How to Decide Whether or Not to Have a Baby

Six Parts:Examining Your MotivationsChecking things out with your partnerConsidering financesTimingRaising the "I want to have a baby" conversationTrying for a baby

So you are thinking about whether or not to start trying for a baby. Here are some things to consider and think about in your process.

Part 1
Examining Your Motivations

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    Be aware that many people simply do not think through having a baby with great clarity. Motivations for having a baby range from "everyone else is having one" to "it's what my body was designed for". However, such external reasons for having a baby are not going to last when you're knee-deep in diapers and vomit. You need to reach right inside and understand the consequences of what is essentially a very serious undertaking for at least the following 18 years of your life––and beyond. Consider:
    • Is having a baby part of your life's plan? Or is it part of someone else's expectations for you?
    • Is a baby a solution to some problem in your life? Sometimes people choose to have a baby because of experiencing marriage difficulties, with the hope a baby will draw the couple closer together. If anything, having a baby will likely do quite the opposite.
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    Consider your state of being. Are you emotionally sorted? Are you in a fit state of mind? If you're going through grief, depression or you're feeling majorly lonely, this might not be the right time to make a decision that has lifelong consequences. See a counselor, your doctor or otherwise mend yourself first.
    • Are you physically sorted? If you suffer from health problems or disabilities, maybe it is not the right time to start a family as the future maybe uncertain or you may struggle. However, this is a chance to talk to your doctor and other relevant persons for advice on coping; don't simply give up.
    • Is too much going on? When your baby is born, you will need to give this child your full attention. With your mind elsewhere, you will find things very tough. Of course, you could also sort your problems and get on with your life; consider simplifying so that what really matters (having a baby) comes first.
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    Consider your lifestyle right now and the one a baby will bring. They are worlds apart; suddenly your life will be dictated by the demands of a wholly dependent infant and you will need to be there in varying amounts for the following 18 years. Are you willing to make this space in your life and change many of your routines, habits and activities? Be realistic about how much you can continue to do; adding a baby isn't like adding another hobby or part-time job; a baby is a full time commitment and will upset all your smooth routines. The more you have, the harder it will get.
    • What about your career? In recent times, many women have chosen to leave having a baby until after their careers have been firmly established, then have a baby later in life. While this has worked for many women, it doesn't work for all women and it can be a challenge for your fertility, especially after 35. It is always your choice when to have children but you might also consider the flipside, namely, delaying your career start until later, when your children are older and less dependent. It is really whatever works for you but do at least think about what will work for you first rather than simply assuming that the cultural expectations are the only choice left.
    • If you're a party lover and late night reveler, are you going to be able to stop the partying for a while? Or is this something you've yet to "get out of your system"? This is not a flippant question; rather, it's about being realistic that you're ready to shelve the all-night dancing and replace it with all-night feeds instead. Sometimes just thinking about that exchange is sobering enough!
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    Consider your caring abilities. Caring for a baby is not necessarily innate but it is a skill you can learn. However, the high level of dependency involved may be something you're not ready for yet. Have you cared for a pet or someone else's child? If so, you will realize that feeding, cleaning, bedtimes, etc. are all things that you are responsible for and with a baby, you will be responsible for this routine, day in and day out, for a very long time. It isn't glamorous, it can be tiring and it may feel repetitive. People insist it is rewarding but that doesn't take away the reality that it's also constant and much of it can be drudgery. Go into this with your eyes wide open.
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    Be aware of marital satisfaction studies. Multiple careful studies of marital satisfaction revealed a dramatic decrease in happiness after the birth of the first child, despite the claim that "children bring joy". Reduced levels of marital happiness persist until the last child leaves home. [1]
    • Women derive relatively little pleasure from taking care of children. Another study on 909 women (usually the primary caretakers of children) has shown that they are less happy when they are taking care of children than when eating, exercising,or preparing food. Taking care of children is only slightly more pleasant than doing housework.[2]
    • Parenthood decreases happiness. Parenthood is often idealized as a uniquely emotionally rewarding role, although raising children has largely negative effects on parents’ emotional well-being.[3] The myth of parental happiness is explained by cognitive dissonance.[4]
    • Children also have an effect on overpopulation and the environment. With over 7 billion people on the plan, some voices argue that there are enough of us.
    • You and your partner may very well be different from the participants in the study. Know, however, that you will be fighting a statistic drastically not on your side.

