Is it too late to start a family in your 40s?

I’m turning 42 next week, and like most people in their 40s, the question of parenthood hovers over me.

Despite advancements in childfree living, fondly nicknamed DINK (double income no kids), or SINK (single income no kids), society still puts a huge amount of pressure on us to have children.

There’s still this sense of judgement, of suspicion, and of seeing those who don’t choose to have kids as having failed in some way.

As lonely as being single and having these pressures pushed down upon you can feel, you’re really not alone in where you stand. 

Whatever choice you end up making should align with your heart, your goals, and what you really want. Not what someone else or society in general is trying to force you into.

I’m personally still on my own journey to finding out where my life will lead. 

Being childless now might not be forever – but I do know that parenthood is definitely something you need to feel 100% committed to.

Whilst I continue to let life lead me, I’ve compiled some of my own reflections on what it feels like to be single in my 40s and what the future might have in store

Who knows, maybe it’s not too dissimilar to where you are now?

There is no right or wrong choice 

Despite what society might tell you, I want to reiterate that there is no right or wrong answer when it comes to choosing whether to start a family or not.

I wasn’t too sure of this myself and the crushing pressure society forces upon us to get hitched and have kids was definitely getting to me.

Rudá Iande helped me a great deal here. More than I could ever probably admit.

I watched his Love and Intimacy class for the umpteenth time yesterday and it never fails to give me new insights and ease any sense of worry about not being where I’m supposed to be, right now. I owe a lot of my realizations and the comfort in where I now stand thanks to him.

The truth is, there is no right or wrong path; only the path that you choose to walk.

I had a tendency to get swept up worrying about missed opportunities: wondering what might have happened had I started a family a decade earlier, what previous relationships might have turned into had I been a little more emotionally mature at the time, wondering what would have happened if I had never left Australia.

I know I’m not alone in these doubts, but living in the past prevents so much growth in the future.

As cliché as it is to say, I’ve learned to embrace that there is no wrong path, and the right path (if you want to call it such) is whatever path you’re on right now. 

You just have to trust that life will lead you where you’re intended to go.

Both parenthood and singledom bring suffering

A lot of parents commit to children either out of what seems like an irrefutable force of “you have to get married and have children, because that’s what you were made to do”.

Whether they actually want kids or not, I can’t say.

But what I do know is that both parenthood and living a childless life bring suffering.

You sacrifice a great deal no matter which path you take.

Raising kids means sleepless nights, the disruption to your routine, the crushing weight of caring for someone completely dependent on you who you love with all your heart.

At the same time, staying single comes with its own set of issues.

I’ve already covered a few, but it’s the loneliness, the doubt and worry that you’re not living the life you were supposed to, and the fear that you’ll look back one day and regret not having settled down and started your family. 

The point is that neither path is that idyllic vision of a happy-go-lucky family nor of an independent and free soul

The sooner you prepare yourself for the reality of life’s ups and downs, the better.

But they also both bring joy

At the same time, I can’t ignore that at times, I feel lonely.

Especially having just moved to Singapore and testing out the waters of a new city on my own.

Despite this, I know that in being single and delaying (or not choosing to) settle down, I’ve been pushed much more to expand my social connections.

Part of me thinks my inner qualms about having children come from a craving for deeper family bonds.

And in living single and childless for the time being, I’m now closer to my brothers than ever before.

I even have the freedom to travel and see the world without being tied down to someone else’s responsibilities. 

For example, I’ll travel to Melbourne this week to see my close friend Deniz, his wife Ella, and their newborn Maeva. 

Family life might bring with it a sense of unity and inclusion, but I do think, were I in that position, it would limit my ability to continue deepening my bond with my brothers or being able to visit my close friends.

Yet, having known Deniz for such a long time and watching him start a family with Ella shows me of the joy that starting a family brings firsthand.

There’s no rush, and what I thought I needed a family for, I can do alone

Whilst I continue to explore life and deepen my understanding of not only the world around me but also myself and my desires, I’ve realized that I’m in no rush to make that decision.

An old dream of mine was that I’d meet the girl of my dreams and we’d start regenerative projects in South East Asia. 

We’d buy some land, some permaculture, and I had this whole idyllic vision of my dream life, working the land hand in hand with my dream girl.

But the reality is that neither you nor I need to wait for someone to make these decisions.

The perfect partner doesn’t really exist (despite what the romcoms and fairytales say), and there’s nothing stopping you or I from taking that first step towards our goals today.

Ruda helped me with this a great deal as well. 

I guess I was clinging on to the ideal of waltzing into a dream relationship, but the truth is that life is unexpected.

My own has taken many twists and turns over the past few years, and who knows where I’ll end up?

But for now, I feel confident and empowered in my ability to start those projects now, rather than waiting for the right person or the right time. 

Conclusion

This doesn’t bring with it too many answers, does it?

But that’s the point – I don’t have an answer for you whether starting a family in your 40s is too late.

I can’t even tell if starting a family at all is right for you, or if you’ll really regret not having kids.

But for the moment, the advice I can impart is to find peace with where you’re at now.

Falling into a trap of rushing things or trying to meet society’s ticking clock will undoubtedly backfire for many.

And whilst loneliness can follow in the footsteps of a single and childless life, I’ve realized more than anything the opportunities this opens up to forge new connections and experience new places.

Where I’ll be in 10 years, we’ll see.

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Justin Brown

Justin Brown

I'm Justin Brown, the founder of Ideapod. I've overseen the evolution of Ideapod from a social network for ideas into a publishing and education platform with millions of monthly readers and multiple products helping people to think critically, see issues clearly and engage with the world responsibly.

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