Making this decision is like diving into the unknown. It is the only irreversible decision you and your spouse can make. In fact, the financial and legal implications of child-rearing and parenting can be overwhelming. But becoming a parent isn’t as scary as you might think. How do you know if you’re making the right choice? Here are some tips to help you navigate the sometimes-choppy waters of starting a family.
Are you and your spouse on the same page?
As you probably know, relationships, even the good ones aren’t the same once a child is born. Especially during the first year, both parents are sleep-deprived, dealing with new financial responsibilities, diaper woes and less quality time with each other. You both need to speak honestly and openly about whether you are ready to start a family at this particular time. You need to be emotionally ready. It is important to consider, if you and your spouse feel secure enough in your relationship to become parents. Some hesitation and uncertainty are normal but if you are feeling turmoil, it may mean that this is not the right moment. You may need to take some time to resolve underlying issues that can fester when a baby enters the picture. If your relationship is strong, you should be able to ride out the transitional period together. But if you’re already on shaky ground with your spouse, starting a family will likely make it worse.
Are you financially ready?
With all the anticipation and joy that comes with starting a family, it is no secret that raising even just one child is expensive. Having children also marks one of the most significant financial changes in parents’ lives. In addition to buying clothes, baby supplies, food, and paying tuition expenses, there is also the added pressure of an uncertain economy. You might have to consider if your current house is suitable or do you need to consider moving to a new house.
You may also want to consider whether you will be a one income or two-income family. There are pros and cons to both arrangements, but the main issue is that you are on the same page or at least have an acceptable compromise. Another issue of relevance is how starting a family will affect your career(s). Whether one or both of you will continue to work, what will be the hours, is there flexibility, maternity leave, as well as the possibility and reality of promotions.
Do you have outside support?
Support from friends and family can help you cope with the stress. If your budget is tight but Grandma and Grandpa live in town, you’ve just saved yourself a wealth of babysitting expenses. If you’re going to be a stay-at-home-mom and you already have close friends and family near, you’ll probably be a much happier one. Outside support allows you time for yourself, date nights with your spouse and clean laundry when you’re too tired to do it yourself. It’s not a necessity, but it will greatly impact the ease or difficulty with which you transition into parenthood. Parents may be tempted to spend less time with friends and family being overwhelmed by the task ahead but this is precisely what they shouldn’t do. The more parents surround themselves and their baby with loving social support the healthier and happier the baby will grow up to be.
How far apart should you space your kids?
Considering having another child? After your first child is born, family planning takes on new meaning. Having another child will change your family’s lives. There are certain questions you and your spouse need to answer. Are you ready to take care of a newborn again? How will your other child or children react to sharing your attention with a new baby?
It’s also important to consider the timing of your pregnancies. While you and your spouse might have preferences about how close in age you’d like your children to be, research shows that spacing pregnancies too close together or too far apart can pose health risks for both mother and baby. While some experts believe that closely spaced pregnancies don’t give a mother enough time to recover from the physical stress of one pregnancy, others believe that long intervals between pregnancies can pose concerns for mothers and babies.
Choosing when to have another baby is a personal decision. While it may be difficult to plan for everything in life, starting a family shouldn’t be one of them. By carefully considering all factors related to bringing a child into the world, you give yourself a chance to be the best possible parent to your little one.