hether or not you want to have kids is a huge life decision. There are so many factors that go into making that life choice. You have to consider where you live, your finances, your career -- and your partner’s career -- and much more. You also have to consider what both of you want, and recognize the reasons you might want to have a child.
You also don’t have to have a partner to have a child, and you don’t have to have a child just because you have a partner.
It’s a lot to think about. A lot more than just taking a couple quizzes to determine your readiness for children (though that could honestly point you in the right direction if you’re seriously unsure!). There may never even be a “right time,” because regardless of where you’re at, having kids will change everything.
So how can you decide? How do you actually have these conversations with your partner and reach a solution you’re both happy with? It is for the rest of your life, so take your time making this decision!
Like we said, having kids is a personal decision that requires deep thought, so we can’t answer the question of “should you have kids?” for you. However, if it seems overwhelming, we think breaking the thought process down into the main, most important areas of your life could help get you thinking realistically about the future of your family.
Contrary to antiquated belief systems, you can definitely have the career you’ve always dreamed of and live the family life. However, you should consider your career and future career goals when you are thinking about expanding your family.
Most importantly, you want to make sure that your job -- and your partner’s job -- is stable. After a couple years with a company, you can usually tell if your job is secure. Your company may also give other indicators, such as offering a raise or promotion. You can never be truly, 100% positive, but those are pretty good signs that your job is safe.
In many cases, it’s wise to wait until your career is launched before having a child, especially considering you will have to take at least a couple months off for parental leave. If you’re planning to return to work after welcoming a baby, the transition will be much easier if you are at a solid place in your career -- you’ll be able to jump right back in for the most part!
Speaking of parental leave, the average maternity leave is about ten to twelve weeks. It isn’t required by law to be paid, though almost half of employers do offer paid leave these days, often for both parents! You can and should take this into account when starting out your career, applying for new jobs, or when determining if your job is secure enough to start thinking about children. It can’t hurt to ask about parental leave during the job interview process, even if you are not yet sure about starting a family.
If you are someone who thrives under the pretense of a goal, set a goal for yourself. Maybe when you are X number of years into your career, you and your partner can start to discuss the future of your family -- something along those lines!
Children add so much to a family, and that includes expenses. You’ll have to pay for a lot, and maybe you want to start a college fund for your kids, too.
Much like your career, setting certain finance goals before having children could be beneficial. Maybe you want to save a certain amount of money, pay off a certain amount of your student loans, or pay off all of them. However, don’t let your student loans completely stop you if you are ready to start a family! Life is expensive, and there will always be something to pay for. If you are in a stable enough position with your loans or debt, don’t worry too much. But if setting a financial goal helps you solidify your timeline, that works, too!
If one parent is planning to stay home while the other works full-time, you’ll probably want to make that decision early on to make sure that you will be able to support a child on one person’s income. If you are both going to work, that’s great, too! Childcare is available, whether it’s a daycare, nanny, or babysitter, though it is another expense, and another reason to have this conversation before the baby arrives.
On top of that, there are other costs to cover, including medical and educational expenses -- but really, if you are able to provide for you and your partner to live comfortably, you’ll be able to handle a child too, even if you still have some debt.
If you are in a relationship, making sure that you and your partner are on the same page is so important. That goes for all major life decisions that affect you both, but especially when it comes to having kids.
The first step is obviously having the conversation of whether or not you both want kids. Of course, so much can change over the course of a relationship, but this conversation should happen somewhat early on. It can be scary to bring up the topic, especially if you have not been partners for very long.
To ease the anxiety that comes with the “Do you want kids?” conversation, bring it up organically or indirectly by asking your partner about their childhood. Or, have a casual discussion about it when you happen to be spending time around children together, maybe a friend or family member’s kids. That can make it feel natural. Remember to be open-minded and honest -- consider their feelings about expanding your family, but don’t hold back on yours, either.
Overall, it’s important that your relationship is strong and that you know you can trust and rely on your partner before adding a child to the mix. You’re a team, and you’ll want to parent like one, so when you are having relationship problems, that might not be the best time for thinking about having kids.
We’ve also mentioned “partners” a lot here. If you are not in a relationship, but feel ready for a baby, of course you don’t need a partner. There are so many options even if you are not in a relationship. If you have a strong relationship with yourself, have the resources, and feel it’s the right decision for you, that is more than enough to start a family!
Where you live is another factor to consider when thinking about the future of your family. A kid -- or maybe multiple kids, eventually! -- needs a lot of space and a lot of stuff. They are a whole other person, obviously! For a little while, it can be easier to keep your baby’s crib in the master bedroom, but eventually they will need their own room, and lots of space for their toys and other necessities -- diapers, clothes, things like that!
Couples usually start out living in a smaller place for just the two of them, like a condo or an apartment. When growing your family, buying a house is likely also in your future -- another financial element to consider. If you live in a city, you also may need to relocate. Living in multiple bedroom apartments in heavily populated and very expensive cities like New York or Chicago is pricey.
Before you decide to have kids, make sure you are settled in the location you want to be in or at least have a solid plan. You don’t want to bring home the baby and then realize you have no space in a small apartment. Moving can take some time and some money, so having a plan at least a little while in advance will help prepare you for that!
Everything we’ve covered thus far is important to consider, but your self, what you want, and where you are at personally may be the most important. It’s a harsh truth, but you may never be fully confident in your ability to parent. That doesn’t mean you won’t be a good one, though -- you’ll be great!
Being in a content place in terms of your relationship with yourself and your mental health can help prepare you for the journey you are about to take on, but don’t pressure yourself to be perfect. If you wait to have kids until you feel you can be the “perfect” parent, you may be waiting a while!
When you get to a certain place in your life, a lot of your close friends may start having kids. When that happens, people feel a certain peer pressure that they should be having kids, too. Don’t succumb to this pressure! You don’t want to make a major life decision you aren’t ready for just to fit in. In fact, it won’t make you “fit in” anyway -- 15% of women never have kids, and that’s perfectly okay, too! Statistically, those women don’t start out completely against having children, so if you’re still not sure, you’re not alone, you have so much time, and so many options.
Having kids is a decision that is personal and individual to you and your partner. While breaking it down and thinking about it in terms of important aspects of your life can help point you in the right direction, this is not an exhaustive list of what you need to consider. It’s a start, though! We know with a little time you and your partner will make the right decision for your family.