Well, well! So you’re wondering about if you’re ready to have kids.
And congratulations, because even getting to a point in life where you’re considering something special and noteworthy like having a baby is exciting and wonderful. And while you may feel like the idea of having a kid, or five, or somewhere in between, is scary and overwhelming (Spoiler alert: it is, but only some of the time), I want you to come away with the feeling that it is MORE EXCITING THAN TERRIFYING to have a kid.
Think…. adventure. And most parents will tell you that it’s the very best kind.
Now then, a little about me that I think might be helpful information:
I enjoy breaking topics like this down into a million little nuanced details. It can be helpful for people like me who want to know every possible angle of a decision before we make it, but it can be exhausting and total overkill for others, and that is OKAY. I’m going to break this into two parts, the basics and the extra stuff for those who REALLY want to get into the nitty gritty.
And for those of you who already scrolled and thought, “Good GOLLY, I am not reading this much, byeeee” here’s the summary on how to know if you’re ready to have kids!
- YOU are the best person to know if you are ready to have a kid. No one else can really tell you you’re ready or that you’re not.
- It’s not necessarily possible to feel completely ready for an experience you’ve never had. Make peace with that.
- It’s worth it. And also the hardest thing you may ever do. And worth it. And it’s also okay to wait to have a kid until you are ready.
- If you decide to go for it and have that kid – YOU are the best parent that kid can ever have. Tattoo that on your heart and remind yourself often. You can do this and you’re going to be great.
Now, for those of you still with me, let’s walk through the basics of what you should consider when deciding if you’re ready to have kids.
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Consider Your Partner First
It’s certainly possible for people to have a kid without a partner but, boy, is it better to have one, and a great one at that.
I think all the time about how single parents are SUPERHUMAN in a way that I shiver to imagine for myself because of how hard it must be. So consider your partner and your relationship when wondering if you’re ready to have kids. Consider the benefits of marriage if you aren’t married!
Having a child naturally requires two people and raising one is going to be significantly less stressful if you have someone on that journey with you – emotionally, physically, financially, legally, etc.
And not only do you want to have a partner, you want your relationship to be solid. If there’s work you can do to improve your relationship before you have a kid, I highly recommend it.
Having a child is like using a magnifying glass on your relationship.
If your relationship is struggling, then those struggles get harder and more complicated; if the relationship is thriving, then the love and teamwork you share with each other comes even more clearly into focus.
Consider Your Physical Health
How ya feeling? But seriously. When you’re pondering parenting, consider your global physical health. And while this is a passing reference to the female biological clock because that’s one of many factors to think about, it’s also a broader recommendation for both partners to do what you can to optimize your physical health for two big reasons:
1) Having a child is a physically taxing endeavor for BOTH women and men (although not equally) and it behooves you to be as healthy as you can be, and —
2) Having a child means you have a lot less time and energy to focus on your OWN body, so do it now while you have wayyy more availability.
And speaking of the old biological clock, I’m not here to add pressure about the waning of female fertility after a certain age because, newsflash: that’s not a reason to have a kid in and of itself. Just like every other consideration, it’s one part of the equation and it will be a different situation in your twenties, thirties, and forties respectively.
But, if you are seriously wondering if you’re ready to have kids, I will tell you to LEARN about your body, fertility included! It’s worth your energy to understand how your body works, especially in terms of your reproductive health, but also just in general.
Our bodies are complicated and everything is connected.
If you’ve been meaning to talk to your doctor about that thing that keeps happening, or you aren’t sure if something about your body is functioning normally, then get that figured out if you can before you start growing a mini version of yourself.
One of the less talked about realities of having kids is the issues people can have trying to conceive in the first place. So while you won’t necessarily know what your situation will be until you try, there’s plenty of education you can do surrounding your physical health, and how to be healthier and more informed about your own body.
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Consider Your Mental Health
This subject cannot possibly be talked about too much but I’ll keep it brief.
They say if you become a parent then you can either deal with your own issues or pass them along to your kids.
So if you are trying to figure out if you’re ready to have kids, it’s worth considering the state of your mental health for everyone’s sake. If you have mental health needs that aren’t getting fully addressed, you deserve to devote more of your time, energy and resources towards that before you start diverting them to another tiny human. It’s the whole “you can’t pour from an empty cup” idea but in a life-altering scenario.
It is 100% valid to delay having kids in order to work on your own mental health if that’s what you need.
And if you’re feeling like you’re in a good spot, it’s okay to continue your journey of self-improvement while you become a parent. It’s not about trying to perfect yourself, (an impossible goal anyway, my friend), it’s about making sure you aren’t rushing yourself to have a kid before you’re emotionally healthy.
Consider Your Finances
You’ve heard kids are expensive.
It’s kinda true?
Well, it depends.
It might be more accurate to say that having kids will shift your spending habits significantly.
