If we’re being honest here, no one is ever really ready to have a baby. Sure, you might have done your research, maybe set aside some money for your little bundle, picked out the perfect baby name, or just dreamed of holding your baby in your arms. And yet, no matter how much planning you might do, there’s nothing that can prepare you for that wonderful rollercoaster ride towards motherhood is like. So if you’re fortunate enough to be in the position where you can actually plan for a baby, you might want to ask yourself “Am I ready for a baby?” And these questions just might help you figure out that answer.
Some people know from the time that they’re very little that they’re meant to be a mommy, but for others, the choice (and yes, it’s a choice) isn’t so black and white. After all, this is a living human being you’ll be responsible for until, well, forever (your kiddos will always need you, in some way, shape, or form). That’s why it’s important to have a checklist of sorts to determine if now is the time to start trying. It doesn’t mean at all that you’ll be a bad parent, or that you’re not ready for kids. It’s simply an honest way of assessing where you are in your life (i.e. financially, emotionally, physically, etc.) to enter into this new (and wonderful) world.
Do I like or enjoy being around kids?
You’re in line at Target when you spot a gorgeous gurgling baby in front of you — and their sibling toddler having a tantrum right next to them. What’s your immediate reaction? If you’re feeling something along the lines of “Hey, I could do this,” then maybe it might be baby time, Dr. Candice Jones, M.D.-, FAAP, board-certified pediatrician tells Romper. But be warned, she says. “Even if this answer is an emphatic yes, your kids will sometimes make you reconsider.” Still, the risk is worth the reward, so if you’re on the fence about getting pregnant (or even becoming a guardian), just know that there are so many amazing moments that are in store. And those tough times? Well, they might be hard in the moment, but you just might look back on them in the future and laugh at it all.
Do I want to have kids?
Before you ask yourself if you’re ready to have kids, ask yourself if you even want them in the first place. Do a deep dive to discover if having a baby is something you truly desire, or is what’s expected of you. “Women receive intense societal pressure to have children and it is heavily implied that the worth of women is tied up in being defined as a mother,” Dr. Dana Torpey-Newman, a clinical psychologist tells Romper. “Because of this, women often assume that they should have children.” You may want to discuss this with your partner, a trusted family member or friend, or even a therapist, especially if you’re secretly unsure of the real answer.
Do I have the time to dedicate to a baby?
As much as you might swear that you won’t let a baby change your life, they totally do — immediately. Again, it doesn’t make you a potentially bad parent to put yourself first; after all, you might need this time to do things for yourself, like finish your studies or earn that promotion at work, and adding a baby to the mix might be better suited for a later date. Says Jones: “Parenting equals sacrifice of time, resources, and energy.” There’s no denying that being a parent will make you more tired than you ever thought humanly possible, but just know that babies eventually do sleep through the night, cracked nipples from breastfeeding do heal, and all the while, there’s a beautiful baby lovingly looking at you who thinks you’re the most amazing thing in this world.
How well do you care for yourself (daily life activities)?
If you find that daily life is a complete challenge, a baby might not make it better. “If you are struggling to take care of yourself, you will likely struggle with caring for kids and that's unfair to them,” says Jones. “Focus on getting yourself together before bringing kids into the picture.” That might mean talking to a therapist, going for morning walks, or doing the things that will improve your overall well-being, so that you can bring a baby into your life when you’re in the best position possible to provide the love and support that they’ll need.
Do I have — or can I build — a support network to help when I need a break?
It’s like the biggest parenting cliché ever, but it truly takes a village (and some neighboring towns, too) to raise a child. That’s why, when asking yourself if you’re ready to have a baby, you should consider your network of friends and family who can help you in a pinch. “While parenthood does bring heart-melting smiles, a lifetime of memories, and love beyond measure, it also brings real challenges,” Dr. Harvey Karp, pediatrician and author of The Happiest Baby on the Block, tells Romper. “Exploring these types of questions help to get you thinking beyond the rainbows and butterflies dream of parenthood and into the reality of it all.” The good news is that you don’t need a ton of people to help; even a few close friends and family members (or even a solid babysitter) are all that you probably need to have backup care for your kiddo.
Am I emotionally ready for a baby?
The long nights of no sleep. The screaming and crying. It’s enough to get on anyone’s nerves. There will be (many, many) days when you may doubt if you can handle it all — but somehow, you will. “Being a mom can be an emotional roller coaster and it’s hard to know if one can really handle it before taking it on,” says Weill. “You have to be emotionally ready to want to take it on though.” If you feel that you are strong enough to handle all of the emotions (good, bad, and otherwise) that come with having a baby, it might be time to have that discussion with your partner.
Can I financially afford to take care of a child?
Sure, they’re tiny, but a newborn is definitely not cheap. Even if you plan to breastfeed or have a cousin who can contribute clothing, there are still so many out-of-pocket (and unexpected) expenses that come with having a child. “Children are expensive,” Gayle Weill, LCSW, a licensed clinical social worker tells Romper. “Consider paying for diapers, formula, bottles, clothing, schooling, etc. — one must have the means to provide for all that and more.” Create a spreadsheet to calculate how much you and your partner are earning, your expenses, and see if what is left over is enough to support a child.
Why do I want to have children?
Of course, babies are cute and cuddly, which is often what is the impetus for baby fever. But there are many reasons why you might want to have a child; some good, some a little questionable. “There are many reasons to want to have children, including, but certainly not limited to, building a family and sharing a connection; attempting to preserve a struggling romantic relationship by having a child; or feeling unfulfilled and attempting to create more meaning through having a child,” says Torpey-Newman. “It is important to know what your motivation is, as it will be helpful to be mindful of these types of expectations if and when you encounter challenges that interfere with the feelings or goals you are pursuing.”
Have I talked with my partner about a potential pregnancy?
You love your partner, and the idea of creating a mini version of the two of you is just too cute for words. It’s equally as important, though, to talk about your feelings about having a baby to ensure that you’re both on the same page, particularly if you’re invested in growing the relationship from a couple into a family. “Romantic relationships often develop in the context of joint participation in enjoyable activities and people find out once they already have children and real challenges arise that they are quite incompatible,” says Torpey-Newman. “Meaningful discussion requires partners to reveal their authentic selves to each other, which can be scary because it provides an opportunity for rejection; however, raising children with someone with whom you share deep values is significantly easier than constantly butting heads around issues that are vitally important to you both.” Spend some time with your partner to ask questions about their own perspectives on parenting, and work together to heal potential disconnects so that you can both be on the same parental page.
You can ask yourself a thousand questions, but truly the only answer to “Am I ready for a baby?” will come from you. Just remember that there is never, ever a perfect moment to have a baby, but by asking yourself some questions, you’ll be better prepared for when the time does come and you do decide to begin trying for a baby of your own.
Dr. Harvey Karp, M.D., F.A.A.P., pediatrician and author of The Happiest Baby on the Block
Gayle Weill, LCSW, a licensed clinical social worker
Dr. Dana Torpey-Newman, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist