Permanent. Irreversible. Life changing, and unlike anything you’ve ever experienced. These are words that describe what it means to bring a baby into this world. But with something so lasting, how can you ever know when is really the right time? Deciding to dive into parenthood is deeply personal, so it’s good to consider your true feelings about the topic.
First, do you even want to be a parent?
There is no wrong answer to that question. It could be a resounding YES, a pensive NOT YET, or a definitive NO WAY, NEVER! Everyone is different, so spend some time thinking about why you want children (if you do) and if you’d be genuinely disappointed to not have that experience in your life (if you don’t). If you find that the reasons you consider having a baby are more external (such as wanting to please your parents, being left behind by your friends, or feeling like procreation is simply the next thing to check off your to-do list in the game of life) then maybe you should hold off. There are a ton of ways to contribute to life’s bigger picture that don’t include raising children, and passing on parenthood is a completely legitimate option.
How’s your mental and emotional health?
Surprise! You don’t have to be a perfectly adjusted person to be a parent. No one is. However, some thought and consideration should be put into whether or not you’re prepared to put the needs and wellness of your child ahead of your own. Parenting is not always a two-way street or a reciprocal relationship and parenting well means taking care of your own needs while anticipating and attending to your child’s, which isn’t always easy to do. People often need to process and heal from their own childhood before being able to break generational patterns and truly show up for their kids — which is something therapy is excellent for.
Are you well-partnered?
People are able to more easily choose to have a baby on their own now which takes care of the “being on the same page as your partner” issue. But for those who are considering parenthood with their partner, both of you wanting to have a child together is imperative. Someone who wants to have a child should get to and someone who doesn’t, shouldn’t be forced. Parenting with a reluctant partner makes for a lifetime of resentment and isn’t good for anyone.
Babies are also a huge stressor on a relationship, especially in the first year. It may seem obvious, but all too often people ignore the importance of being well-matched and in a good place in your relationship when you decide to have a baby — because it’s going to be harder for a while, not easier. You’ll be short on sleep, less tolerant, having less sex, and actually learning how to be a parent (which inevitably will be different from your significant other). There will be a learning curve and some bumps as you navigate the big change together, so it’s smart to be in a good place in your relationship from the start. Babies never solve relationship problems.
Are you too old, or too young?
There are pros and cons to having a baby when you’re young as well as having a baby later in life. The perks of having a baby young include increased fertility, a body that can bounce back more quickly, and more energy. While the benefit of being older is that you’re likely to be more patient, have more experience with kids, be more established in your career, and have more financial stability.
Do you have a social support team?
It’s really important to consider what kind of community you have to support you throughout the many stages of parenthood. Having family close by, hired help, friends who also have children, and parenthood groups are all good options. Often, the parents who have strong communities and social support make the transition into happy parenthood best.
What are the logistics? How would this really work?
Kids are expensive, especially if you need childcare in the years before kindergarten (the average cost of preschool in Los Angeles is $1000/month). Would you and/or your partner continue to work? If so, who would watch the kids? Where would they go to school? Asking yourselves the important questions beforehand will help determine if you are really ready to be a parent.
Jaimi Brooks, M.A. is a therapist in Los Angeles helping people navigate the tricky parts of being human. In addition to providing individual therapy, Jaimi runs therapy groups including a Motherhood + Identity Group, Entrepreneurial Women Group, and a Premarital Prep Group.