You’ll spend more of your money on kid-related things than on the things you buy right now, but you don’t necessarily need “more” money available. Ultimately, you’ll probably choose to spend more money on your kids because you want to or because there are actual things that make life easier.
When it comes to financial readiness to have kids though, there really isn’t a “right” answer other than the vague advice that financial stability is a good idea.
That’s the thing about figuring out if you’re ready to have kids – so many things look different for different people. So allow yourself the space to think about what stability looks like for your life specifically.
I read a quotation once about money that said having enough is a state of mind, not a dollar amount, and I really think that’s true. You don’t want to be stressed about money if you can help it, but that’s kind of like the rest of your life anyway.
Consider Your Living Situation
Similar to your finances, there isn’t one ideal scenario that fits everyone other than, you know, be as stable as you can. People raise children successfully in all kinds of living situations, whether that’s in a family member’s basement, in a house you own with your partner, or something else entirely.
When you’re figuring out if you’re ready to have kids – what you want to consider about your living situation is all the practical aspects. Like, do you have room for another person? – and the more abstract qualities, such as feeling safe.
Similar to your financial situation, it’s good to think about your living situation both short-term and long-term.
So where you are now might be just fine, but would you want to be somewhere different in three years? On the other hand, you don’t need to be feverishly researching the school district you’re in if you haven’t had a kid yet – there’s time to keep evaluating this one as you go.
Consider Your Support System
If you don’t have one, get one.
Your partner is number one here but having family, friends, other parents, and professionals you trust can make the work of parenting a lot easier and even more enjoyable.
You’ve probably heard the saying, “It takes a village to raise a child.”
Personally, I think they just didn’t have the internet. I kid, I kid.
But in all seriousness, the internet and even social media are gold mines for parenting advice and I truly consider them part of my support system. The idea here is that when you’re wondering if you’re ready to have kids, you’re going to have a lot of questions, and you’re going to want to share your experiences. How do I make this child sleep? (This one comes up a lot.) How do I serve windpipe-shaped foods safely to toddlers? Hell, sometimes you just need to tell someone that you got toilet water splashed on your face twice today.
You need reliable sources of information that you trust, whether that’s Google or your grandma, and you’ll want people to talk to about your everyday life more than ever before. You’re also going to need help from time to time, so think about who you have in your life, or who you’d like to bring into your life for more support.
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Consider Your Job Situation
The job situation for both you and your partner looks very different when one person gets to physically get pregnant and give birth.
Obviously, it necessitates taking significant time off work when you have physical and emotional recovery time. But I would actually argue that it’s worth BOTH people taking as much time away from work as possible when you have a new baby, it just isn’t always financially possible (cue the tirade about the abysmal lack of paid maternity/paternity benefits in the United States).
So what is your job environment like in terms of health benefits, time off (paid or unpaid) and the overall stress involved in making that work with your employer? Do one or both of you have job options that would be more conducive to taking time off, making your schedule more flexible, working from home, etc.? Then there’s the age-old question: will one of you stay home with the baby or will you find childcare support as part of your family life?
There are a lot of moving parts to the job component of figuring out if you’re ready to have kids and it can be a tough thing to sort out, honestly.
Because even when you think you have a plan, things can change.
You may feel differently once you actually have a kid compared to when you were hypothetically planning things out. You may also decide that your job situation works for now, but down the road, you want it to look different.
The best advice I can give you here is to build in as much flexibility as you possibly can, so that you might be fortunate enough to have options later on down the line. And again, you only need to worry about what works for your family. Resist the temptation to compare yourself to others and do what fits YOUR life.
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Consider Your Expectations
This is an underrated consideration for sure but I would be willing to bet that it’s one that more people wish they had thought about and talked about with their partner when they were figuring out if they were ready to have kids.
What are your expectations of having a kid? What do you think taking care of a baby is going to be like? Who’s waking up in the middle of the night? Who’s making dinner and doing endless laundry? What kind of parent do you want to be and who are your examples of good parents? What cultural expectations do you have for how your child will be raised?
These are conversations you want to have with your partner because we tend to forget that not everyone thinks about kids and parenting the same way that we do, even if you married your best friend and you always agree on what to binge watch next on Netflix.
Again, you can address a lot of these things as you go too, but it might be nice to find out beforehand, for example, that your partner wants your kid to be bilingual, or raised Jewish, or take over the family business, or whatever, so you aren’t caught by surprise. The goal here is to get on the same page as much as possible.
BUT WAIT, THERE’S MORE.
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It’s time for the extra stuff! *excitedly rubs hands together*
For me, this is where we really dig deep into what helps people thrive as parents. Now, you don’t necessarily have to have all of this sorted out in order to decide if you’re ready to have kids, but if you did, that would be super nice for you. Most of us end up working through these things once they come up over the course of the parenting journey, and that’s totally fine too.
