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Gen Xers Are Finding Older Parenthood Challenging

The Short of It

The number of U.S. mothers and fathers in their late 30s and 40s with young children has increased significantly in recent years, as both men and women delayed starting a family to focus on careers and financial stability. These late-starters, however, are finding it very difficult to juggle parenting, taking care of their elderly parents, work, money and personal relationships.

The Lowdown

Though overall birth rates in the U.S. continue to fall, educated older parents are starting families in record numbers. The number of first-time moms aged 35 and older is nine times higher than in the 1970s, according to the National Center for Health Statistics, and U.S. Census figures show the proportion of 40- to 49-year-old married dads to kids under the age of 6 has steadily increased over the past 15 years.

Many of these women delayed starting a family to focus on careers and to have more stability before adding kids to the mix, but they are realizing that being older parents with busy careers and other mid-life burdens is more difficult than expected.

''They find themselves in their 40s, sandwiched between raising young kids and trying to take care of aging parents while also trying to support their families financially,'' Katrina Alcorn, author of the bestselling "Maxed out: American Moms on the Brink," told Quartz. ''It's too much.''

Older dads also are being pushed beyond their limits as they struggle with the work-life balance, navigating what Dutch Economist Lans Bovenberg calls ''the rush-hour of life.'' This is when child-raising and professional responsibilities peak, typically in one's late 30s or early 40s.

Plus, the economic and social support structures that traditionally supported parents are disappearing:

  • Family, friends, neighbors and communities are less involved.
  • Childcare fees have increased 37 percent in 12 years (in the U.S. for a married couple with two kids)
  • Incomes have remained almost frozen (for the 12 years prior to 2012 at just above $84,000 for a married couple with two children)
  • The annual ''costs of key elements of middle-class security—child care, higher education, health care, housing, and retirement—rose by more than $10,000,'' according to the Center for American Progress.

The Upshot

Previous generations had their own challenges in adulthood and parenthood, but now is a particularly trying time to be parent, especially an older one. I'm sure many of you feel as I do, that there literally aren't enough hours in the day for my husband and I to be good parents, good partners, good workers, good housekeepers, or good at anything else. Having more flexible work environments that support families, less expensive and reliable childcare, affordable education, eldercare support, and a more stable economy would reduce our stress. Unfortunately, it's a lot to ask, and I don't see it all happening anytime soon.

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