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“How Do You Know When You’re Ready To Have Kids?”

From the forums:

Jackson 1 week

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about the whole kid thing lately, and I just feel really uncertain about it all. A big part of me is starting to think maybe I might be kind of ready to think about having a baby, but I’m just so unsure about the whole thing. I KNOW I want kids. I know I want a family, but then, when I think about it, I feel like it’s not the right time. However, then I wonder, is it ever the right time?

So, some of my reservations are practical things, like how expensive daycare is, and if my job will let me only work 4 days a week, and we’ll have to get another car, because you can’t strap a baby on a scooter. Sometimes I wonder if I’ll love the baby a lot more than I love my husband? How will I find the time and energy to care for a baby? How will I not drink for 9 months? I’ll have to buy all new clothes. What if I get fat and never lose the weight? Will my husband really scoop the kitty litter while I’m pregnant?

But then I see how my husband acts with the little girl next door, and I start thinking about how great it will be to see him with our kids, and I feel like I must have a baby right now.

So, help me out. How did you know you were ready? — Ready or Not?

I hear you. I felt the same way you did for a long time. In my early 20s, I wasn’t even sure I ever wanted kids (though that was, at least in some part, because I didn’t think I wanted them with the boyfriend I was with and couldn’t, at the time, figure out how I was going to move on from that relationship). By the time I met Drew, the man I would eventually marry, I did at least know I wanted to be a mom. And he made very apparent — on our first date, no less! — that he wanted to be a dad. The time frame was up in the air though, and it continued to be even a year into our marriage.

By that point I was 33 going on 34 and Drew was already in his 40s. His own dad was 50 when he was born and Drew really wanted to avoid being such an old father. He wasn’t pressuring me, but he did say that he’d like to be done having babies by the time he hit 45 (he’s 43 now, FYI). I knew time was ticking. But I still didn’t feel READY. I was waiting for that moment when I’d just KNOW — when I couldn’t imagine going another day without at least TRYING to become a mother. But, like you, I continued to have doubts and worries. Could we afford a baby? What would happen to my career if I stayed home like I wanted to do? What would happen to our marriage? Would we ever be able to travel again? Hang out with friends? Have sex in the middle of a Sunday afternoon if the mood struck?

The truth is, you can’t ever know the answers to all these questions until you just do it. And for many of us, the answers won’t be concrete anyway. They’ll shift and evolve because parenthood, like life, is fluid. There are high tides and low tides. There are days — well, moments, really — as a parent when you can’t imagine a better life. And there are moments when you long for the way things used to be. And sometimes that longing is such a crushing feeling because you know things can’t ever be like they used to be. Never. And never feels so permanent.

Parenthood IS permanent. But the stages of your kid’s life are anything but. And what feels monumental and overwhelming today will be a distant memory next month. If you can remember that — and sometimes it’s hard — you can ride out all the hard moments. If you and your partner can find time to connect one-on-one and continue stoking the the flame between you — because it’s a flame that fuels the whole family — together you will ride out the hard moments, and together you will celebrate all the great ones, too. (This isn’t to say that single parents can’t ride out hard moments and celebrate great ones, or that a couple should stay together simply for the sake of the kids. Obviously, families come in all shapes and forms, but, in a traditional family headed by two parents who are a couple, tending to that relationship is as important an act of parenthood as anything else).

Yes, there will be times when you love your kid more than your partner. And there will be times when you’d much rather spend time alone with your spouse than one more hot afternoon at the playground with your whiny toddler. (Oh, and your toddler will whine. Trust me. They all do. As sweet and wonderful and lovely as my toddler is, his whining is relentless some days and there are moments when I think it will just break me. That’s when I put him in his crib for five minutes, walk to the other room, and just breathe. It’s important to breathe). And you will gain weight when you get pregnant and it may be hard to lose it once the baby comes and you may have to buy all new clothes and you may not like the way things settle months after giving birth. Pregnancy definitely changes a woman’s body forever.

As far as finding time and energy to care for your kids, the truth is you WON’T have enough. You’ll never have enough of either. Once you have kids, you’ll spend at least their early years constantly carving and slicing time for this thing and that and trying to find more energy to do all that is needed of you. There will be other things you’d rather do, and other things you HAVE to do. You’ll get help. You’ll enlist family members or a babysitter or find a daycare you love. You will guzzle coffee or take naps. You will definitely go to bed earlier. You will be tired a lot. Whether you work outside the home or stay with your kid full-time, you will be exhausted. But it’s an exhaustion that you will slowly get used to — so much so that, if you ever DO have a chance to sleep in (like if a grandparent babysits for the weekend and you and your partner get away, you probably won’t be able to sleep past 8 at the latest. And even that will feel like such a luxury.

Having a child will change your sleep schedule and everything else in your life. There’s no way to fully prepare for it and there’s no test to figure out whether you’re ready. The practical things should definitely be in place to make things as smooth as possible. There should be money to pay for a baby. You should have a budget. There should be savings and a steady stream of income. Both parents should be in agreement about whether one of them will stay home. They should have health insurance and get life insurance, and have a place to put a baby. All the rest you figure out as you go.

Your career, your friendships, your changing body, your marriage, and your everything else — you figure out as you go. Planning is futile. It’s fine — great, even — to have some goals and a general idea of how you’d LIKE for things to be, but life has a way of disrupting even the best-laid plans. So pack a spare outfit. Have snacks on hand at all times. And know alternate routes for when you face a detour. That does for an afternoon with your one-year-old or a lifetime as a parent.

