In December, rock icon Mick Jagger became a father for the eighth time, at the age of 73, to baby boy Deveraux Octavian Basil Jagger.
No doubt the birth was a joyous occasion for Jagger and partner, 29-year-old ballerina Melanie Hamrick, but when it comes to bringing up baby, should a father's age ever come into consideration?
As the average age of life expectancy continues to rise, will we see more and men waiting longer before starting a family? We were keen to find out what our readers think about the issue, and posed the question to our Facebook community – ‘Should men continue to have children once they are past a certain age?’
Expectant mum Kirsty Agnew believes that age is irrelevant replying: “My partner is 47 and I am certain he will be a fantastic father and will never let his child down in any way. I had my first child when I was 18. One midwife in the hospital saw me handling my newborn and said I was more confident than many mums in their 30s. My point is that it is possible to be a good young parent, but equally there's no reason why someone can't be a good 'older' parent.”
Leanne Harris stated, “Age has nothing to do with being a good parent. All that matters is that the child will be loved. The vast majority of parents are just trying to do the best they can for their children. Not everyone will agree with how you raise them, but we all must remember to be kind to each other and try not to judge.”
Nicola Gibson Bolton says: “C'est la vie! No matter what age, any one of us could be hit by a bus and killed tomorrow! Children are what makes the world go round.” Eibhlinn McAleer thinks that, “Loving the child is what matters” whilst Nuala Mulholland agreed, “I don't think age matters on how much love you can give to your child” however she also acknowledged, “But at his [Jagger’s] age it is going to limit the amount of time he has with his child. When his child starts high school, he's going to be in his 80s.” And Linda McGibbon pointed out, “I'm assuming that it was his partner who wanted the child in the full knowledge that she would be the one to share her child's life and bring him up long after Jagger has died.”
While there was a lot of support and positive feedback on the benefits that experience can bring to fatherhood, it has to be said that the majority of our respondents believe that age really does matter. The biggest concern amongst the parents who answered our debate question, was that older fathers of Jagger’s age would be much less likely to be around to see their child growing up.
Margaret Nesbitt commented: “The child will be much loved and will want for nothing, but Mick will not be around to see the child in his teens, so the child is missing out on a father, which I think is very important.” And Orlà Matthews replied: “I think it is very selfish thing to do as the child will not have a father for most of his life.
At 73 you’re are not really likely to be around for the teenage years are you?” Irene Gilmore was of a similar opinion reflecting: “I don’t think age makes you a good or bad parent, but for parents who are over 60, it’s not really fair on the child – even if we are all living longer than nature never intended.” And Martha Ward felt strongly that it was, “Ridiculous he will not see his child growing up!”
Sharon McCabe Kerr believes: “In general, age equals ability both physical and mental so therefore the older you get, the less able you would generally be to do what you did years before. However, with age comes experience and maturity. I do think he's too old because in reality he may not be here for the child as it grows. Personally, I think it's about leaving a legacy.”
The final word goes to Elaine Donaldson who contributed: “It's all very well people saying age is only a number and it doesn't matter, but do you think Mick Jagger's child will think that when it is extremely likely they will be burying his father before he leaves his teenage years? Nature has a way of age stopping women having children, and after a certain age for men it is irresponsible and selfish and those fathers won't be in their children's life for the duration. I'm not saying that age defines how good or bad a parent will be, it's just that children need so much from parents physically, emotionally and spiritually, that I don't believe that can be fulfilled with new parents who are a lot older.”
We agree with the majority of our contributors that the most important gift that you can give your child is support and love – and that’s not a gift dependent on someone’s age – however children continue to need their parents throughout life. There are no guarantees, but having our parents around for as long as we possibly can is probably something that we all wish for.