My husband and I spent months discussing the major (and frightening) life change of parenthood. So, what would a writer and a marketer do? Research, discuss, research, discuss. We asked friends, family, professionals with children of varying ages and did comparison studies researching the optimal conditions for starting a family and what having a child would mean for us. After all the advice we heard about the readiness of a couple to have a baby, we essentially heard “You’ve got to trust your gut”. Beyond this simple and vague advice, we discovered the five core elements for parenthood preparedness.
Emotionally Ready –
It’s frightening to think that you mark your children merely by being yourself. – Simone de Beauvoir
I am not going to put an age on here, because no matter the age, some people just aren’t ready or even want to be parents. I hate hearing the “Oh, you should be 30 to have a kid.” I know a lot of people in their thirties and some people act like they’re still freshman in college with late night binge drinking, fraternity and sorority drama, and shirking relationship and professional responsibilities. Some people, got it together. They know who they are, what they want, they’ve accomplished a good lot of their personal goals, they’re comfortable with themselves and they’re ready to be parents. If you’re in your twenties and can handle the emotional, spiritual, and physical demand of parenthood (let alone with a healthy child) then you’re ready to be a parent.
Parenting is not just about going through the motions of providing and physically caring for a child. It’s about the emotional investment: the cultural and spiritual education of a new human being. Are you prepared to teach another human being not just how to behave, but how to see the world and change it for the better? Tough one to consider.
Financial Stability –
If a man would guide his life by true philosophy, he will find ample riches in a modest livelihood enjoyed with a tranquil mind. – Lucretius
I’m not saying one must be rich to have a kid, let alone be a fantastic parent. If that were the case, only three percent of the world could really afford to have kids. At the same time, one must consider: do I have adequate health care coverage for when my child is sick or seriously ill, some kind of back up funding like retirement or investment accounts in the event of dire emergency, is my career and income stable enough to feed me, my spouse/partner, and child(ren) and provide them basic comforts?
If you don’t have any of that, are you will to do the work it takes to create a stable financial situation for your family; to put their needs before your own? Will you be able to balance work life and family life? That is, having adequate income enough to stop worrying about money and more time enjoying the tender years of childhood?
My in laws put it best when we asked them what they thought about financial security and my father in law, a retired dentist, put it best: “If you’re waiting for the absolute perfect financial situation like being able to have a lot of cash in the bank and a paid off house, then you’ll be like your mother and I when we hit our forties. By then, it’ll be too late and you’ll be too tired.”
Support Network –
It takes a village to raise a child. – African Proverb
My sister and brother in law are both successful children’s psychiatrists with two small children living on the opposite side of France with zero family within a six hour driving range. It wasn’t until I saw her at Christmas that she looked at me and said, “If I had known how hard it was to do it without family, I wouldn’t have moved this far away. Sure, I have friends, but they’re not going to drop what they’re doing like family will to help you so you can have a date night.”
Living far from my mother, who was a great caretaker not just to me but to hundreds of children during her eight years of being a daycare teacher, is tough. The only people we have within four hours are my in-laws who are well into their retirement. My mother in law said casually one evening during our ceremonious summer lounging and magazine readings, “I’m not getting younger and I only have so much time to spend chasing little ones.” It really got me thinking about having an able and available support network.
Sure, having nannies, day care teachers, and other paid child care professionals available is great when you have nobody else to care for your child while you’re working. But refer to my previous question and consider can I afford that when it’s 8PM, I have a sick or cranky child, my husband is in another country on business, and I just can’t take it anymore? Can I call someone who will whisk up my child and let me go running or relax for just half an hour? Who do you have around you to help raise your child? Not everyone has a great family network, but do you have close friends, family figures, or even a best girlfriend to help you when you’re up to your neck in frustration or fatigue? Someone you trust to take your child for a week while you travel and pretend you’re a childless world adventurer?
Sown Your Wild Oats –
Nothing exerts a stronger psychic effect upon the environment, especially upon children, than the [unlived] life [of] the parents. – Carl Jung
This question typically applies to men, but is meant for women, too. We must ask ourselves if we’ve done everything (or most) listed on your young person bucket list? Have I traveled enough, have I made love enough to a variety of lovers, have I been stupid enough, made enough careless, thoughtless mistakes while growing and figuring out what I want and who I want to be? If you haven’t and don’t have any children, then take the time, energy, and resources you have now and make those things happen.
While life doesn’t end after the birth of a child, it certainly changes and all the things we wanted to do will either become more difficult or seemingly impossible to achieve. Being a parent and going drinking, doing drugs, and staying out all night wreaks of immaturity and a want of spiritual growth. If you’re not ready to let those things go, then be honest and continue your spiritual growth. There’s nothing wrong with admitting that we simply haven’t done enough and been selfish enough to let go of our wants for those of another.
Got A Committed Partner –
You’re forced to think about what your goals are and you clarify them because you’re taking this journey with another person and you need to be open with your partner. – Sarah Michelle Gellar
It’s really depressing to see a mother (or father) who doesn’t get help from their spouse or ex; a disinterested father or a mother who abandons their child(ren) because they weren’t emotionally ready or in the right mindset to care for a child. There’s a lot of sorrow in bringing a joy into the world only to have it rejected or ignored.
Whether or not you’re in a committed relationship, you’ve got to be able to work and communicate with a committed partner who’ll help you provide for, care for, love, and raise your child for the next eighteen plus years. Forcing your spouse or partner into parenthood isn’t going to make them more responsible, a better communicator, or even a more loving, selfless person.
If your partner isn’t ready for parenthood, you’ve got to respect their honesty and their growth. This comes with the demand to come clean and to lay out our life vision in the most honest and respectful way so that together you and your partner can decide if now is the right time, place, or person with whom to bring a child into the world.
Of course, life is going to change: Marriages will either fail or become stronger. Finances go down the drain or money comes raining in. We get an itch to just dump our responsibilities and run away. That’s the natural flow and rhythm of life. The responsibility of having and raising a new human being isn’t easy and shouldn’t be taken lightly, but at the end of the day, just as our mentors, family, and friends have told us, you’ve got to trust your gut and stay committed to your vision of happiness – whatever that may be – on the journey of parenthood.