how do you know you are ready to have children?

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I'd say you are ready if...
1. You are in a healthy relationship
2. One or both of you has a steady income
3. You have a roof over your head
4. You WANT children

Bonnie - posted on 01/24/2011

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I like Sara's answer. Honestly, we are never truly 100% ready though. You can be ready when you try to become pregnant and things can come up by the time the baby gets here. Really, just know that you both want children and you a space for a baby.

Katherine - posted on 01/24/2011

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What does it take to prepare yourself to be a parent? You might not realize it but there are emotional, physical and financial things to consider BEFORE you get pregnant. Writer Jennifer Newton Reents shares some tips on how to prepare yourself for one of the biggest -- and best -- changes of your life.
Ready, set, baby!
When planning to have a baby sometimes we get so caught up in the excitement of finally having a baby that we forget about the things we need to have in place so we are ready when our precious little one arrives.


Ann Douglas, co-author of "Family Finance: The Essential Guide for Parents," and co-author of "The Unofficial Guide to Having a Baby" says it's important to take some time to think about how having a baby is going to effect your family's bottom line.
"Will you be taking some time off work, either temporarily or permanently? If so, will you be able to reduce your expenses at the same time in order to balance your family's budget?" she says. "If you're planning to return to work shortly after your baby is born, you'll need to factor in the costs of childcare and other work-related expenses in order to determine whether you're further ahead to have both partners working outside the home, or whether it would make greater financial sense to have one parent stay at home with the new baby."

She says if one parent is considering taking an extended period away from the workforce, he or she might want to consider the hidden costs of taking a career hiatus. "You may need some retraining in order to re-enter the workforce in a few years' time, and, in some cases, you may have to consider an entirely new career," she says.

Heather Freitag of Las Vegas, Nevada, recently had her third child. Freitag, a psychologist who is married to a doctor, says considering finances has always been important to them when deciding to have children.

"It is personally very important to me that I am raising my children, and though I enjoy working part time, as I do currently, I absolutely love being at home with my children," she says. "So, when considering whether or not we should get pregnant we always make sure that my NOT working is an option so that I can be at home as much as I feel I need to be."

Douglas says it is important for couples to have a post-baby financial plan in place before they have the baby.

"A lot of couples make the mistake of continuing to spend at pre-baby levels even though their income has taken a significant hit -- either temporarily, while one partner is on maternity leave, or permanently if one partner decides to leave the paid labor force for now," she says. "This can result in ever-increasing credit card balances that can be difficult to pay off. That's why it's important to have a financial plan in place before you have a baby, so that you really understand upfront how much you can -- and can't -- afford to spend."

Cynthia Maes, of Whittier, California, mother of four, says she and her husband, a teacher and coach, made sure they had their finances in order when they decided to have another child because they feel it gives them more time and less distractions to focus on the new baby.

"We wouldn't have to work too much overtime, and we could afford what we needed to have," says Maes. "So we waited until we were fairly job secure and had a house to raise children in."

Douglas recommends couples start building their nest egg as soon as they make a decision to have a child.

"That way, you'll have some money socked away for baby gear by the time you're in the market for a crib, stroller, car seat, and so on," she says. She also recommends couples pay off any personal debt they have accumulated over the years -- student loans, car loans and so on.

"The less debt you're carrying, the less stressed you'll feel during the financial transition to parenthood," Douglas says.

So what does it actually cost to raise a child today, anyway? Douglas says a middle-income family can expect to spend nearly $150,000 to raise a child from birth to age 18. For higher-income families, the total is closer to $220,000.

Preparing your head and heart
Now that we have taken a look at finances, couples may want to consider their physical and emotional readiness.

Deborah Issokson, a licensed psychologist who provides reproductive health and healing counseling services in Watertown, Massachusetts, says parents-to-be can emotionally prepare themselves for parenthood in several ways.

"It is the emotional preparations that are (most) crucial to healthy family development and often it is these preparations that are ignored by expectant parents," she says.

Denise Almazan, a new mom, says she thought a lot about if she was ready to have a baby on many different levels.

"I had so many concerns," says Almazan, of Whittier, California. ". I wondered if I could handle the pain of labor. I wondered if I was emotionally mature to raise a child, and questioned my capacity for unconditional love. I thought I may be too selfish to be a mother, and wondered if I would be able to put the needs of my child before my own."

First-time mom Lauren Keene, of Sacramento, California, says she and her husband, Mike, focused on the emotional aspects of having a baby.