I was 34 when I finally decided I was ready to take the plunge. And sometimes I think it was one of the craziest decisions I — or anyone else — has ever made. I must have been mad! Drunk off love! Struck by a sudden and uncontrollable biological urge to reproduce. And that may all be true, but I tell you what, if you know in your heart you want kids and you have the practical stuff figured out, then all the other stuff you think will matter — saggy boobs, included — really won’t. Well, sometimes they will, but, mostly, you will love your child so much that all the sacrifices — financial, physical, and emotional — will be worth it, and you won’t be able to imagine your life any other way.

I have to end this now. Jackson has just woken up from his nap. I can hear him in his crib saying, “Mama? Mama? Mommy?” I will go pick him up, change his diaper, give him some apple slices I cut up earlier, and then we’ll head out into the afternoon (it’s afternoon as I write this). I’ll be sure to bring along some snacks.

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If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, you can send me your letters at wendy@dearwendy.com.

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{ 90 comments… add one }

avatar SasLinna June 23, 2013, 11:25 am

Oh, a Sunday post! I loved reading this. What really stood out to me is Drew’s clear idea of his timeline, combined with his willingness to be a little flexible with the exact timing. It’s so great to be with someone who knows what he wants and is able to communicate it.

avatar SasLinna June 24, 2013, 9:30 am

I saw this yesterday when Wendy posted it too soon (I guess), that’s the reason for the Sunday thing. I know it’s Monday now :-)

avatar Melissa June 23, 2013, 11:28 am

Thanks for this, Wendy. I got married at 24 so I know there’s lots of time for us to figure out the kids situation, but understanding that you’re never really “ready” helps from possibly waiting too long :)

avatar LT June 24, 2013, 8:47 pm

That was a big breakthrough to me- I realized it after I took a (negative) pregnancy test and was, for the first time in the history of my negative pregnancy tests, sort of disappointed. I looked at our situation, then thought about what is going to change in the next few years, and realized the answer was, “not much.” It went from being some vague future thing to something we’re going for in the next year or so. Now, coming to terms with the changing body thing- that will be my challenge.

Nicolasa Nicolasa June 23, 2013, 11:36 am

That was wonderful! I’ve always felt that if one waits for the perfect time for parenthood, it’ll never happen. I’m 24, quickly approaching 25, and I hope to start my family in a few years. It’s nerve wracking as I have so many things I’d like to do- such as travel more, get married, get my masters, career switch, relocate, etc. I’ll definitely have to make adjustments on that timeline and take the plunge, like so many others.

avatar Christy June 24, 2013, 9:04 am

The Atlantic’s cover article this month is about how long (biologically) women can wait. I thought of it as soon as I read this post (early, yesterday): http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2013/07/how-long-can-you-wait-to-have-a-baby/309374/?single_page=true

avatar SasLinna June 24, 2013, 9:39 am

I didn’t think I was too stressed about the age thing (turning 30 soon), but given how much this article calmed me down, I probably was. I love a good, in-depth look at statistics and I’ve shared this with some friends already. One thing I hadn’t considered before is that what really matters is not so much how long it’ll take you to conceive, or how many women conceive in one cycle, but whether your overall chances of having a successful pregnancy (or several pregnancies) are still high enough at a certain age. In the end the question is: Is it likely that between now and – say – age 36 something will happen that will significantly reduce my chances of ultimately having a child? And the answer I got is that that’s not all that likely. My fertility might be reduced, but if I’m fertile now (which I have no absolute proof of) I will likely still be at least somewhat fertile then, although I might take longer to conceive. So that was my take home message. Also, I’m impressed how much good timing when TTC matters. I always kind of suspected that.

avatar Bunnycsp June 24, 2013, 9:50 am

See, the big problem is that you don’t know who you are going to be. I came from a large, catholic family where everyone had multiple children. I thought it would be no big deal for me. It isn’t that I will never have children, but I have been trying for over 18 months and it is brutal. I have also had friends who are off the pill one month and pregnant. I wish there was a simple test you can take that will tell you who you are going to be.

avatar SasLinna June 24, 2013, 9:56 am

I’m sorry you’re going through this and wishing you that you’ll conceive soon! I am not assuming it will be easy for me to conceive, I don’t have any evidence either way. I guess I’m trying to mentally prepare myself that it might not immediately work, no matter what age I am when I start trying. There are so many factors… Even if you could take a test for yourself, there could still be a problem with your partner etc.
For me, I’m ready to take a certain increased risk of having trouble getting pregnant because it also gives me some benefits, like getting ahead in my career now and enjoying my freedom.

avatar Bunnycsp June 24, 2013, 11:34 am

I think you sound like you are in a really reasonable, level headed place. Good Luck :)

avatar BreezyAM June 24, 2013, 11:35 am

It can also change… I got pregnant very easily in my teens and early 20s. Never had to “try.” If I wasn’t on birth control and we had sex anytime prior to ovulation, I got pregnant, even if we used a condom. I got a copper IUD after my 2nd child (5th pregnancy) was born at barely 24. I knew my marriage was falling apart and needed to not be pregnant again anytime soon. When I was 33 I removed it, and had my third child right before I turned 34. Again, barely tried.

But between child 3 and 4 something changed. My hormones were in the toilet when I had them tested. I had three miscarriages before I got pregnant with number 4, after months and months of trying each time. And within a year of his birth, I was diagnosed with premature menopause. I’m barely 38.

