At 60, Arthur Schwartz sees many of his college friends talking about retirement and grandchildren, but he is energetically immersed in the busy lives of his two young daughters, aged 9 and 7.
“I hang out at school with parents in their 30s,” he said. “It changes your perspective on life.
This is round two for Schwartz, a New York City lawyer who has adult children from a first marriage and two more with a much younger wife.
However, becoming a father in his 50s, he now enjoys the patience and perspective of maturity.
“It was different, for sure,” Schwartz said about raising his first family, a 25-year-old son and a 22-year-old daughter, when he was in his 30s.
“I didn’t spend enough time with the older ones,” he said. “I worked until 8 or 9 at night. … I worked one day a weekend and sometimes two.”
It’s also take two for comic actor Alec Baldwin. Just this week, at 54, the same age as Schwartz when he started a family anew, Baldwin announced that his 28-year-old wife, Hilaria Baldwin, is expecting their first child.
Schwartz said his reaction to Baldwin’s news was, “Good for him, but he better slow down and make time for [the baby] — and don’t run for [New York City] mayor.”
Baldwin has a 17-year-old daughter, Ireland, with his first wife, Kim Basinger.
He once had a strained relationship with his daughter. In a 2007 voicemail, he famously called Ireland “a rude, thoughtless, little pig.”
“Alec Baldwin is getting second chance in life to do it right this time,” said Fran Walfish, a Beverly Hills psychotherapist and author of “The Self-Aware Parent.”
Other celebrities, like 68-year-old Michael Douglas, have publicly said they made better fathers later in life. His 34-year-old son, Cameron, from a first marriage, has struggled with drug abuse. But today, Douglas reportedly enjoys a close relationship with his children with Catherine Zeta-Jones — Dylan, 12, and Carys, 9.
Men with younger children say it keeps them “feeling young, alive, and mortal,” said Walfish. “It is a distorted belief that, unconsciously, is an antidote to fear of dying. Having a younger woman and kids keeps the lid on their anxiety about their demise.”
But on the positive side, older men in second marriages often make better parents.
“Many are more available, having developed successful careers, and also wish to make up for being too unavailable the first time around,” said Michael J. Diamond, a professor in psychiatry at UCLA and the author of “My Father Before Me.”
Schwartz said he looks back and sees himself in the Harry Chapin song, “Cat’s in the Cradle,” with its searing lyrics about an absent father: “But there were planes to catch and bills to pay. He learned to walk while I was away.”
“I wonder if I did the same thing and it echoed in my head,” said Schwartz.
In a truth-telling moment, when his second wife gave birth to their youngest, his then-14-year-old daughter screamed at Schwartz: “You had so little time for me when I was a kid, and Jordyn [her half-sister] came along and there was less time, and now there’s no time for me.”
Today, the older children love the younger ones, but it had its “rocky moments,” said Schwartz.
The science on older fathers is mixed. A 2012 study published in Nature magazine, found that advanced age can cause mutations in sperm, increasing chances for a child to develop autism, schizophrenia and other diseases.
But another study revealed that when men delay fatherhood, they pass their longevity genes on to their offspring. According to a report in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, as a man ages, his DNA code favors a longer life.
In the celebrity world, there are plenty of old fathers: In December, comic actor Steve Martin became a first-time father at 67 with his wife, 41-year-old Anne Stringfield, according to the New York Post. When Martin’s child is 21, he will be 88.
Older dads need to worry about “not being around for the bar mitzvah, much less the wedding or be able to have a first beer – they’ll be dead,” said Ethan Gologor, a psychologist and professor at Medgar Evers College at the City University of New York.
Gologor agreed old dads can be better fathers.
“Like so many other things, it depends on how you do it, how you prepare the child,” he said, “as long as the parents have the means and the emotional stability to be honest about it.”
His father’s mortality doesn’t bother 26-year-old Will McClaran, who works for a marketing company in Portland, Maine. He was born when his father was in his 50s.
“My dad is a health fanatic, I think in part because of his second chance to be a dad,” said McClaran. “He eats everything organic, quit smoking years ago, hardly ever drinks. This past October, he had to have open heart surgery the day after his 77th birthday.”
His father is already back at work.
“He has the blood pressure of a teenager. I always tell him he’s going to out-live me,” said McClaran. “I don’t dwell on having an older dad growing up. I had a great upbringing.”
McClaran said he made out far better than the two children of his father’s first marriage.
“I was spoiled in a lot of ways because he was much farther along professionally in his career, so finances were never an issue,” he said. “When I had friends going to Disneyland, we were going to London or Ireland.”
McClaran’s father was a federal drug agent and never home for his half-sisters.
“When I was growing up, he had moved away from that life and was a college professor teaching criminal justice, so his schedule was much lighter,” he said. “It was a polar opposite from my sisters’ experience.”
Good Father Before, Good Father Again
Dr. Laura Corio, a New York City obstetrician/gynecologist, said in her experience, “If you are a good father before, you’ll be a good father again.”
“I have a couple and she’s younger and he’s older, with children from a first marriage,” said Corio. “He was a bit more involved.”
But another one of her patients complains that her older husband “won’t even change a diaper because it’s her baby.”
In Arthur Schwartz’s case, the babies were “less of a mystery” in his second marriage.
Unlike his older children, Schwartz’s younger ones have a mother who stays home more and she insists he be home weekends and before the children’s bedtime.
“I have a routine with one of my daughters that includes singing the same song every night — ‘Go to Sleep, Devin, Go to Sleep.’ I do a bit of scratching of her back and sit in a chair in her room for 10 minutes before she falls asleep,” he said.
Schwartz also attends his girls’ competitive gymnastic meets and spends “more quality time” with them.
But as young as his children make him feel, Schwartz said he still worries about his advanced age.
“I have already had quad bypass, so I know how fragile life is,” he said. “My mom is still around however. She works in my office and she is 90, so I have some good genes.”