Michael Douglas: ‘there’s nothing wrong with guys having kids in their 50s’

2014 AFI Life Achievement Award Gala Tribute
Michael Douglas, 69, has an essay-type interview in the latest People Magazine, the issue that inexplicably features Derek and Julianne Hough on the cover. The Douglas article reads like life advice from a wise older actor, which makes me remember that Douglas’ dad, Kirk, is still with us at 97. The journalist mentioned that Michael was headed to an anniversary party that night for his dad and his stepmom, Anne Buydens. Anne and Kirk have been married 60 years!

Getting back to Michael, he seems to have reunited with Catherine Zeta-Jones, and the two of them were seen out at an event together just last week. Michael references his reconciliation in a roundabout way, couching it in advice about cherishing your partner and putting time into a relationship. He also talks about his children and about his regrets with his oldest son, Cameron, 35, who is currently serving time in prison for drugs offenses. It’s an interesting read.

On being an older dad
I don’t know many parents my age who’ve got kids this age. I don’t say you have to go to my extreme, but there’s nothing wrong with guys having kids in their 50s. In the early stages [of one's life], ambition rules. Having children takes a lot of time to do properly, and sometimes people spread themselves too thin. [Dylan] turned 13 last year and I could not ask for a more lovely son and daughter [Carys, 11]. They are perfect.

On his marriage
You can never take your marriage for granted. It goes to the idea of where you spend your energy and attention: do you spend it with strangers, trying to show everybody how nice you are? Or do you cherish your partner and really don’t worry about other people?

A lot of it has to do with age. When you’ve accomplished a certain amount in your career, you’re not so focused on your ambitions. It makes you appreciate – and hopefully you do that sooner rather than later – the value of your partner. Like a lovely orchid, or anything else that’s nurtured, marriage prospers ad grows, but if it’s ignored, it withers.

You also have to be careful because kids are all-consuming. Kids have no sense of boundaries yet. You can exhaust yourself with the energy you put into your children so there’s none left for the two of you. It’s a dangerous seduction you call into, with the best intentions. You have to watch that one.

On being an attentive parent.
If you’re talking about drug issues, you do whatever you can before they turn 18. Whenever it takes. Don’t hesitate. After they turn 18, you have no control anymore. However difficult it might be, if it looks to be a real issue, then you almost have to go for overkill.

[From People Magazine, print edition, June 30, 2013]

My dad is 69 and I can’t imagine him having kids that are the same age as my son. He’s a wonderful grandfather, don’t get me wrong, but that’s limited to small doses. It’s a lot of work to raise kids and I can imagine it would be trying for older people. Having children is much less taxing for the insanely wealthy though, I’m sure.

You can really sense the regret in this interview, and I get the impression that Michael blames himself for how Cameron turned out. He’s probably thought about it countless times, what could he have done differently, what kind of man would Cameron be if he would have been more present in his life while Cameron was growing up? Michael has another chance with his two kids with Catherine and it sounds like he’s cherishing it.

41st Annual Chaplin Award Gala

2014 AFI Life Achievement Award Gala Tribute

41st Annual Chaplin Award Gala
Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta-Jones are shown on 6-5-14 and 4-18-14. Credit: WENN.com

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54 Responses to “Michael Douglas: ‘there’s nothing wrong with guys having kids in their 50s’”

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  1. Val says:

    They are in Israel right now celebrating their son’s Bar Mitzva :)

  2. Christo says:

    I think he makes some fair points regarding the quality time and attentiveness that “older” age might provide for parents; however, the likelihood remains that these children will be graduating high school or college at the precise time within which the older parents will begin to develop age-related decline of some sort. This may leave the children in the awkward position of a caregiver around the same time that the child achieves adulthood. Granted, money/wealth/financial support—as with most things—would make such life responsibilities more comfortable at the very least. That being said, the experience of a child’s marriage and/or grandchildren would certainly be pushed out, especially in light of the fact that marriage and children for today’s generation are increasingly pushed outward in time—if at all.