Come to find out I am not genetically related to any woman who had a child after 33. And that 36-38 window is where we start going through menopause. I am so glad I did not wait.

avatar Christy June 24, 2013, 10:02 am

Just want to add–this article is about how there’s a lot of sensationalism of how much women’s fertility declines, and that it’s probably not as bad as everyone is saying!

avatar Taylor June 24, 2013, 10:49 am

I wish I’d read that article years ago. I was blown away by the stats in it. I’ve passed it on to a lot of friends. You read so much about how hard it is to conceive in one’s thirties, it was a relief to see a thorough discussion about it!

avatar Bunnycsp June 24, 2013, 9:17 am

Two things I will tell you. My husband and I have been trying for 18 months with no success. Some people it happens immediately and sometimes it happens much longer. So we waited until we were perfectly ready and now we are worried we waited too long.

2nd, Suze Orman said once on her show to “pretend you have a baby.” So depending where you live, start saving $1000 ish a month. It is a win win because it makes you focus on your finances, helps cushion your savings, and gives you a basic idea about parenthood financially. It isn’t a perfect plan but it gives you an idea.

avatar MMcG June 24, 2013, 11:51 am

The Suzy Orman advice is great, and not just for kids… any major life decision (jobs, houses, etc.) if you have the ability to try and live within your “new/pretend” lifestyle I think it can only be helpful.

Good luck bunnycsp :)

avatar Bunnycsp June 24, 2013, 12:54 pm

I totally agree. I remember when I was looking at houses, the mortgage and taxes was going to be $500 more a month than we were paying, so we started to save that every month and the money went toward to down payment. So that made it a really easy transition afterwards.

avatar GatorGirl June 24, 2013, 9:17 am

I’m having this internal debate too. I’m still on the younger side (27) but I’ve always said I wanted to at least be actively trying by 30. One thing I’m concerned about is my husbands career path will have him potentially bouncing from job to job for 5 or so years before finding a tenure or tenure track position. So or finances and location will be in flux for a few years. But I’m not sure if I’m open to waiting until he has a tenure track job.

Also, I haven’t drank nearly enough beer.

avatar jottino June 24, 2013, 9:30 am

This is one of those questions that I want to read, but I don’t want to read lol. (Same for that linked article.)

I’ve just turned 30, so some of this stuff is on my mind — especially the age issues. And I love the advice! Bookmarked & saved for later.

avatar Christy June 24, 2013, 9:44 am

The article will make you less worried, not more worried!

Copa Copa June 24, 2013, 9:30 am

I’m not married — which is something I’d want before even thinking about starting a family (I know some women want kids regardless, but I’m not one of them) — but I already think about this kind of thing. I’m not even 100% sure I want kids, but the practicalities give me premature anxiety if I think too hard about them. I definitely don’t think the timing for children will ever be perfect, but it’s such a huge, life-altering thing that I definitely empathize with anyone who is facing the decision of “when” more imminently than I am.

fast eddie fast eddie June 24, 2013, 9:40 am

To get a taste of what parenting is like foster some nursing kittens or puppies. We’ve done that and never had the two legged variety, it was an eyeopener. Feeding a 2-4 ounce babies every two hours around the clock, doing laundry every day and agonizing over every little thing. The first morning I said to my self “I CAN’T DO THIS”. We talked about and she took the night shit up to the 2:00 AM feeding, I took over at 4:00 so she could get some sleep. This lasted for a 3-4 weeks that seemed much longer at the time, but then they grow up with more issues to deal with. No getting around it, IT’S HARD, VERY HARD but the experience and outcome is wonderful. We’re not eager to repeat it, but if the call comes from the shelter I’ll be out the door with a carrier in a flash.

PS Our current litter is near adoption weight and age. That will be a really sad day, yet it will mark 38 kitties gone to permanent homes and that makes us very happy. Yes it’s worth the work and heart break with more litters that will need us in the pipe.

avatar GatorGirl June 24, 2013, 9:50 am

Fostering kittens is the most rewarding and exhausting experience! While I haven’t had a baby yet, I do agree it’s a fairly good test run, especially if you have to bottle feed. (And the newborns need help pooping. Fun stuff.)

fast eddie fast eddie June 24, 2013, 3:09 pm

I’d forgotten about the helping them poop. Yep it’s quite an experience, LOTS of work and worry but totally worth it in the end…except taking them back when they’re big enough. :-(

avatar temperance June 24, 2013, 12:05 pm

Thank you for this comment. I’ve been wanting to foster (ferrets, not cats – my husband is very allergic to cats), and this is exactly what I needed to hear to get my rear in gear about it.

avatar bethany June 24, 2013, 9:46 am

Thank you, Wendy. I was hoping you’d chime in on this. I think I needed someone to point out to me that you’re not necessarily “happy” with the decision to have kids 100% of the time, just like I’m not happy about not having kids 100% of the time. I guess that’s what grandmothers who live an hour away are for :)

I was talking about this with my friend yesterday (who is due with her 2nd any minute!!), and I feel like I’m getting closer. Financially, there are some things we need to do (like pay off the car), before I think we should start trying, but I think we’re getting there. Or at least, I am. I think I need to check in with my husband to see what stage he’s at in all of this. He has had a “some day in the far future” attitude about it, but maybe that might be changing.

avatar bethany June 24, 2013, 9:46 am

Oh, and I’m also very interested to hear what everyone else has to say about this, too!!

fast eddie fast eddie June 24, 2013, 7:38 pm

Similar I suppose to fostering fur balls. Cleaning poop off the carpets, making formula, and of course bottle feeding gets old pretty fast. I really don’t know how moms do it for months and years. It must the same reason we do ours.

