Thinking about having children? Check out our expert advice on finding out whether it’s the right time for you and your partner to start a family.
There are many factors that you can’t prepare for — or even anticipate — when it comes to having children, but you can at least make sure you’re ready for the challenge. The experience of being a parent varies greatly from one person to the next; however, there are a few solid indicators that you and your partner are ready for kids.
We spoke with Karen Hirscheimer, a couple therapist based in Toronto, to learn more about how couples can tell if they’re ready to become parents. She recommends asking yourself the following five questions before making your decision.
1. Is your relationship on solid ground?
If you are considering having children, it is absolutely essential that you are in a rock-solid loving relationship where communication is open and easy. Having a child will challenge you both as an individual and as a couple, so it is important that your relationship is strong if you plan on having a baby, says Hirscheimer.
“Is the relationship reasonably solid?” she asks. “In other words, can you resolve disputes effectively and not carry built up resentment? Can you work effectively as a team?” Ask yourselves these questions.
“It’s important to know how to work together and negotiate well,” Hirscheimer says. You know you’re ready for a baby once you and your partner have spent some time learning how you work together as a team in difficult situations.
2. Do you know each other’s expectations?
Knowing what each other’s expectations are is an item that is often overlooked by couples planning on having a child. If you think you’re ready for the addition of a baby to your family, it’s important to have a conversation about who will be doing what in the day-to-day duties of raising the child.
“It might not seem that important, but it often becomes a huge issue when there are misunderstandings about expectations,” says Hirscheimer. “Being able to talk about responsibilities ahead of time is really important and prevents people from becoming really disappointed and possibly resentful, particularly when it comes to their first child.”
3. Are you ready to put in the extra effort to nurture your relationship?
If you think you’re ready for a baby, be sure to consider the extra effort you and your partner will have to make to keep the romance alive. Those loving moments may easily become lost in the hustle and bustle of tending to your baby’s needs day in and day out.
Hirscheimer points out that it is important that you and your partner remember to express your love and affection for each other: “Couples should be prepared to get creative when it comes to carving out time for each other,” she says.
4. Are you are ready to be tired?
Fatigue is one factor of having a baby that many couples are unprepared for. Between late-night feedings and limited time to yourself, the lack of rest can create tension.
“Fatigue and less time together means that there can be more irritability, so it’s really important to try to keep that in check so that it doesn’t lead to unnecessary friction,” advises Hirscheimer. “It’s also important to have more loving moments as a way to counteract that.”
5. Are you prepared for your life to be different?
Couples who are prepared to have children should be aware that their lifestyles are going to change drastically. “A lot of people think that a baby is sort of going to fit into their life the way they have it now and don’t realize that this may not work given their current lifestyle,” says Hirscheimer. “Couples really need to make many more changes than they realize.”
It’s also a good idea to think about whether you feel you’ve accomplished everything you wanted to do pre-baby, she says. This can include everything from travelling and starting a career to having spent as much time with your friends as possible. These opportunities won’t go away after having a child, but they may be more limited than before.
In order to be fully prepared, take the time to discuss these questions and make a game plan with your partner. Good communication skills and a sturdy relationship are the keys to being good parents and maintaining your relationship as a couple. It’s impossible to prepare for all the eventualities of bringing up a child, but considering these few items can help ease you into this major life transition.