If you’re the type of person who can’t help but stop to coo at every passing baby, chances are you’ve already thought about adding a baby to your family. The best way to find out if you’re ready is by searching online.
You can start by asking yourself a few tough questions before becoming pregnant. To make this easier, we’ve come up with a list of questions that will help you figure out the right time to start your family.
Is now the right time?
There are a million different factors that go into the decision to have a baby. Granted, fertility and age are major factors; female fertility peaks in a woman’s mid to late twenties, and begins to decline after that. At age 45, fertility drops off sharply, with 50-80% of women that age unable to conceive and bear a healthy child.
Although it would be wonderful if we could bear a child whenever we like, unfortunately that just isn’t possible. The first question you should ask yourself when deciding to have a child is – is this the right time? Will you be able to conceive and bear a healthy child easily, or is it possible that you will need medical assistance?
Many women freeze their eggs early on in life if they don’t plan on having children until their late 30s or 40s.
Are you both healthy and physically able to bear the burdens of parenthood?
This question is closely related to the question of timing. If you’re looking to start a family, both you and your spouse should have a good idea of the general state of your health. If you’re a woman and have any medical conditions, you should consult your doctor on how pregnancy could affect your health.
Even if you’re not the one giving birth, you need to be thinking about your health long-term. Many couples choose to visit a genetic counselor prior to getting pregnant, to make sure that they don’t pass any genetic disorders to their child. Even if you don’t choose to investigate your genes this thoroughly, you should make sure that you’re in top physical shape.
Are you financially secure?
Having a child is a huge financial responsibility. You will be responsible for their food, shelter, education, and everything else you could possibly think of until they turn 18 (and likely longer).
If you don’t feel financially secure enough to have a child, but you’re thinking of starting your family soon, you should consult a financial advisor to figure out the best plan moving forward. It may involve additional employment, or finding a different employer who has a better insurance or parental leave plan.
Both you and your spouse should be on the same page about where the money will be coming from. The discussion about money should also include plans for education, and whether you’re willing to help your child with post-secondary education costs. College degrees require years of saving to cover.
Is this person someone you want in your life forever?
People who are getting married today have to contend with the knowledge that the divorce rate in the United States currently sits around 50%. People are becoming more and more comfortable with the fact that the person you marry at 25 may not be the person that you’re retiring with at 60.
Regardless of whether your marriage is long-lasting or not, if you’re choosing to have a child with someone, you need to be comfortable co-parenting with them for the rest of your child’s life. You can divorce people easily, but there’s no getting rid of your child’s father or mother.
Where do you want the baby to grow up?
Another question that you should ask your spouse is where they see the baby growing up. This means the type of housing, but also the neighborhood, city, or even country! Many parents dream of raising their child in the house where they grew up, but other people want to get as far away as possible.
Have a frank conversation with your spouse about where you want to raise your children. You don’t have to decide the next 18 years of your life in one conversation, but it’s best to start the conversation before your baby makes an appearance. As well, moving while you’re expecting is no easy feat, so make sure that you get all of your housing needs sorted before your baby arrives.
Are you ready to sacrifice your free time?
Everyone knows the classic look of a new parent – dark circles under the eyes, spit up on the shirt, and a dazed, exhausted appearance. Having a baby means a major change in your schedule for a while, but the more complicated questions come after your baby has learned to sleep through the night.
Are you okay with all of your vacations being child-friendly, or will you prioritize giving the baby to Grandma and Grandpa so you can go on an adults-only getaway? Will you give up your hobbies so that you can be around the house?
Being a parent means being available for your child whenever they need you, so before you get pregnant, you need to be aware that your priorities will have to change.
How will becoming a parent affect your career?
Parental leave in the United States is far behind many other countries in the world. Many businesses in the USA require mothers to return to work a mere 12 weeks after giving birth, forcing them to leave their child with family members so that they don’t lose their jobs. They are not compensated for these 12 weeks, forcing many mothers to return to work even earlier if they aren’t able to give up a full three months of pay.
If you’re getting ready to have a baby, both parents should investigate their employers parental leave policy, and decide if it’s useful to seek employment elsewhere if their benefits leave something to be desired.
Do you have the necessary support systems in place?
Adding to your family means all sorts of things to different people – including the potential grandparents, who should also be included in the equation.
Are you living somewhere where you have access to a community who can support your growing family, or are you relatively isolated? Do you want your parents to play an active role in your child’s life, or are you content to only visit on major holidays? These are all questions that you need to answer before becoming pregnant.
If you’re not on the same page as your spouse about the involvement of your families, you risk the potential of ugly confrontations in the future.
Will your spouse be a good parent?
This is a difficult question to answer for many people. For some, the decision is obvious – generally a caring person will become a parent who cares deeply for their child. A person can have many wonderful qualities, but these qualities may not translate into them being a great parent.
It’s important to ask yourself whether you want to parent a child with this person for your child’s whole life. A man who is childish, spontaneous, and easily upset may be an okay person to date, but probably isn’t the person who you want to hand a screaming baby at 3 a.m.
People are generally good parents if they want to be – if they put their priorities elsewhere, you should take the hint that they’re not interested in parenthood.
How do I deal with uncertainty?
The process from conception, to birth, to adulthood is far from straightforward. Raising a child means that you might have to become comfortable with uncertainty. Even if your child is blessed with perfect health, there will still be things that you cannot control.
Are you comfortable dwelling in uncertainty, or does it make you anxious? Research has shown that parents who are anxious tend to raise anxious children, so before you even get pregnant, you should be willing and able to work on improving your own mental health. Uncertainty is never comfortable, but you can take steps to ease the strain on your mental health.