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The Changing Face of Fatherhood

More men are opting for fatherhood later in life for a variety of reasons. Are the challenges different?

Midlife Crisis? continued...

Enter the allure of fatherhood.

"Men have woken up to the joy and enrichment of being fathers," he says.

A child is "a legacy and suggests that men have sewn their wild oats and are done running around," he says. "Fathering has hit the map, and the idea that you are really missing out without the fatherhood experience is not a myth, it's a reality."

Fueling this cultural phenomenon is a tremendous change in the positive imagery of men as fathers, including books and movies, Real explains. "Men being healed by fatherhood/fathering is depicted in several films, including Scent of a Woman, Man Without a Face, and Finding Forrester," he says.

"There are slews of films where a shut-down, reclusive, cynical man has his heart opened by a boy/child who needs him," real says. "The act of fathering can heal a damaged man."

Tick, Tick, Tick?

Midlife fatherhood "is an increasing trend," agrees Jed Diamond, founder and director of MenAlive, a men's health program, and author of several books.

"I've been seeing it more and more in friends, colleagues, and patients," he says.

Today, for a host of reasons including the economy, men are less likely to put so much of their sense of self and identity into their work, and more of them are looking to feel more connected to family and children, he says.

In addition, there had been the belief that men can have children forever, but andropause or male menopause indicates a decrease in testosterone, and there is a drop in fertility for men as well as for women, Diamond tells WebMD.

"Men are beginning to realize that ... 'if I really want children, this is the time to do it,'" he says. "Fertility decreases and men start having a greater sense of urgency."

Sugar Daddy?

A seismic shift in hormones also helps tip the scale in favor of fatherhood. "As men age, they also have a higher ratio of estrogen as testosterone wanes, so men become more "esty" -- meaning that they become more sensual, more involved in family," Diamond says.

"As a whole, I would say that men's desire for kids is less palpable then a women's desire," says New York City psychoanalyst and father Leon Hoffman, MD, director of the Pacella Parent Child Center. "Even women who never have children will find a substitute -- whether a niece or nephew or someone else -- where their maternal feelings will be played out."

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