Most people decide to be parents after careful thought and consideration. If you have a partner, there's definitely more than a few parenting-related topics to discuss, ideally before a positive pregnancy test and definitely before your baby's born. In fact, there are some questions every couple should answer before having a baby. At least, that is, if couples want to avoid having fights and painstakingly difficult conversations when they're sleep-deprived and holding a crying baby. Honestly, asking these particular questions is the key to ensuring you get the support and partnership you need to get through parenthood with your marriage (and sanity) intact.
I learned from my now ex-husband that you should definitely ask your partner about the big stuff. Things like: What kind of parents do you want to be? (It turns out, I wanted to give gentle parenthood a try and he was OK with spanking.)What values are important to you? (I am a feminist, while he is more traditional). I also should have talked to him about who would do what in terms of baby care, about how having a baby would impact our careers, and what kind of support and recovery time I might need postpartum.
This time around, when my second husband and I started talking about growing our family, I was sure to ask my partner a ton of questions before we even started trying to conceive. I'm here to tell you: asking the following questions made such a difference. I am not saying there haven't been a few silly postpartum fights here and there (You guys, it was totally his turn to get up with the baby), but, for the most part, things have been so much easier this time around and because I had the answers I needed.
"Can We Afford This?"
Babies are expensive AF. I am pretty sure if my partner and I had waited to have a baby when we could actually afford it, we'd never have had one. Nevertheless, it is important to talk with your partner about your financial situation, baby expenses, and the sacrifices you are willing to make before baby arrives. And if their answer to this question is "no," you should probably pause and hear your partner out.
"Who Is Going To Do What?"
Far too frequently, and especially in our culture, moms are the default parent and dads get praised for doing the bare minimum. Yeah, thats not OK. It's especially not OK when mom also works full-time, has a life, and wants to poop alone once in a while (yes, that is my dream). I learned that it's really important to talk about these things before you are burnt out and your marriage is broken, because your partner won't parent.
"How Will This Impact Our Careers?"
In my family, at least, it's not a given that my husband's career is more important (or less important) than mine. We needed to decide if we both would work, if one of us would stay home, or if my husband would continue going to school once our daughter was born.
"Are We Willing To Lose Sleep?"
I learned firsthand that parenting is exhausting and sort of impossible when you are the only person willing to wake up with your baby, and you're also the person to has to be able to function well enough to work the next day. I wish we'd talked about nighttime parenting before our baby was born.
"How Do We Feel About Circumcision?"
I am so glad I asked my husband about this before we had our second child. I was vehemently against circumcision, and he thought that it was the thing to do. We decided to wait and let our child decide if this was something he wanted done to his body, and I am so glad we didn't have that kind of a discussion at the hospital.
"Do We Have A Preference For How We Will Feed The Baby?"
While I totally believe that the person with the ability to lactate should decide if they will use their body to feed their baby, I am so glad I asked my husband about breastfeeding and formula-feeding before our son was born. He supported me through breastfeeding, and when I had to switch to formula, he was still my biggest fan.
So, yes, this can be a really helpful question to ask your partner, but please remember: the only person who should be making a decision about how you choose to use your body (for any reason), is you.
"What Kind Of Family Values Should We Have?"
I wrongly assumed that my now ex-husband and I were on the same page about how we'd raise our children. While I thought he was fine with my plans to raise our family without religion, he was totally going to let his mom have our baby baptized. (I was so not OK with that). I wanted him to get rid of his guns in our home once we had babies, too, but he refused. We had so many fights about these kinds of things, and I know those fights could have been avoided if we had discussed these issues prior to having children.
"Will One Parent Help The Other Recover From Childbirth?"
Pregnancy and childbirth were rough on my body and my health. I had wrongly assumed that our vows to be there for each other "in sickness and in health" would extend to pregnancy complications and postpartum recovery, but my husband was so not there for me when I needed him. He was, honestly, a complete jerk about me not being able to cook, clean, and have sex with him for a few weeks. It really sucked.
"What Kind Of Parents Should We Be?"
My ex-husband and I came from relatively similar backgrounds, but we definitely found out that we have different parenting styles. While I wanted to be a gentle parent and not use physical discipline as a form of punishment, and he was fine with spanking and wanted our kids to be "obedient." Obedience is not a value I hold near and dear. I want my kids to learn the difference between right and wrong, not learn to make certain decisions because they fear me. I wish we'd been on the same page, because this is one of the many reasons why I left him.