Maybe a close friend recently announced their pregnancy or plans for adoption. Or one of your greatest joys is being an aunt. Heck, maybe it’s like that scene in Baby Mama when Tina Fey pictures everyone with cute little toddler faces. Whatever the reason, you can’t help wondering lately, “Am I ready to have a baby?” And, wow, what a loaded question, right?
If you’ve worked up the nerve to mention this thought out loud, you’ve surely already been told that no one ever feels 100 percent “ready” to become a parent. It is, without a doubt, one of the most transformative things a person can experience. But if you’re anything like us, that’s precisely why you want to be at least a little prepared.
To that end, here are a few questions you can ask if you’re unsure about your parental readiness level.
Are you cool with shelving “me time”?
Listen, it’s not that you’ll never have “me time” again. But you know those spontaneous date nights? Spur-of-the-minute vacations to exotic destinations? Sitting in a coffee shop for two hours just because you want to? You’ll probably need to say goodbye to that sort of self-care — or at least pare it down dramatically — for a few years. Tiny humans require a lot of attention. On the plus side, you might be surprised at how pumped you are to hang out at home staring at the miracle you have welcomed into your home.
Where are you financially?
Yes, babies — and children in general — are expensive. Do you need to have a million dollars in the bank? Nope. And you shouldn’t let money stop you from growing your family. But you should still consider your financial situation. When you have a child, expenses tend to pop up when you least expect them. In general, you’ll want to know that you have enough cash flow to cover child care and necessities, like diapers and healthcare. It’s never a bad idea to imagine what your baby-life-budget would look like.
How to prepare for a baby financially
If you’re thinking about expanding your family, you should first understand how much a baby costs. They may be small, but they require many tools. Here are a few helpful tips for getting your finances in order.
- Additional costs associated with a baby won’t seem like such a jarring transition if you create a pre-baby budget.
- Figure out what your out-of-pocket medical costs will look like during your pregnancy and delivery. Ask about the cost of copay for doctor visits and deductible requirements.
- Make a list of things your baby will need like formula, baby proofing tools, a diaper bag, breast pump, child care, books, toys, teething toys, and anything else you can think of. You can also cut costs by listing them on your baby shower registry if you have one.
- This is also a good time to start making an emergency fund. Having this extra savings account will help cushion any financial issues you and your new family may face.
Do you know your job’s maternity or parental leave policy?
This may seem like skipping ahead a bit. Still, it goes hand-in-hand with asking if you’re financially ready for a child. We live in a country that doesn’t exactly have the best reputation where maternity leave or parental leave is concerned — meaning your employer may not offer any paid leave. Take a quick mental inventory of the following questions, and ask your employer any that you don’t know the answer to:
- Do I have enough savings to float me if my company doesn’t offer paid maternity leave?
- How much time am I allowed to take?
- Is any portion of maternity leave covered?
- Can I use PTO towards it?
Even if the mere thought of broaching these things with your boss makes you break out in hives, you need to know.
Do you have a support system?
While it’s true, you’ll be adding one (sweet little squishy) person to your inner circle, being a new parent can prove surprisingly isolating. Just as you have to adapt to your bundle of joy, your friends and family will have to adapt as well. You may even find that some of your friends who aren’t at the baby-stage of life sort of… vanish. Coincidentally, you’ll realize that you need your tribe more than ever. So, think about who you have in your corner, whether that’s a partner who will raise the child with you, family members who can help out in case of emergencies, or a solid community of fellow mamas.
Where do you stand on neediness?
We’re going to level with you: Babies are needy AF. Toddlers, too. You know what? Go ahead and assume that your kid is going to need the hell out of you right up until they graduate high school. And even then, they may not leave the nest right away. You’ll pour every drop of yourself into your little ones. It will be worth it. But some days you’ll feel like they need more than you can give. Seriously, kids are Stage 5 clingers. The sooner you come to terms with that, the better off you’ll be.
Is anyone pressuring you?
Raise your hand if you’re a people pleaser! Don’t feel bad; a lot of us have our hands in the air right now. Here’s the thing, though: Caving to pressure isn’t a huge deal if it’s about something like saying yes to a night out when you’d rather binge-watch Netflix. It is a huge deal if you let your parents (or grandparents or partner or whomever) be the reason you decide to have a baby. At the end of the day, you’ll be the one with the title Mama. And once the day ends, you’ll be the one waking up blurry-eyed and exhausted a million times to feed your baby and take them through every phase and beautiful milestone. Even with a partner by your side, you should be just as onboard with the decision.
What does your road to motherhood look like?
