Having a baby completely changes… well everything, so it is important to set realistic expectations from the beginning. You can take this quiz from University Hospitals to see if you are ready to take the next step. I’ve made a list of 6 topics to cover when deciding whether now is the right time to get pregnant. If you are a single mom you can tailor these questions to your own situation.
#1: Are you ready for your life to revolve around another human?
The biggest adjustment after having a baby is that suddenly your time is not your own. You are always “on”. Parenting has no days off. When you get home after a full day at work do you see yourself kicking up your feet and turning on the tv or playing peek-a-boo with a 4 month old baby? Are you ready to schedule your life around another person? Once you have a baby, you may have to miss your favorite sports games. You may not make it to every girl’s night or bachelorette party. If you are ready to have a baby these compromises may seem like a huge life change, but they should also seem exciting. If you aren’t ready this may seem intimidating, imprisoning and dooming.
#2: What are your roles in raising a baby?
It is important to decide from the start how you will divide the responsibilities. Does your partner expect you to quit your job and stay home with the baby? Who changes diapers?
I once met a man who had three grown children and never changed a single diaper. He told his wife from the start he refused to change diapers. One day he was alone with one of the babies and she pooped. He stuck the whole baby in the shower until the diaper fell off and left the diaper in the shower for his wife to throw out when she got home. However, he was the assigned baby burper and since they had the discussion from the start, they never ran into any problems down the road.
It is also important to discuss who will wake up with the baby in the middle of the night. It can take more than 6 months for some babies to begin sleeping through the night, and although you can sometimes expedite that with sleep training, sleep training can be emotionally exhausting. Keep in mind- if you are breastfeeding and not pumping you will have to be the one to wake up every time.
#3: Can you afford to have a baby right now?
You’ve heard it before- babies are expensive. I’m not even talking about college. Some people incorrectly believe they will be cheap since breast milk is free and formula is relatively inexpensive. However, there are many additional costs listed below.
You may find estimates online of how much a baby costs. However, I would advise you to calculate them yourself. They often don’t include childcare, and the costs in expensive cities like New York City and San Francisco are often much higher than national averages. The babycenter.com has a “First Year Baby Costs Calculator” which makes it easy to calculate the minimum cost, but be prepared to save more. If you can get some of these items off your baby registry it can help deflect the cost, but its better to have too much money saved than not enough. I will delve into this in more detail in a future post, but for the meantime here are some expenses to consider:
- Renovating the nursery
- Car seat
- Medical insurance (more expensive with children)
- Additional medical bills from the birth (if out-of-network)
- Changing table
- Childcare (if necessary)
- Extras: Bouncy seat, Pack N’ Play, baby carrier, diaper bag, rocking chair, bassinet, breast pump (hopefully insurance can help)
#4: What happens if you return to work?
It is important to find out your options for maternity leave from your employer if you are employed. Unfortunately most maternity leaves are far too short. Ideally you would be able to take off 6 months, but most employers offer 3 months, and some women need to return to work even earlier for financial reasons (see above). Once you learn your company’s policy have a discussion with you partner about when you plan to return to work, or if you plan on not returning to work. You can also ask your employer about options for going part time when you return, but keep in mind that will translate to a loss of income.
#5: Who/how will you take care of this baby?
Today families are exploring many different options of childcare. Some parents are able to work from home, others work night shifts and some work part time to minimize the costs of childcare. However if you will need some childcare, make sure you think through who this will be and how much it will cost.
Daycare- Daycare is a popular, but expensive option. Daycares vary greatly by location, model and price. Think about how many hours per week you will need daycare and what facilities are in your area. Then ask friends how much they spend on daycare in your area. You can also always call around to local daycares to get an idea. You can also look at Babycenter’s article on the cost of daycare, but just to give you an idea- you can expect to spend thousands per month in some more expensive cities (like NYC and San Francisco).
Nanny– Nannies are a popular options due to convenience and flexibility. However nannies are the most expensive option and can be difficult to find in more competitive areas. Many families today share nannies with our families, known as “nanny-shares.” In this model the nanny watches multiple children in one family home and the families split the cost of the nanny. While this can make a nanny more affordable, it can still cost thousands per month.
Family Members- While this can be the cheapest option, it can also be the trickiest. If your plan is to go with a relative make sure you discuss what his or her expectations are. For example, If you are expecting your mom to watch your baby Monday to Friday 9 to 5 and your mom plans to stop by for an hour 3 days a week, you may need to look into alternative options.
#6: Do you have a Good Reason to Want a Baby?
The only good reason to want a baby is because you (& your partner) feel ready to start a family. However there are many bad reasons to have a baby. Ellen Glazer, a family counselor on parenting.com wrote an article spelling out some of these reasons. I’ve listed some of these reasons below. If you find any of these reasons on your list, make sure you re-consider your motives and clearly define your reason for wanting a baby.
- To save a marriage
- Because your friends are having babies
- Because your parents or in-laws want grandchildren
- To take maternity leave
- Because you are bored
#7: What are your expectations?
Talk about having a baby. How does it make you (and your partner) feel? Fearful and anxious or excited and hopeful? What do you imagine it is like? Have you both been around babies? Consider babysitting a friend or relative’s baby for an hour to see what it is like. In my opinion, having a baby is the most rewarding decision, but also the most difficult and life changing.
Once you have decided you are ready to have a baby, checkout my article 10 Steps to Start Trying to Get Pregnant