This one goes to those who still don’t know if they want to have kids or not.
Most people are not sure if they want to have children “just like everyone else” or they see themselves heading towards it out of social pressure. It might be you just turned the age you always thought you’d be having children, that your parents are growing impatient, that you partner is pushing for it or that your working situation allows.
Somehow you are running out of excuses for not having them and on the other side you are not 100% sure you want them yet. You are on the verge and you really don’t know what’s best for you.
The most common phrase you hear from parents goes something like: “Everyone told me how hard it is, but I really couldn’t imagine the extent. I’m happy, but it is really hard work.”
So in order to help you make sure that you have what it takes to be a parent, we asked around and we compiled a few factors to take into account before taking the big leap of confidence that is having children. This is some of the aspects those who have been through it recommend you to think through:
Is your partnership rock solid?
Having a child is hard enough, so facing the adventure on your own is like looking into the abyss. Single parents exist and many of them succeed (I was raised by a single mom), but if you want to take the step together with your partner, ask yourself: can I count with him or her even if we split? Love, lust and connection are of course part of what a couple is made of, but when raising a child, responsibility, accountability and true partnership matter more, for the sake of the children.
In Laura’s words: “I saw my now husband as the father of my children because I knew he is someone I can count on in the worst of times, even if we are not together anymore. In hindsight, I think that’s the most important factor: now that I know what actually means being a parent, I’m very glad he’s the one who’ll be by my side to weather the storm – together or apart”.
In case you are trying to decide whether to have your children solo, then ask yourself if your family and friends will be there to help out. It takes a village to raise a child, so is your village strong enough?
Are you ready to not to fully own your body, time, mind, sleep and space?
From the moment a woman gets the news she is pregnant, suddenly all what she eats and drinks is not anymore what she feels like, but what she should or should not eat and drink. You might have a more or less strict doctor, but you certainly start checking everywhere what’s best to have and better to avoid. It seems trivial at start and you are doing it because, of course, you want the best for your baby. But it’s 9 months (or longer if you are breastfeeding) while you will be facing this situation with every meal. And this is just the start.
Then there are the hormones – you start not being in control of your body, mood and energy, which affects everyone around you. Keeping your work performance and personality will be challenging and you’ll be judged for doing too much or for not doing enough.
Fathers get 9 months more to readjust to a new reality, but eventually, they struggle the same with lack of sleep, time and space. Things have changed and now you don’t decide by yourself when can you go to the toilet, eat, brush your teeth and take a shower. And don’t forget, you might decide to share your bed with your baby, which helps with the breastfeeding and sleeping for both parents, but it takes the privacy away.
As Mila half-jokingly mentions: “Thank God for the hormones – without them most babies wouldn’t survive. Parents are stress-tested all day long and in despair, without energy to even think, sleep deprived, exhausted and worried 24/7. You love them with all your heart, but they take over your whole life.”
Sometimes is it not even the amount of time children require, but the fact that there is no way to control or schedule when they will need you the most. Mili, founder of WoodUp, sums it up like this: “Kids have their own timing and it probably won’t fit your plans, so you’ll need to be there for them when most tired and less motivated. They don’t care if you had a good or bad day, and most definitely they don’t give a damn that right now your favourite show is on TV. When they say RIGHT NOW, they mean it.”
Ask yourself and your partner, can you cope with all that?
Can you give up your independence?
For those who always led a pretty independent life, one of the biggest shocks when the baby arrives is that suddenly your new-born needs you for everything. And the worst part is that he or she cannot communicate you exactly what is needed, so you need to figure out by yourselves. Not easy to do.
Also, you are suddenly not the #1 priority in your life. All those things that were important for you to feel fulfilled get blurred and pushed to the background.
As Diego, founder of Berlinerds, puts it: “Since I left my parents’ home, I’d been the most important person in my life for a decade before my first child. I had always thought that I could accomplish anything if I really wanted. My desire to start a new project and make it successful was fully on me. That’s how I always led things in my life. As soon as I got children, every time a new opportunity arises I ask myself first if I can undertake it without sacrificing time with my kids or without becoming a worse husband. I just got “greedier” with my time – now everything I do must benefit them directly or indirectly.”
So, did the time arrive for you to make someone else your first priority? Think about that very honestly and for a long time. And thank us later.
Are you ready to be judged?
Every person, every couple, every kid and every family are different and their success cannot be measured in general terms. Yet everyone seems to know what you should be doing or not doing better than you do.
