Fall is upon us, which means that fall wedding season is in full bloom. With so many happy couples looking to tie the knot, it’s not uncommon to hear the question,
“Are you planning to have kids?”
While some people find this question intrusive (understandably so), it’s never-the-less a common topic of contemplation for couples, even if they’re not directly asked. Regardless of whether or not you feel that having children requires diligent future planning and careful consideration, or if you feel that it’s not poss
ible to ever be “ready,” it is generally considered good practice to discuss some important things with your partner before you commence the baby-making.
With that in mind, I wanted to pass along a few of those potential talking points. Although not all will be applicable for every couple, and this is certainly not an exhaustive list, the goal is to create a dialogue about this very life-altering decision about these topics. Ideally, this dialogue can create a sense of closeness as a couple, but also a sense of together-ness about topics before they become potential issues. Remember, here, that the goal is to create a dialogue, not necessarily come to an agreement. You may not change your partner’s mind on something that you think is obvious – consider this an opportunity to get to know your partner (and the parent they want to be) a little better.
So, in whatever way you chose, take some time and sit down with your partner to discuss the following:
How much money is “enough” to have a child?
Do you feel like it’s possible to be financially ready to have a child, or do you tend to feel that there’s no way to plan for something so huge? How will you know that you are financially ready? This may tie in to potential areas of tension in your relationship on how finances are managed. If so, consider whether or not you feel that this is something that needs to be resolved before you can discuss growing your family. If the disagreement doesn’t appear to have a solution, it is possible that this is a disagreement that requires management rather than resolution – an ongoing open dialogue and willingness to work with one another. We’ll bookmark that – that’s a whole topic for a-WHOLE-nother blog post!
What are your core childrearing philosophies, styles, and techniques?
Do you prefer a consistent routine and regimented schedule, or do you see yourself being a parent that tends to follow a child-led schedule? How important are these approaches to you, and how flexible can you be with them? Since our kids (unfortunately) don’t come with manuals on the best way to parent them, it’s often a good idea to sit down with your partner and discuss your parenting ideals. However, it’s also a good idea to review those parenting techniques that you are less attracted to, so that should your ideals be ineffective, you have some direction to find alternatives.
Describe how you picture your everyday routine as a parent.
When you think about your days with your newborn baby, what do they look like? Who’s staying home with the baby? How is feeding ideally handled? Who changes diapers and plays with the little one? Who cleans/cooks? From what source are you earning income? Think of this topic as the logistics of having a baby – how do you see it working? The answers may seem obvious to you (and therefore less important to discuss), but it’s usually a good idea to just make sure that they are equally obvious to your partner as well. Since it’s the day-to-day grind that can be most difficult for couples to navigate, just in general (and given the massive curve-ball babies tend to throw at their parents once they’re born), you’ll do your relationship some favors to talk about some of these things.
How will you nourish your relationship as a couple when there is a child vying for your attention and affection?
Okay – if you would have asked me this question before my kids were born, I probably would have laughed at you… who has time to do anything as a couple with a newborn!?!? Now that I have kids (and really love my work in couples therapy), I really highly encourage you to think about how you are going to support your partner through this transition. Having a baby has the potential to bring about some of the strongest emotions that you can possibly experience, and it can be really difficult to do that alone. I’m not suggesting you leave your newborn with a babysitter in their first week of life to go out for a night on the town. BUT – perhaps you start to think of some rituals that you can do as a couple that help you feel connected to one another. Even if it’s just brief moments of checking in with one another, this is essential. Support each other so that you can support your little one as a team.
How will you carve out time for yourself? How much private time and space do you need?
Also something I probably would have laughed at you for asking me, had you done so while I was pregnant. However, this really is essential. Seriously. This is also potentially very tough to predict, as having a child tends to impact us in ways that we didn’t anticipate. That being said, you can begin by thinking about your own personal needs now. When you are stressed, do you need to talk to someone, or do you tend to need time to yourself? Do you need space, or do you need a hug? Chances are, some of those things that worked for you before are likely to work again. Although you are not likely to have as much time as you did before your little one arrived to yourself, it would be helpful to start talking with your partner about what your needs might be and how you might incorporate that into your childcare routine. Opening the dialogue about these needs before baby comes also provides the opportunity to continue the discussion after the baby has arrived and you start to learn more about how you can support one another and yourselves.
How do you feel about pregnancy problems?
It’s not exactly a happy topic, but one of great importance. In an ideal world, contingency plans aren’t needed, and your dreams as parents will come true just as you had hoped. However, talking about each of your thoughts about some of the problems that can arise in pregnancy can also ensure that, if you do encounter one of these problems, you already know how your partner feels and what they need. How would you feel about a pregnancy resulting in a child who has physical or mental challenges? How do you feel about various alternatives to pregnancy should you be unable to conceive (adoption, fostering, fertility treatment, etc.)? Do you want your baby to undergo genetic testing? Think of this as a dialogue that allows a greater awareness of your partner’s perspective rather than as a need to ensure concrete answers to all contingencies. If there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that it’s impossible to plan for all potential problems, but if you can at least talk about some of the things that can go wrong, you are more likely to feel supported by your partner no matter what happens.
Some of these areas are easier to discuss than others. Again, I encourage you to think about these areas as opportunities to create an open dialogue rather than topics that require swift resolution before you can be “ready.” Take some time, share a bottle of wine (or a glass of orange juice!), and take the time to get to know your partner (and yourself) as a parent.