For some couples, the decision to have children is something that was decided well before marriage. But for many couples, choosing whether or not to have children can be one of their most daunting issues. Because this decisions is irreversible, it's one that can't be taken lightly.
Sometimes the argument for parenthood is obvious: parenthood can be infinitely rewarding on many levels. There is no bond like that between a parent and child. Having children can also create a special bond between you and your partner as co-parents, and may ultimately lead to the incomparable joy of having grandchildren later on.
At the same time, raising a child is an enormous task and its intensity cannot truly be imagined until experienced. Parenting means an incredible energetic, emotional, and financial commitment. Every aspect of life changes when parenting and this new life will account for much of your time. It may even define you!
Exploring the question of whether or not to have children can bring your deepest values, joys and fears to the surface. Start the conversation well before you plan to start your family to make sure you two are on the same page. Here are four of the most important considerations to talk through with your partner.
1. It can't be about your friends.
The decision of whether or not to have a child needs to be made solely by you and your partner. Yet the pressure from others can cloud your thinking. Just because others around you are starting families doesn't mean it's the right time for you. Don't let the desire to maintain your friendships by ensuring you are in similar lifestyles be a factor in making the best decision for you and your partner. Ask yourselves, "Why do we really want children?"
It's also not your parents' decision. Many couples feel pressured by their parents who want grandchildren. Your parents may want grandchildren and be disappointed if they don't have them, but they're not entitled to grandchildren. Conceiving out of guilt is not going to serve anyone in the long run. Ask yourselves, "Are we ready to make parenting our top priority? If so, what sacrifices are we specifically ready and willing to make?"
2. A child will not save your relationship.
I have heard all too often that having children will save or improve a dysfunctional partnership, but nothing can be further from the truth. Children can sometimes strain and test the endurance of even the best relationships. Children alone will not save an ailing relationship. If you think you need help being stronger together before starting a family, call for a session or a referral to a provider near you. Also, ask yourselves, "Can our relationship withstand the realities of having less freedom and private time together?"
3. Having a baby isn't always easy.
It is true some people get pregnant, or have means or luck to adopt quickly, but that isn't true for many couples. Difficulty becoming pregnant, enduring medical treatment, and the financial strain of infertility treatment can be very challenging for couples. Pregnancy loss can be heartbreaking. For some couples fostering and/or adopting causes emotional or financial strain. Get as clear as possible about your limits for the process in advance. Ask yourself, "If we were unable to have kids, am I still in a relationship with the person I want to grow old with?"
If you're still not sure, the best advice is to work on this crucially important decision until you are less ambivalent. I am happy to speak with you and your partner in a consult to help you make the right decision.
Having a child when you are clear about what you are getting into could be the most meaningful aspect of your life. It could be the most meaningful legacy you leave the world. But go into it with both eyes open.
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