LOVE
LOVE
LOVE

avatar FossilChick June 24, 2013, 9:54 am

I’m concerned that our finances will never look “good” or solid enough for us to consider trying in the near future. I know I want kids, but I’m also the one with the higher-powered (though not very highly paid) career. He’s willing to stay home and work part time, but if we wait for “the perfect time” when we have lots of savings, expendable income, a bigger place than a 2-bedroom apartment, etc. then it’ll be another ten years and I’ll be in my late thirties. I’m very much in the “we’ll make it work” camp, he’s a “ducks in a row” type. Is anyone else in this boat?

avatar SasLinna June 24, 2013, 10:09 am

I’m not in that boat, but I’m thinking – could you point out some of the benefits of having kids earlier to him? For example, I’ve heard that younger people have an easier time with being sleep deprived and that they have more energy to keep up with young children. Another advantage is that once they’re grown up you’ll probably still be relatively fit. And of course if children are an important part of your life plan then trying sooner will maximize your chances of having them. I understand trying to get one’s finances in order first, but if it’s not a situation of high debt or a really low income, I wouldn’t see that as a reason to postpone having children if you’re otherwise ready. Also, I would think that a lot of the really high costs associated with having kids (like paying for college) only come up when the kids are older.

avatar GatorGirl June 24, 2013, 10:20 am

This is semi related-

One of the biggest reasons I want to start trying for kids by 30, is because I do have a big desire to be a younger parent. My mom was 17 when I was born, and while I didn’t want to be THAT young, even at a young age it was pretty apparent the difference in the “young mom’s” and older parents. I really enjoy having her closer in age, at this point I’m 27 and my mom is 44 and we’re like buddies. It’s pretty great. (Not that you can’t have that kind of relationship with an older parent, for the record.) She was always down on the floor playing with me, running in the yard with me, etc and some of the kids with older parents didn’t have that.

Also, relating to the costs/ducks in a row- people manage to raise kids with minimum wage jobs or less all the time. Being financially secure is a great *ideal* but are we ever really financially secure?

avatar SasLinna June 24, 2013, 10:26 am

I used to think that, too – that I wanted to be a younger parent – but it just didn’t play out in my life that way. Now I think that if I have kids I’ll probably anyway start trying between 30 and 35, and that might not make such a big difference for the kids’ experience – whether I’m 31 or 34, for example. And I can easily sit on the floor with a child for ages due to my yoga practice…

avatar kerrycontrary June 24, 2013, 10:28 am

Yeh I want to be a younger parent as well.

avatar bethany June 24, 2013, 10:32 am

What made me think twice about the financial thing, is that where I live, daycare averages 200/week. I can’t just magically find an extra $800/month for daycare alone. I mean, that’s freaking crazy!! With a mortgage and taxes and home repairs, an extra 800/month is just not something we have right now.

avatar GatorGirl June 24, 2013, 10:37 am

Have you considered in home daycares or like a family member? My BFF’s SIL has a pretty sweet arrangement set up- So the husbands mom takes the baby Monday and Wednesday, my BFF and her newborn go to SIL’s house Tuesday and Thursday, and Friday SIL’s mom takes the baby. So unorthodox, but much cheaper than “traditional” day care. You could also see with your employer if they have any subsidized/partner programs or if they would be open to doing a more flexible work week with you. Like a day or two from home. But yeah, childcare up there is ridiculous.

avatar bethany June 24, 2013, 10:59 am

Closest family is an hour away, so that won’t work. Our next door neighbor actually does in home child care, but I think it might get weird if she’s watching our kid all the time, ya know? I would have her do after school care when kids are older, but I think with a baby it might be a bit too much.
I can’t really do my job from home either, so that’s out.

avatar Morgan June 24, 2013, 11:03 am

My parents had an arrangement with another family in the neighborhood rather than deal with formal daycare. That neighbor had a job that started very early in the morning, but she could work from home afternoons. My mom is a teacher, so she didn’t have to be to be at work as early. Mornings, the neighbor kids came to our house for breakfast and morning cartoons and then my mom got everyone to school. Afternoons, my sister and I went to their house after school until my mom got home. That’s how my parents always did daycare; either a babysitter or working things out with other parents in the neighborhood.

avatar lemongrass June 24, 2013, 11:30 am

The in-home daycares go for $800 a month where I am, $1000 for formal day care. If I didn’t already plan on being a stay at home mom, I would have been forced to anyways. There is no point in working to only pay for day care. I don’t have family around and my husband makes enough money that the gov’t doesn’t subsidize for us.

avatar Christy June 24, 2013, 11:51 am

Now, I’m not positive of this, so please don’t excoriate me if I’m misguided here. But there are benefits to working, even if it’s even with the costs of daycare. 1. The woman’s salary isn’t the one that’s automatically paying for daycare. According to the internet (authority!) women tend to assume this, even though childcare is a shared responsibility between the two parents (if there are two parents). 2. If you’re looking to reenter the workforce once your kid(s) reach a certain age, the lost time of staying at home will count against you.

