
<strong>Des says: </strong>“Who knows?' My wife has mentioned having another baby. But it would be a bit selfish of me at my age, even though I'm in reasonably good nick!”</p>
- Hugh Grant
It was a <a href="http://www.parentdish.co.uk/2011/11/01/hugh-grant-becomes-dad-for-the-first-time-surprise-baby-for-star/" target="_blank">surprise baby</a> for 51-year-old Hugh Grant last year, when he announced he had welcomed a son with Tinglan Hong. He had hinted on and off that he might be ready for children, saying in 2007 that he was looking to find someone else to care about, rather than just himself!</p>
- David Bowie
Bowie’s first child, son Duncan Zowie (yes, really) was born in 1971, when the singer was a spritely 24-year-old. He waited 30 years to have another, and his daughter, Alexandria was born when he was 53.</p>
- Jack Nicholson
Hollywood’s Jack has five children in total, and his son, Raymond, was born when Jack was 54, two years after he welcomed a daughter, Lorraine. Jack reckons the trick to being an older dad is to be “inspirational, or some kind of good influence on them without overburdening them”. Do you think he lives up to it?</p>
- David Jason
David became a first time father at 61 when his partner Gill, who is 20 years his junior, gave birth to their daughter, <a href="http://www.parentdish.co.uk/2011/12/05/i-cant-protect-my-daughter-from-telly-smut-says-comedy-legend-david-jason/" target="_blank">Sophie Mae</a> in 2001.</p>
<strong>David says:</strong> “I didn't actually wait, it was thrust upon me I think. My life has been in reverse.”</p>
- Bruce Willis
Almost twenty years after his first baby with Demi Moore was born, hard man Bruce is set to welcome his <a href="http://www.parentdish.co.uk/2011/10/27/bruce-willis-to-be-a-dad-for-the-fourth-time-at-56/" target="_blank">fourth, aged 56</a>. The dashing dad is due become a father again when his new wife, Emma Heming gives birth to the couple’s first baby later this year. He is already a proud dad to Rumer, 23, Scout, 20, and Tallulah, 17, his three girls with ex, Demi.</p>
- Mick Jagger
Mick’s dad to seven children and granddad to four. His youngest child, son Lucas was born when he was 55, which makes the little lad closer in age to his dad’s grandchildren than his actual siblings…</p>
- Hugh Hefner
At 84, Playboy king Hugh has four grown-up children, Christie, David, Marston and Cooper from previous marriages, and Cooper born when Hef was 51. Nearing 90, we reckon his baby making days are over, aalthough in 2007, girlfriend at the time, Holly Madison, got the rumour mill churning after she was said to be broody for Hef’s baby…</p>
- Kelsey Grammer
Frasier star Kelsey is already a dad of four, but is set to be a new father again at 56, as his wife, Kayte Walsh, 30 is pregnant with twins. The actor and Kayte sadly lost a baby in 2010.</p>
<strong>Kelsey says: </strong>“What a magnificent year it's been. Iam really looking forward to meeting these arrivals!”</p>
- Michael Douglas
Michael had his first baby, son Cameron in the 70s, but had two more when he married Welsh actress Catherine Zeta Jones, Dylan, when he was 53 and Carys when he was 56. Things must have <a href="http://www.parentdish.co.uk/2011/09/01/parenting-in-the-last-50-years-how-life-has-changed-for-modern/" target="_blank">changed a lot</a> in the parenting world in all those years...</p>
- Clint Eastwood
Hollywood star Clint was 66 when his youngest daughter, Morgan was born in 1996. The now 81-year-old has seven children with five women in total, and Morgan’s mum is his current wife, Dina Ruiz.</p>
<strong>Clint says:</strong> "I go to the school activities, all the softball games. I look kind of ridiculous out there. Almost everybody's got a younger father than me. But it's fun. I think you appreciate everything when you get to my age.”</p>
- Rod Stewart
Rocker Rod has the <a href="http://www.parentdish.co.uk/2011/06/07/large-celebrity-families/#photo-4" target="_blank">biggest brood</a> in our older dads gallery, and we reckon anyone else will be hard pushed to beat him. He’s a proud dad to eight (count ‘em!) kids, and his youngest, Aiden, was born when Rod was 66!</p>
<strong>Rod says:</strong> “As a parent of a new child, I'll maybe only be around for 25 years at most. But it will be a happy, loving 25 years. You get children born into a family who have 25 miserable years. What's the point in that?”</p>
- Paul McCartney
With three grown up children, you’d be forgiven for thinking the Beatles man had completed his family. But he welcomed number four, daughter Beatrice with Heather Mills when he was 61. The little girl is now seven and was a bridesmaid at her dad’s <a href="http://www.parentdish.co.uk/2011/10/09/sir-paul-mccartney-to-wed-for-third-time-bride-nancy-shevell-today-daughter-beatriice-bridesmaid/" target="_blank">recent wedding</a> to Nancy Shevell.</p>
- Frank Skinner
Funnyman Frank is a first time dad at 55. He and partner, Cath Mason welcomed a baby boy, Buzz Cody in May 2011. Frank said his son was named after either the second man on the moon, or the character in Toy Story, depending on how old you are!</p>
- Paul Weller
Rocker Paul welcomed twins <a href="http://www.parentdish.co.uk/2012/01/16/paul-weller-proud-dad-to-twin-boys-bowie-and-john-paul/" target="_blank">earlier this year</a>, at the grand old age of 53. The singer is already a dad to five children, but his twin boys, John Paul and Bowie, are with new wife, Hannah, who he married in 2010. Twins at 53, could you do it?</p>