I always knew I wanted kids, and that I thought I would just know when the time was right to start making some. Yeah, that didn’t happen. When my husband and I decided we should go for a baby, I actually got cold feet and changed my mind and stayed on birth control for another month. I felt like I needed a “sign.” I soon realized that, honestly, there is no perfect time to have a baby. The best you can do is what every grown-ass woman does before she has kids: be as sure as you can possibly be so you can procreate when you feel the most comfortable, on your own terms.
I think, personally and despite the mild freak-out, I was at the right stage in my life to have a kid. I had my fair share of life experiences to date, and didn't feel like my life would be "ruined" or "put on hold" if I had a kid. I had held a few different, increasingly challenging jobs, gotten married, and purchased my first apartment with my partner. On paper, those things qualified me as a grown-up, even though I had the sense of humor of a Simpsons-obsessed 12-year-old boy. Simply put, I had been through enough, seen enough, loved enough and even hurt enough, to know that I could handle being a mother.
So, while I still don’t feel there would ever be the “right” time to have a baby, I do think there are some things on the list that need to be checked off before becoming a parent. It’s just the nature of the gig: taking care of kids means you give up some things, so I recommend you cross off essential bucket list items if and when you can, before having kids.
Here are some things I, as a grown-ass woman, made sure to do before I had kids:
Do whatever’s appropriate for your financial situation, but try to get the hell away when you can. My husband and I saved to take trips almost every year before the kids were born. The furthest we’ve traveled with them, so far, is down to Florida, from New York, and that didn’t happen until they were seven and four. I love to travel, so I’m glad I got a bunch of countries in before having kids. It might be a while until I have any more global adventures.
Get A Good Haircut
For me, self-care slipped lower on the priority list (though it shouldn’t) once I had kids. I drastically changed my hair before the birth of my second child, and basically haven’t bothered with it since, so it’s a good thing I really like how it looks.
Again, this is something that can be tough to maintain once you’re a mom. It was seven years since having a baby before I got my act together to re-join a gym. I’m so glad I did, because it’s my therapy. Another reason to keep up your fitness game up before having kids? Exercise could possibly benefit childbirth. I did not have difficult births, and I would like to think it had something to do with my commitment to kickboxing.
Do Something You Love
The unconditional love of, and from, a baby is intoxicating. I can’t even begin to describe it, but it’s something I just felt so powerfully when I became a mom. However, that love doesn’t satisfy every part of me. My passion for writing, my ambition for making films; those are interests only I can fulfill for myself, and it’s so much harder to feed your passions after having kids because time to actually do them is seriously compromised (yay, weekend dance recital rehearsals!).
Go after something you want, that doesn’t have to do with family or love or significant others, before you get in mom mode. While my kids are the most important things in my life, they are not the only important things. We all need to feed our own interests, independent of motherhood. I was a person before I was a mother, and it’s good to remind myself of that.
Get Rid Of Stuff You Don't Need
Getting rid of stuff can only help make room for future kids. I remember telling my friend that I was throwing out stacks of old photos, mostly of my ex. She couldn’t believe I wasn’t going to hold on to at least one picture to remind me of the good times at least. But I had to make room for new things. Letting go of old loves, and dusty picture frames, clears the mind, and clears the closet for all those onesies you’ll accumulate at some point.
Start A Retirement Account
If you haven’t done so already, get your finances in order. Seriously. There will never be a good time, a time when you feel really excited, to do this. Just get it done already. Contribute to your 401K, if you have one, or start an IRA. Don’t think about it. Just do it. Finances only get more challenging as you add to your family, so give up the occasional latte and sock it away to earn interest for later.
Go To Sleep At A Decent Hour
Ok, maybe this isn’t doable on most weekends, but you can only benefit from more sleep. Get it now, because once you have a kid, you will never sleep again. Trust.
Get Right With Your Family
We all have varying levels of dissatisfaction with our relatives. But once you have a baby, you’re going to want, and need, as much help as you can get. Making peace with your parents will definitely help your baby get off to a good start in her relationship with her grandparents, and the extra love and support they can give is priceless.
Of course, if you needed to swear off truly toxic parents, you know the best move might be to not include them in your growing family’s life. But as someone who actually moved across the street from her parents because they help so much with childcare, it is pretty wonderful to witness the incredible bond my kids have with my parents. I’m also insanely jealous because my parents never spoiled me like they do my kids. Guess it skips a generation.
Be In ‘Like’ With Your Partner
If you plan on raising your child with someone else, it’s not enough to love that person. You have to actually like them. Parenthood can be mundane, messy, and confusing. In the early days of motherhood, I didn’t need romance, I needed someone who rolled up their sleeves and helped. Love is intense. I didn’t have the energy for it as a new mom. Like is sustainable. It’s not sexy to think of your partner as your roommate, but when you just need someone to bring you some food while you’re stuck on the couch nursing for yet another cluster feeding session, liking each other will get you through it.
Learn How To Say “No”
While your social life may look a lot different after having kids, you’ll feel just as busy. I know I’m busier now, even though I socialize less, because in addition to my own life I’m keeping up with two elementary school-aged kids with dance classes, karate lessons, Girl Scout events, and playdates. Some things will have to give. Plus, kids ask for everything. Learn how to say “no” without feeling like you’re a bitch. You’re not. You have your limits and if you don’t honor them, people won’t learn to respect them. Besides, “no” doesn’t mean “never.” Except when my kids ask if I want to have another baby.
Know Who You Are
One of the biggest realizations I had when my first baby was born was that suddenly, I had to have all the answers. I really had to know who I was, if my baby was going to feel secure, and look for me to assuage all her fears. This was daunting; I didn’t even feel fully-formed, even though I was in my 30s! But I knew what kind of mother I wanted to be to my daughter; one who listened to her, who showed her the strength of being quiet, who valued quality over quantity.
I knew this much about myself, and as I’ve been progressing through parenthood with the growth of my two kids, I have been learning even more about myself. I haven’t changed; I’ve just become more of who I already was.