Is It “The Right Time” for a Baby?

A lot of our expectations about motherhood and pregnancy come mainly from two sources: our mothers and movies. Humans, after all, learn from observing others.

Chances are you weren’t there to see your mom take her pregnancy test. That’s a private moment, one that’s only displayed in the movies. When the actress looks down at her positive pregnancy test, what happens? One of two things – either she’s overjoyed or distraught. It makes me laugh every time. Real life is not so black and white.

When I took my pregnancy test I was rooting for a positive. Married and somewhat settled down, my husband and I had planned conception. We had changed our diets and our lifestyles months in advance to increase our chances of having a baby. As far back as I can remember I really desired to be a mother. So when I saw that successful pregnancy test I should have been thrilled! Believe me I was but I was also scared. Nervous. Now – this was real. Now I was going to be a mother in nine months’ time. I would have to give birth to this baby, bring it home and not kill it.

Questions that I had answered with certainty before the positive test now crept back into my mind. Was I ready? Was I ready to be the mom? Had I done enough with my life to put aside my individual pursuits and start “project baby”? Strange doubts started to surface as well. Was I independent enough to be a mom? Was I educated enough to be a mom? This flurry of insecurities swirled around the central question: Would I be a good mother?

What films don’t show women is the emotional complexity involved in this huge life decision. You will not feel only one emotion. That’s a promise from me to you. However you felt about pregnancy prior to conception, the minute you see that positive pregnancy test you will experience a wide range of feelings and emotions that you might not have experienced before. Motherhood, even prenatal motherhood, makes a woman feel vulnerable in a way that she cannot experience otherwise. It forces a woman to grow, to become more than herself, and to learn to be comfortable with who she is – possibly for the first time in her life. This is one of the reasons that motherhood is such a big decision. It’s a life changing experience.

*So when is the “right time”?

Now, as far as when the “right time” is to have a baby. In some ways the choice is up to you and your lifestyle. There is no magic formula for the “perfect time” to raise a child. You will never have “enough” money. You will never have “enough” job security – or “enough” life security for that matter.

What individual challenges will you have to face with this new addition to the family? Maybe your biological clock is ticking. Age could be a factor for you while trying to get pregnant. Biologically fertility “peaks” for women in their early and mid 20’s. Thankfully there are medical advancements that allow women to have children at a much later age than before.

Perhaps, like many of us, you are a professional woman who now has to redefine where a newborn will fit in with her busy work schedule. Maybe you will work part-time. Perhaps you will start out your pregnancy choosing maternity leave, only to discover a new desire to stay at home with your children until they start school. If your lifestyle allows for it you might choose to make sacrifices and not return to work, work remotely or start a business from home and stay with your children full-time. I would only encourage you to make sure your partner and you are on the same page with your decision, whether it be to stay home or return to work. Just because you feel a certain way doesn’t mean you can just force your partner to change their life plans and become the primary breadwinner. It might place too much pressure on them to provide for everything. For lasting relationships, it’s best if these decisions are made as a couple.

Perhaps you and your partner have a low-income lifestyle or you struggle with budgeting. As I said before, you will NEVER have enough money for children but if you plan well and develop good budgeting skills you can make a little money stretch a long way. I’ve always believed that part of growing up is learning how to manage your money well, no matter how much income you have. Start by taking an honest look at your shared finances and total spending with your partner. Examine how each person manages money. Make a plan to get your finances in order (if you are in debt, have loans to pay, etc) and then work to budget a newborn into your lives. Before you have a child, try to foresee the individual challenges that you will have to face and begin to plan for them accordingly.

*Is it the “right time” for you?

Earlier in this post I said there was “no magic formula for the perfect time to raise a child”. Remember? That’s not entirely true. It’s not foolproof but there is one thing that will help you decide whether this is the right time for you and your partner to have a baby.

The only thing I would urge you to do before having a child is to have many open and brutally honest discussions with your partner. Discuss all of these feelings and concerns with them. Are they ready to have a baby? Do they treat you in a mature, respectful way? Are you ready for the responsibility and sacrifice a child requires? Do you treat your partner with respect?

Babies can live in very flexible environments. You don’t have to be rich, or even well off to raise a child well. Babies need you to provide them with warmth, love, food and safety. That’s it. Your newborn won’t care if it’s wearing Land of Nod couture clothes or your neighbors’ hand-me-downs. The most important thing children need is a safe, loving, secure environment to grow up in.

So no matter how much your partner and you are dying to become parents, take a step back and examine why you want kids and how you both relate to each other. If you and your partner often resent each other, manipulate each other, or put each other down, then you need to fix what’s going on between you first. After all, how will your baby learn that one day they should treat their loved ones with respect without respectful role models? A baby WILL NOT fix your relationship. It will only place more strain on it. When you and your partner have created a loving, stable environment between the two of you and you work together to treat each other respectfully, you will know it’s “the right time” for a baby.

I want to stress that even though motherhood is a shared experience among women it is also a highly personal experience, unique to every mother. I often see blogs where women who work pit themselves against stay-at-home mothers, and vice versa. We treat each other like enemies, inferior. Why? Wherever your lifestyle places you on that spectrum, it does not make you a better or a worse mother. That is the system that works for your family. No one has a right to judge you for that. It would be better if mothers’ chose to support each other rather than tear each other down.

With that in mind, I’d love to hear how you and your partner chose to make the decision to have a baby! What challenges did you face? Share them in the comments section below.

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