Part 2
Checking things out with your partner

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    Consider the wishes of your partner, spouse or other baby co-parent. Does this person want a baby too? Is this person happy to set aside part of his or her life for many years to come to actually be there for the baby and help raise the child in an engaged manner? An absent co-parent can turn your world upside down when your expectations turn out to be completely the opposite of the other person's. If there is a co-parent involved, that person must be committed too.
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    If you are wanting this child without a co-parent, consider your support network. If you want to go this alone (and in many places this is now possible), have you got enough support persons who are willing and able to help you? Doing it alone is doing it tough but it is still your choice, provided you are in a society where this is acceptable.
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    Discuss further if your co-parent does not want a baby. This is not the time to "forget the contraception". If your co-parent doesn't want a baby, or another baby, you need to work it through, not use subterfuge. There is a huge risk in going behind the wishes of a partner who doesn't want a child or another child, and that risk is that person walking out on you. Perhaps you can reach a compromise. You'll only know if you discuss and share your hopes and wants together.
    • It is very wise to have discussed the having of children before getting married or partnered. It is far harder to break your vows or commitment over this than breaking it off with someone beforehand when you discover they're not wanting children.
    • If you are having a disagreement with your spouse or partner about whether or not to have children, talk with each other for a long time about it. Try to understand and come to respect each other's opinions about the topic, and come to an agreement. An example of a compromise would be to wait for five years or until you're both more financially stable. Or, try babysitting together first and see how you both handle it. If it goes well but you're still not 100 percent sure about the long-term commitment, maybe consider foster children for a time.

Part 3
Considering finances

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    Be financially aware. Having children costs a lot of money; this is a reality and it's something that might surprise new parents. While babies don't need a lot and can make do with used goods and hand-me-downs, as the child grows, so too do the expenses. Think things like feeding, schooling, clothing, health problems, activities, child care, toys, tutoring, sports, overseas trips with school for sports or learning, vacation expenses, uniforms, fads, pets, snacks, you-name-it, etc.
    • Are you financially secure? You are responsible for the decisions you make. You can believe anything you like about being provided for, but you still need to be assured that you are basing such beliefs on solid realities.
    • Is there an ongoing income while one of you stays at home for however long you've chosen to stay there, be it a week or many years?
    • Do your and/or your partner have life insurance?
    • Do you have health insurance?
    • What about the future? How will income continue to come into your household?
    • What debts do you have already? Can these be dealt with on top of new costs coming into the household?
    • If your finances are in terrible shape, see a budget or financial consultant to help you get sorted. The sooner you do this, the better. Tell this person why you need a budget and they'll be on your team. A baby can be considered once you have got this aspect sorted.
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    If you do decide to throw all caution to the wind, financially-speaking, be willing to do what it takes to thrive. You may be one of those people who believes that things happen for a reason at the right time. That's fine, provided you can provide the things needed by the right time. This might entail finding work, selling belongings, downsizing, etc. but if it what you really want, then plan well and do something; being proactive and understanding the consequences is better than hoping something good will happen by the time the baby is born and then finding yourself destitute.

Part 4

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    Decide when you're ready. The key is emotional stability. Citing an actual age is, well, like telling someone who is 40 but feels 20 that they're old. Maturity is personal, and readiness is too. A person at 18 may be older mentally and more stable than someone at 35, it's all down to who you are and knowing yourself. Not knowing yourself very well is actually a key indicator that you're not ready to be a parent yet and some time for self-ripening is needed first.
    • How long have you been with the person you will co-parent with? While not the deciding factor, it can be helpful to consider in the mix.
    • How mature are you? From looking through the earlier sections, you should have a good idea that you're ready for a baby or more ready to keep partying.
    • Be physically ready for a baby. This is something to discuss with your doctor. There are limits to your fertility and risks too, both at the young and older ends of your fertile life. Be sure you're aware of these.
    • Stability includes your greater life. It's your own sense of self, your ability to provide for yourself and your child regardless of your gender, and your wider picture of where you and your immediate family are headed down the track. It is very important to think these things through on your terms, and to have come up with sound conclusions about your future directions that are realistic for you.

Part 5
Raising the "I want to have a baby" conversation

If your potential co-parent hasn't already made it clear that a baby is something he or she wants, you'll need to discuss it.

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    Decide how to broach the subject.
    • If you've already agreed you want to have children but just haven't agreed on the timing: Simply remind your potential co-parent that you have been thinking about having a baby and feel like "now" is the right time and what does he or she think.
    • If you've neglected this conversation for whatever reason: Casually bring up the subject one night and ask if your partner has plans for children in the future. If he or she says no, then ask does he or she not want children at all or is he or she waiting for a bit. Either way, you have your answer. If your partner says yes, ask how soon and casually mention you have been thinking and you would really like a baby. Go through your reasons, then wait and see.

Part 6
Trying for a baby

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    Start trying for a baby once you've agreed. It is entirely up to you to decide whether or not to tell people you're trying for a baby. Some people feel super comfortable sharing this information, while others feel it's very personal and private. Again, just like the decision on having a baby, it is personal to you and it's entirely up to you.
    • Upon getting pregnant, there is a rule of thumb to tell only very close relatives for the first three months, in case something goes wrong. After that, it's usually fine to tell everyone, and you'll show soon enough.
    • If you're worried about miscarriages, or have anything concerning, discuss with your GP.


  • If you are finding it hard to conceive, go for a check up. There could be a reason.

Sources and Citations

  1. Dan 'Gilbert', Stumbling on Happiness, pp 241-242
  2. Kahneman D1, Krueger AB, Schkade DA, Schwarz N, Stone AA. - "A survey method for characterizing daily life experience: the day reconstruction method"
  3. Richard P. Eibach and Steven E. Mock - Idealizing Parenthood to Rationalize Parental Investments, Psychological Science February 2011 vol. 22 no. 2 203-208
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Categories: Development Stages