Thinking About Having A Baby? Here's How To Know If You're Truly Ready
The decision to have a child is one that should be considered both thoughtfully and realistically. If you're thinking about having a baby, we asked experts how to know if you're truly ready—here's what they had to say.
What to know before considering expanding your family.
There are so many things to consider before having a baby, from child care to financial factors to your own health. But the first thing to think about is whether both partners are on board, says licensed psychologist Rachel Needle, PsyD.
"It is important to make sure you and your partner(s) are also on the same page when it comes to big issues—such as finances, discipline, schooling, space, and religion—when it comes to the children," she adds. All of these things ought to be discussed with your partner before you come to a decision.
It's also important to consider the health of both parents, adds Mary Jane Minkin, M.D., an OB-GYN and clinical professor at Yale University. She explains that when it comes to fertility, age is indeed a factor (especially for the person becoming pregnant), and there are a number of things you can do to ensure you and your body are prepared for pregnancy. (More on that later.)
Questions to ask.
Here's a brief list of questions you and your partner can discuss if you're thinking about having a child together, according to Minkin and Needle. If you both agree on the following questions, that's a good sign:
- Are both you and your partner on board about having a baby?
- Are both you and your partner in good health?
- Are you financially prepared for the costs of raising a child?
- What will you do for child care?
- Where will the child go to daycare, school, etc.?
- Who will take time off work when the baby is young, or later when they're sick?
- Which of you has job responsibilities that will be flexible to allow to take care of the baby?
- Are you OK with sacrificing your time, money, and energy?
- What are the values you want to instill in your children?
- Will you raise the child under a particular religion?
- Is your relationship in solid standing to have a baby?
5 signs you're ready:
1. You understand and accept the responsibility.
Children are a lot of responsibility, so first and foremost, one sign you're ready is that you understand, acknowledge, and accept all that comes with being a parent. As licensed therapist De-Andrea Blaylock-Solar, MSW, LCSW-S, CST, tells mbg, having a child isn't always glamorous (in fact, it's often not), and it requires a lot of flexibility as far as time, money, and your own personal life. Are you ready to make concessions and adjustments to your current lifestyle to accommodate the responsibilities of raising a child?
2. You don't feel like you're checking a box.
Blaylock-Solar also notes that many couples can feel like having a baby is simply a checkbox on a list of things they're "supposed to" do as adults or as a married couple. But having a baby out of obligation or without really considering if you want to be parents can lead to frustration and disappointment later when you're deep in the stress of child-rearing.
If you genuinely don't feel like you have to have a baby but both of you do want one, that's a sign you're truly ready.
3. You and your partner are healthy.
We would be remiss to not talk about the health considerations that come with pregnancy and having a child. As Minkin explains, you're much more likely to actually conceive if you have a healthy lifestyle, you don't smoke, you're taking a vitamin with folic acid, etc. (Here's more on how to prepare your body for pregnancy.)
After all, even if you want to have a baby, sometimes the body says otherwise—but if you're proactively taking steps to care for and prepare your body, Minkin says that's another factor to consider yourself ready to have a baby.
4. Your relationship is in a good place.
Along with both partners being on board about having a baby, it's also important to assess your relationship with each other. Blaylock-Solar explains it's easy to think a baby will help, or even save, your relationship—but this is not true. If anything, she says, a child can cause even more strain in the relationship, which won't be good for you, your partner, or your baby. Make sure your relationship is truly in a healthy and happy place before you move forward. If you know you're both there, that's more evidence you're ready to be parents.
5. You understand your child will be their own unique person.
And lastly, part of being a parent (or a loving, supportive one, at least) is understanding your child is going to be their own person and accepting them for who they are. Blaylock-Solar says if you understand and accept that you can do your absolute best, but your baby will still have their own free will, you're ready.
5 signs it might be too soon:
1. You don't feel healthy enough yet.
Pregnancy takes a major toll on the body, mentally and physically. As Minkin explains, there are ways you can support fertility, of course, but don't feel like you have to rush against the clock. Unless you're approaching 40, she says, you've got time to work on your health so you and baby can be as healthy as possible. If you are 40 and not confident about your health, talk to your OB-GYN or fertility specialist about the many options available. Don't discount freezing your eggs or other paths to pregnancy such as surrogacy or adoption.
2. Your relationship isn't solid.
As aforementioned, all too often, couples think a baby will save their relationship, but we know this is not how it works. "If your relationship is not solid and you do not engage in healthy communication, then it is a good idea to work on the relationship prior to moving forward with starting a family," Needle tells mbg.
3. You feel pressured to have a child.
Blaylock-Solar says it's a good idea to ask yourself how much you actually want a child, versus how much you feel like you have to. Again, there can be the pressure of the biological clock or even outside influence from family members, but if there's any part of you that feels resistance to the idea of parenthood, and you don't know if it's really what you want, that's a sign you're not ready and should wait until you feel more certain.
4. You're looking for a child to fulfill you.
Raising a child should ultimately be about creating a nurturing and supportive environment for this new life you've created, not what you're going to get out of it, Blaylock-Solar says. Yes, children are a blessing, but again, they're not going to save your relationship or make ongoing challenges in your life vanish (you need to heal those yourself). Your future child is also not going to appreciate you trying to live vicariously through them, if that's what you're after. And they certainly shouldn't be brought into this world because you, or your parents, or society, think you should.
This ties back to the third point, but ultimately, it comes down to assessing your intentions for having a baby. If they don't feel pure, you're not ready.
5. You're struggling financially.
Children are costly—make no mistake there. It's unrealistic not to factor money into the equation, and Blaylock-Solar says you need to be serious when considering your financial health, your savings, and how you plan to pay for everything your baby needs. If your finances aren't in good shape, consider whether it's in your best interest (and the baby's) to wait until you're in better financial standing.
The bottom line.
If you feel like you're ready to have a baby, that is a beautiful and amazing thing. And if now you're having second thoughts—that's OK! You likely have more time than you think, and it will only benefit you, your partner, and your baby to make sure you're as ready as can be.