When people ask Brett Eagleton if toddler Katie is his granddaughter, he laughs.
Katie, who is 20 months old, is his first child.
But 59-year-old Mr Eagleton is not fazed by what others might think about his age. “People see that our bond is very strong,” he says.
The disability support worker married his long-term partner, Kim, when he was 51.
Kim, 36, who works at a Salvation Army store, wanted to have children, and supporting her was important to Mr Eagleton. The couple’s only concern was ensuring they had a child-friendly home.
When Katie was born, it only reaffirmed their decision to have children. “It’s the most beautiful thing that’s ever happened to me in my life,” Mr Eagleton says.
“It wasn’t a practical and available option for me when I was younger, so I don’t dwell upon it at all.
“I’ve definitely got to maintain my health and thankfully that is the case. There are practical realities when you have a child when you’re older, but I don’t regret that I couldn’t do it; it just happened at the time when it was meant to happen.”
Mr Eagleton has become accustomed to the usual fatherly duties, such as changing nappies and getting up in the middle of the night.
He attends a dads’ group, and says that older fathers are not an anomaly at the get-togethers. In fact, seeing a young dad is “unusual”.
“I think that the older dads are more motivated to attend these groups, so I haven’t felt conspicuous or the odd man out because I was older. There have been numerous older dads.”
In Victoria, the median age for fathers is 34.
Research from Roy Morgan shows that about 14 per cent of Australian fathers of children under the age of 16 are aged 50 or older – an increase of 20 per cent in four years. By contrast, 7 per cent of mothers over 50 have children under the age of 16.
“I live in the St Kilda area, and it is remarkable how many older dads there are,” says Mr Eagleton.
“There are just older dads everywhere. And at the childcare centre when I’m dropping off Kate, there are numerous older dads. It’s just not an issue.”
For Father’s Day, the family will attend a YMCA dads’ fun run.
“The way that my life played out, it could well have been the case that [fatherhood] never happened,” says Mr Eagleton. “And the fact that it has happened is remarkable.
“I’m not taking it for granted at all. I’m aware of the experience I’m going through – how remarkable it is – and trying to take in every moment.”
This article originally appeared online at The Age, and in print, September 2.