Now, there are obviously many many many benefits to staying at home. I just wanted to make sure that those two points were made. I’m not trying to start a fight or debate here, just adding two small points.

avatar GatorGirl June 24, 2013, 12:09 pm

“The woman’s salary isn’t the one that’s automatically paying for daycare.” I think the point is- if it costs $800 per month for childcare and mom working is only making $900 (for example) is it worth it to put the kid in childcare for a net of $100? When you could just stay home and figure out how to do with out the $100?

IMO it is not, I would choose to have one of us stay home- not necessarily the woman.

theattack theattack June 24, 2013, 12:23 pm

I think Christy is saying that even if mom makes $900 and childcare is $800, the childcare costs are in theory spread more evenly between parents. In that scenario, mom’s net profit is reduced by $400 and so is dad’s. The “cost” shouldn’t always be assumed to come out of mom’s paycheck. It might make more sense for moms to take the brunt of all the childcare costs more frequently than dads (income inequality, traditionally gendered career choices, breastfeeding, etc.), but that’s not the only way (or the best way, IMO) to view the situation. The value of staying in the workforce is much more than the minimal net profit in that scenario, because it will hopefully pay you back in bigger bucks over time, and that doesn’t just help out the mom.

avatar GatorGirl June 24, 2013, 12:35 pm

No I get that it “should” be split…but if the added income to the house- regardless of who’s paycheck the money is coming from- is only $100, in my opinion it’s not worth it for which ever parent to work. (And in theory you’re splitting finances at the minimum for basic costs (rent/mortgage, utilities) and if childcare isn’t one of those joint costs, well you’ve got bigger fish to fry.

And I think the other difference is, you’re thinking more long term and I’m thinking today what makes more sense.

theattack theattack June 24, 2013, 12:40 pm

I’m definitely thinking long term. You should always think long term for major decisions like dropping out of the workforce, IMO. Also, I wasn’t excluding couples who combine all their finances or split everything. Even if you’re fully combined, it still matters who is earning what and who takes responsibility for what. And finally, $100 can be a big difference. For a lot of my clients, losing $100 a month would be a financial disaster. I agree with you that if you’re financially stable, that loss might not be a huge deal in the short term though.

avatar GatorGirl June 24, 2013, 12:45 pm

Basically it all comes down to doing what is best for you and your family.

But I guess I’ve never really had to “deal” with the dropping out of the work force thing. My mom didn’t work for years and years, but went back to work (begrudgingly) 2 years ago for my grandmothers business. So it was a built in job.

But yeah, weigh all the options and make the best choice for yourself and your family.

avatar Christy June 24, 2013, 1:10 pm

I think TA covered my point pretty well. As a counter-example to your mother’s, GG, when my mom had to reenter the workforce after she divorced my dad, her mom helped her get a job as a school librarian. My mom hated it so much that she cried every day, but she wasn’t going to be able to support us on retail and child support. Luckily, my mom likes it better now, but she’s still years behind in 401k contributions and retirement savings and even professional experience.

avatar kerrycontrary June 24, 2013, 12:25 pm

I would add to Christy’s argument that it may be advantageous to stay at home when you say “well I’m only earning 5K a year when you factor in daycare and commuting and my work wardrobe.” But you have to think about the raises you would’ve gotten during the time you stay out of the workforce, the professional development and skills everyone else is picking up while you are at home, and the funds you would be committing to retirement (especially if you have an employee sponsored 401K) if you were working. So it’s not working just to pay for daycare, it’s working to have a long-term financial investment in your career and retirement. If that makes sense. (I think everyone should do what’s right for them, but this is just a further discussion of how it’s not just working to pay for daycare).

theattack theattack June 24, 2013, 12:29 pm

Such a good point about the 401K. Also, insurance. It helps out to be able to have a primary and a secondary health insurance if both career choices provide it.

Dear Wendy Wendy June 24, 2013, 12:26 pm

As someone whose entire earnings (from part-time work) go to pay for part-time child care (and a cleaning lady twice a month), I have a lot to say on the idea of keeping a toe in the work world while staying home at least part-time with your child. Obviously, it’s different for everyone, but for me, I desperately need another outlet in my week to focus some of my energy on. I need a break from caring for Jackson. I happen to really love what I do, most of the time, so work brings me a different kind of fulfillment that helps me feel well-rounded. It gives me something else to think and talk about. And while right now all my earnings pay for child care, that won’t always be the case. Eventually, Jackson will be in school and I won’t have to pay for child care help. Holla.

avatar lemongrass June 24, 2013, 12:29 pm

I didn’t mean that there were no benefits for all women, just me. I purposely never had a career because I wanted to be a stay at home mom. There are benefits beyond a paycheck for some working moms of course.

avatar Christy June 24, 2013, 1:11 pm

Totally, lemongrass. I just wanted to make sure that perspective is covered here. My mom always wanted to be a SAHM too, and it was a great way (one of many) to be a kid.

avatar Bunnycsp June 24, 2013, 1:25 pm

The one thing you do think about is you can deduct day care from your taxes and you get a tax credit per kid. It is still out of pocket but just something to think about. Look at your budget – do you eat lunch out? smoke? buy alcohol? go to the “expensive” grocery store? belong to the gym? how much money do you “bleed” a month. if that is tightened up then many times it is easier to find money.

