Trying to decide whether to start a family can be overwhelming. There is so much to think about, and it is hard to ever feel fully prepared.
Even if you have the desire to raise children, the question of timing is a big one. Is this the year you should take on the role of a parent and the responsibility for another human life? Would it be better to wait another year — or five? How does your partner factor into the decision? Are you both on the same page? How can you be sure the time is right?
When it comes to making big decisions, sometimes getting started is the hardest part. To help with that crucial first step in family planning, here’s a look at some of the key factors to keep in mind.
- Your relationship: Before bringing a baby into the family, it is worth thinking about how your relationship with your partner is going. Are the two of you able to communicate? Do you handle conflict well, or do you push issues under the rug? Are you in a place of stability or turmoil? While no parents are perfect, it’s important to give your child a happy and secure place to call home. Consider whether your relationship will be able to withstand the demands and pressures of caring for a child together. Keep in mind that adding a kid to the family will increase, not decrease, your stress levels. That’s why you should invest in developing the necessary skills for healthy interaction. See a counselor if necessary. Prepare to start a family by working toward a healthy partnership long before a child comes into play.
- Your physical health: The health of each partner plays a big role in fertility, not to mention pregnancy outcomes. This is especially true for a woman hoping to become pregnant. It is a good idea to assess your physical condition before trying to conceive. Are you at a healthy weight? When was the last time you had a blood test, and how did the numbers look? Are you at risk for any diseases, and if so, could you be tested for them now? Because fertility tends to decrease with age, there are some downsides to putting off pregnancy too long. If you are seriously thinking about having a baby, you may want to see a gynecologist to make sure you are physically healthy.
- Your careers: The reality is, having a child will bring new challenges of many kinds and may impact your personal and professional goals. That is one big reason some couples put off parenthood today. Before trying to get pregnant, ask yourself if there are any items on the to-do list that you want to accomplish before kids come along: finishing college, getting a promotion, making a certain income, traveling to a particular destination, etc. If you check off these accomplishments, you won’t have to look back with regret at the pre-kid days.
- Your finances: Obviously, having kids costs money. Right away, you have to pay for prenatal care and that whopping hospital bill for delivery. (On the low end, expect to pay several thousand dollars for a normal vaginal delivery; on the high end, delivery can cost more than $37,000 per child for a vaginal birth or close to double that for a C-section with special care.) In 2015, a middle-class, two-child married couple spent an average of $12,980 annually per child. As kids age, you’ll face increased expenses for food, transportation, extracurricular activities, and sports. Are you on track to handle these costs? Could you start saving more now?
- Your location and support system: Where you live — and who lives near you — can also play a big role in helping you decide when to have kids. Most couples will say that having loving family members or close friends nearby can be a game-changer in how difficult parenting is, especially during the younger-child years. Do you have people in the area who can babysit, give advice, or help in other ways? What does your geographic location have to offer children? Is your neighborhood home to good schools, libraries, and parks? Are you worried about crime? Is the community family-friendly? These factors can influence your level of comfort for having kids.
- Your expectations: Last but not least, what expectations do you and your partner have about raising children? Talk about the kind of parents you want to be. Give some thought to the areas where you differ and the ones where you agree. How will you approach lifestyle changes that come with having a baby? How do you expect to divide roles and tasks? The more you discuss, the more confidently you will approach the parenting stage as a team.
As you can tell from this list, there is a lot to think about as you consider starting a family. When discussing these key issues with your partner, you may gain clarity on whether now is the right time for children. For more information on this topic, the accompanying infographic is a great resource. It includes a list of questions to ask yourself and your partner, along with relevant statistics on the costs of parenthood in America today. Check it out to continue your research.
Infographic provided by Natera