Speak to other parents: Leading up to the birth of my child, there was much in the way of warnings and serious advice to the tune of “You’d best start getting your sleep in now” and “Oh boy, your life is over!” I can recall turning to a colleague who gave warnings in this vein and suggested she keep all the negative warnings away from me, as I was looking forward to being a dad. There will undoubtedly be horror stories of projectile bodily fluids and endless nights of sleep, but I’ll never forget the moment a friend asked me what it felt like, the day my child was born. I found it so difficult to put into words, but I was a different person from just 24 hours before. My whole being felt full. I wanted to burst with a mixture of pride and newfound love for this little person who had entered my wife. I found myself willing to threaten and argue with nurses who were just trying to do their job. The instinct to protect was strong, to say the least.
In discussion with other fathers my age, friends who have moved away and with whom I don’t often get to speak, sometimes a different story is told. From having to work longer and harder to support the new family, not being able to connect very well with a burping, eating and excreting machine to finding their children an unexpected inconvenience, I wondered how their experience could be so different!
Here are some factors to consider when deciding whether or not this is the right time to be a parent.
Why would you like to have a child? What reasons have motivated your decision to start a family? Are you internally or externally motivated? In other words, are you doing this for your own reasons or because you are expected to by your partner, family or society? When we are motivated internally, it can make the role of parenting so much easier, as you have chosen this for yourself. Too many people believe that it is simply the next logical step or will be the factor that saves a struggling relationship. Too often this will lead to resentment of the child and the family unit.
Are you on the same page as your partner? Do you both want a child for the same reasons, or are your motivations slightly different? If you are good at problem solving together and keeping the wellbeing of your relationship and potential family as your primary concern, the new challenges posed by a child should be surmountable!
Are you financially ready to have a child? A baby brings new financial responsibilities and stressors. Do your homework long before a pregnancy. From gynaecologist visits to a stay in hospital, the costs start to add up significantly before the child is even here! Find out about what basic commodities like nappies and formula cost and how often you’ll be replacing them. Children get sick easily as their immune system begins to develop and paediatrician visits can sting the back pocket. Knowing what you’re in for financially can help you to make the decision and begin to budget for a child, long before they are even conceived.
Are you prepared for the lifestyle changes? Having a new baby means that life is going to change in a major way. Have you come to terms with this? It could mean substantially less leisure time, which we often become accustomed to as part of our routine. Weekends are notably determined by the nature of your partner and your relationship with them. Decide long before if you are ready to go from being a couple to a family!
Do you have support? Having a child when you know that it will only be you and your partner, with no familial assistance or external help in the form of carers and babysitters, means that your free time will be close to nil. This may mean that at some point, there will be a sort of burnout, which will have wide repercussions. If you aren’t likely to have help, set an agreement with your partner about offering each other free time, by looking after your child while the other has a chance to go out and recharge!