The tug is there — that maternal instinct that longs to snuggle a newborn and breath in their scent. Does that mean it’s the right time to have a baby?
Some people say that if you wait until you’re ready, you’ll never be ready. Kind of like marriage. But to me that seems to imply, “Even if you have doubts, go for it”. We’re talking about a child here — the next 18 years of your life, invested into a human being that needs your love, time, attention, and oh, don’t forget — your money.
In some ways, none of us will ever be completely, 100% prepared. However, there does come a time when you are definitely more ready than at other times. You’ll know you’re at that place when:
Having a baby is expensive. Research it online and you’ll find that the average cost of having a baby in the hospital ranges anywhere from $3,000 to $10,000. A home birth with a midwife is in the range of $3,000 – $5,000. These numbers clearly show that having a good health insurance plan is one step in being ready for a baby. That, or having a good job in which you can pay these expenses out of pocket without going into debt.
Considerable Debt Reduction
Speaking of debt, having cut a big hole any outstanding debt, especially credit card debt, is another wise thing to consider before having a baby. If you find yourself in a place where you can hardly keep up with credit card payments, having a baby is only going to make that more difficult. There are diapers to buy, clothes that the baby will need, baby items…
I’m not aware of any great rules of thumb, but I would say at least fifty to seventy-five percent reduction of your initial debt is a good goal to have before starting a family. Some of us have student loans that will take thirty years to pay off and if we waited for those to be whittled down, we’d be at an age where we could no longer get pregnant! So total debt reduction is not completely realistic, but at least an effort put towards high interest credit cards is a good move.
Having a Budget
Because a child (children) create new expenses that living as just as two people didn’t bring about, creating and learning to live off a budget before the baby comes gives you a great head start in managing the financial needs after they come. The time to learn living by a budget is pre-kids, not post-kids.
Solidified as a Couple
Having a baby changes marriage dynamics like nothing else. Having just come through the first year of parenthood, I think that the first year of that was by far harder than the first year of marriage (which people so dourly predicted would be “awful”). The first year of marriage took some work, but it was easy work. The first year of parenthood took marriage work that wasn’t as easy.
With all that said, I can also say that even though the affect of a baby on marriage sounds pessimistic, my husband and I feel that our marriage is better than it was before. But it is different.
Time alone is a rare thing for us. This is partly due to our belief system that the raising of our children depends on us and that leaving them with baby sitters on a regular basis is not an option for us. We do leave our daughter with my in-laws and another couple that we implicitly trust with her, and get out on those dates once in a while, but for the most part, between crazy work schedules, tight finances, and having a habit of taking our girl with us, those are few and far between.
It’s not that we mind taking our daughter with us. Not at all. It just makes for a different dynamic when we do go out. No longer are long, drawn out conversations over slowly sipped coffee a possibility. Instead, it’s a juggling session of picking up the coffee, swinging it out and around the squirming baby we are holding, taking a quick sip before she grabs the cup, and grabbing her hands away from the pastry she’s also trying to grab, all in one fluid motion. When she gets bored and restless with one parent, the other one takes her. We talk as we walk her, jiggle her, and entertain her with sugar wrappers.
Meals out at restaurants are even more complicated. Dinner is usually eaten quickly rather than savored because we know it’s only a matter of time before she is antsy and disturbing the other diners. Hand holding has been replaced with saving plates of food and water glasses.
We experience delight at our times together as a family, but it has definitely gotten much more complicated than it ever used to be.
Life in the home has also found a new normal. Not a bad one, just different. Mornings aren’t spent laying in bed, talking and snuggling together. Instead, someone is demanding to be gotten out of her crib, changed, fed, and played with, even on the rainiest of days that, pre-children, were just perfect to lay in bed late into the morning.
Rarely is an evening spent alone. Instead our evenings now consist of bath time, play time, reading time, and bed time. We talk to each other while making a little girl laugh as we make puppets dance and throw balls with her, having her clamber in our face for more, more, more!
We love being parents. We wouldn’t trade it for anything. This is not a negative commentary by any means. It’s simply a reflection on how life is different. If your marriage isn’t in a place where communication is strong and you haven’t yet learned how to argue effectively, having kids will make these areas of marriage even more difficult.
There also needs to be a sense of security in the relationship you have as husband and wife that can stay strong beyond lack of dates, lack of romantic gifts, and yes, even lack of sex. Having kids doesn’t mean these things have to disappear out of a marriage, but there will be times, such as a child’s illness or in the newborn days, when those things are not constant like they once were, but instead sporadic.
A love that goes beyond romance and extends into respect and commitment is what will get a couple through the child-rearing years when some days are more full of the reality of puke and poop, messes and fights, than they are of romantic getaways and surprise jewelry.
You’re Ready to Give of Yourself
I have a mentor who says all of us are innately selfish, and that is, unfortunately, very true. If you find it hard to give of your time and money, and would rather spend it all on you or your spouse, then you’re not ready for children.
Children need and demand but give little back. If you can honestly say that you’re ready to be so hungry you could eat a horse but instead are willing to spend time making sure your little one eats first or that you are ready to give up buying yourself new clothes in order to make sure your kiddo has a snowsuit and boots, then your heart is ready for a child.
If, however, you don’t like the thought of being tied down and unable to take spontaneous trips with your husband and no longer having time to read books or watch favorite movies on a lazy winter afternoon, then perhaps you need to re-think whether or not you’re ready for that new little human to come into your life.
This article may make it sound like life has to be perfectly in order before you should get pregnant. I definitely don’t mean it to sound that way. Life will never be that way, no matter how much you attempt to prepare, but there are definitely things to look at before starting a family.
When everything feels that it is as good as it’s going to get for this stage of your life, then there is one other determining factor when it comes to knowing if it’s time to have a baby. It’s how you knew your husband was the right one: you just know.