Older parents are better parents

"Late Children": How to Grow Up With Old Parents

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More and more parents are giving birth to their children later and later. The journalist and author Eric Breitlinger, child later parents himself, explains in his book "Late Children" how this shapes the life of the offspring. In it, he not only reports on his own experiences, but also interviews 25 people whose parents were getting on in years when they were born. He links the portraits he creates with current statistics and studies on the subject.

Second spring, last chance

Historically, the phenomenon of late parenthood is not new. Having children in Europe was "a lifelong task" for many women up until the middle of the 20th century, so late delivery is not uncommon. But: late children were mostly younger siblings. For Breitlinger, however, it is about the late-born only children and stragglers - about postponing having children, the second spring of some fathers and the last chance for many women.

While late births are repeatedly the focus of media reports and are stamped "risk pregnancy" from the age of 35, there is less to be read about late fatherhood - and even less from the perspective of the children. Because, writes Breitlinger, older parents definitely have advantages for the offspring. Retired fathers who always take their time, mothers who are more relaxed and appreciative - as a rule, late parents have better financial security and are mentally more stable.

Of course, the author also highlights the disadvantages: Children would often have to serve as the purpose of their aging parents' life and would be strongly fixated on adults. In addition, there would be social stigmatization when parents are viewed as grandparents, growing up as an only child and often without grandparents. But do all aspects really apply to late children alone? The range of stories told in the book shows above all how diverse human relationships are - whether with old or young parents.

Insightful despite alarmism

In many places, Breitlinger brings important thoughts and facts to the discussion about late parenthood. Such as a study published in 2014 by the Berlin Center for Age Issues. Female researchers compared the employment histories of men of the baby boomer generation in the 1960s with those in the 1940s. With the sobering result: When men become fathers, it has little impact on their employment careers. They would stick to the full-time job, arguing that they would end up earning more than their wives. Not surprisingly, many women work part-time after their baby break and also often experience a downgrade in their area of ​​responsibility. This is not about the high demands women make on their own way of life, as it says elsewhere in the book. This is about the political dimension of parenthood, the division of labor and wage disparities, gender stereotypes and social norms. But there is less to read in the book.

Sometimes the author is also not immune from a certain alarmism when he writes: "Having children comes into fashion at a phase of life that is not biologically optimal for it. In Germany, every fifth mother is in when a child is over 35 every sixth in Switzerland, every ninth in Austria. " The social framework conditions that induce women to postpone having children more and more are well known. The decision about which age is "right" for women depends on an infinite number of individual factors - and each woman decides for herself. You could also see it this way: people are getting older and the family models and lifestyles grow with them . (Christine Tragler, June 10th, 2016)

Eric Breitinger
Late children

Growing up with older parents
Christoph-Links-Verlag 2015
232 pages, 18 euros