Am I ready for a baby? This is a common question people ask themselves when they're thinking about having kids. While no one is ever truly prepared for this colossal life change, there are factors that make you better equipped to take on this amazing responsibility.
If you're wondering how to know if you're ready to have a baby, ask yourself these eight questions. Then, if you decide that expanding your family is the right choice for you, we detail seven conversations to have with your significant other to make sure that you are both on the same page.
Questions to Help You Decide 'Am I Ready to Have a Baby?'
They say that honesty is the best policy. The problem is, when it comes to pregnancy and parenthood, our predecessors tend to exclude certain details. In order to make sure that you're fully prepared for this role, there are some important things to ask yourself before just jumping into the role of being a parent.
Are You Considering Having a Baby Because You Want To?
This is the number one question you need to ask yourself. If the answer is no, then you are probably not ready. The decision to have a child needs yours, and yours alone (as well as your significant other if you're in a relationship, of course).
If you want a baby because it checks a box or gets your mother-in-law off your back, you are doing it for the wrong reasons. This is an exceptionally selfless role that requires all of your heart, energy, and sanity. Don't do it unless this is something that you believe will bring joy and fulfillment to your existence.
1. Are You Financially Stable?
Having a baby is expensive. In fact, the Brookings Institution has determined that the estimated cost of raising a child from birth through age 17 is $310,581 as of 2022. This is for married couples who have two kids and earn an average income. That is over $18,000 a year!
You may be thinking that there's no way that formula, diapers, and supplies could ever cost that much, but when you add in healthcare, childcare, and education, the bills add up quickly. This statistic is also assuming that you have a healthy child. Research shows that:
- 3.9 million surgeries are performed on American children every year
- 10-15% of babies born in the U.S. have to go to the NICU
Even with great insurance, these situations can quickly bump up costs even more. While you don't need to have 18 grand in cash at the ready the moment you get pregnant, it helps to have disposable income if you want to avoid taking on a lot of debt. Financial stability is an important component of having a child.
Financial experts from Charles Schwab recommend that people considering parenthood keep "three to six months' worth of essential living expenses readily available for emergencies." By creating a rainy day fund, you can prepare for unexpected illnesses, loss of employment, and general emergencies.
2. If You Are in a Relationship, Is It in a Solid Spot?
Parenthood does not require two people, but if you have a significant other who will be your parenthood partner, it's important that your relationship is in a good spot and that you understand that a baby will not bring you closer together. In fact, this decision could test the strength of your marriage or relationship.
Psychologists note that "the transition to parenthood constitutes a period of stressful and sometimes maladaptive change for a significant proportion of new parents." It can also decrease marital satisfaction. Thus, being in a loving, caring, and equal partnership is crucial to staying sane throughout the epic journey of parenthood.
3. Are You Healthy?
Having a baby drains you. Even if you are in peak condition, surveys show that the average parent loses almost 40,000 minutes of sleep in their first year. That will take a toll on anyone. Add in postpartum hormone swings, consistent cries, and a lack of 'me' time, and suddenly, both your physical and mental health will be impacted.
Being in good health prior to pregnancy also ensures that you and your baby stay healthy throughout pregnancy and in the postpartum period. Many people don't realize that being both overweight and underweight can put you are risk for a slew of pregnancy complications. Chronic medical conditions as well as working and living in certain conditions can diminish your ability to have a healthy pregnancy.
Therefore, get checked out by your doctor and have your partner do the same. This can allow you to address problems prior to pregnancy.
4. Are You Ready to Give Up Your Social Life?
Babies require constant attention and they are great at disrupting your sleep. If you are someone who goes out every night, this can be a big change. Having a baby can also put a halt to your regular travel plans. However, for the folks who are already happy spending most of their free time at home, then having a baby is not as big of an alteration in terms of your social life.
5. Are You Ready to Put Your Career Second?
This question is for both moms and dads, but it's the person actually having the baby who really needs to think this through. We live in the 21st century where women are leaders in business, but sadly, there are still expectations for women to be the 'perfect' mothers. This, in many people's eyes, means stepping away from work. In fact, according to The Mom Project, "an estimated 43% of highly skilled women leave the workforce after becoming mothers."
While this doesn't have to be the case, it's important to remember that we cannot have it all. You can have most of it, but something usually has to give. For instance:
- If you choose to go back to work, then someone else will be with your baby eight hours a day at daycare.
- If you decide to stay at home, you are potentially giving up a piece of your identity.
- If you can find a position that gives you the best of both worlds, you can also find yourself stretched thin.
It is important to decide what you think you can let go of before having a little one. For some, this is a simple decision, but for others, it can be a reason to pause on becoming a parent.
