If you're thinking about taking the plunge into the world of parenting, there are several things that you should first consider when trying to determine when is the right time to have a baby. For starters, are you ready to take on the responsibility of raising another human? I mean, you may think you're ready, but are you really, really ready for a baby? (Spoiler: The only truly honest answer here is, "I have no idea how to even wrap my head around the concept of what it means to be fully responsible for another human life, especially while also trying to maintain a healthy sense of not owning that human life, so no, I'm not prepared at all, and neither is anyone, but I'm willing to close my eyes, dive in, and hope some deep, primal muscle memory within me knows how to swim.")
The good news is, people have been successfully (I mean, more or less) raising children for centuries, and there are plenty of parenting lessons that we've taken note of from all kinds of unexpected sources. You may not realize it, but things you do every day, things that you might never have noticed if not for someone else pointing them out, are actually pretty good indicators as to whether or not you're ready.
You might be acting like a parent already and not even realize it. Lucky for you, I've taken the time to document the signs that you and your partner are going to make amazing parents (not that you should, like, hastily jump off your birth control or anything).
You're Morning People
Try this experiment: Go out to a bar with your significant other one night and run up a high tab. I mean, get really, really hammered...and then set your alarm for 6 a.m. When your alarm goes off, you're not allowed to hit the snooze button because your day has officially begun. Am I saying that parenting is like a hangover? No, (well, maybe a little) but not getting more than three consecutive hours of sleep for months at a time kind of is.
It's not that you can't be a good parent if you and your boo aren't super into waking up early, but if morning don't phase you guys, you're already off to a good start.
You Have Your Own Weird Language When You're Together (But You Still Talk Like Normal People Around Others)
You know that thing when couples kind of develop their own weird, inside joke-laden language that only makes sense to the two of them? And like, if anyone else heard it, they wouldn't really have a clue what you're talking about? Yeah, that happens when you're a parent too. There will be times when it becomes necessary to subject yourself to multiple Disney songs and the unrealistic demands of a toddler while also carrying a normal adult conversation without once referencing your child or Mickey Mouse, and you'll need to be good at compartmentalizing your brain a little bit and not letting your brain get too scrambled by lots of input. Because, yes, there are some chaotic days on the horizon if you're thinking about becoming parents, and yes, it is sometimes difficult to maintain adult conversational skills.
You're Already In The Habit Of Recording And Binge Watching All Your Shows At Once
If you two are big TV fans, make sure you have DVR. I'm just going to put that out there. Because when you have kids, you'll have to constantly be on your toes. The whole "oh, we'll just watch Game Of Thrones and watch little Johnny at the same time" idea is cool in theory, until you try it and end up missing everything on the show and somehow also everything your kid is doing. It takes five seconds for your child to lose a marble in their nose, and if you're to distracted by learning the fate of Jon Snow to prevent said marble from entering said nose, it's probably going to cost you at least a co-pay. DVR is cheaper. (Plus, how fun is it to spend one awesome night binge watching everything from the week together once your kid is finally asleep?)
You're Emotionally Stable
I'm not saying that would-be parents need to have their entire mental health game in perfect control at all times to be good parents (definitely would never say that), but I do think that understanding your emotional triggers and knowing how to navigate feelings when you have them — both alone and as a couple — helps a lot when it comes to becoming parents. Like, if you can drink an entire bottle of wine and watch Lifetime for hours at a time without feeling the deep urge to call your friends and family to tell them how much you love them, you might be emotionally stable enough to deal with the daily emotional theatrics of a toddler.
Also, a good sign that your relationship is ready for a baby can be read in how you deal with each other's emotions. There's a better-than-good chance that your hormones are going to gang up on you once you're pregnant, and after you have your baby, and when that happens, everything — including stupid things like sponges and monkeys and pizza — is going to make you weepy (or angry or otherwise just kind of insane) sometimes.