Skyblossom Skyblossom June 24, 2013, 8:12 pm

And that’s just the daycare. Try pricing diapers and formula and baby wipes and add in some new clothes each month and you’ll probably need at least $200 more per month and that doesn’t include your copayments for the well baby checks and if your baby gets sick you pay the copayment for the doctor’s visit and also for the prescription. My youngest is 13 so I’m not up on the price of diapers and formula but they will definitely add up and you’ve got to factor them into your finances.

I know a couple whose baby was on formula and she turned out to be allergic to all formula except the expensive hypoallergenic formula. Her parents didn’t have a large income and had a fixed amount they could spend on groceries per month so they bought her formula and then bought what they could for themselves which ended up being lots of boxed macaroni and cheese. If at all possible it is good to breastfeed even if you are also feeding formula so that if your baby turns out to be allergic to the formula you have a backup that isn’t so expensive. If your baby does fine with formula then you can use it exclusively if you want. If you have a tight budget breastfeeding your baby will save you a lot of money.

Dear Wendy Wendy June 25, 2013, 6:47 am

As someone who was unable to breastfeed, I can attest: formula is EXPENSIVE.

avatar BreezyAM June 24, 2013, 11:38 am

I wanted to have my kids young (had I had my way, my last two would have been born about 4 years earlier than they were) because I wanted to still be able to have fun (and sex) with my spouse once they were out of the house. When our youngest is pretty much done, we’ll be in our mid 50s, and that’s about the upper limit I wanted for us. I want a good 15-20 years of running around and having good times together.

avatar kerrycontrary June 24, 2013, 12:22 pm

Well, I know at least when we got to driving age we were out of our parents hair a lot more. And there’s a big difference when you only have 1-2 at home who are both older teens. My parents got a lot more freedom when 2 of my siblings were at college and I was in high school. They started golfing a lot more and doing things by themselves a lot more since I was out of the house most of the time.

avatar kerrycontrary June 24, 2013, 10:11 am

We’re not trying for kids anytime soon, but I’m always a “make it work” person whereas my boyfriend is a “ducks in the row” type about everything. Like marriage, moving, etc…I think you just have to find compromises on timelines. So OK maybe you don’t have as much savings as you expected or as much expendable income as you want, but you still have some of both. And you compromise on the area you live in to get some more space. Maybe revisit the conversation in 5 years and see where you are at? And in the meantime since you are DINKs (dual income no kids), start budgeting really hard right now to save up.

avatar Christy June 24, 2013, 10:27 am

Side note–I can’t WAIT to be a DINK. Plus, by the time I’m a DINK, esp if it’s with GF, I’ll have paid off my debt and I can start saving for a down payment on a house. We’re both ducks-in-a-row types.

avatar BreezyAM June 24, 2013, 11:40 am

MrAM and I were like that… eventually he had to kind of “pretend” he was just ever so swept up in passion that he just couldn’t resist or take time to put on a condom in order to get over it and work on getting in a family way. I had gotten to a point where I said I wasn’t about to be responsible for birth control anymore when he was the one who didn’t want to kid and had dragged ass for five years past when we originally said we’d start trying. He was very good about it for a while, and then all these friends of our started getting knocked up, people in WAY worse shape than we were, and so he kinda got over it. Now he wishes we’d started at least 2-3 years earlier so we could have had a 5th.

avatar FossilChick June 24, 2013, 10:26 am

Thanks for your insights. It probably doesn’t help that I’m a historian and always think, “People in the past had kids without an IRA and 4-bedroom house and two nannies, so can we!” (Though I don’t want to go back to a time before penicillin!) I think that thinking about timelines instead of deadlines is really useful, especially because conception and pregnancy are biological gambles and not guarantees.

avatar Bunnycsp June 24, 2013, 10:37 am

For what it is worth, we have friends drowning in debt because they didn’t really plan the budget. The husband is in a feast of famine industry (construction project management) and the wife is SAHM. They barely had savings with kids and then when he lost his job it went very bad very quickly. They are so desperate and unhappy and resent each other. In my opinion you have to have a cushion in your budget for a kid. you don’t have to own a house or anything but you need to understand that your bills are going to go way up. I think not having your ducks in a row can put even more of a strain on your marriage.

MaterialsGirl MaterialsGirl June 24, 2013, 10:19 am

If you have relatives or close friends, volunteer to take their kids for an overnight. I had good friends at work and they had a wedding in milwaukee. We offered to take their two kids for the weekend so they could have a great time. Yeah, it’s intense, but it was really fun. I grew up with a lot of brothers and sisters, so it wasn’t TOO much different from what I remember, but for MaterialsGuy, it was like wooah. Now that he has a nephew though, his baby urge is getting LOUD. Kinda like GatorGuys. Its ridiculous. Thank god i’m meticulous about BC. we gotta at least wait for the wedding.

avatar GatorGirl June 24, 2013, 10:22 am

10 weeks right?? Exciting!

avatar lemongrass June 24, 2013, 11:32 am

Keep in mind though, other people’s kids are much different from having your own. There isn’t that intense love to keep you going. You also don’t start out with a 4 year old. You work your way up from a baby!

avatar Amanda June 24, 2013, 10:44 am

I’m 30, married, finishing my PhD and 10.5 weeks pregnant. To be honest, I’m not 100% certain that I’m ready to be a parent. My husband REALLY wants babies and I always wanted kids, but I’m anxious about living off of our savings next year after the baby is born. I have the same worries that you do with the additional worry that I won’t finish my degree. Fortunately, my husband and I have a lot of savings and our families are very supportive so I am hopeful that we will both finish our degrees while properly caring for our child. Plus, if you like Doctor Who, when you are pregnant you become a Time Lord, which is awesome. Hearing the baby’s heartbeat for the first time is such an amazing experience.