    Short of pre-existing wealth, nepotism, and well-connected opportunities at the onset, today’s economy is much more turbulent in terms of economic stability for today’s generation. That coupled with student debt and the aforementioned sketchy job market create an environment where financial stability and the quality time it affords for latter-life parenting might become an emerging trend over time as more and more people are attempting to find their footing well into their 30′s. On an anecdotal level, it is amazing that anyone living with their parents would have been considered a pariah or loser just 10 years ago. Now, however, it is an ever-growing norm and quite commonplace.

    • Happyhat says:

      I agree that for us, an older parent is an issue. I’m just seeing my mum (mid-60′s) and aunt go through it with my grandma. I can’t imagine me at my age dealing with it.

      But, children of rich parents won’t be caregivers. They can pay for caregivers. I’m kinda on both sides with this. Children of any age can end up being caregivers. Sickness and disease aren’t age-discriminatory. There’s plenty of young children now that are a parent’s primary care giver. And, people also die at any age. I know, that’s a stupid statement! But, many people against older parents state that it’s hard for a parent to die, especially if you’re young. My dad died when I was 26, he was quite old. My mother’s first parent died when she was in her 50′s. It’s equally upsetting at any age.

      So, I kinda think that it’s much easier if you’re rich. Then, you can have children (almost) whenever. You would have much better healthcare so you’re likely to be just as ‘chipper’ as someone 10-15 years younger than you. Plus, you can afford childcare.

    • Algernon says:

      “On an anecdotal level, it is amazing that anyone living with their parents would have been considered a pariah or loser just 10 years ago. Now, however, it is an ever-growing norm and quite commonplace.”

      I think you have to go back even further than 10 years. I graduated college 9 years ago and moved back home…as did almost everyone I knew. In my close circle of friends, only 2 people didn’t move back home. In my extended circle, there were another 4 or 5 who didn’t. But easily 90% of my acquaintanceship went back home. It was 2005, our money wasn’t on fire yet but the economy sucked and we all had crushing student debt. I was paying nearly $1000/month toward student loans (thanks to terrible, terrible predatory loans from Fannie Mae). People my age (early 30′s now) were the first wave to do it, and now it’s totally normal.

      • Mitch Buchanan Rocks! says:

        Your only 10 years behind me and it is sad to see this – it looks like Gen x was the last generation to be able to afford to move away from home. It was something we took for granted.

  3. Ag says:

    nothing “wrong” with it, but it’s a ton of work. kids need your 100% and then some. the older you get, the less you are able to give that physically. (i’m 38 with an almost-two year old and, man, it’s physically challenging – i would have had an easier time with it a decade ago.) not to mention, the older you are, the more chances of your genetic material being “defective” in some way, dude. but, yeah, if you can farm out much of childcare, that has to be way easier.

    • Santolina says:

      Exactly. I had my first kid in my late 30′s and I was already feeling a bit creaky compared to my 20-something counterparts. You have to decide whether you have the time and energy. If not, you’ll be hiring someone else to raise your kid, and is that what you want at the end of the day? It’s good to consider such questions BEFORE the blessed event!

  4. GoodNamesAllTaken says:

    Different things work for different people, but personally, I’m glad to still have my father around. Generally speaking, I think it’s better to be a little younger when you have kids, but life isn’t perfect and doesn’t always go according to plan.

  5. blue marie says:

    Except there are studies that state otherwise. Babies are more likely to have health and/or mental issues the older the parents are when the babies are conceived.

    • Kiddo says:

      Beat me to it. Yep. Fathers over 40 provide a risk factor for offspring.

    • Jay says:

      Yes, older men have a higher proportion of defective sperm, so the odds of the baby having health issues increase considerably. People are always so focused on the woman’s biological clock that they forget about the man’s contribution.

      • Lisa says:

        The reality is no one studied the male biological clock for decades. The male scientific community didn’t want to know. It’s now clear that mens’ fertility declines with age as well. A recent study said that by 40 a man has lost 40% of his fertility. If that is true, the decline may be a way of offsetting births of children with health and mental disorders.