"Physically we were both in good health," says Keene. "Though with my husband Mike being older, having kids sooner was certainly better than later, and we knew there was no point in trying to reach a certain financial goal because we felt you can always find a way to accommodate a baby. Emotionally, we knew we loved each other very much and wanted to share that love with children."

Issokson says expectant parents also need to prepare themselves to be emotionally present and available to a new baby all the time, especially in the beginning, and learn to tolerate the demands of a baby, the feelings of stress, frustration, incompetence, vulnerability, responsibility and selflessness that a new baby evokes from an adult.

"I am also talking about the readiness of the couple, if the mother is partnered, to endure some stress on the relationship, some interruption in intimacy, spontaneity and availability for each other," she says. Issokson recommends couples work out any unresolved issues in the relationship, before they have a baby, and participate in counseling, if necessary.

"This is the time to improve communication and maintain openness with each other," she says. "I suggest couples talk with each other about fantasies, hopes and expectations they have of each other as parents and as a family. While many couples have been together a long time, they do not know each other as parents yet and will need to get to know one another in a new way. This can be quite shocking and disappointing as well as exciting and satisfying. I suggest that partners spend time together and take stock of their relationship and what they have built together that will form the foundation for their children."

She uses a garden as a metaphor: "I say that the relationship between the adults is the garden in which the children will grow. If the garden is not tended to, then the flowers will not grow very well," she says. "I encourage parents to think creatively about how to maintain intimacy and connection with the arrival of a baby which can feel like a third wheel. Babies often come between parents. Babies bring turbulence to a marriage or a relationship and contrary to myth, do not necessarily make a relationship stronger or the people closer."

Issokson said in her dealings with her parents, many of them wish they had been better prepared for feeling incompetent and overwhelmed. "They often imagine they will be madly in love with their new babies and will sit around staring longingly into each other's eyes," she says. "They are not prepared for what sleep deprivation really feels like or how it affects relationships. They are not prepared for the feelings of loss and grief as they focus on the loss of spontaneity in their lives, the loss of intimate time with a partner, the changes in friendships. They are not prepared for the depression and anxiety that so often accompanies the arrival of a new baby. Minimally, 10 to 20 percent of new moms will experience a level of depression or anxiety that will feel debilitating."


ADVERTISEMENT
Ricka Kohnstamm, mother of three, agrees having a baby is hard work.
"I'm really concerned about the lack of 'real' information about how stressful it is to add a baby to your family," says Kohnstamm, of St. Paul, Minnesota. "It can take a serious toll on your relationship with your partner, and it's exhausting. Of course, you couldn't pay me enough money to ever have done it differently."

Sounds a little scary perhaps, but there are tools to help.

Issokson says while books are helpful, staying connected with each other as partners is invaluable. She recommends couples talk with other new families and participate in support groups for new moms and dads before the baby is born.

"It is important to remember that first time parents often have selective hearing and seeing because they need to hold onto the fantasy that this will all be manageable," she says. She recommends two books for expectant parents -- "Laughter and Tears: The Emotional Life of New Mothers" by Elisabeth Bing and Libby Colman, which she says describes the normal ups and downs of the postpartum period without pathologizing, and "Becoming Parents: How to Strengthen Your Marriage as Your Family Grows" by Pamela Jordan, Scott Stanley and Howard Markman. She says "Becoming Parents" is about marital health as a family grows and gives suggestions and examples for keeping communication clear "in the midst of the chaos that comes with a baby."

Preparing your body
Couples should also consider their physical health before conceiving, says Tori Kropp, a registered nurse who practices perinatal nursing at the California Pacific Medical Center in San Francisco and who is founder of PillowTalk: Modern Childbirth Education, a for-profit organization that offers prenatal and postnatal education and emotional support for parents.

"The primary physical responsibility is with the mother," Kropp says. "She should eat nutritiously and begin taking prenatal vitamins several months before becoming pregnant, if possible. If she feels she should lose weight, prior to pregnancy is best. And it's always good to have a nice, sensible exercise routine."

She says the father should cut down on drinking alcohol and discontinue any drug use. "Some studies show drug and alcohol use can affect sperm production," Kropp says.

The pursuit of perfection
If you're waiting for the perfect time, the perfect home, the perfect job, the perfect financial situation before having a baby, you might just wait forever! Life rarely turns out the way we expect it to! You don't need everything in perfect order to have the perfect baby - he or she will be perfect regardless! So take some time to think about what your heart and your head are telling you and the answer will come to you. If you are ready, your will simply know when it is time to begin the journey toward of parenthood!

