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How does a couple decide whether and when to have children?
The decision to have a baby is a personal one that has to be made by the couple and only by the couple. Not by prospective grandparents, friends, or neighbors. Nobody should tell a couple to have kids or ask why they don’t have any.
Why have children? It used to be what was expected of you: you grew up, got married, and had children. The message I got from society when I was growing up was even stronger than expectation. The message was, “If you don’t marry and have children, there is something wrong with you.”
Today women have choices to have a career or not. Today sex can be separated from childbearing so couples have a choice about producing children. Making the decision to have a child is a more awesome responsibility than it once was. Freedom to act always makes choices more complex.
How should a couple decide whether and when to have a child? First the reasons NOT to have a baby: to save or strengthen your partnership; to please others, like your parents; because everybody’s doing it; to prove you’re a real woman (or man); to prove you can do a better job of parenting than your parents did; to have an excuse to quit work.
There are two major questions that a couple contemplating a pregnancy must answer: DO YOU LIKE CHILDREN? and ARE YOU READY FOR CHILDREN?
Many young couples today have spent little time with children. They didn’t grow up with a swarm of siblings and they live their adult lives isolated from children. OK, babies are adorable but can you deal with bratty kids or sullen teens?
It’s a good idea for prospective parents to spend some time with children so they can sort out their feelings. Borrow a friend’s baby for an afternoon. Volunteer as a Big Brother or Sister or teach Sunday school to spend time with older children.
Prospective parents can ask themselves the following to check whether they are ready to have a baby:
* Do I feel like a grown-up most of the time?
* Do I know who I am and what I want out of life? It’s important to establish your own identity as person before taking on the identity of parent.
* Do I feel loved and secure enough so that I am ready to GIVE LOVE TO MY CHILD? Of course you will get love back but the parent is the nurturant one who teaches the child how to be nurturant so that one day the cycle can start anew.
* Am I adventurous enough to take a giant leap into the unknown? We don’t know in advance what gender the baby will be or how smart or athletic the child will become.
* Am I ready for children in terms of my education and career? If both parents are in residency training to be physicians and work 80 hours a week maybe this isn’t the right time.
* Is my relationship ready for a child? The relationship should be stable. You should know each other well enough to know you are suited to each other, are likely to stay together, and will jointly and joyfully share in the responsibility for and care of a child. Have you had enough “couple only” time? Have you developed conflict resolution skills?
* Can I support (and educate) a child? Of course children can be happily raised without luxuries but the essentials cost a lot today.
* Have I resolved, or am I in the process of resolving, any lingering issues with my own parents?
Today many couples spend a good deal of time in education and career development so that they postpone childbearing until the woman is in her late 30s or early 40s. One of a couple’s most serious conflicts can arise at the time the woman hears her biological clock ticking loudly but the man is not yet ready to be a father. Counseling is definitely in order when one partner wants a child and the other doesn’t, regardless of the reason.
TELL YOUR FRIENDS THEY CAN GET A PROFESSIONAL, PERSONAL, AND PRIVATE ANSWER TO THEIR PARENTING QUESTIONS BY GOING TO info@ParentKidsRight.com