        I recently read that once a woman hits 35 the man’s age is as important as the woman’s in determining whether a child will have down’s syndrome. One if four instances of schizophrenia is now linked to men in their 40s having children.

        Michael Douglas’ son has dyslexia and learning problems and goes to a special school. He is also 10x more likely to have a child with bipolar disorder because of his age, as is she, because she has the disorder herself. I would not want those odds for my child.

    • We Are All Made of Stars says:

      This. There is a high incidence of behavioral and learning problems in kids born to older men. Studies are also showing that children born to older men and women more than ten years younger than they are have unusually high incidences of disorders as well. There’s just no way around it for either gender: nature intended people to have children young.

      Also, having an older parent can be a pain in the ass. Trust me, I speak from experience. Even my mom said how much you energy levels go down from your twenties, and she was only 32 when she had me.

    • Ice Queen says:

      @ blue marie…I almost posted the same comment. Bravo!

  6. Sayrah says:

    Looks like a good article. I’m still rooting for them as a couple too.

  7. Thaisajs says:

    Ask the high school kid who’s dad is in his late 60s whether s/he agrees. I have a friend in his mid-50s who just got married a few years ago and had two kids and I know he worries that he won’t live to see them graduate from high school. Just because you can physically have kids at that age doesn’t mean you should. Sorry, this is one I’m totally judgy on.

    • feebee says:

      I hear this a lot. Ask the kid…. what are they supposed to say? I wish my dad was younger? Do they say that around the kids who grew up with a single mum or whose fathers may have suffered an early death? I think most kids who have a loving dad present at their high school graduation won’t be worrying about his age.

      • We Are All Made of Stars says:

        Yes, many of them would, actually. Sorry, but the reason we have the stereotypes of old crabapples screaming about their aching backs and how tired they are and how they don’t want to do anything and all those damned kids running around on their lawn is because they’re all too frequently true. You lose your quickness and your patience as you age. Someone else’s unfortunate story doesn’t logically negate the problems that come with combining old age and parenthood.

    • Happyhat says:

      Exactly @feebee – I can’t really answer that other than “I couldn’t give a s**t.” I would have rather he wasn’t an alcoholic – I couldn’t have cared if he were younger or not. And I never felt left out regarding my ‘old’ dad – plenty of other kids with workaholic fathers, old fathers, missing fathers. It’s no biggie. Of all the things I was bullied for at school, having an old dad wasn’t one of them.

      And yeah to @feebee, having a loving father far outweighs how old he is/was.

    • Ducky La Rue says:

      In my senior year of high school, my dad was 63. It was a source of amusement to me how much older my parents were than everyone else’s, but beyond that, it wasn’t an issue. Over 20 years later, my dad is still alive and kicking. Whereas one of my classmates had both parents die of diseases before he graduated. There are no guarantees in life.

      I don’t think you should put things off forever, but I also think that if you fall in love later, and have children later, then you take it as it comes.

      As for Michael, well, he’s got loads of money, so the children aren’t going to be stuck providing for him if his health takes a turn for the worse, and it looks like he comes from a long-lived line. So, good for him – I’m glad he seems to have got to a good place with his family. :-)

    • merski says:

      Sorry, but this is a really shitty thing to say. My father was 54 when I was born – he remarried and wanted kids with my mum. I had a wonderful childhood and a great, attentive, loving dad. Sure, he’s probably always been more active and healthy than his peers, which made things easier, but in the end if you have a great parent who has time for you and gives you all the attention he can – what the hell does it matter what age he is?! I’m totally judgy about your comment…

    • HH says:

      This is always such a hard topic. Is there a point where having kids very late is a selfish decision? I agree that having an older parent can’t compare to having an alcoholic parent, abusive parent, etc and there’s no guarantee that everyone will live to old age, but probability wise, it’s a risky game to have kids that late. Those children may have to celebrate holidays without their father and have their own children who will not meet their grandfather. There’s a lot of experiences that may be missed out on, all the while watching your friends have a completely difference experience. I’m sure a child would never take back the time they spent with their dad, but I can imagine it has to be extremely rough being faced with the mortality of your parents at such an early age.