As soon as the news are out that you are expecting a baby, the world will turn out to tell you what is expected from you. It’s a source of conflict for both parents, who are not in a position to be certain whether they are right or wrong, since oh, it is their first time being a parent. Your parents, your neighbors, your co-workers and any stranger will be willing to express their opinions regardless you asked for them or not.
And you might know what you want to do or what you think it’s best. But wait until your child is in your life to see if your plans fit with his or her personality.
For Laura, it’s about understanding your kid: “Most mothers happily judge what other mothers are doing, we even judge the kids using adult criteria. And that’s a big mistake, because from the outside it is very easy to blurt a hurtful opinion about other parents and their kids. As a parent, the only thing you can do is to patiently observe your child and understand his and her needs, and then find out what type of parent your kid needs you to be. And do your best. Each parent is doing their absolute best, and to judge each other takes us nowhere. We are all struggling with the same doubts and fears to make mistakes when raising our children.”
Can you own and accept your mistakes and let others talk? Or better said, can you overcome the fear of making those mistakes everyone is pointing out and just follow your child’s lead? It takes guts to build a healthy family when society puts you under fire. How are your guts doing these days?
Can your dreams wait a bit longer – or can you make your dreams work also with kids around?
For generations, most parents have put their dreams on hold permanently when having children. Depending on what your dreams are, there’s no other way. But waiting around eighteen years until your children can be left alone and you can enjoy a life on your own is getting harder for many.
Miguel’s point: “I had children relatively late in life so I really did what I wanted for a long time. Then the first child came and I thought I would put on hold a couple of dreams until my daughter was 10. But then my second daughter came 8 years later, and the deadline was pushed again. I’m slowly realising some of the items in my bucket list make no sense, and they probably won’t ever happen. I’m in peace with that now, but that’s a reality that hits you later on, not when you are deciding to have children.”
For some other parents, giving up on their dreams is too overwhelming, and some are opting to modify them to accommodate kids in the equation. So before you decide to have your kids, make sure your dreams are negotiable and think on ways to make them work with your family. Just be realistic to the fact that most probably your kids’ needs will outweight your bucket list, and you’ll tend to decide on their favour. Just be ready for the moment to come.
How important is your career for you?
We don’t fully embrace the way careers are supposed to look like – we believe that success depends on what’s important for each of us. You define your success and you shouldn’t let others make you feel a failure.
But having kids is a big burden to keep going up the ladder in most industries. Sadly, women get bigger hits at work, but both men and women are faced with the fact that they might need to reduce their working hours, meaning earning less, that their brain is now much more overloaded or that they need to say NO to opportunities they would like to take, but shouldn’t for the sake of their family.
On the other hand, some report that having kids helped them to manage their time much better, since the pressure finish things asap gets just bigger. Some very brave ones even decide to start their own companies while they welcome their first kid.
Some of the parents we asked for an opinion are entrepreneurs themselves and living proof that children and starting your own company at the same time is doable. It’s not going to be easy to juggle kids and career, but you need to decide if the effort is worth for you.
Would you feel like you are working only to pay for your kids expenses and it would be easier to just stay at home? Probably. Could you live a life without working and getting your own salary and still feel fulfilled and appreciated for the value of your contribution? Would you be alright reducing your working hours even if that means not being the first choice for key positions in your company? Those are really hard questions that will arise, and only you know the answer for them.
That’s the estimated cost of a child raised in the western countries. Depending on where you are living and how helpful your family is, these numbers can be higher or lower. But you will have to account for additional expenses in housing (you’ll probably need a bigger home), child care (not only kindergarten or school, also extra activities), baby-sitting (if you want to catch a break – and you’ll need to), cleaning services (kids are messy), food, clothes, school material, health care and many more. All of this with eventually less income than what you are enjoying now.
If you are lucky to live in a country where the government helps families out, then you might cover some of these costs. But if you are not, then do the math before getting pregnant for your sanity’s sake. Here’s a more detailed guide about the hidden costs of having a child.
We’re happy to see you made it here, to the very end! This list in the form of test of things to consider before having children was not written in an attempt to convince you not to have them. Our intention is to help you to make a good decision for you and your circumstances, and pass on you the experience of other parents who have gone through the before and after of parenthood.
As Julianne, Coconat’s CEO, puts it: “In the end, all of these challenges have solutions, and if you really want to have a child, then you should also know that where there is a will, there is a way. Being a parent is not easy, that is true. In my life I would not have ‘passed the test’, but I was pretty prepared mentally. I have seen others have children who did not consider many of these topics, and they are unhappy – it is true. Only you have the answer.”
So, tell us: are you ready for children? Let us know in the comments!