Do you ever look at people with kids and think, How did they know when they were ready?
It seems counterintuitive, but sometimes the best way to answer a big life-changing question is … with more questions. You don’t have to know all the answers, but considering the points below will help you dive deeper into the details of parenting. And in doing so, you may find yourself leaning towards the “I am so ready!” camp or the “Let me take a few years to figure out a few more things” camp. If you’re wondering where to pitch your tent, let’s get started.
How to know if you’re ready for a baby
As you consider whether the timing is right, keep these mantras in mind:
- There’s no right or wrong answer.
- Now’s the time to be 100% honest with yourself.
- You might never know if now is truly the right time — and that’s OK!
1. At this point in my life, do I like babies? What about toddlers? And teens?
Don’t overthink this — just go with your immediate gut response. Keep in mind: You will feel differently about your own baby, toddler and teen compared to every other one you’ve encountered (including your sweet niece and the tantrum-throwing toddler at the grocery store last week). Many parents are naturally more comfortable or even prefer some ages and stages over others — that’s normal.
2. Am I OK with spending my time differently than I do now?
You can think of this as either giving things up or gaining new things to do. (Hint: How you feel about it could be telling.) Know that you can (and should!) still enjoy the activities and hobbies you loved before becoming a parent, but they may not happen as frequently, or there might be more logistics involved, especially in the beginning. On the flip side, you may find great joy in how you fill your days as a new parent.
3. What is the status of my relationship?
First, you certainly don’t have to be in one to have a baby. But if you are, is it a healthy relationship? Are you happy? How does your partner feel about having a baby? Also, remember: As magical as babies can be, they don’t enter this world and immediately fix relationships. They can help a relationship grow, adding more love than you ever thought possible — but they can also add strain.
4. Is my home suitable for a baby?
We’re not talking about those swoon-worthy nurseries that pop up in your social media feeds. Honestly, babies don’t need as many things as society leads us to believe. But do consider the amount of space you have; how many flights of stairs you (and eventually your toddler) will have to climb; neighborhood safety; local schools (if you plan on being there for a while); your and/or your partner’s commute to work; access to a yard, park or green space; access to sidewalks and/or walkability; and how many young families live close by.
5. How much do I know about having a baby and being a parent?
You don’t have to be a parenting expert (and let’s be honest — is anyone ever, really?). But do consider how much you have been around babies; for example, did you have younger siblings or babysit regularly? If not, that’s OK! Consider checking out some parenting books, reading some articles online, or simply talking to, or hanging out with, family members or friends who have young children.
6. When do I think is an ideal time to have a baby?
Have you always had a particular age or decade in mind? If so, are you in that life stage now? Being a younger or an older parent comes with advantages and disadvantages — so there’s no right or wrong answer. When deciding whether it’s the right time for you, keep in mind that it can take a long time to get pregnant. In fact, trying to conceive (TTC) for up to a year is considered perfectly natural. But it also could happen right away!
It’s also important to keep in mind how many children you want to have and how far apart you want to have them — you’ll need more time to have four kids versus two.
7. Am I done with school?
If you’re in school, how much time do you have left? Can you juggle school and a baby — and possibly a job? (Many people do, but it’s good to think about some potential scenarios now.) If you’re not in school, do you plan to go to school, go back to school, get a degree, get another degree or get a higher degree? If so, will you also work?
8. Where am I career-wise?
Are you happy with your current position and workplace, or do you expect to make a change soon? Is your job stable? Do you think you’ll continue to work after the baby is born, and if so, will that be part-time or full-time? Does your job or your partner’s job offer parental leave, paid or otherwise? Answering these questions might prompt some changes you might want to make before TTC. Or maybe not! Again, there are no right or wrong answers here.
9. What does childcare look like, and how will it work?
Consider how you might handle childcare. Will you need full-time or part-time care? What do the childcare options and costs in your area look like? You may have parents, siblings or other close relatives who can watch the baby, or you can start looking into daycares, in-home babysitting services or nannies. Be aware that waiting lists for many daycares span several months, if not longer!
10. Who’s in my “village”?
Think about how much support you will have. Do you have parents or family members who live close by who will be able to help? If not, what about friends? If you’re new to an area or don’t personally know anyone who lives close to you, that’s OK! Think about details in terms of visiting family members or friends. Also think about how you might begin connecting with those in your neighborhood. And don’t forget about healthcare providers — do you have a primary care physician and ob-gyn you connect with and trust ?
11. How is my health?
Is there a surgery you’ve been putting off or a medical issue you’ve avoided dealing with? How’s your mental health? If it’s not great, are you seeing a counselor or therapist, or addressing it in some way? If you have a physical or mental health condition that needs to be addressed, talk to a healthcare provider. The sooner you take care of it — whether you plan on having a baby now or later — the better you’ll feel. Are you in good health? You should still make an appointment with your healthcare provider if you’re considering having a baby to make sure you’re up to date on your vaccinations, to discuss any current medications you’re taking, and more.
12. Am I financially ready for a baby?
This is a deeply personal question. Here’s what you should consider:
- Your personal debt including student loans
- Upcoming expenses
- The cost of your current lifestyle
- The cost of the lifestyle you hope to live 10 years from now
- The potential costs of having a baby and raising a child
- Your long-term goals
If you still don’t have a great sense for whether now’s the right time to have a baby, that’s OK. Just be honest and patient with yourself, and remember that you don’t need to know all the answers ahead of time. Sometimes the most exciting adventures in life are unexpected. If you’re still unsure, trust your heart and head to guide you. And when it’s time, we’ll be here with lots of useful information to help you along the way.
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