    • Chicagogurl says:

      I am almost 35, my old brother is 42 and my dad age 64 /step-mom 55 have kids 23-14 yr old. My 14 yr old little brother is spoiled beyond belief and sometimes I get a little jealous of the younger siblings. They get more of my dad’s time and patience. He never helped me with homework, he coached maybe 5 of my softball games, never went to a gymnastics meet, never chaperoned school trips. He moved both my younger brother and sister to college and their first apts, he stops by my sisters almost weekly to mow the grass, take care of something around the house, goes to my little brothers every basketball and baseball game. It wasn’t like that at all when I was growing up.

      He and my mom had a business they started when I was 5. When he was around it was lots of naps, I’m too busy working, taking me to school 2 hours earlier than the other kids and I’d wait in the parking lot or cafeteria at 5am for the doors to open so he could get to work early. Not COMPLAINING, truly, but sometimes a bit hurt that my baby brother seems to get more QUALITY time, but the younger siblings all get more effort and my dad seems more generally interested in all 3 of them over my older brother and I. I have to keep it in check. He learned the pattern and now we’re old he maintains the same relationships with us – closer with them, never really showing up for my older brother and I. The only plus we had was he’s slower and in rough shape now, so it’s my back this and my elbow that and my heart meds give me palpatations, etc. but I would have traded that for a calmer, more talkative, participant in my life over a father that sometimes but mostly never showed up but when he did he had energy. I also recognize that part of it is just the want and not the age. He never wanted to be there when I was a kid vs. the way he wants to be there for my siblings now. It’s only half age, but that half is clear. We had friends who had kids really young and their dad works 50+ hours and shows up to everything, so I think Michael is right when he mentions drive and not chasing the dream/dollar, some people are lucky to know that much younger.

  8. feebee says:

    I guess there’s nothing wrong with it. Aren’t you boys lucky? I guess it depends on the person. Some people manage to balance their ambition with family in their 30s. Some are starting to get so crotchety even in their 50s that newborns aren’t a good idea. And handling teenagers in their 60s even worse!

    I suppose there does sound to be a little regret. It’s understandable. I know his younger kids aren’t a re-do but there’s just this nagging little thought in the back of my mind…. I dunno. I guess there’s never a guarantee of anything in life. He could been more attentive and Cameron may still have developed a drug problem. Life, eh?

    • Happyhat says:

      Gonna agree with you again! My dad was a grumpy **** at all ages, apparently. More so in his 60′s!! I know people in their 60′s now who have more youth and energy than my dad ever did.

      Life indeed!

      • Mitch Buchanan Rocks! says:

        Where I am the teens are complaining that their necks and backs are aching, how everything is too loud – and its the elderly ones getting out and partying with loud music.

  9. jane says:

    Of course he’s going to say that. What else could he say? And they’re wealthy, and the kids will always have someone to take care of them. And they’ll have $$. It’s not that easy for regular people.

  10. starfan says:

    He forgot to add “esp. when the nannies raise them & my 3 decades younger wife doesn’t mind either.”

  11. perplexed says:

    I wonder if his older son resents not getting the same attention his younger kids get.

    That’s what I got from reading this article, more than the age issue. In terms of age, I think it all depends on which 50 something your old, or alternatively, 30 year old winds up being your dad.

    • Tulip says:

      @Perplexed. I think his older son must be resentful. How could he not? I had a boss in a similar situation, where he was on his second marriage with a nice (younger) woman and they were raising their little girl.

      Meanwhile, he couldn’t figure out why his adult son was alienated from him.

      My boss was now at the top of his profession, he had money, he had a (very nice ) house and a young wife that he could never replace-because he’s at the age where the younger women are no longer interested, so his aggressiveness has been toned down and he’s achieved most of what he’s wanted to. So he’s not an argumentative dick who is going to argue with his family because he still has to “make it”. He’s actually in the right head space to be there for his family.

      I’m upset by this subject because people truly don’t think before they have kids and then they wonder why the child (adult or young) is not close to them.

