How do people decide to have kids? Is it a matter of logically analyzing choices, or is it purely emotional?
It’s a combination of a lot of things
Some people have always known they wanted to be parents. Others unexpectedly get what’s known as “baby fever,” which is a real thing for all genders. And others want children because of societal expectations.
However no matter how strong the urge is to have an adorable bundle of joy, there are certain considerations people should weigh before taking the plunge. These include things you can’t control, like your age; but also resources you have to assess —finances, health, and emotional readiness.
Age vs. readiness – the biology factor
One of the most important things to discuss with your partner is how many children you want while taking into consideration your age.
If you want to have multiple kids, generally you’ll have a better chance if you start younger. In the Netherlands, the Erasmus University Medical Center discovered the optimal age limits for family size. For 2 children without IVF, people should ideally start their families by the surprisingly early age of 27.
There are also lots of reproductive assistance options these days. IVF is available. Freezing your eggs now to use when you’re older is now possible. Using a surrogate is an option. Adoption is another possibility.
The sociology factor
However, you shouldn’t have a baby just because you’re a certain age.
Experts agree that health, financial, and emotional readiness should play a bigger role in your decision than age alone.
With that in mind, here are some things to keep in mind if you and your partner are considering having a family:
Healthier couples have a better chance of having a healthy baby, so before you conceive, take control of your health as much as you can with these recommendations.
- Get a preconception couples’ health check-up. The March of Dimes recommends that you talk about your family health history and any potential genetic conditions you could be carrying.
- Mothers: start taking a prenatal vitamin.
- Both: Get to a healthy weight and BMI for you.
- For both: cut back on caffeine, alcohol, and illicit drugs. Beyond that, make sure that any medications you’re taking won’t affect a pregnancy if that’s the route you’re taking. If you or your partner have a chronic health condition that requires you to take medication that can cause birth defects, come up with a plan for the pregnancy that will ensure a safe pregnancy journey.
- Maintain a positive outlook where you can. The drugs and alcohol are pretty obvious to most, but did you know that too much caffeine negatively affects sperm? It does.
- Look at all your assets, income, debts, and expenses so you know where you’re starting. Get your free yearly credit report to get a handle on your finances.
- If you know you will use IVF , a surrogate, or other reproductive assistance, figure out what insurance will and won’t pay for in your state.
- Consider your living situation and vehicle. Do you live close to family right now—if not, is now the right time to move closer? Does your current space have enough room for a baby or will you need to start a new apartment search right now? Does your current vehicle have enough room for an infant seat, or do you need to start looking for a new car? Now is the time to figure this out.
- Pay down debt. The fewer debt payments you have to make, the more money you will have available.
- Save a little cushion. Most financial planners recommend saving 6 to 8 months of income to cover your necessary expenses in case of emergency, illness, or job lay-off.
- Be realistic about expenses. 1 in 3 families now spend 20 percent or more of their annual household income on childcare. That’s no joke!
- Have a child care plan. Do you know how much daycare costs in your area? Start looking into providers and getting an idea of the different options.
- Does one of you want to stay home with the baby, and can you afford to? For this one, you should do a cost-benefit analysis. Will childcare actually cost more or about the same as what you earn? Then you might want to stay home. But if you’re dependent on your job’s health insurance and other benefits, then you may have to go back to work.
You should also weigh whether or not you have the personality to be a stay-at-home parent— some people prefer to be out of the house, and there’s nothing wrong with that.
Once you’ve determined you’re ready in terms of finances and health, now you can assess whether you and your partner are ready for parenthood emotionally.
You’ll want to pick a time when both of you can relax, so maybe take your partner out to dinner. Use this list as a starting point for an honest, vulnerable discussion about your hopes and fears about parenthood.
Talk about children
- Do you enjoy spending time with children?
- Think back to your childhood and talk about what you liked and didn’t like. How will you be the same as your parents? Different?
- Have you and your partner decided whether you’ll raise your child in a certain religion and other values?
Talk about your relationship
Are you ready for how parenthood will change your relationship? Strong relationships usually stay strong and weaker ones tend to weaken.
Most couples cite the first few months of parenthood as the most stressful as you must get used to your new roles, your new baby, and possibly recover from childbirth all at the same time. Are you both committed to working hard on both parenting and your relationship? Can you have reasonable discussions about your problems?
Now is the time to resolve any long-standing issues.
Talk to friends
Next, gather more information from friends who are parents. Pick their brains, too. Ask for an honest conversation about their lives to see what they like, what they don’t like, what they wish they’d known.
The ultimate decision
Deciding to have a baby is influenced by lots of factors, but it can’t be reduced to mere logic. It’s largely a matter of how you and your partner feel about the lifestyle change and whether your relationship is strong enough to handle the challenge.