What Might Older Fathers of Toddlers Bring to Their Constituents?

Politicians with young children are proving to their constituents that late-in-life fatherhood can teach old dads new tricks.

Britain's Prime Minister Gordon Brown became a father after the age of 50, and two American presidential candidates past their child-rearing prime have toddler-aged children.

According to the National Center for Health Statistics, older fathers are on the rise, particularly in the 40 to 44 age group. Increases have also been seen in the 45 to 49 age group. Some studies say their maturity brings many advantages to their offspring.

And interviews with these powerful men suggest their constituents might also benefit from their role as new parents.

Sen. Christopher Dodd, D-Conn., 63, and his second wife, Jackie Clegg Dodd, a consultant, have two daughters, ages 6 and 2. Dodd was previously married, with no children.

Former Sen. Fred Thompson of Tennessee, 65, has two toddlers with second wife Jeri Kehn, a political consultant. He was divorced from wife No. 1, with whom he had three children, in 1985.

Both senators reputedly had wild bachelor days before settling down with their second wives. Thompson had been romantically linked with country singer Lorrie Morgan; Dodd dated Nicaraguan model and former Rolling Stone spouse Bianca Jagger and actress Carrie Fisher.

Dodd has said that his interest in children's issues led him to write the Family and Medical Leave Act child care legislation, start the Children's Caucus and deal with Head Start.

'Late Bloomer'

"I'm a late bloomer," Dodd said.

"My daughter Grace was born less than 48 hours after 9/11, in Arlington, Va.," said Dodd. "From the hospital where she was born, you could see the Pentagon smoldering. And I asked myself the same question parents have asked for eons: What sort of a world, what sort of country is my child going to grow up in?"

Thompson, who has often said he has been "blessed later in life," told ABC News that his two children are "a large part of why I'm running for president of the United States."

Britain's Brown told reporters after the birth of son John in 2003, "I am a father first of all. Everything else must take its place in that context."

Last year, the prime minister fathered a second boy at the age of 55.

When asked how he was adapting to life with a baby, he said, "It is sleepless nights -- this time not because of the economy."

Taking on fatherhood after 50 presents different rewards and pressures, according to Martin Carnoy of Palo, Calif., who co-wrote "Fathers of a Certain Age" with his adult son David.

"The ordinary run-of-the-mill person does not have the huge amount of resources," said Carnoy, a professor of economics in the School of Education at Stanford University.

"You've got to be movie star or a senator, not an ordinary man with a child at 60," he said. "Raising kids is far more expensive than was 25 years ago, and there are a lot more fears."

Today, at 69, Carnoy, after raising two grown sons, relishes his role as a father of a 16-year-old daughter. In his book, he argues that men past their 40s make nurturing fathers.

The stories of ordinary fathers may give voters some insight into how these older candidates will fare on the campaign trail and beyond.

Victoria Gordon, who grew up in Rhode Island, had no idea her father was an old man until Grandparents Day at her elementary school, when all the grandpas looked strangely like her own father.

Page
  • 1
  • |
  • 2
Join the Discussion
You are using an outdated version of Internet Explorer. Please click here to upgrade your browser in order to comment.
blog comments powered by Disqus
 
You Might Also Like...
See It, Share It
Leopard Cub Chills in a Basket
Odd Anderson/AFP/Getty Images
PHOTO: Left, actor/comedian Robin Williams arrives at the premiere of Monty Pythons Spamalot in this March 31, 2007, file photo; right, actress Mila Kunis arrives at the Los Angeles premiere of Third Person at Pickford Center for Motion Study.
Ethan Miller/Getty Images| Axelle/Bauer-Griffin/FilmMagic
PHOTO: Actor Pierce Brosnan of The Love Punch poses at the 2013 Toronto International Film Festival on Sept. 12, 2013 in Toronto, Canada.
George Pimentel/WireImage/Getty Images