Here are a few more signs of readiness that I think are really worth reflection.
You’re ready to embrace a lack of control.
This is hard for anyone but definitely for those of us who LOVE being in control of everything and everyone around us. *cough* I would know.
Having a baby is one of those things in life that forces you to repeatedly let go of what you can’t control – from what kind of pregnancy and birth experience you have, to your kid’s personality, or the fact that they look EXACTLY like your husband even though you spent months and months carefully growing that child inside your body. I mean, adorable yes, but can’t they at least look related to me? I MADE YOU.
But it goes beyond that too. You can’t do anything to undo the pain when your kid falls down and scrapes their leg for the first time, or gets a stupid head cold and feels just miserable. Your heart is going to hurt for all the things you can’t spare your kid from because you love them, and it’s also not your job to protect them from, well, life. Your job is to be there with all that support and love, and protect and guide them, of course.
You won’t have that completely. You don’t control the world and you don’t control your kid either; they are their own person and they start communicating that a lot earlier than you might think.
You’re ready to let go of your pre-baby body.
I mean, duh, yes, if you’re figuring out if you’re ready to have kids, you realize that pregnancy is a big change to your body.
And it is.
And while there’s significant cultural pressure to “get your body back” after having a baby, (excuse me while I roll my eyes and swallow an angry rant), the reality is that your body is different forever, even if you lose weight, get back in shape, whatever.
It’s certainly not impossible to resemble what you looked like before, but you need to know that it won’t be soon if you do and some things don’t ever go back to the way they were. You’ll have the body of a mother now and you’ll be beautiful. But like, sometimes when your bones move for baby-growing, they don’t go back where they were.
For example, some women don’t wear the same shoe size after having a baby. True story.
Here’s a surprise: I am also not just talking to the ladies here.
Now I am the FIRST one to remind my husband that my body has gone through the ringer a hundred times more than his, so don’t think I’m discounting that for a second. However, the lack of sleep and changes to your lifestyle are significant enough to affect the non-baby-birthing partner here too and that’s something worth noting. Having kids speeds up the aging process, I’m pretty sure there’s science to back that up. So nobody with a kid is going to look as doe-eyed and fresh as they did before. You’ll look at pictures of yourself to remember how cute and well-rested you used to be before all that gray hair and those startling dark undereye circles crept in.
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You’re ready to prioritize another person’s needs above your own.
I know this might seem obvious, especially when you picture a newborn baby. You think, “I mean, yeah, you have to feed the baby first even if you’re hungry too.” And yes, you do, but this goes so far beyond that. This tiny human is going to need you almost constantly, in one way or another, for years without taking a break.
And there are going to be a thousand little ways that you put that kid and what they want or need before what you might want or need. In the early years, it’s pretty intense with all the not sleeping and trying to eat one-handed while you hold a baby. But it also looks like having to leave the beach because your kid hates touching the sand and is afraid of the water, or having to abandon your full cart in a random aisle at the grocery store because your kid is having a SITUATION and it’s just not in the cards right now. It also looks like turning down a job offer that would require you to change your schedule because you don’t want to pull your kid out of the school they are finally thriving in, or missing out on that night out with your friends you really looked forward to because your kid got a stomach bug.
And to be sure, there are times when you WILL prioritize your needs when it makes you a better person, because that makes you a better parent too.
You have to eat your own dang lunch even though The Cat in the Hat hasn’t been read out loud in the last seven minutes and someone is really upset about it. The point here is that parenting involves an incredible amount of sacrifice, some big and some small, but a lot. So if you’ve been meaning to travel the world, or you aren’t ready to stop going out drinking every weekend, or your sanity is hinging on your ability to come home after work to crash on the couch with dinner and watching five straight hours of Law and Order snuggled under a blanket – that’s okay.
It’s okay to want to do what you want. Live the life you want to live when it’s all about you, and when it’s just you and your partner. Those are awesome times and you want to make sure you have enough of them so that you aren’t resentful when you do decide if you’re ready to have kids.
You’re ready to learn new things.
This may be really obvious… you’re going to learn how to take care of a child, of course, which is a pretty broad and complex education, if you will. And yes, you will become a professional diaper changer.
But there will also be many, many opportunities for you to learn what feels like the amount of knowledge you’d get from college level courses about things that are specific to your child. Whether that’s how to help your kid learn how to eat solid food, or everything there is to know about [insert any learning disability/medical condition here], you will become an expert in things you currently know nothing about. And hey, sometimes it’s just important to your toddler that you know the difference between a bulldozer and a backhoe and you’ve never cared at all before now. You’re going to learn new things the second you decide if you’re ready to have kids!
You aren’t feeling pressured or obligated.
