When is the ideal time to have a baby as a couple?
You’ve found yourself at a place in your relationship where you and partner are starting to have the discussion of “When is the ideal time to have a baby as a couple?” You and your partner may be realizing that, you’re not so sure how to answer this question for you. For the couples who are in a place where the decision hasn’t been made for them just yet, actively making the call and letting nature/fate/universe, etc. take over your life can feel overwhelming, and just place scary. Many couples tend to experience a sort of tug-of-war, between: I want a child in my 20’s so that I can be young enough to have the energy to run around with a child, versus I want more time to be prepared for parenthood, I want to focus on my own development, I want to travel, I want to save money, get more established in a career and am I running out of time? It’s very normal for couples in their 30’s and beyond to start to feel guilty or short on time for conceiving because of the statistics around struggles to conceiving as you get older. We are a very fortunate society that has been given more time to enjoy more of our 20’s and 30’s as non-parents, but there does come a time when many start to question how much time do I have left before I may be giving up the dream of parenting a biological child? Maybe there really isn’t an ideal time to have a baby. Just different consequences. The following are some areas to consider.
In the recent months to year, have you felt connected to your partner? Do you feel confident the two of you can negotiate over the tougher decisions in relationships? Do you feel on the same page regarding having a baby and what this would look like (re: finances, discipline, expectations, roles, etc.)? There are many struggles and sacrifices that come with parenthood, that will at times shake your confidence as a parent and as a couple. You want to be sure that you feel good about your dynamic during the calmer stages of your relationship, and use this time to continue to build more positive memories to continue to strengthen the relationship. Having a strong relationship is an important piece of the search to identifying an ideal time to have a baby. Raising a child in a stable environment is always easier, but not required.
Your emotional state
There are unexpected issues and struggles that can pop up at anytime for anybody. But, if you struggle with depression, anxiety, anger, or compulsive behaviors or with relationships, you may want to get into better emotional shape before you decide to have a baby. This may look like resolving certain conflicts or problematic relationships that are in your life, seeking guidance and developing a plan through psychotherapy, and/or psychiatry, or working with your partner, friends and family to develop a better self-care routine as a couple and as individuals. Having a strong emotional state is a component of an ideal time to have a baby. Being pregnant is hard. Raising children is a lifelong endeavor. The more emotionally balanced you are, the more able you will be to cope with the pending changes in your life.
Do you have a “village”? Or, who can your “village” be? Do you have parents, or friends who have children who can be of support and can help you whether part-time, or as needed? Perhaps you are the first of your friends to start a family, or maybe you for many reasons you may not have the help of parents or in-laws. There are ways you can create the support system you need with some effort and time. Whether you hire part-time babysitters, a doula, or have neighbors or co-workers who can become a support for you. Whether you are a one parent or two-parent household, or live in a co-op having people you can turn to when you need emotional support, or simply a break, will increase your ease into parenthood.Raising a child is hard work. Now is that time to ask for help. You do not have to be alone. Sometimes all you need to do is ask. The ideal time to have a baby is after you have established a strong support system, however many parents create the support system as they go. Just be prepared for the struggle.
Your Current Lifestyle
Is your current lifestyle conducive to raising a baby? Whether your way to spend downtime is barhopping, or your job keeps you busy 70 hours a week, these are behaviors and schedules that will definitely conflict with raising a baby. For the bar-hoppers out there, having an infant who requires around the clock care and constant attention means saying goodbye to the nightlife, not to mention, for the moms-to-be, you may want to adjust ahead of time to abstaining from alcohol, to make sure this sacrifice (one of the many to come) is for you. For those of you who have more demanding work schedules, now would be the time to assess if you are willing to take the career hit in order to be available to actually spend time with your child. Discuss some of these concerns with your partner, and develop a plan as a couple to hopefully support each other’s priorities and schedules. Something to ask yourself when discussing your plan, is are you ready or willing to give up prioritizing yourself for the needs of another? The ideal time to have a baby is when you are ready or willing to or can at least acknowledge the need to make room for someone elses needs.
Relationship Health / Intimacy
Are you having a baby to save you? Are you having a baby to ensure that your partner will stay with you forever? Such reasons are not healthy or realistic reasons for having a child. You want to make sure your goals of having children are realistic, for example: you love interacting/playing/teaching children, and want one (or more) of your own; you want to leave a legacy; you have love and joy you want to pass on, you and your spouse envisions adding a member (or more) would complete your vision of your family. Are you trying to conceive a child, despite the sexual issues you and your partner have been having? Whether one of you avoids sex, or struggles with sexual functioning? Are you and your partner happy with the amount and the quality of the sex? Do you both feel your sexual needs are met? Giving birth to a child and caring for an infant will be an added obstacle to achieving sex and intimacy with your partner, that you want to make sure that you ware entering this phase on solid ground, especially when it comes to sex and intimacy.
You don’t need to be a millionaire to have a child, but having a small financial safety net is more than helpful when bringing in an addition to the family (which is totally different than unexpectedly dropping everything to raise your nephew after the sudden death of a sibling). The idea of having a financial safety net is especially helpful when the unexpected happens like having twins, or unexpected medical costs The average cost of a child for a middle class family (from birth to graduating high school), is $235,000. This is something to think about when assessing the financial feasibility of having a large family compared to just having one. If you don’t have current financial stability, do you and your partner expect to be in the near future? For example, maybe you or your partner is in the process of building a business, and the income is gradually increasing over time. Other ways to help you feel financially secure may be with the help of your support system (family, friends, etc.) If a financial emergency or need were to happen, it would be truly beneficial to know there are some people in your corner to lend a hand.
Stay at-home parent vs. working parent
Depending on your work and financial situation, you may considering staying at home with your child. Again, depending on your financials situation, you may be wanting to be a stay at home parent, but can’t afford to be right now. Are you ready for either sacrifice? Either the sacrifice of your job in order to stay home be with your child full-time, or the sacrifice of not having that time with your child and having someone else spend that time with him/her. Regardless of what is decided about staying at home versus working, many parents report that actually having a child created many unexpected emotions / feelings and now she / he is doing a complete 180. The stay at home mom needed to go back to work out of boredom. The working dad, felt a stronger than expected need to be home. Are the two of you in a position to be flexible so that you can adjust to parenthood as smoothly as possible?
There are many aspects of life to explore and discuss with your partner when deciding to have a child. It’s also important to keep having these discussions because you will notice over time and depending on what’s going on with your life at the time, you’re answers (and your partner’s) may change. It is crucial to take inventory of your life and really assess where having a child fits into your life right now. However, keep in mind, there is no perfect time to have a child. There’s always going to be “something” challenging you in your life, whether it’s you want to have more money, a bigger home, you lost your job unexpectedly, etc. Having a child is a commitment, and when have made the decision to be a parent, you are committing to making your life work with the addition of a child, regardless.