Q. My wife and I are in our late 50’s and have 2 adult children. We are considering adopting a baby. I say we’re too old my wife says we’re not. Are we?
–- R.G., Philadelphia, PA
Gary: Your question can be answered more easily in a book than in an online column. I suspect most people’s reaction will be, “Are you crazy? Have you lost your mind?” Not knowing you, I don’t know if you are too old now to adopt. A better question to ask is will you be too old next year, in 10 years, in 20 years. As you know from raising your two grown children, being a parent is a lifetime job. There are problems and challenges all along the way.
I don’t know what your financial situation is now but the economic condition of the country is fragile and unemployment is on the rise. The added expenses of a child should make you think things out more thoroughly. You have to be concerned that an unexpected job loss can prove a bigger financial strain than it might have been otherwise. A new baby will force you to reconsider your future plans. You may feel stuck at a job that you’d just as soon leave if you could. And what of your retirement plans? Have you thought about that?
How will your marital relationship change? Children require lots of time which will replace the time you and your wife spend together now. Say goodbye to your privacy, peace and quiet and even sexual intimacy. Also adult conversation, TV shows you like and movies. Be prepared to watch Mary Poppins and Bambi for the umpteenth time. And weekends to relax, forget about it.
Health factors are high on the list of things to take into account. Fatigue, hormonal fluctuations of menopause, endurance, even your muscle strength, eyesight and hearing can make it harder to meet the physical and emotional needs of a young child.
How old will you be before your new child can be independent? Will you still be the caregiver when he or she is in high school? Face the fact that there is a strong possibility that you won’t live to see the child graduate from college or get married.
You must realize that you might die during the time your new child is still a child. It’s important to appoint a legal guardian to care for your child in the event of your death. In choosing a guardian, you must consider the complexities of raising an adopted child. Does the prospective guardian understand adoption, and feel comfortable with the questions and issues your child may face? If you have an open adoption, is he or she acquainted with the birth-parents and birth family and willing to maintain the relationship? If your child is of a different racial or ethnic group, is the guardian open to learning about his or her heritage? While we’re on the subject, you and your wife MUST consider and agree upon all these things as well BEFORE you adopt.
Not to say that you should adopt or that you shouldn’t but you cannot take these things lightly. There’s no such thing as thinking that you will address these things as they come up. It takes planning, patience, ingenuity and a zillion other things to meet the challenges of late parenthood.
Are you too old to adopt, you ask? You tell me.
Gary Geyer is Chief Editor of Let Life In.