avatar GatorGirl June 24, 2013, 10:56 am

How long do y’all have left in your programs? We’re debating trying to conceive before my husband finishes his PhD.

avatar Amanda June 24, 2013, 11:04 am

We will both finish next year. I am finishing up my experiments and we are both currently writing our dissertations.

avatar GatorGirl June 24, 2013, 11:13 am

Exciting!! My husband has a year or two left (Spring 2014 or 2015). If you’re open to sharing- did you “plan” the timing right before you’ll finish school? Did you have a rational? Babies in grad school is a fascinating subject to me.

avatar Amanda June 24, 2013, 11:25 am

No, there wasn’t really a plan. The ability to conceive is such large unknown and we wanted to figure out sooner rather than later if we had any fertility problems. Plus, I have excellent, free health insurance right now through school.

avatar GatorGirl June 24, 2013, 12:03 pm

Thanks for over sharing! I’m leaning the same way, wanting to start trying earlier in case there are problems. Also my insurance is really good now too. And there is childcare through his university too. Hmmmm. Best wishes for a smooth pregnancy!

avatar Amanda June 24, 2013, 12:27 pm

Thanks!

avatar lemongrass June 24, 2013, 11:35 am

Congrats! Just wait until the first time the baby rolls in you- feels like a fish!

avatar Amanda June 24, 2013, 12:27 pm

Haha looking forward to it!

avatar lemongrass June 24, 2013, 11:10 am

It’s really easy to get in the mindset of ‘I’m giving up the life I have’ to have kids. You aren’t giving up your life. You are choosing a different path in life than you already have, and it is different. But we choose different paths in life all the time. Different jobs, careers, relationships, they all take us down different paths in life.

Yes there are times that are really hard and you just want to be free. But Wendy is right that the hard times pass and then you’re into the next thing, good or mundane. It is important to keep in mind that they pass.

There is no perfect age to have kids. For Wendy it was 34, for me it was 24. It is a really individual decision so do what is right for you. And please, enjoy your full nights sleep for me. I know that day will come again but I can’t imagine it right now.

findingtheearth findingtheearth June 24, 2013, 2:47 pm

I love this. I got really bad depression while I was pregnant, and kept thinking my life was ruined and over. I came to a great realization at about 2 months post partum that it was just a new season in my life and in order to really enjoy it, I had to embrace.

Also, I am lucky to get 3-4 hours straight in one sitting between feedings at night. I remember the first night I dreamed after having the babe. I was so excited, I texted everyone I knew that I had slept well enough/deep enough to finally have a dream!

mrmidtwenties mrmidtwenties June 24, 2013, 11:34 am

I am so happy to be at least 5 if not 10 years (maybe 15 years? :) ) away from the having kids life stage.

avatar TECH June 24, 2013, 11:53 am

I think when people take the time to think — really think — about whether or not they are prepared to be a parent, it’s a pretty good indication they will be a decent parent.
When you’ve taken the time to prepare financially, have open communication with your partner, and have setup a schedule with your partner, you’re on the right road.
Think about how many careless people write into Wendy and say, “OMG I got pregnant from a guy that has two other baby mama’s and I don’t have a job and my family hates me.”
Those are people that shouldn’t be having kids. The ones who don’t put thought or consideration into their actions.
The ones who take responsibility and ownership for their lives are probably going to be just fine. Not that it will be easy, but they have a better chance of succeeding.

avatar Christy June 24, 2013, 1:14 pm

Yes yes yes yes yes. If you’re seriously thinking about it, and you’re overdebating it, you’re more likely than not going to be a prepared parent. Perhaps a neurotic parent, but a prepared parent.

bittergaymark Bittergaymark June 24, 2013, 12:26 pm

If you aren’t certain… If there is the slightest hesitation… Don’t. Have. Kids. End of story.

theattack theattack June 24, 2013, 12:35 pm

I don’t think it’s realistic for most people to ever be 100% certain about anything. I’m not 100% about which flavor of yogurt I want to eat or that I’m happy not living in a nudist colony, but being 90-95% is good enough for most of my decisions.

Not to mention that a responsible adult realizes that even if she turns out missing her pre-baby life, she still has to buck up and give her full care to the kid. That’s why there’s anxiety about it obviously.

avatar GatorGirl June 24, 2013, 12:42 pm

The question is the timing of the kids, not to have them or not. And, what theattack said.

bittergaymark bittergaymark June 24, 2013, 7:14 pm

Um, in my opinion — of you repeatedly question whether or not you are ready to have kids, then — DUH! — you aren’t ready and you shouldn’t have them. The world is filled with bitter fucked up parents. Don’t believe me? Just head out to the fucking mall…

avatar A La Mode June 24, 2013, 8:34 pm

It may be an unpopular opinion, but I feel even more strongly about this than what you imply with this comment…

If you’re not 100%, insanely excited to have kids and are fiscally/emotionally ready to have them, AND you refuse to adopt a child, you should not be getting pregnant or trying to get pregnant. Maybe try being a foster parent instead to really get a feel for the situation, but still. I don’t think people should be popping babies out unless they feel like it’s a major life goal that they will be emotionally unfulfilled forever if they don’t become parents. This planet is insanely overpopulated and we don’t need babies born from ambivalence hogging resources.

bittergaymark bittergaymark June 25, 2013, 2:24 am

I agree, but everybody here thinks they can simply have it all, I guess.

