Sometimes people ask me: "How will I know when I'm ready to get pregnant?" To which I reply: "Show me your ovulation calendar and two years' worth of income tax statements, please!" Just kidding. More than what to worry about (have you been taking folic acid? cutting down your wine consumption from five bottles per week to one?), I think there are things that you shouldn't worry about at all before making the big leap.
Being Financially "Ready": I know so many people who are reluctant to have a baby because they're not "financially ready." Let me tell you something: You will never be "financially ready." Should you have some savings? Yes. Should you be drowning in credit card debt? No. But there is absolutely no magic number that makes it OK to procreate. I think it's because people get hung up on all the "stuff" you can buy pre-baby: Strollers! Gear! Loud plastic things that bounce! Don't let Babies R Us scare you: (A) You do not need all those things, really and (B) You can get many of them through town listservs, second-hand, at consignment shops, and so forth. Your two biggest expenses will likely be diapers and milk, if you're bottle-feeding.
Owning The Dream Home in the Suburbs: This was a huge one for me back when I was pregnant with Andrew for some reason. I envisioned a four-bedroom Colonial just like the one where I grew up, even though I never really envisioned myself living out in the 'burbs to begin with. It just seemed like the "adult" thing to do in my hormonal mind. And guess what? Turned out all infant Andrew really cared about was that we fed him and changed his diaper. I'm pretty sure he could've been in a cave, and he wouldn't have cared or noticed.
Needing 'One More' Late Night, Vacation, Nice Dinner Out, Etc: Your days of sloth are not over! Yes, you should get some things out of your system, like backpacking through Europe or spending your money on something totally frivolous. But I promise: You will stay out late again. You will go on another vacation. You'll even be able to do nothing with a baby ... because they sleep a lot! If you make it a priority, you will relax once more. Plus: Babies are basically the best people to bring to restaurants. They eat nothing and snooze under the table in their carriers the whole time! (Toddlers are another story. Do not bring a toddler to a fancy restaurant. It's just mean.)
Knowing How to Be a Parent: No one does. It's OK.
Making Sure Your Partner Is 100 Percent on Board: I might get some backlash on this. That's OK! Why, in an earlier post, someone called me "overweight and oversensitive." I'm still crying while stuffing my face with Cool Ranch Doritos! Anyway: I've found that in many relationships there's often one partner who's more ambivalent about having children. (In our marriage, that person was me, for many of the reasons I listed above.) My husband knew me well enough to realize that I was getting hung up on fake worries. But if we'd waited until I'd gotten every late night out of my system and bought our dream home, well, Andrew would be changing our Depends. Sometimes just being "ready enough" is "good enough." Should both of you ultimately want kids? Of course! You should be on the same page with wanting children, and nobody should be pressured into parenthood because everyone else is doing it, your parents want grandchildren, it seems like that's what society expects, and so on. A decision to be child-free is a noble one, if that's what you want. My point is, sometimes you'll feel more "Why not?" as opposed to "OMG, I've-been-watching-a-Baby-Story-Nonstop-Since-2005-Please-Let-This-Be-the-Month!"
Now, a couple things to worry about:
Getting Rid of Credit Card Debt: I'm not talking about school loans or mortgages. But high-interest credit card debt will hang over your head post-baby, because it's tempting to put even more of that new unnecessary "stuff" on credit cards, for one thing, and it's also very easy to get distracted about paying bills during those first few sleepless months. Try to wipe out the debt, or at least set up some kind of auto-pay system. The last thing you need along with your delivery bill is a letter in the mail about the $156 you charged on your Banana Republic card in 2009.
Feeling Secure in Your Career: Debate about the American workplace's treatment of parents aside, one thing is for sure: You're going to be tired during that first year. You're going to be hormonal. You're going to want to spend time with your baby. You do not need lots of upheaval at work. I strongly believe that now is not the time to make any sort of huge career change, unless it's absolutely inevitable. There's a time and a place for everything. If you can keep things at the office status quo until you get into a parenting rhythm, all the better. This doesn't mean that you should put your career on the back burner. But for a few months, just let things simmer. To paraphrase Mitch Hedberg: Tell your dreams you'll catch up with them later. (I'm talking months here, not years.)
If you have anything else to add, let me know! In my case, I wish I'd known that I would not read any of the multiple parenting books I bought (with one exception: Secrets of the Baby Whisperer), because I was too busy actually trying to take care of Andrew and didn't have time to thumb through pages on pages of conflicting advice. But that's me. Anyhow, feel free to add your thoughts! Enjoy the snow!
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