Some couples know as they say their vows that they want to start a family before their first anniversary; others are just as certain that children won't be a part of their future. And then there are the partners who are fairly sure they want to be parents, but not so positive about the when. For these couples on the fence, it may be reassuring to know that there are certain topics of conversation that prove they're ready for kids. Some of these convos may seem weird, but they speak to the important issues couples have to consider before they start trying for a family.
Clinical social worker Alan Singer, Ph.D., LMCW, author of Creating Your Perfect Family Size: How to Make an Informed Decision About Having a Baby ($17, Amazon), has spent his career advising couples on the issues of whether to have children and how many to have. He tells Romper that couples who can have honest discussions and who are open to compromise are most likely to make smart decisions about having children. "A strong marital bond allows for flexibility for change," he says. "It is vital to make the change from 'me-ness' to 'we-ness.' An esteemed teacher of mine once said, 'Husband and wife do not have to think alike, but they do have to think together.'" With that in mind, if you can come together on topics like these, you should come away confident in your readiness to start a family (if one can truly ever be ready for the wonderful chaos of parenthood).
1The One-Vs.-Many Conversation
You may envision a Duggar-sized household bursting at the seams; your partner may be leaning towards "one-and-done." Either way, says Dr. Singer, "Couples should only agree initially on the fact that they want to become parents, not how many total children they want." So if your discussions are built around "when" you have children, rather than "if," that's ready enough. Once the first child arrives and you've settled into your new roles, you can go on to decide whether your family is complete or whether to add on.
2The Bucket List Conversation
Once a baby enters the picture, every decision you make will involve that little one to some degree. So you and your SO should decide which goals you want to accomplish or what loose ends to tie up before kids enter the picture, according to Today's Parent. Because, let's be honest, there's no way you're going to wake up at 5 a.m. every morning to work on your novel when your baby has used you as a milk machine all night. You'll also want to savor your couple time, sleep late, and do the things that become tougher when you're parents.
On the other hand, you also have to be realistic about the pre-kid dreams you have for yourself. You both may have a yearning to go ziplining in the Costa Rica rainforest, but if you're not actively researching hotels and requesting vacation time at work, then maybe you can agree it's something that can wait until the children are older.
3The Have-Grandma-On-Speed-Dial Conversation
Couples who actively discuss and research child care options before they become pregnant are taking a proactive approach to parenthood that will serve them well later. Just under 20 percent of American parents are at-home moms and dads, according to the latest figures from Pew Research, so odds are you'll need child care for at least a portion of the day. Even if you do plan to have one parent staying home, you'll still want to have one or two people you know you can count on to help out in a pinch.
Still, adds Dr. Singer, it's not necessary to have every detail lined up before you start trying to conceive. "If your prayers are answered and you do become pregnant, the first trimester is usually spent puking," he says. "Then you will have another six full months in which to plan child care, which is sufficient."
4The How-Will-We-Celebrate-Christmas Conversation
According to Pew Research, nearly 40 percent of Americans married since 2010 did so to someone of a different religious faith. But while this may not seem such a big deal early in a marriage, the game changes once couples become parents. Suddenly, one spouse may feel conflicted about having their children decorate a Christmas tree, or studying for a bar or bat mitzvah. "Couples should have a pretty clear agreement on what religion they want their family to observe, as well as the level of observance," explains Dr. Singer.
5The Let's-Give-Up-Starbucks Conversation
No one ever said raising a kid was cheap. So if you're ready to talk about budgeting and possibly sacrificing small luxuries in order to support a child, that's an excellent sign — as long as you don't take it too far. "Finances are an extremely important consideration when planning a family," says Dr. Singer. "But couples who wait decades in order to bank plenty of money before starting a family are taking a huge risk." Why? Because the longer you wait, the more likely it is that you'll need expensive fertility treatments to help you conceive.
6The Let's-Join-The-Gym Conversation
"If ever there was a time to get into tip-top shape, it is pre-baby," says Dr. Singer. Exercising and smart eating will not only up your chances of conceiving and having a healthy pregnancy, it will also help both of you maintain the energy you'll need to keep up with an active child. What's more, wanting to stay healthy for your children's sake is a good sign that you're committed to parenthood for the long run.
7The Date-Night Conversation
Psychologist Carl Pickhardt told Business Insider that contrary to popular belief, couples should put themselves and their relationship ahead of their children in order to be successful parents. Feeling like a martyr or a servant only leads to resentment. You and your partner will know you're ready to have children when you can openly agree to make each other a priority — and act on it, whether by scheduling regular date nights or by planning to have the baby in bed early enough for you to have dinner together.