Dumb people on here especially seem to breed like bacteria. It’s constantly… one OOPSIE I got myself knocked up letter after another and it makes me wanna barf!

Lindsay Lindsay June 24, 2013, 1:15 pm

Well, yeah, if you’re not sure you want kids, then definitely figure that out first. (Though I’d say it’s not necessary to just determine right then and there that you should never, ever have them.) But this is about timing, and being anxious about if you’re ready or not doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t have children. Most people get nervous when making any big life decision.

Fabelle Fabelle June 24, 2013, 12:48 pm

I feel like I can’t really contribute to this, today—I’m on the fence about kids, having only accepted not too long ago that I ~kind~ of, MAYBE wanted them—& I’m nowhere near needing to decide. But everyone has given awesome advice so far, & I enjoyed reading!

avatar Boosker June 24, 2013, 1:12 pm

Yeah, my husband and I are a month or two away from trying to get on the procreation bandwagon. I’m about 70% sure I want kids, which is more than 50% so we’re going for it. Yikes!

avatar HmC June 24, 2013, 1:57 pm

LW, the fact that you put this much thought into having a kid in the first place puts you light years ahead of a depressingly large number of people who put more thought into what they’re going to eat for dinner than whether they actually should procreate. If you know you want kids and you have a stable environment to bring them into, I say go for it.

avatar camorzilla June 24, 2013, 2:23 pm

My husband and I just threw away the birth control about two months ago. I have SERIOUS baby fever and he still gets a little freaked out when we talk about it but is coming around. I’m turning 30 in August. Eeek!

findingtheearth findingtheearth June 24, 2013, 2:52 pm

As someone who had thought she would never have kids, and then realized it would not be horrible, and then had a child, it really is not that horrible of an experience. I am not wanting to go all lovey dovey mom, but as someone who was a barfly and loved to party – having a child has really helped me reach other goals regarding myself and my life. I had to get my life together quickly and had to make really rapid decisions, but I love this season of my life. It is hard, and sometimes it is like second nature.

Like I said in the forums, I don’t know about the spouse angle of it, but I have loved my daughter since the moment she popped up on the sonogram. Love love love. I started liking her and liking our journey at about 2 months after she was born. It is a relationship like interacting with anyone else, and it took some time for it to feel like I was really getting the hang of it.

bittergaymark bittergaymark June 25, 2013, 2:39 am

Here’s the thing about daycare that cracks me up — it’s that soooooo many people think it’s great for the kids. And that those working in daycare all just LOVE kids so much… Whatever. As an analogy, allow me to tell you about my recent adventures in dogwalking. I love, LOVE dogs. Simply adore them! Just can’t get enough of my friend’s dogs! And so, when the odd, chance opportunity came up to pay the bills by walking seven to ten dogs a day — I thought this would be an amazingly easy gig. The perfect fit! A day job I would truly enjoy!! The reality? Eh, not so much. Turns out — sadly — most of the dogs are so darn annoying. They bark incessantly. They whine. They often try to kill me by shitting in the middle of the road on a blind curve! One terrifies joggers everywhere with unbridled fits of rage that embarrass me to no end as I struggle to hold him back as we skid across the gravel… Being completely honest, all but three are total head-cases. Some are fullblown psychopaths that turn into Cujo’s on the ends of their leashes the minute they see another dog. It’s often SCARY! One is simply too fat (at the ripe old age of TWO!) Meanwhile, her owners refuse to get it — every time I let her in and out of the mansion, I see that there is enough food in her bowl to feed a pack of wolves! — and so, she plops down panting every five minutes of our walk making it the longest hour on the planet.

While, I am certainly never even close to abusive with any of these dogs, increasingly, I must admit, I am not exactly very warm to most of them either. Sadly, they just bring out the worst in me. And so, I find that I am increasingly impatient with them. So much so, I look forward to the provision now that I am supposed to squirt one with a water bottle now whenever she goes psycho… I predict I will be running out of water, fast! And I will ONLY be following instructions. All this both saddens and surprises me. Worse, I find that my “acting” around them is the worst performance ever. Ugh, I sound so fake lately when I greet them, I cringe. Sad, but true… most of them are little monsters. Whew… Thank God, I only deal with them for an hour a day! I can only imagine how trying an entire day of them would get…

Oh, sure. Everybody will now take me to task for comparing dogs to children… But to do so would be missing the point. It’s the job — I am taking about. I am basically doing daycare — for dogs. And it’s often mindblowingly tedious and annoying. Moreover, I am certain that bratty children — or even normal “busy” children — must be even more maddening to deal with. For starters, they actually can talk back by age two! And if they aren’t yours… well, you often quickly probably don’t find them quite so cute by day four… I can only imagine how many kids around this country are barely tolerated by their daycare providers… And think that many, many people out there are just kidding themselves…

avatar Karen July 4, 2013, 2:37 pm

Speaking of fertility worries, I’m conducting my psychology dissertation research on worry about future fertility among women 25 to 40 years old, and I launched my survey this week! https://www.facebook.com/FutureFertilitySurvey The survey deals with a lot of the issues brought up in this Atlantic article. Please check it out and consider passing it on to your contacts. Thank you!

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