Um, hello, we’re not asking if you know how babies are made. If you’re even remotely considering conceiving, you’ve probably had a little practice in the, ahem, baby-making department. However, getting pregnant isn’t always as straightforward as we hope. You could take a “let’s just see what happens” approach, only to find out the road to parenthood is not always linear. Are you ready to consider fertility treatments? Foster care? Adoption? File this under heavy conversations you’ll need to tackle.
What are your options for child care?
While you’re thinking of maternity leave, it’s also important to look beyond that and consider what your choices are when it comes to child care. Will you or a partner be available full-time as a caretaker? Will you consider a nanny, a nanny-share, a daycare? Will a family member be available to help you out full-time while you work? Once you settle on one or more of these options, what are the costs of each in your community?
This question is directly connected to your finances, as the cost of childcare can eat up a significant chunk of a family’s monthly expenses. Per the Economic Policy Institute, American parents with kids under the age of five are spending roughly $42 billion a year on early education programs like preschool and daycare. This means families are spending an average of $6,000 a year on child care, or about $500 a month. Important to note this is just an average, some cities and states carry much higher costs.
Are you in a good school district?
It doesn’t even dawn on some of us that this should be on our “future with a baby” radar. But trust, you want to look into it sooner rather than later. You might not be comfortable with the district in your zone. It may be a more tedious commute than you want. If you need childcare prior to preschool, you may have to get on a list over a year in advance! These things probably weren’t a factor in your initial kid-free decision to choose your current home. Well, they are now.
Do you have any looming relationship problems?
Seriously, repeat after us: Babies do not solve relationship problems. In fact, babies can compound complications in a relationship. If your relationship is on the rocks, it might not survive the inherent stress of bringing a child into the home.
Do you like kids?
We saved the most basic of questions for last. You might be thinking this seems too obvious. After all, you’re here because you’ve got babies and kids on the brain. But you know what? Becoming a parent means accepting that you’ll be spending a lot of time with kids — yours, their friends, their classmates, their teammates. You may only have one child, but you’re essentially signing up for much, much more. Having said that, it’s totally cool if you only really like the one that belongs to you. No judgment.
What is the perfect age to have a baby?
So, first things first, let’s just get this out of the way — the quote-unquote perfect time to have a baby will inherently differ from person to person. It’s a highly personal decision, and it’s also one that we sometimes have no control over. Having said that, experts say the ideal time physiologically to get pregnant is between your late 20s and early 30s. According to a study published in the Oxford Academic, the best health outcomes for both mother and child are associated with a first-child birth-age of 30.5.
Sayings About Babies
Still not sure if you’re ready? Perhaps these quotes about babies will bring you more clarity.
“Making the decision to have a child is momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body.” — Elizabeth Stone
“There are no words that can describe the euphoria you feel when your baby recognizes you for the first time and smiles.” — Jared Padalecki
“It’s a good thing babies don’t give you a lot of time to think. You fall in love with them and when you realize how much they love you back, life is very simple.” — Anita Diamant
“I think that I see something deeper, more infinite, more eternal than the ocean in the expression of the eyes of a little baby when it wakes in the morning and coos or laughs because it sees the sun shining on its cradle.” — Vincent Van Gogh
“All those cliches, those things you hear about having a baby and motherhood — all of them are true. And all of them are the most beautiful things you will ever experience.” — Penelope Cruz
“You know what the great thing about babies is? They are like little bundles of hope. Like the future in a basket.” — Lish McBride
“This is a place where grandmothers hold babies on their laps under the stars and whisper in their ears that the lights in the sky are holes in the floor of heaven.” — Rick Bragg
“It’s way too early for him to be talking anyhow, but I see in his eyes something and I see in his eyes a voice and I see in his eyes a whole new set of words.” — Sherman Alexie
“The children we bring into the world are small replicas of ourselves and our husbands; the pride and joy of grandfathers and grandmothers. We dream of being mothers, and for most of us that dreams are realized naturally. For this is the Miracle of Life.” — Azelene Williams
“His little hands stole my heart. His little feet ran away with it.” — Unknown
“There are two lasting requests we can give our children. One is roots. The other is wings.” — Hodding Carter Jr.
“When your first baby drops her pacifier, you sterilize it. When your second baby drops her pacifier, you tell the dog: ‘Fetch!’” — Bruce Lansky
“A child enters your home and for the next twenty years makes so much noise you can hardly stand it. The child departs, leaving the house so silent you think you are going mad.” — John Andrew Holmes
“The amazing thing about becoming a parent is that you will never again be your own first priority.” — Olivia Wilde
“Having a baby is like falling in love again, both with your husband and your child.” — Tina Brown
“A happy baby has shining eyes. It walks open-hearted into the world and spreads magic.” — Sigrid Leo