Too Soon? 10 Signs Your Relationship Isn't Ready For a Baby
You may have received tons of messages early on about the importance of finding love. You check the box and take a long exhale. Perhaps you beat society's time clock, or you're simply looking forward to a breather. But no sooner than you and your partner settle into a stable commitment or tie the knot will there be another signal indicating that it's time for the pitter-patter of little baby feet. Couple that with any internal alarms that may be sounding off as you picture adorable baby clothes, first words, and family photos, and the pressure may be on once again.
But how will this pressure affect your relationship?
Despite some couples' tendency to follow the trends, some relationships just aren't ready for a baby. Here are some real signs you should pay attention to that indicate your relationship isn't ready for a baby:
1. Communication shuts down when there's a disagreement.
All couples get into disagreements, and some are harder to recover from than others. New parents soon discover that their values don't always align perfectly as they attempt to make joint decisions for their child. But regardless of disagreements, a child needs consistent care. It takes infinite patience to co-parent, along with a commitment to communicate even when you're upset with each other. If you or your partner cannot commit to hanging in there, refraining from giving each other the silent treatment, or avoiding being spiteful when you reach an impasse, then you're not ready for a baby.
2. You can't put each other's needs first.
Are you considerate of each other's needs? This matters at 3 a.m. when the baby needs a feeding and diaper change, or when both of you need to be at work and the school calls requesting you pick up your child because he has a fever. If you are already aware that one of you will be unwilling to compromise or concede and you're not OK with that, then you may want to wait.
3. You struggle with emotional forecasting.
Emotional forecasting is looking down the road to predict how you might feel and respond to certain situations based on your level of self-awareness. This is important when you are considering how you and your partner will handle the demands of co-parenting a new baby. Have you noticed your partner emotionally forecasting in other aspects of life? If they aren't great at it, then you are in for a surprise. If your partner is completely unaware of how they might handle some of the larger responsibilities that go along with having a baby, then chances are when the going gets tough, you may be left holding the (diaper) bag.
4. You don't have a community of support in place.
It's not uncommon for couples to start a family in areas where they don't have easy access to family or close friends. However, building a community of trusted people, no matter how small, that can support your parenting efforts can lighten the load on your relationship. Some partners opt out of helping to build that support system, which can cause deep resentment for the other. If your partner isn't resourceful or motivated to help you search for child care or support, then you may experience severe stress by adding a baby to your relationship.
5. One or both of you struggle with entitlement.
A hard truth is that raising a child runs counter to self-care most of the time. Babies can be unpredictable, despite your efforts to stay organized and schedule personal downtime. It takes a team mindset to step in when your partner runs out of steam. Remaining flexible and available for each other is essential to getting much-needed breaks. If you or your partner need large amounts of scheduled "me time" to unplug, recharge, and feel content, then consistent teamwork may be a real struggle to achieve and, therefore, a roadblock to having a baby at this time.
6. Emotional awareness is lacking.
Parenthood can be an emotional journey. After all, there's no rule book or blueprint; it's all simply on-the-job training. Partners need to be in tune with their own emotions, those of their partner, and their child's. Being dismissive or lacking empathy for each other during stressful moments can make it difficult to maintain a strong connection. If you know that one or both of you lack emotional awareness, then strengthening that area may be helpful prior to starting a family.
7. You have a 50/50 mindset.
It is nearly impossible to split parenting responsibilities evenly down the middle. Good parenting partnerships focus on creating a feeling of fairness (equity) with what they contribute, even if it's not always equal. If you or your partner believes that the only way to achieve fairness is to share every responsibility equally, then you may struggle with having a baby.
8. You aren't ready to spread the love.
Having a baby can interrupt the intimacy in your existing relationship. Where it used to be just the two of you, a child will force you to share your partner's love, attention, and time on a consistent basis. If you aren't sure that you are ready to alter the current emotional flow of your relationship, then you should consider waiting to start a family.
9. You don't handle change in a positive way.
Change is inevitable in all romantic relationships for both partners as you prepare for a baby. From the sacrifice of space, time, money, career, or control, to the permanent physical changes that childbearing partners may experience, there will be dramatic changes brought on by a new baby. While many couples are optimistic about maintaining a strong sexual, emotional, professional, and social life postpartum, each of these aspects of life will change. It is important to be open and supportive of each other as you adjust to many of these changes. If you or your partner will struggle to accept any potential changes brought on by a new baby and remain a positive influence in each other's lives, then it might be too soon to have a baby.
10. Your partner tells you they aren't ready to have a baby.
You may be tempted to ignore your partner's warning that they aren't ready to start a family, but it could spell disaster down the road. Healthy co-parenting requires respect, consideration, and an abundance of patience. This begins with listening to your partner before trying to conceive. If they say they aren't ready or show you they are prioritizing other needs or goals, take heed.
Co-parenting is a partnership that connects two people beyond a romantic relationship. Ask yourself if you're truly prepared to make this eternal commitment to your partner as well as a new baby. While it might feel like your biological clock and societal cues are conspiring to nudge you into baby-making in the near future, it's important to go against the grain if you determine that your relationship is on a different schedule. Developing the objectivity needed to determine the right time to start a family will put you one step closer to a more enjoyable parenting process.
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Weena Cullins, LCMFT, is a licensed marriage and family therapist with over 15 years of experience working with individuals, couples, and families. Her clinical advice has been featured at NBC News, The Huffington Post, Insider, Redbook, and many more mainstream media publications.
Cullins speaks to local, national, and international audiences about relationships, money matters, parenting, and the role of spirituality in achieving your personal goals, and she serves as a moderator/facilitator for community-based panel discussions sponsored by local nonprofit organizations. She previously worked as an adjunct professor and clinical supervisor at the University of Maryland at College Park, where she obtained her master's degree in family studies, and she has intensive clinical training in working with trauma survivors. She uses empirically validated treatment modalities like cognitive-behavioral therapy and emotion-focused therapy with her clients.