      Also: Douglas’s older son can’t blame his entire drug problem in this. But it sure didn’t help.

  12. lisa says:

    i think a father who wants to be a father is better than the one who blows it off, at any age

    also, my father lost his health in his early 40s and needed 24 hour care, there are no health guarantees

    • Truthtful says:

      Exactly !

      Nature didn’t entend for fertility to decline ( yes even for men!!!) without a reason! And these older men running to fertility clinics baby are just egomaniac fools!

    • JennaR says:

      Thank you! I remember reading about this a few years ago. This sounds like a newer study than the one I read about, but the findings are similar.

  13. FingerBinger says:

    Men in their 50′s having children doesn’t seems like a big deal to me. People are living well into their 80′s and 90′s. It is possible that he will see his children grow up.

  14. Debb says:

    He’s 70, not 50 – big difference.

  15. solo says:

    My dad was 69 when I was born & my mom was 37. They divorced when I was 11 & he passed away when I was 13. I’m now 32 and he has been gone for more than half my life. Did it hurt to not have him there for all the major life events – graduations, weddings, etc? Of course. But I often think three things about my dad and his choice to have me late in life. First, without him, I wouldn’t even be here to live this blessed life I’ve had! Secondly, he gave up his retirement golden years to raise a colicky infant that he loved & cherished. Third, when hearing about how old parents can be selfish having children so late in life & dying before those kids are raised – that is life & happens no matter time, age, circumstance! Look at young parents who have tragedies befall them – you never know what will happen. Coming from the child of late in life parents, I have endured & hated these arguments everytime someone over a certain accepted age has a child.

    • Truthtful says:

      Sure. But what are the odds of having your 40 years old parents die? and how are the odds for 80 years old parents?…

      Sure it is life but besides accidents or exceptional deseases life is very logical: the older you are the most likely you are going to die, and that IS life.

      Otherwise kuddos to you to have such a positive view on your life that’s inspiring!

      • lisa says:

        i dont know the stats but my 40 something parent became an invalid, didnt die and i was left with grandparents

      • Truthtful says:

        @ Lisa:
        I am so sorry for your experience but it is rare , if you check the statistics pyramid for life expectancy the older you are the more likely you are to die. 40 yrs old die out of luck (accidents, deceases, etc…) 80 years old die out of life… they just ran their course … and that’s just life.

      • lisa says:

        it didnt really matter because he didnt want to be a parent anyway

        but all 4 grandparents reached their 90s and were healthy. i didnt miss out on anything by being raised by old people.

      • Tang says:

        Lots of people lose parents and grow up without a mom OR a dad, including people whose parents had them in their 20s.

        I remember an article written by a young woman who was bitter because her dad had her in his 60s, and by the time she went off to college, her dad was going into a nursing home. She wanted all this pity from everyone for that. And all I could think was, “you ingrate. You got to grow up with a father, which many kids don’t. And he was a good father, apparently, and the only thing he did “wrong” was that he aged. Well guess what? That’s life.”
        Anyway, I’ve worked in nursing homes, and there are people who enter long term care who are only in their 20s and 30s.

  16. MrsBPitt says:

    Why would anyone take any sort of marital or parental advice from Michael Douglas??????????? He certainly has a terrible track record in both these departments!

  17. Derpy says:

    My dad was 61
    My mom was 43

    I’m 30 now and my dad just died at 91. Mom is still alive and kicking albeit a bit whiny at 74

    They both got around fine with me
    Older parents are cool.
    My parents were less stressed out and knew what they were doing.
    Yes u can lose a parent young and u can old.

    Only downside to older parents is my a-hole adult siblings they had in their 20s

  18. JennaR says:

    Well, I’m going to disagree with him. I remember reading a scientific article that said men in their 50s and older becoming fathers increases the chances of the child having schizophrenia.

  19. Decloo says:

    Hello facelift!

  20. Tang says:

    I think its a far bigger risk to babies to be born to moms and dads who use drugs or alcohol – even If they are 20 year old parents. I think the epidemic of crack addicts having babies is far scarier than older dads or older moms.