6. Are You Ready to Give up Your Personal Space?
Between feedings, diaper changes, late night sleep disruptions, and, of course, those perfect baby snuggles, your little one will be in your arms for the majority of the day, every day, for the first year. This leads many exhausted parents to Google phrases like "how to get a baby to sleep without being held" because the invasion of personal space can be a lot to get used to.
Then, once they learn to walk, your little toddler will find the urge to explore, but if you dare leave their line of sight, they will find you. Long gone will be the days where you go to the bathroom or shower without a little visitor trying to 'help' you. Oh, and don't forget about the joy of being a human tissue!
These examples are just the tip of the iceberg. Don't get me wrong though, while you will find yourself shouting "mommy needs a minute!" there will also be days where you will also finally get your baby to sleep, sit down in your perfectly quiet house, and immediately find yourself missing them. The question is, are you ready for all of that?
7. Are You Ready for Your Body to Change Forever?
DISCLAIMER: Maybe skip reading these details if you are someone who doesn't want to know how the hot dog is made.
Pregnancy and childbirth will change your body. It will never be the same. Yes, there are those moms who lose all the baby weight and go back to their size two bodies, but it is still not what it was before. Here is the truth that no one shares:
The skin of your stomach will be stretched. The dimensions of your body will change, even if your weight returns to the exact same number. Your boobs will never have quite the same energy as they did before (and that is, if you are lucky). You will gain lasting battle wounds - stretch marks, melasma (a darkening of some areas of the facial skin that often occurs during pregnancy), and linea nigra (a dark vertical line that often emerges on the stomach during pregnancy). And your nether regions are certainly not going to get prettier. Also, don't forget the hemorrhoids (which apparently never really go away), the varicose veins, and all the other joys that motherhood brings.
In other words, you need to be comfortable in your skin and ready for it to change. Remember, these changes may not be what we want, but they are something to be proud of because creating a new life is an amazing feat.
Having a baby doesn't have to change your body. Adoption is a wonderful way to expand your family. Parents who can afford it can also consider surrogacy as an option.
8. The Real Question
If the predominant answer to the questions above was yes, then there is one other key thing to consider - are you ready to love another person more than measure? When you have a child, a piece of your heart will forever reside outside of your body.
You will think about them constantly. You will worry about their wellbeing, even when they are perfectly fine. You will dream of their future and the amazing person they will become. There is no love that can compare.
This is one of the most amazing, rewarding, and gratifying roles that a person can take on, but it is not a role that everyone needs to take on. If you decide to forego becoming a parent, that is okay.
The most important part of being a parent is being willing to put yourself second so that you can be present for this person. That's what they will remember - that you were there. By becoming a parent for the wrong reasons, you are doing a disservice to yourself and your child.
Signs That You Are Ready to Have a Baby
Remember that no one is ever truly ready, but if these statements are true, then you can transition from 'am I ready to have a baby?' to 'should I have a baby right now?'
- YOU (and YOUR PARTNER if you're in a relationship) want to have a baby.
- You have some disposable income.
- You and your partner are healthy (both physically and mentally).
- Your social life isn't as much of a priority anymore.
- You are ready to put a pause on career goals.
- You don't mind people being all up in your space.
- You are confident in your own skin.
- You are ready to put yourself second, A LOT.
Next Steps - Things to Discuss to Help You Answer the Question of 'When'
If you land on the side of the fence where having a baby is what you want, then there are a few more things to discuss:
- Decide how you want to have a baby - pregnancy, surrogacy, or adoption.
- Determine if you want to take time off of work after the baby arrives or if you want to leave work all together.
- Research your parental leave policies.
- Talk about your childcare plans - Will you or your partner leave work? Will you send them to daycare? Will relatives help out? Will you find a new, remote role or go part-time?
- Consider your living situation. Is there room for a little one?
- Figure out if there is a specific religion you want to introduce to your child.
- Talk about responsibilities - If you plan to have a baby with your partner, then they need to be just that, a partner. Discuss your roles and expectations.
These conversations can help you better determine when having a child is best for you. Finally, the last step to figuring out if and when to have a baby is to take a pause.
Take a Pause Before Proceeding
For the next month or two, put the pros and cons aside and put the baby-related conversations on hold (with everyone in your life). Just be present. Take the time to meditate and ruminate over this decision.
Do you find yourself still dreaming of being a parent? Do you see other people with kids and still experience a yearning to have your own? Do you continue to feel any hesitation about the decision?
Find some clarity and then discuss the decision again. This will ensure that you have both thought this through and are not rushing into a very permanent decision.
Take Time to Figure Out If You're Ready to Have a Baby
Having a baby is a big decision. Make sure that you and your partner are ready for this big life step by having the important conversations early. Don't be afraid to be open and honest. If you decide you're ready, there is lots of practical advice for new parents that can help you along the way.