Deciding to start a family can be exciting yet anxiety-producing — all at the same time. Becoming a parent is basically a dive into the unknown. You can read and talk about it as much as you’d like and aim to be financially prepared, but you may never really feel like you’re completely ready for the major life change. Nevertheless, there are some things prospective parents can address and prepare for before they decide to start a family, which could help couples feel like they were thoughtful and responsible about the decision. Here are four important things you should consider:
1. Work-Life Balance
Kids will require a large amount of your time and energy. If you have a demanding job or you or your partner are still completing your studies, a child can throw off your work/study-life balance as you know it. It’s essential to have an extensive discussion with your partner about what roles each will play when a new baby comes along. How much time can you each afford to dedicate to work and studies versus family? Compromises need to be made, and teamwork is essential to navigating your career responsibilities, as well as the demands from your home life.
Look into your workplace policies on maternity and paternity leave. Consider dividing the leaves so that each parent gets time off to care for the new baby while the other parent works. For example, the mother can take leave for the birth of the baby, and the father can take his leave after hers ends. It will be better for your child because you’ll delay your child’s entry into the daycare system until the baby’s immune system is stronger and they’re more physically active.
2. The Effect on Your Relationship
Your relationship will likely be affected suddenly when the baby is born. A child doesn’t come into the world gradually. You won’t have the luxury of time to adapt to a new baby’s arrival. Unfortunately, the relationship may need to be put on the backburner as the needs of the baby come first, followed by sleep and self-care.
Effective communication should already be the foundation of your relationship. If it’s not, consider meeting regularly with a marriage or relationship counselor to improve how you speak and listen to each other as a couple. You’ll need good communication skills to navigate one of the most challenging yet memorable changes in your life as you grow your family. And it will continue to be necessary for your family’s future long after the birth of a child.
There are many other important milestones you may want to meet, including buying a home, moving cities, or changing careers. The ability to speak about your fears and dreams with your partner and feel truly heard and supported is critical to your success as a couple. As for the unfortunate case of divorce, being able to communicate and compromise on your individual needs for the sake of your children can make all the difference in how they remember their childhood.
3. Financial Preparedness
Parents would ideally love to have the child’s full college fund in a savings account by the time the child is born. But in most cases, that’s a pipe dream. Don’t let pressures from others add to your anxiety about whether you’re prepared or not. There are some finance-related things you should aim to address before a baby comes into the picture. A critical one is debt.
Pay off as much of your debt as you can while your household expenses are still low. Save money towards an emergency fund to cover at least six month’s worth of expenses for you and your growing family’s peace of mind. And make sure you have quality healthcare coverage privately or through your employer to cover your spouse’s and child’s birth and medical care.
4. Practical Safety Tips
Lifestyle changes may be necessary once you decide to have children. You may need to reconsider your living arrangements for the safety and benefit of young children. A safer vehicle with child-proof locks and easier access for installing a car seat may need to be a priority.
Childproofing your current home or apartment and switching to paints that are chemical-free and safe to use while you’re pregnant could give your child’s immune system a strong start. If you live in a space with many stairs or easy access to a swimming pool, you should take action to minimize the potential for injury. If the changes are expensive or complicated, consider moving to a home with fewer dangers for a child.
You and your significant other should view yourselves as partners in all aspects of life. You’ll need each other’s advice, help, and support through one of the most magnificent but challenging times in your life. Take things slowly, use each other as a sounding board, and don’t forget to enjoy the journey.
About Beau Peters