Whether you’ve been married just a few days or for several years, you might be ready to start talking about babies. They’re adorable. The idea of creating a life that is a mix of ourselves and our spouse is heart-melting. But how do we know we’re really ready?
If you’re considering parenthood for the first time, there are a few questions to ask yourself before you toss out your contraception and get busy with conception. Take a look at these questions. Answer them honestly for yourself and discuss them with your partner. Be prepared for whatever comes up.
Can you afford a child?
It seems like an obvious question. It also seems like one that you shouldn’t have to ask. But you do need to ask. Babies and children are expensive. Diapers, formula, bottles, baby clothes, toys, car seats, cribs, strollers, childcare, medical bills – the list of things that babies and children will need goes on and on.
The question of affording a child is about more than simply looking at a budget, tallying up some numbers, and agreeing you can cover the additional expenses, though.
Do you enjoy going out with friends or getting a massage regularly? If you do, can you afford a sitter that often as well as the expense of going out? Do you like to travel? Will you still be able to afford to travel with a baby? Will you be paying to take the baby with you or to leave the baby with a caregiver?
Affording a child is about the finances of your new addition, but it’s also about making sure that you’re clear on the changes it will bring. Knowing that you can still afford your current lifestyle, or that you’re willing to make sacrifices to make it more affordable to have a baby, is important.
Additionally, if you’re planning to adopt rather than conceive, there are more expenses. These expenses are often due on a set schedule and in full. Making sure you do your research, have the money set aside, and are prepared to start forking it out is important. You don’t want to end up halfway through the adoption process and run out of money.
Are you both enthusiastic about the idea of parenthood right now?
If you’re at the point of seriously considering parenthood, then it’s likely you and your partner discussed having children at some point in the past. It’s also a good bet that you both agreed you wanted kids. But are you both on board with the idea of having kids right now?
Both of you need to be enthusiastic about the idea of having a baby right now. If one partner is reluctant, there’s a chance of resentment against the baby and the non-reluctant partner. This resentment can not only destroy your relationship but also prevent the development of a solid relationship between the child and the reluctant parent. That’s not fair to any of you.
If one of you has baby fever, and the other wants to wait a little longer, this is a discussion to have in depth before taking any steps forward. Many people would say this is also where compromise comes into play in a relationship.
Compromise is healthy in a relationship, but it’s important to remember that this is about a baby. Compromise may apply to things like what to have for dinner, living in a house that’s not quite what you wanted, or alternating holidays between your partner’s family and yours. Compromise is not really something you can do when it comes to having a baby.
If you’re not both on the same page about a baby, it’s probably wise to table the discussion for now. The exception to this would be if your partner indicates a lack of desire to have children ever. If you know you want a child, and your partner knows they don’t, continued discussion is vital so that you can decide if you want to move on so you can have children.
Have you discussed parenting styles?
How do you each feel about letting a baby cry it out? What about school – private, public, or homeschool? How about discipline – do you believe in spanking, timeouts, or a combo of both? Do you want to be a helicopter parent or would you rather hang back and let your kid do just about everything themselves and you only step in when you absolutely need to?
Parenting style is a critical discussion. When parents disagree over how to parent, the child suffers. They don’t know what to expect, what the rules are, or what’s expected of them. Not only can this lead to a child who misbehaves regularly, but it can also create a child who pits both parents against each other.
Beyond that, disagreements over parenting styles can destroy the relationship between the parents. You’ll start to lose respect for each other and this will bleed over into all aspects of your relationship. Whether this leads to divorce or a couple living in unhappy matrimony, the result is that once again, the child suffers – as well as the child’s parents.
Just because you discover you have some different ideas on parenting doesn’t mean that having children should be off the table for you and your partner. But it’s best to know now, when you don’t yet have a child to raise. This allows you time to discuss your thoughts and perhaps find compromises.
Are you prepared for the effort?
Some couples can get pregnant with no problem. Others take a few cycles or need medical assistance. Some are never able to get pregnant themselves and need to rely on a surrogate or adoption to realize their dream of parenthood.
Are you prepared for the possibility that it may takes months or years to get pregnant, find a surrogate, or get through the adoption process? Are you ready to research, to take shots or pills, or to be on bedrest to bring a pregnancy to term? Are you ready to meet with multiple potential surrogates to meet the right one for your growing family or to be rejected more than once by a birth mother until you’re finally chosen?
Beyond that, are you prepared for a child who may have severe allergies, ADHD, autism, cerebral palsy, Down’s syndrome or other conditions that may require extensive medical care and different styles of parenting?
We all have our vision of parenthood. And for most of us, that vision gets a little tarnished as we begin dealing with the realities of raising an independent human being with a will and mind of their own. For some parents, however, the image is dramatically changed or even shattered completely when their child receives a diagnosis they never saw coming.
The journey between considering parenthood and seeing the fruits of your labors as a parent is long and arduous. You have to be ready for both the amazing parts and the struggles.
Do you have experience with children?
Before you get offended and start sending me hate mail, I’m well aware that you don’t have to have previous experience with children to be a parent. But I do think it can be helpful. It can also be helpful to explore the experience you do have to see how it may influence you as a parent.
First, let’s define what I mean about experience. I’m not talking about spending a few minutes in the presence of a child. Nor am I referring to spending the day at a theme park and watching the children around you. When I refer to experience, I’m talking about spending some quality time with a child. Babysitting in your neighborhood, watching your sibling’s kid(s), or helping to raise younger siblings are examples of what I mean.
Now, why does experience matter? Because being in a position of authority over a child, even if it’s not your own, gives you a taste of what being a parent is like. It’s only a small taste, to be sure, and not exactly like being a parent. But it can give you an idea of what it’s like and how you feel about children in general.
If you’ve never had that experience, you may be surprised by the reality of parenting compared to your fantasies.
Beyond that, your experiences with children can influence the way you parent. If all of your experiences with children have been children who are wild and out of control, you may be a strict and rigid parent who tries to control your child’s every move – a potential recipe for disaster. If your experience was raising your younger siblings because your parents were unable or unwilling, that’s also going to impact your parenting.
But it’s not just your experience that matters. Your partner’s matters, too. If you have experience and your partner doesn’t, or vice versa, this can have a significant impact on parenting styles. The one without experience may have ideas that the one with experience feels are naïve, for example.
Think about all your experience with kids and discuss it with your partner. Be open about your experiences and open to your partner’s. Discuss compromises, theories, and deal breakers.
Any other questions?
When considering parenthood, it’s important to have open and honest discussions. The five questions offered here are excellent starting points. Every individual has their own unique experiences and perspective, however. It’s important that any questions or concerns you have are addressed before you move forward with expanding your family.
You might consider having a couple of discussions: a preliminary discussion to determine if you’re ready to move forward with parenthood, and a second to dive deeper and address any questions you’ve come up with.
If you’re already a parent, what advice would you give to someone considering parenthood? What questions would you suggest they ask and answer before moving forward?