Are There Reasons We Should Wait?
Even when partners feel they are “on the same page” and ready to become parents together, it’s worth asking the question: “Are there reasons we should wait?”
Some couples may be concerned about financial or career security. You may be asking such questions as, “Should we wait until we can afford to buy a home and are settled there?” Or you might be wondering, “Maybe we should wait until I have tenure in my teaching position so I’ll have more time and energy to devote to the baby.” These kinds of questions are compelling, but on the flip side, many couples are understandably concerned about fertility. Perhaps you’ve watched friends struggle for years to conceive a child, enduring seemingly endless fertility treatments and wondering, with regret, why they didn’t start trying earlier. In fact, these friends may be warning you, “Don’t make the mistake we made.”
It’s easy to see how you can find yourselves in a debate about timing, with valid reasons to postpone parenthood. . .and equally compelling arguments to move forward right away. “Many couples have ‘social’ reasons to try now or wait—issues related to jobs, homes, fertility,” comments Susan Medoff, M.S.W., adjunct professor of psychiatry and social work at the University of Rochester, New York. “Unfortunately, some overlook the primary question they should be attending to: ‘Is our relationship ready for a child?’ Ideally, a couple has taken the time to be together, to have some years of committed life, so that they can pursue parenthood without feeling something is being sacrificed in their own relationship. Since so much of parenthood is a ‘seat of the pants experience,’ it’s very helpful, even essential, to feel that the relationship has a strong foundation.”
As you look towards parenthood, try to anticipate what it will be like to share your partner as well as your own personal time with a third person. And not just any third person: one who needs you 24/7. If yours is a relationship that sometimes get bogged down on questions of “fairness” or “division of labor,” you may have some work to do. Think of it this way: If you’re arguing over whose turn it is to empty the dishwasher or take the trash to the dump, will you be able to be a “team” when you’re sleep-deprived, the babysitter cancels, or you run out of diapers in mid-air on the way to visit your parents?
While it may be difficult to accept, taking the time that’s needed to tend to a relationship ahead of time can be the best baby-making decision in the long run.
How Do I Know I’ll Be a Good Parent?
We live in a society that idealizes parenthood and puts tremendous pressure on couples to be exemplary parents. Walk into any bookstore and see the array of parenting guidebooks, ranging from those that focus on early childhood to the piles of publications about how to get older kids into the best colleges. Little wonder that before a child is even conceived, women and men may worry that they’re not up to the job.
It’s crucial that you take some of the pressure off yourself. Everyone has certain strengths and weaknesses as a parent, just as they have these strengths and weaknesses in any endeavor in life. What truly matters is being honest, and accepting the many feelings—from ambivalence, anger, and frustration to joy, pride, and satisfaction—that the future is bound to include.
How Can My Partner and I Prepare for the Changes We’ll Face?
Pregnancy and parenthood are both “on the job training” and hence, something you can never really “prepare” for. If you feel strongly about any issues, though, you should talk about them as a couple. Together you should decide how you feel about the fact that getting pregnant may not come easily, and what you want to do if it doesn’t. You should talk about whether or not you want to share with friends and family that you’re trying, or wait until much later in the process (like the end of your first trimester). And for the longer term, you should discuss how you feel about being a dual career family or whether you want or can afford to have one of you stay at home. But even the best-laid plans may change, so don’t mistake preferences for hard-and-fast rules.
After all, you’re planning to make a lifelong commitment to a total stranger. Daunting isn’t it! That’s what parenthood is: a giant leap of faith. And people have been happily taking that leap for thousands and thousands of years.
This article originally appeared in the Summer 2006 issue of Conceive Magazine.
Related Topics: Stress and Fertility; Your Relationship and Trying to Conceive
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Are There Reasons We Should Wait?
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