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Louise - posted on 01/25/2011

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The short answer is if you have financial stability, a healthy strong relationship that is long term, and the urge to take your relationship to the next level to care for children for the rest of your life. Then yeah your ready!

Krissy - posted on 01/25/2011

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you discover a little pink or blue plus sign on the pee stick... LOL!!!

No, really... it's good to ask and evaluate your life... however, remember that there is never a "perfect time" or you might be waiting forever....

....after we have the car paid off.... (car might have some repairs needed after that....

...after we have a house.... but the mortgage is too high and so on...

My only suggestion is... if you are going to try to be a stay home parent, then downsize where you are living only on one income... if you are still working, then pop ALL of your income into savings and you'll have a great savings that way, too! And then keep cutting out extras and paying things down to live on one income... as you get close to that goal, go ahead and start TTC...

If you are going to work, then whenever you feel comfortable.

Linda - posted on 01/25/2011

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How do you know you are ready to have children? How do you know this is the man to marry? How to you know this is the house to buy? How do you know being a furneral director is the job of your dreams?
Some decissions we look back on and laugh, 'What was I thinking?' If you have any reservations about being responsible for another human being for the rest of your life, then you're not ready. I know, when they are 18... when they are 21... when they are 25...they are on their own. But, what if they are born with special needs and you do need to be responsible for the rest of your life?
Also, assuming you're married, if he is ready and you're not... then its an automatic NO. If both of you can not agree on any decission of importance, then its a NO decission.
You'll know when you are ready. Your heart will overflow with love and a desire to share that love.
Don't rush, even if you hear that clock ticking. I have several friends who never had children. They live happy lives. Having children isn't for everyone. But, for those of us that have children, who knew we were ready...there were times that we might have thought 'I didn't know it would be this hard' but more times than not, we thank God for these beautiful gifts entrusted to us.
My suggestion, step back... allow yourself some quiet time... listen to your heart. You already know.

Chloe - posted on 01/24/2011

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Sometimes I don't know if we are ever ready!! But I think it's worth giving it a shot!! Once you have a child/children you can never ever imagine your life without them!!

Christy - posted on 01/24/2011

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This is long but funny.

Lesson 1
1. Go to the grocery store.
2. Arrange to have your salary paid directly to their head office.
3. Go home.
4. Pick up the paper.
5. Read it for the last time
Lesson 2
Before you finally go ahead and have children, find a couple who already are parents and berate them about their...
1. Methods of discipline.
2. Lack of patience.
3. Appallingly low tolerance levels.
4. Allowing their children to run wild.
5. Suggest ways in which they might improve their child's breastfeeding, sleep habits, toilet training, table manners, and overall behavior.
Enjoy it because it will be the last time in your life you will have all the answers.
Lesson 3
A really good way to discover how the nights might feel...
1. Get home from work and immediately begin walking around the living room from 5PM to 10PM carrying a wet bag weighing approximately 8-12 pounds, with a radio turned to static (or some other obnoxious sound) playing loudly. (Eat cold food with one hand for dinner)
2. At 10PM, put the bag gently down, set the alarm for midnight, and go to sleep.
3. Get up at 12 and walk around the living room again, with the bag, until 1AM.
4. Set the alarm for 3AM.
5. As you can't get back to sleep, get up at 2AM and make a drink and watch an infomercial.
6. Go to bed at 2:45AM.
7. Get up at 3AM when the alarm goes off.
8. Sing songs quietly in the dark until 4AM.
9. Get up. Make breakfast. Get ready for work and go to work (work hard and be productive)
Repeat steps 1-9 each night. Keep this up for 3-5 years. Look cheerful and together.
Lesson 4
Can you stand the mess children make? T o find out...
1. Smear peanut butter onto the sofa and jam onto the curtains.
2. Hide a piece of raw chicken behind the stereo and leave it there all summer.
3. Stick your fingers in the flower bed.
4. Then rub them on the clean walls.
5. Take your favorite book, photo album, etc. Wreck it.
6. Spill milk on your new pillows. Cover the stains with crayons. How does that look?
Lesson 5
Dressing small children is not as easy as it seems.
1. Buy an octopus and a small bag made out of loose mesh.
2. Attempt to put the octopus into the bag so that none of the arms hang out. Time allowed for this - all morning.
Lesson 6
Forget the BMW and buy a mini-van. And don't think that you can leave it out in the driveway spotless and shining. Family cars don't look like that.
1. Buy a chocolate ice cream cone and put it in the glove compartment.
Leave it there.
2. Get a dime. Stick it in the CD player.
3. Take a family size package of chocolate cookies. Mash them into the back seat. Sprinkle cheerios all over the floor, then smash them with your foot.
4. Run a garden rake along both sides of the car.
Lesson 7

