NEW YORK (PIX11) — There was a time when parenting was considered a young person’s game, a journey best embarked upon during your 20s and certainly not in your 30s, 40s or beyond.

But don’t tell that to Joy Altimare, who, along with her husband Frank, is relishing the experience of raising their daughter Ella.

Joy had Ella when she was 38 years old. She is now in her mid-40s.

“At this point, all my friends have teenagers. I’m going to the third-grade PTA meeting. Or the class parent with other moms. But I’m a decade older than them,” said Altimare.

There’s no way to tell this story of the joys of “parenting at an older age” without addressing the obvious, more practical concerns.

The likely prospect of children in their late teens or early twenties who one day may end up caring for or, in the saddest cases, saying goodbye to their elderly parents.

But recent data is encouraging.

According to the CDC, before the coronavirus pandemic, over the last eight decades, the average life expectancy in the United States consistently rose from 65 years old at the end of World War II to a life expectancy of almost 79 years old by the year 2018.

“In a lot of ways, it’s challenging because I’m not that ‘young mom.’ I’m not going to go outside all day and play in the park. But I am more patient. I’m calmer. I feel like I’m raising a child with more empathy because I’ve learned empathy,” said Altimare. “Empathy, I think, takes time. And we think about this phrase of ‘pouring into her.’ I would have never thought of that at 25, 26, 27 because I never would had experienced it myself.”

Joy is not alone. Census Bureau maternal birth age data shows that in the nearly three decades between 1990 and 2019. There was a 67 percent increase in the number of mothers who had a child between the ages of 35 and 39. And a whopping 132 percent increase among mothers ages 40 to 44.

Pediatric psychiatrist Dr. Jodi Gold said career development isn’t always the primary reason people wait to have children.

I think the truth is, you gotta have children when you’re ready – psychologically, financially, professionally. I find that a lot of time when I work with families or parents who had children in their twenties or very early thirties, there’s a lot of them still growing up,” said Dr. Gold. “Whereas with the older parents, they’re grown up. They’ve done everything they needed to do. They’re ready to focus on their kids. They’re psychologically ready to be a parent.”

Ball State University economist Michael Hicks said that children of older parents generally grow up with more resources.  

More commonly, the children of older parents have – their parents will have saved longer. They’ll be farther along in their career, so they’ll be able to better provide for them. So both, transmitting wealth to another generation will be a little bit easier,” said Hicks. “And they’ll be able to provide more financial assistance in college.”

When our special projects producer first approached me to do this story, two thoughts quickly came to mind; one, choosing me was not a coincidence. And two, I knew at some point I’d have to decide whether I wanted to share my personal parenthood journey as a father in his 40s to a 20-year-old daughter, a 16-year-old daughter, and a 7-month-old son.

The timing of our baby boy’s surprise premature arrival last summer, while I was on television, was not planned.

We call JD our little miracle baby.

He came along naturally several years after my wife and I first began trying to have a child.

So, as a father who’s already helped raise two daughters, here I am again, only this time, as a “boy dad.”

And while I recognize I may not be in the kind of “younger dad” physical shape I was in 15 years ago, I believe the added years, and lived experience, has allowed me to become a more emotionally mature parent this time around. Eager to pour all the love, fun and wisdom into all three of our children for as long as I’m able.

Joy Altimare and her husband, who are raising their daughter, Ella, agree.

“When I’m engaging with her, I’m not thinking of other things. It’s really focused moments on her,” said Altimare.

The goal, day in, day out, is to help her daughter Ella understand that when it comes to Mommy and Daddy, age is nothing but a number.

“You can’t be afraid. I’m not afraid to go out and live life and be this amazing mom, to be adventurous. Ya know, we’re not that old. We’re still young, and we look good,” said Altimare. “But it’s important to be kind of active with them so that they can see, ok, we’re teaching them through our actions that age isn’t, you’re not old because you’re 45. You’re not old because you’re 50. It’s how you embrace life.”