Earlier this week, Jessica asked the question that passes through the mind of many a woman: How do you know — really know — if you want to have kids? It’s a good question and an important one. Kids are a big decision. They’re not like those cute, fuzzy chicks people buy as gifts on Easter only to realize that they grow up to be chickens, so they just return them or get rid of them somehow. No. Kids are a bit more complicated than that.
But is there actually any way to know for sure? You would think as the mother of a 7-year-old, who has been-there, done-that, and has pondered the same questions Jessica brought up, I would have at least some answers. But unfortunately, I don’t.
Because, if there’s one, solid rule that I’ve figured out in my short time parenting, it’s that there’s no one right answer that will fit everyone across the board. What works for one woman/couple/family may not work for another. And that’s okay.
For me, I just woke up one day with this achey feeling within me that called for me to have a baby. I was 25. But, I had been with my partner at that point for almost seven years and we had just gotten married. I had held down a full time job as a teacher for a few years and was on track to complete a Masters. My husband was almost done with school and had a secure job lined up. I was not one of those girls who dreamt of being a mother for as long as she could remember. In fact, until a few months after we were married, I didn’t really think about how kids would fit into my relationship at all. But then, everything changed and just seemed to fall into place. Looking back now, I can’t really imagine trying to get pregnant at such a young age, but we did, and here we are with a seven-year old. And it’s wonderful. But that’s us and our story.
So while I can’t offer a magical formula where you can plug in your age, income, living conditions, and familyinfo, and have it spit out the date and time you should conceive, what I can do is offer up some guiding questions you can ask yourself to help check in and see if you’re ready to delve into the world of parenting.
1. Are you smart about money? I’m not going to sugarcoat it: kids cost money. In fact, the average cost to raise a child these days is $241,080. Now, that’s not to say it has to cost that much money to have a kid, but there will be expenses that are unavoidable. I wouldn’t even say that you need to have a lot of money so much as you need to know what to do with that money. If you’re still scrounging around in the couch cushions to pay the pizza delivery man because you forgot to set some aside from this week’s paycheck (because you just had to get that adorable scarf), then you might want to give it some more thought. All kidding aside, the scary reality is that motherhood is a greater indication of wage discrimination as opposed to gender, so it doesn’t hurt to take a real look at your finances and ability to make the best financial decisions you can in whatever income bracket you are in.
2. Can you deal with pain? I’m not talking about the pain of labor. Sure, that can be incredibly intense. But it only lasts anywhere from a few hours to a couple of days at the most and then it’s over. I’m talking about all the pain that comes after giving birth. The pain from smacking your shin into the bed frame during a middle-of-the-night diaper change. The immeasurable pain of stepping on miniature Lego pieces while barefoot. The heart-crushing pain of watching your child be rebuffed by other kids on the playground.
3. Are you cool with gross stuff? Because, no lie, kids are gross. They leak from all body parts, especially when they’re younger. They have diaper blow outs. They eat boogers. They sometimes forget to wipe their bums. If you’re the kind of person who puts a few paper towels over the cat puke so your partner/parent can deal with it later, you might want to think about how you’ll handle middle of the night puke-fests with a four-year-old. It’s not pretty.
4. Are you patient? Are you the kind of person who starts freaking out when it takes longer than five minutes to get your Gingerbread Spiced Latte? Or, perhaps you’re the one who gets annoyed at your friend who is always late. Think about what kind of tools you have in your kit for dealing with a toddler who refuses any help in getting dressed, slowing the processes down to a mind-numbing 45 minutes. Or if your four-year-old refuses to put their shoes on. Or you’re dealing with an epic melt-down because you cut up your daughter’s sandwich into squares instead of triangles. All of these things are going to happen if you’re a parent.
5. Do you want a kid? I mean, it’s a good question to ask yourself. And here’s the thing: the answer doesn’t have to be “yes” or “no.” It could be “maybe.” And in a few months or years that maybe will end up going one way or another. Can you picture your life going through a major upheaval? And many, many mini upheavals as the years progress?
I’ll end by saying I took a “Are You Ready For Parenthood” quiz on some major, mainstream parenting website earlier today, and got: You may still have some thinking to do. Whoops.
Avital Norman Nathman is a blogger for The Mamafesto.