5 Things To Consider Before Starting A Family Find out if you and your spouse are ready to take the next big step. BY IRINA FIRSTEIN
Before adding to your family, there are several things you and your spouse should think about.
“ Please remember that your relationship with your spouse is of the utmost importance and a good marriage is the best thing you can do for your child.”
Deciding to start a family is very exciting, but it can also be filled with anxiety and ambivalence. It is basically a dive into the unknown. It truly is the only major irreversible decision you and your spouse will ever make in each other’s life.
Based on my own experiences, as well as those of countless couples I have counseled over the past 20 years, I have come up with a list of issues to think about and come to terms with prior to starting life’s next adventure.
1. Are you and your spouse on the same page? You both need to speak honestly and openly if you are ready for a child at this particular time. You need to be emotionally ready. You need to consider if you and your significant other feel secure enough in your relationship to become parents.
Are you satisfied with most parts of your life and your relationship—enough to take on this new role? Some hesitation and ambivalence are normal but if you are feeling turmoil, it may mean that this is not the right moment. You may need to figure out what else needs to happen or get resolved.
2. Are you ready financially? Having a child carries with it many new expenses. Do you need to move to a bigger apartment or house? Another important consideration is whether you will be a one income or two-income family. This is an issue that can potentially create conflict and one that both of you must be in total agreement about with not much wiggle room after the baby comes. There are pros and cons to both arrangements, but the main issue is that you are on the same page or at least have an acceptable compromise.
Another issue that is related to this one is how raising a child will effect your career(s). You must be very realistic about this and really give it a lot of consideration. All this depends on whether one or both of you will continue to work, what will be the hours, is there flexibility, maternity/paternity leaves, the possibility and reality of promotions, etc.
3. Making things work on a daily basis. It is important to talk to other new parents to try to realistically picture what life will be like day to day. It is totally impossible to think of all possibilities, but if for example, you opt to be a stay-at-home mom, are you going to be lonely? How will you feel about being home with a baby all day, how will you have time to exercise, get your manicures and hair done? What about drinks with friends? Are you going to feel resentful doing all the household chores? If you will be working, how will household chores be handled? You will have to share domestic tasks with your spouse or would you rather delegate all or some of these to the person taking care of your child?
4. Time alone with your spouse. This is the topic I feel most strongly about. Having a baby means that your relationship with your spouse—now, more then ever—must become a priority. Yes, that’s right. Most of us are aware of the multitude of problems that come into a marriage with the arrival of the little one. Please remember that your relationship with your spouse is of the utmost importance and a good marriage is the best thing you can do for your child. That means you must create time and space for just the two of you. Whether it means a few hours after the baby goes to sleep, or asking an in-law to watch the baby so you can step out for a bite. Or even leaving the baby with a trusted grandparent or babysitter for a weekend away.
5. Dealing with the uncertainty and surprises of being a parent. Having a child is really a leap of faith. For those with major control issues, this really is the most challenging part of being a parent. Some women try to control the baby by obsessing what they eat and drink while pregnant, trying to figure out what kind of childbirth experience they want to have, etc. All this is well and good, but the fact remains that this is the most unpredictable experience you will have starting from pregnancy, childbirth and certainly all that comes after.
There is no way to anticipate how you will feel when your child is born, when you see the first smile, step, hear the first word. There are also the potentially difficult trials and challenges along the way that no prenatal testing can predict. The best you can do is to try and prepare yourself for anything and everything and be totally open to the experience.
Irina Firstein LCSW is a relationship and marriage therapist in New York City for over 20 years. She has helped hundreds of couples overcome problems with intimacy and inhibited desire to reestablish a meaningful connection and achieve satisfaction in their marriages. You can visit her website at www.psychotherapist-newyork.com and follow her on Google+.