And on the other hand, the non-child-bearing partner in your relationship (assuming you're not adopting, in which case, whatever, because you're both still going to experience hella mood swings and feelings) is likely going to have their own set of emotionally crazy moments too. If you guys are already good at handling each other when the feels shoot through the roof, and you support each other in the ways you both need as individuals, then that's a really good sign that your relationship is fortified to weather new parenthood.
You're Really Comfortable Being Kinda Gross With One Another
Your future as a parent is going to (temporarily at least) revolve around the digestive system of a tiny human. And tiny humans poop a lot and they pee a lot, sometimes on your hands or white shirt and always at inopportune times. So the days when you leave the house without bodily fluids on you might be fewer in number than the days when you don't.
There's also the distinct chance that you're going to have to stick your finger up that little human's butt at some point because a constipated baby is sort of like hell on earth. So there's that. The point is, there is no modesty in parenting, so if you and your partner are already comfortable with your own body and all of its magnificent functions, both normal and weird, you're on the right track. (Yes, this could've accurately just said, "You fart around each other and it's not even a thing.")
You Guys Are Good At Keeping Your House Clean...But Don't Sweat It When It's Not
We all enjoy clean houses and laundry that smells like heaven, but — correct me if I'm wrong — our lives would not gravely suffer without sparkling sinks, would they? No, they wouldn't. I know this because I'm a parent myself and I totally get off on the scent of laundry detergent. But I have kids, and keeping them fed and taken care of is a lot more important to me than steaming my floors.
Before we had kids, I knew my partner and I would be able to deal with the mess (and the subsequent and somewhat contradictory need to be generally tidy people so that the unavoidable mess doesn't get out of control) because we never got too upset with each other when our house got a little sloppy at times, but we also had good systems in place to make sure it always stayed functional.
The Two Of You Actually Like Planning Things Together
Planning is important when you have kids because it saves you a lot of time and grief in the long run. I mean, think about all the planning involved: your birth plan, your plan for work, your savings plan, your daycare plan; Your appointments and events and general well-being all benefit from having a plan, and often a back-up plan too.
Spontaneity isn't obsolete once you become a parent, but it is a bit more rare. Getting ready to go anywhere with kids takes longer because you've got to be prepared for a colorful array of potential needs while on your outing. You've got to pack enough combat public tantrums, soothe hungry babies, and comfort sleepy ones all within the same bag. It's trickier than it sounds.
If you and your partner are already the kind of couple would work together awesomely as a team at everything from coordinating who's bringing what snacks on a hike to planning the details of an international vacation — even if "working as a team" means "recognizing that one of you is actually just much better and more enjoys planning so the other one happily let's that person do most of it" — then you're all set on this front.
Your Friends' Kids Don't Get On Your Last Nerve
I think almost every person who has ever reproduced has looked at some screaming kid in a restaurant before they had kids of their own and uttered the words, "My kid will be different." Sure, your kid may grow up to be the leader of the free world, but they're still going to act like an a**hole every now and then. It's fine, it's not their fault; they're all developmentally doomed to periodically being monsters from time to time.
However, if you and your partner actually enjoy other people's kids, and don't have to temper to fear of impending parenthood with cushioning lies about how "different" your own kids will be, then you guys are likely good to go. If you understand that kids will be kids, that vegetables are understandably upsetting, that sometimes if they don't get enough sleep, they get a little moody, then you are well on your way to being ready for little ones of your own.
You Always Have Each Other's Backs
One of the most important aspects of planning to become a parent is your partner (if you're going about it that way, of course). A baby places an inevitable sleep-deprived strain on any relationship, and overcoming that hurdle of exhaustion is really hard, especially when, even if you do manage to get rested, it always feels like there are a million more-pressing things to tend to before giving your relationship the TLC it needs. If you and your partner are capable of communicating openly, of loving and supporting each other unconditionally even during the toughest of times, you're going to make great parents. That's really the bottom line.