Friday 22 June 2018

Dear Mary: My girlfriend wants a baby but at 47 I feel I'm too old to be a father

Image: Getty
Image: Getty

Mary O’Conor

My partner and I have been together for more than a year and a half and we have really gelled. Sometimes it feels as if we have been together for about 10 years which I find good.

Lately she has been asking about starting a family. I should have mentioned that I am 47 and she is 38 so obviously her biological clock is ticking.

I don't want kids at my age and I have told her this. I really love her to bits but this has changed it all. I don't want to be selfish but at my age it's not right - in my mind anyway.

How can I get around this?

Mary replies: There really isn't any getting around this and decisions have to be made. I fully appreciate that at 47 you feel you are too old to start a family, although some people would disagree with you.

You and your girlfriend have encountered a really difficult problem and you are equally entitled to your point of view.

I'm not surprised that the question has only recently arisen - no girl is going to say to a prospective life partner that she wants to have a baby straight away. She has to wait until the relationship has developed, until they get to know each other really well and until she feels sure that he would make a good father for any children they might have. All of this takes time, and rightly so, with the result that you are now faced with the dilemma of what to do.

It is not fair to keep her hanging on - time is not on her side and if she really wants to have children then she will need to be on the lookout for a new boyfriend who also wants to start a family.

That process in itself will take time, so the sooner you make a final decision, the better. You will have to ask yourself what life would be like without her and how much you love her, and if you are really prepared to let her go.

Women in a similar position have told me that the wish to have a baby can become all-consuming when they get to their late thirties, and it is probably difficult for somebody not going through it to understand.

Men do not face these problems because a man can father children at any age - famously Charlie Chaplin became a father to his youngest son when he was 73. My late father-in-law was 47 when my husband was born and they had a great relationship.

The options are - break up with her and allow her time to find somebody else, continue together but agree not to have a baby, or stay together and try for a baby.

If you do go ahead and try for a baby, you may not be successful in becoming pregnant, and this is something that you will also have to think about. In all of these situations one or other of you is compromising, which is what usually happens in loving relationships.

Whatever you both decide is going to be difficult in some way, so good luck with all of this.

You can contact Mary O’Conor anonymously by visiting or email her at or write c/o 27-32 Talbot Street, Dublin 1. All correspondence will be treated in confidence. Mary O’Conor regrets that she is unable to answer any questions privately.

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