Am I Ready for a Baby?
The Love, Happiness & Success Podcast with Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby
Having a child is one of the coolest, most meaningful experiences a human being can have. It’s also a mind-blowingly huge responsibility. How can you decide if you want to become a parent? And if that is your heart’s desire, how can you know when you’re ready for a baby?
These aren’t easy questions to answer. Many people arrive in couples counseling or even individual therapy at this particular crossroads in their lives.
Some of these clients believe that once they have a better place to live, or a better job title, or a certain balance in their savings account, then they’ll feel ready to build a family. Others aren’t sure what they’re waiting for, aside from an internal sense of certainty and readiness. Still others feel ambivalent about having kids at all, but worry they may run out of time to have biological children and regret not acting sooner.
The truth is, none of us are ever “ready” for a baby. The experience of having a child will change you, your relationship, and your day-to-day life in ways you can’t fully anticipate or prepare for. That’s part of the fun of parenthood… but it can also be a major source of anxiety, particularly if you’re someone who likes to know what’s going to happen next.
This article will help you explore your desire to have a baby, and find clarity about your next steps. If you’d prefer to listen, I’ve also created an episode of the Love, Happiness and Success podcast on this topic. It’s a conversation between myself and my colleague Brittany S., a marriage counselor and parent coach on our team at Growing Self. I hope you’ll find it helpful. You can find the episode on this page, Apple podcasts, Spotify, or wherever you listen.
How to Get Ready to Have a Baby
No matter how much you prepare for fatherhood or motherhood, the experience of having a baby will always be different than you thought it would be. Even if you read all the baby books and follow all the parenting advice to a T, you’ll still be improvising your role as a parent every day, and being continuously invited to grow and evolve in ways you can’t even imagine yet.
But there are a few areas of your life to explore as you’re getting ready to have a baby:
- Relationship Health — If you are partnered and you’re planning to have a child together, is your relationship fundamentally healthy? Your bond with your partner will be the foundation of your family. It’s worth investing in the health and strength of that relationship before becoming parents, because parenthood and even pregnancy can stress your relationship in surprising ways. This work also gives you a roadmap for nurturing your relationship after you have kids. If you’re not sure about the health of your relationship, start with our “How Healthy Is Your Relationship” quiz.
- Career & Finances — Let’s be real. Raising kids is expensive, and parenting can make it challenging (but not impossible) to continue climbing the career ladder. You don’t need to reach all of your professional or financial goals before you have a child, but it’s worth taking some time to think about how you intend to juggle work and parenting, while continuing to move toward your goals.
- Emotional Health — It takes strength, resilience, emotional intelligence, and a deep well of self-love to be the best parent you can be. If you struggle in these areas, working with a good individual therapist prior to having kids is a smart move. Once you become a parent, prioritizing yourself will only be more difficult. Building your “emotional self-care” toolkit now can help you prepare for common challenges along the path to parenthood, including postpartum depression or coping with pregnancy loss.
Your Timeline — As much as you might like to get all of these elements perfectly in place before having kids, the reality is that, for women, fertility takes a sharp nosedive around 40. If you want to have biological children and infertility is a concern for you, or for your partner, you’ll have to balance all of these factors against nature’s timeline. You might consider freezing some eggs as soon as possible if the biological clock is ticking and you still need a few years to get ready for a baby.
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What Is Your Why?
Your reasons for having a baby actually matter more than all of the practical considerations that you’re trying to get just right. If you have an intrinsic drive to raise, nurture, and love a child, then that’s a sign that you’re emotionally ready (or getting ready) to move forward into parenthood.
But that’s not the only reason people have kids. Getting clear about your “why” will help you avoid making this monumental life decision for the wrong reasons.
Here are some signs that you’re not ready for a baby:
- You’re Feeling A Lot of External Pressure — Maybe this pressure is coming from your family, society, your partner, or even just from the reality that you’re coming up on your “deadline” for conceiving a child naturally and you’re understandably worried about the possibility of infertility and pregnancy loss. Rather than responding to external pressures, tune into your own emotional guidance system as you make this big decision.
- Your Partner Doesn’t Really Want Kids — If your partner doesn’t want kids, or shrugs their shoulders half-heartedly and says “maybe someday” when you talk about having a baby, take that information at face value and respect their right to make this choice for themselves. You deserve a willing and enthusiastic coparent, and your child deserves the same.
- You’re Hoping a Child Will Fix Your Relationship — Children are lovely, but they do not make relationships easier. Keeping your relationship strong after a baby is tough. It will uncover its weak points — not repair them. If you need to work on your relationship (as every couple does), it will be easier for you and better for your children if you start that work, ideally with the help of a good couples counselor, prior to becoming parents. That will give you the tools you need to get through hard times together, rather than falling apart.
- You or Your Partner Aren’t In a Good Place — Substance abuse. Codependent relationships. Untreated depression or anxiety. Trauma. Dysfunctional family roles. Problems like these are very common, but they can have a negative impact on the trajectory of your childrens’ lives if they aren’t proactively addressed. If you or your partner have a problem to resolve, doing that work before having kids will allow you to be the parents you want to be, and avoid passing these challenges down to the next generation.
Creating Your Five-Year Plan
If you have the luxury of delaying for a few years before you become a parent (and not everyone does), think about the things you need to do between now and then to make that dream a reality.
For many single people, it’s finding a healthy, loving, committed relationship. If you have struggled to find that kind of relationship in the past, and you’re starting to worry about running out of time to have kids, one of the smartest moves you can make is to get involved in high-quality dating coaching, not with a self-anointed “coach” who doesn’t have relevant training or experience, but with a licensed therapist who specializes in relationships and also offers dating coaching (learn more about what a dating coach does).
Many people want their careers to be in a certain place before they try to become pregnant. If that’s the case for you, wanting a child can be an excellent motivator to get clear about your career goals and make a professional development plan to bring them to fruition. If finances are a consideration, start making a plan now for how you’re going to reach your financial goals (like paying down debt, earning a certain amount, creating a savings cushion). You don’t have to have all the pieces in order before you start taking steps to become a parent, but having a plan will help you feel confident and ready.
Finally, recognize that parenthood never goes 100% according to plan. We all have to learn on the job, identify what we need after problems arise, and trust ourselves to course correct as we go. If you’re waiting until every element of your life is perfect, then the right time to have a baby will never come. If, on the other hand, you are willing to be flexible, resourceful, and devoted to your own personal growth throughout this journey, then that is a sign you are ready to be a parent.
Getting Help with Building Your Family
Building a family can be daunting, and many couples and individuals could benefit from support. Whether you would like to work on your relationship in couples counseling, your parenting skills in parent coaching, or on your own patterns with support from a dating coach or therapist, we’re here for you. We invite you to schedule a free consultation with one of our relationship experts today.
Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby
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Am I Ready for a Baby?
The Love, Happiness & Success Podcast with Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby
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Music in this episode is by Lifeformed with their song “Light Pollution.” You can support them and their work by visiting their Bandcamp page here: https://lifeformed.bandcamp.com/. Under the circumstance of use of music, each portion of used music within this current episode fits under Section 107 of the Copyright Act, i.e., Fair Use. Please refer to copyright.gov if further questions are prompted.
Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby is the founder and clinical director of Growing Self. She is a licensed psychologist, a licensed marriage and family therapist, and a board-certified coach, as well as the author of “Exaholics: Breaking Your Addiction to Your Ex Love,” and the host of The Love, Happiness & Success Podcast.
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