I couldn’t tell you when my husband and I knew we were ready to have a baby, probably because it wasn’t really something that came about in one revelatory moment. More than it being one conscious decision, choosing to become parents was a six-year erosion of all the reasons we weren’t ready, coupled with a series of events and evolutions that bolstered the previously held idea that, yes, we would like to have children together one day.
I will give some credence to the oft-repeated idea that no one is ever ready for a baby, because there is truth in it. It’s like, NASA astronauts can and do prepare for space missions for close to a decade, but no amount of training can truly prepare them for what it’s actually going to feel like once they get out of their capsule to walk on the moon. So, in that way, neither you nor your relationship can ever really be “ready” for what’s in store. However, on the whole, I also think that argument is sort of B.S. — there are absolutely things that can make you and your relationship better prepared for parenthood. To say otherwise would be like (to continue my awesome NASA metaphor), “No one can ever truly be prepared for a trip into outer space, so why don’t we just send Sheila and Jim from accounting?” Astronauts aren’t omnipotent, but they have a pretty good idea of WTF they’re doing.
So how do you know if you and your partner are ready for countdown? (That was my last space analogy, I promise) Here are some signs.
Yes, it sounds pretty elementary, but honestly, if you have stared into the abyss of scary unknowns and what-ifs and the massive weight of parental responsibility and still want to have a child in the near future, that’s a pretty good sign that you might be ready.
I'm not saying you need to endure the kind of psychological trauma that eventually gets turned into an Academy Award-winning movie starring Meryl Streep. I’m just saying that if you and your partner have already successfully navigated some of life’s more difficult moments and you’ve managed to get through it as a team and you still like each other, then that’s a pretty good sign that you might be ready to test that with a baby.
If you both want a baby but your significant other is hellbent on, say, making huge progress in their career in the next year and a half, or if you want to travel to another 7 countries in as many months, perhaps your relationship isn’t quite there yet. It’s not just about what you both ultimately want, but timing is important. It’s not everything, but it’s important.
It’s not like you don’t get to leave the house ever again once you have a baby… but you will be leaving the house far less once you have a baby. If you’re already at the point in your relationship where you like vegging out in sweatpants more often than not, this will serve you both well.
If you can go to IKEA and get excited about the idea of choosing and building furniture, you’re not just ready for a baby, you’re ready to broker world peace. But seriously, if you enjoy working together to accomplish a task — restoring antique furniture, yard work, fixing cars, building houses, cooking — this is good practice for parenthood.
Delegating without dictating is crucial. Because there will be times when you will need the other person to take over or pitch in. You can’t be a jerk or passive aggressive about it. Some people avoid the issue altogether by not delegating at all and doing everything themselves. I’ll let you guess how well that generally turns out.
This doesn’t take away from the importance of expressing their needs clearly and honestly in a relationship, but if you can read your partner’s body language, moods, and tone, and jump in to offer help before they even ask, that’s not only damn impressive but a great skill to have in the parenting biz. Because sometimes it doesn’t even occur to the stressed out party to ask for help — that’s how stressed out they are! And it’s not until you offer assistance that they realize how heavy a load they’re carrying.
Babysitting has suddenly gone from somewhere below a getting pap smear on your personal preference list to you basically being a nice version of Hansel and Gretel’s witch — that’s how badly you want to be around kids. And when you get around kids, you’re into it. You don’t just go over and turn on the TV for them while you bury your face in your phone. You are on your hands and knees, neighing like a horse because they off-handedly mentioned they wanted a pony ride. You buy arts and crafts and special bedtime stories. You mention the fact that you’ll be babysitting to your friends and co-workers at any opportunity because you’re so excited. Like…
*complete silence in the office*
You: "Oh, Friday? Sorry, I can’t. I’m watching my friend Jill’s aaaaaaaaaaaaamazing kidlets that night! Their names are Haven and Lincoln, but everyone calls him Linc. They’re four and one and they are so sweet!"
Co-worker: "Ummm… I didn’t say anything."
You: "...I know."
*office falls back to silence*
You: "Haven has the best wardrobe! It’s, like, she’ll pair tutus with Converse and then have a hoodie with kitty ears on it! And her hair! It’s, like, I try to get my hair to look like that every morning."
You: "We’re going to give each other manicures on Friday, when I’m babysitting her and her brother Linc. Did I mention I’m babysitting? My boyfriend is really, really excited to just spend the whole time snuggling with Linc. Linc loves him, too. It’s so cute."
Yeah, you might be ready for your own little friend to bore your co-workers talking about. It's not really less annoying, but it's definitely less... weird.
You’re no longer at the stage where you are cagey with your partner about where you see yourselves in a few months or years. (We’ve all been there, right? In fact, I'm pretty sure we all start there.) You can say without hesitation, fear, self-consciousness, or doubt that when you imagine your future they are there. More than just there, they are beside you.
Preparedness for parenthood is not just about having a good relationship with your significant other. It helps if you have some self-love going on, too. Because that baby is going to be half you, and I’m not just talking genetically. Genetics are one thing that can contribute to your being a parent, but it’s not a requirement. No matter if one, both, or neither of you is genetically tied to your kid, if you’re going to be raising your child with your partner, the kiddo is going to have a lot of you in them, sometimes eerily so. You will see yourself reflected back in these little people and they will pick up on that. So if they can see that you love and respect yourself, they are going to feel even more loved and respected by you.
Images: @margejacobsen/Instagram; Giphy(10)