Go to the local grocery store. Take with you the closest thing you can find to a pre-school child. (A full-grown goat is an excellent choice). If you intend to have more than one child, then definitely take more than one goat. Buy your week's groceries without letting the goats out of your sight. Pay for everything the goat eats or destroys. Until you can easily accomplish this, do not even contemplate having children.
Lesson 8
1. Hollow out a melon.
2. Make a small hole in the side.
3. Suspend it from the ceiling and swing it from side to side.
4. Now get a bowl of soggy Cheerios and attempt to spoon them into the swaying melon by pretending to be an airplane.
5. Continue until half the Cheerios are gone.
6. Tip half into your lap. The other half, just throw up in the air.
You are now ready to feed a nine- month-old baby.
Lesson 9
Learn the names of every character from Sesame Street , Barney, Disney, the Teletubbies, and Pokemon. Watch nothing else on TV but PBS, the Disney channel or Noggin for at least five years. (I know, you're thinking What's 'Noggin'?) Exactly the point.
Lesson 10
Make a recording of Fran Drescher saying 'mommy' repeatedly. (Important: no more than a four second delay between each 'mommy'; occasional crescendo to the level of a supersonic jet is required). Play this tape in your car everywhere you go for the next four years. You are now ready to take a long trip with a toddler.
Lesson 11
Start talking to an adult of your choice. Have someone else continually tug on your skirt hem, shirt- sleeve, or elbow while playing the 'mommy' tape made from Lesson 10 above. You are now ready to have a conversation with an adult while there is a child in the room.
This is all very tongue in cheek; anyone who is parent will say 'it's all worth it!' Share it with your friends, both those who do and don't have kids. I guarantee they'll get a chuckle out of it. Remember, a sense of humor is one of the most important things you'll need when you become a parent!

Sabra - posted on 01/24/2011

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If you are thinking about having children you might want to try the following simple tests...

The mess test:

Smear peanut butter on the settee and curtains. Now rub your hands in the wet flower bed and rub them on the walls. Cover the stains with crayons. Place a fish finger behind the couch and leave it there all summer.

The toy test:

Get a huge box of Lego. (If Lego is not available, you may substitute roofing tacks or broken bottles.) Have a friend spread them all over the house. Put on a blindfold. Try to walk to the bathroom or kitchen. Do not scream (this could wake your child at night).

The shopping test:

Borrow one or two small animals (goats are best) and take them with you as you shop at the supermarket. Always keep them in sight and pay for anything they eat or damage.

The dressing test:

Try to get hold of a large, unhappy, live octopus. Stuff it into a small net bag making sure that all its arms stay inside.

The feeding test:

Find a large plastic milk jug. Fill it halfway with water. Suspend it from the ceiling with a stout cord. Start the jug swinging. Try to insert spoonfuls of soggy Weetabix into the jug whilst pretending to be an airplane or choo choo train. Now dump the contents of the jug on the floor.

The physical test (for women):

Get a large beanbag chair and attach it to the front of your clothes. Leave it there for 9 months. Finally remove 10% of the beans.

The physical test (for men):

Go to the nearest chemists and put your wallet on the counter. Ask the pharmacist to help him/herself. Now proceed to the nearest supermarket. Go to customer services and arrange for your pay to be directly deposited there. Buy a newspaper. Go home and read it quietly for the last time.

The final exam:

Find a couple who already have a small child. Lecture them on how they can improve their discipline, patience, tolerance, toilet training, and child's table manners. Emphasize how they should never allow their children to run riot.

Enjoy this experience. It will be the last time you will have all the answers.

Kathy - posted on 01/24/2011

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Now there is one of life's big questions. Rationally, one should be financially secure, in a secure and healthy relationship (if one prefers), and be emotionally stable. In the real world I would say one should have a steady income, insurance, responsible, and full of love. My husband and I decided that "Hey, why not?" was a good plan at 19. We were pregnant and married at 20. Our daughter is now 15 and her brother is 8. Been one hell of a journey so far! Lots of ups and lots of downs but we work hard and we have two wonderful, healthy, happy kids and a great marriage on top of it.

Katherine - posted on 01/24/2011

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Ha ha Sara, well said. My response only short and simple.

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