Becoming a parent is a huge step to take – life changes completely and permanently as soon as that child comes into being. Parenting books and parenting advice website have plenty to say about how to be a parent, but how do you even know you’re ready to become a parent?
1. Every parent’s journey is different.
Every parent comes to the decision to parent in her or his own time. Some people have always known that they would love to be a parent. Some people don’t know how they feel about having kids until they have lived a good chunk of life. Being respectful of your own feelings about becoming a parent, and knowing that they may not be the same feelings someone else has, will go a long way toward preparing to answer if you’re ready. Listen to yourself, and listen to your partner. And don’t let others’ opinions muddy the water (says this someone with an opinon!).
2. Reproduction looks different for different people.
As technology gets better and as we as people get better at accepting all the different ways that family can work, there are now many configurations for parents, whether gay, straight, transgendered, single, intercultural (and the list could go on and on). Biological children for gay couples was not possible just a few short years ago (nor was adoption an option in many places), but now the right for all people to become parents is becoming realized in our reproductive technology and reproductive laws.
3. Parents-to-be must be on the same general page.
If you are part of a couple who is deciding “are we ready to be parents,” you may be discussing finances or how to have the baby (unassisted reproduction aka “the old fashioned way,” assisted reproduction, or adoption). You both may have different ideas on how to make room for the new child in your home or how to raise the child, or whether to feed them gluten. The one thing that you must agree upon is that both of you really want to be parents. The rest are details with which you’ll spend the rest of your parenthood grappling and perfecting.
4. You’ve at least talked about money.
Yes, children cost an insane amount of money. And that’s even if you don’t have to spend money to reproduce. If you plan to adopt or use assisted reproduction, money has to be one of the foremost concerns, because there is a large up front cost. I think most parents agree that money can’t be the thing that stops you from becoming a parent if you’re otherwise ready: having a child that you’ve wanted for ages is worth the cost. But you do need to have at least broached the question: am I financially ready for a baby?
5. Be practical, but don’t forget the fantastical.
Yes, becoming a parent is a big decision with many repercussions. You should think about finances, and possible changes to your career or your partner’s career. You should research budgets for newborns and the best insurance plan for them. But don’t forget to pay attention to your dreams and desires. Having children is largely logistical, but the rewarding side of being a parent is fantastical – it has to do with your own deep yearnings and your own bright visions of the future. Allow both logistics and fantastics to come together to help you make the decision.