Having children is definitely something the majority of adults do. Interestingly, those trends are shifting slightly as we look at declining birth rates and people choosing to defer parenthood later and later, or forego it altogether.
I’m personally all for people having the genuine freedom to choose parenthood or not. However, the fact remains: there are a lot of cultural norms related to “getting married and having kids” and it’s more than just your awkward uncle asking you every Thanksgiving while he waits for you to pass the potatoes.
People expect you to have kids: your parents, your friends, and your co-workers.
Even random people will make comments about it as you pick up your takeout from Chili’s or suffer through a long elevator ride. The social influence is there and you owe it to yourself to acknowledge what pressure you feel to have kids coming from the outside. Once you can say you’re fully aware of other people’s expectations, breathe deeply and remind everyone else that it’s none of their business if you want to, but – and this is important – don’t have kids because you feel like you’re supposed to or someone else expects you to.
This is your life and, just like anything else, it would be a huge disservice to yourself if you did a thing this big without really wanting it. So ask yourself: Do you really WANT kids? Do you know if you’re ready to have kids? Because it’s okay to say you don’t or that you aren’t.
Not only that, but think about how unfair that would be to your kid if you never got over the fact that you didn’t really want to have a kid, or you weren’t ready. It’s the stuff of future regret and nobody needs that if they can avoid it.
Bottom line: It’s okay to wait until you’re ready! And it’s also okay if that day never comes or if it comes later for you than it does for other people. Keep doing you.
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You’re not filling a void.
This is the grown-up version of “I adopted a puppy so I have someone to love me” and it’s scarier.
As with many of these considerations, it requires a fair amount of self-awareness to realize our deeper needs sometimes, particularly when things are complicated or painful. Like anything, it’s good to think about things we could change about our life to improve our own happiness and wellbeing.
When figuring out if you’re ready to have kids, you want to be careful with this. I think the simplest way to rule this out is asking yourself: “Am I generally happy in my life right now?”
If the answer is “yes,” then you probably aren’t considering having kids to fill a void. If there are aspects of your life that you aren’t satisfied with, like your job or your relationship, then it’s time to take a good look at trying to solve those issues directly rather than distracting yourself with having a kid. You don’t need to get pregnant to quit the job you don’t like. And if you’re struggling in your marriage, it’s not a good plan to busy yourself with child rearing so you don’t have to face your partner.
You also don’t want to have a kid because you’re bored and need a new hobby. You’ll need some real honesty with yourself about this one but it’s worth whatever hard truths you have to face. Get yourself to a good place with the major aspects of your life and you will feel a lot more ready and excited to think about parenthood.
You’re ready to make your own decisions with confidence.
Put another way: You’re ready to whip out your polite nod-and-smile routine and then ignore a whole lot of people and their unsolicited opinions.
I’m not sure what it is about having a baby that makes complete strangers and distant acquaintances think they should tell you what to do but, let me tell you, it starts when your baby is in utero. Prepare to be flooded with everything from gentle suggestions to aggressive assertions about what you should be doing as a parent. It’s a lot. And sometimes it comes from family and friends.
So what you need is to trust yourself, and then be ready to make your own decisions for you and your kid. You are the ones who have to live with the consequences, for better or for worse, so it’s only fair to be in the driver’s seat on this. It doesn’t mean that you don’t ask for advice or try things based on other people’s recommendations – definitely do that! But you’re the captain of the ship and your kid needs you to be a calm, confident leader even when you’re putting their coat on inside out or getting lost on the way to the doctor yet again. So when you decide if you’re ready to have kids – be ready to own it!
You’re open to self-growth.
You’re going to have to forgive the parenting cliché here but, it’s challenging to raise a human. For REAL. You think you know what tired is before you have a kid? Parents laugh at you. And it’s freaking annoying because you work hard and you’re busy, I know. I felt that way before I had kids too. But parenting is just a new level of craziness. It will push you to your limits and beyond them. And yes, we all know that irritating parent who brags about how many years it’s been since they had a good night’s sleep or went to the bathroom without an audience. (I’m going on five years now, thank you.)
It’s more than that though.
Parenting is both a huge stressor and a huge motivator. Raising another person makes you want to be a better person, too. It’s a special kind of hard to want to be the most gentle, loving, patient person you can be, while also trying to get a tiny angry person dressed like it’s a hostage negotiation.
And also that tiny person is kicking you.
As a parent, you WILL revisit your healthy coping skills and add to that list because you have to in order to survive. But you will also want to improve your boundaries, your communication, your self-awareness and more because you will realize it makes you a better parent, a better person, and a better example for your kid(s).
Heck, you might even want to get yourself a life coach to support you in the madness. Deciding if you’re ready to have kids is a big endeavor, and while I hope this article helped tremendously, sometimes you have to talk it out. We are HERE for that and it would be our pleasure.
I’m excited for you!