Parenting round two: Would you parent differently?


For most people looking down the barrel
of retirement, the thought of having
another baby isn’t one they’re willing to
entertain. Yet when Steve Heming said “I
do” three years ago, he also said “I will.”
For wife Tammy, having kids was always
in the cards. Sure enough, nine months
later, Steve welcomed his third child,
Lucy, into the world. Then a year later,
Thomas arrived. Steve is 58. This past
year, while Steve was home changing diapers
and singing lullabies, his eldest son,
Shawn, 26, was a tree planting foreman
in B.C., and his daughter, Kerry, 24, was a
concierge at a yoga studio in Toronto.

Lucy and Thomas are beautiful kids,
but – perhaps understandably – it’s
Steve’s age that turns people’s heads.
“It’s a cultural thing,” he says. “If I was
a 40-year-old man, people would not
wonder as much. But being 55 plus, and
having young children, people are going,
‘what the heck?!’”

And, no, not always in a positive way.
“Most people say it’s wonderful, but
inside they’re just shaking their head
thinking ‘Oh my lord, what is he doing!?”
(Tammy received the same type of reaction
having kids in her early 40s.)

“What I’ve decided to do is something
that, for most men my age, is hard to
wrap their head around,” he says. “To be
honest, I thought about things like being
73 when my kids graduate high school; at
times it was, OK, what am I doing? Have
I done the right thing? And of course, I
know that I have.”

On the idea of spending your so-called
retirement years parenting, Steve says,
“I think you have to put yourself in the
frame of mind that you are not missing
out on anything. If you think that, you’re
screwed.”

There are more people like Steve than
we are perhaps aware. That is, parents
who are raising a second generation of
children after their first children are
grown and gone. Unlike Steve, there
are some for whom the decision to take
on a new baby is made out of necessity.
For Catherine*, the decision to parent
Alex* came out of the realization that
her daughter (Alex’s mother), was unfit
to parent due to mental illness and substance
abuse.

“I did not think it was going to change
my life this much,” she says. “I had my
life perfectly planned out. I was in the
process of training for another career. I
had just re-entered the dating scene …
As for having to care for this child?” She
pauses to carefully choose her words. “It’s not something I would say I did not
want to do. I enjoyed raising my own
children. I may not have made the best
choices, but no parent is perfect.”

Unlike first-time parents, she already
knows it’s hard and that things don’t
always go as one might hope. There’s a
risk in parenting, and parents like Steve
and Catherine have felt its full force. In
speaking with them you find an honesty,
a bittersweetness in their voices that fi rsttime
parents simply don’t experience.

In part it’s because they’ve had a
chance to learn from – not just mistakes – but a wealth of experience.

What has she learned? “Not everything
has to be brand new,” says Catherine.
“And when it comes to food, there’s such
a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables
available now. When I had my own
children, I tried to give them healthy food
… but my budgeting skills were not as
fi ne-tuned as they are now. I have already
started putting aside money for Alex’s
education, and that’s not something I was
capable of doing for my own children.”

But she’s felt the financial pinch. “Taking
this on hasn’t been easy, even with
our incomes. Due to legal costs, as well
as ongoing medical issues, our finances became stretched to the point we had to
sell our home.”

Certainly, financial stability helps. For
Sam Kasperski, a fi nancial advisor in
Burlington, Ont., raising his grandson is
a little easier money-wise than the fi rst
time around.

“When we were raising three kids, it
was a struggle making ends meet,” says
Sam. “The situation is totally different
now with both of us working full time.
Our house is mortgage-free, so we don’t
have a lot of the distractions of fi nancial
concerns.”

Yet there are still challenges. When
his grandson Ryan was born, it was
clear that Sam and his wife, Jan, were
better equipped for the parenting role
than the birth parents. With their three
kids grown and gone, they assumed the
guardianship of Ryan when he was just
six months old. He’s 15 now.

“We knew what we were getting into,
raising a child again,” says Sam. “But
there was some trepidation. You think,
‘Oh no, do we have to go through all this
again?’ We’re taking on this responsibility,
and at our age, are we going to live
long enough to see Ryan become independent?’
It was a little nerve wracking.”

But those thoughts didn’t last long,
and they gave way to an awareness of the
opportunities of doing it all over again.
“It’s kept me young doing all those things
again, raising a kid. We’re doing a lot of
things that we wouldn’t do otherwise.”

Indeed, it’s that sense of opportunity
that is, for some, the biggest surprise of
all. “There is a lot of life left,” says Steve.
“I went through that, wondering, what
am I going to be doing for the next 30
years? Well, this is what I’m going to be
doing. It’s exciting and a challenge, knowing
I will need to keep healthy, be fully
engaged with family and community,
working to support, and all those things
that any ‘young family’ would need to
think about to ensure a healthy future for
their kids.”

Lessons learned on the second time around

  • Not everything has to be new.
  • Healthy eating and nutrition can
    be done with a bit more budgeting.
  • Put money away for their education now.
  • Raising kids keeps you young.
  • Don’t dwell on what you think
    you might be missing as a retiree.

*Names have been changed.

Glen Herbert is a writer and editor living in Burlington,
Ont. He and his wife are sticking with three kids.

Originally published in ParentsCanada magazine, May/June 2013.

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