I’m not going to lie to you. Bringing a child into the world is a beautiful thing, but t won’t be easy by any means. Regardless of whether you carefully planned for it or mysteriously happened upon it, motherhood is challenging. Choosing to enter into the institution is a monumental, life altering decision. There are some things that you should ask yourself before you endeavor to be one.
If you want to start a family because you secretly believe that it will save a failing relationship, it won’t. If your relationship is not solid enough to weather the everyday stresses in your life now, it isn’t going to stand up to the rigors of parenting a child. Parenting a child with a fully engaged, supportive partner can be a beautiful and rewarding experience, but it requires work and dedication. If there is a hint of distrust or disrespect in your relationship, number one, you are probably with the wrong person and number two, it isn’t conducive to providing the stable, nurturing home that a child needs.
If there are career goals that you are still striving for, you may want to hold off until you are satisfied with where you are at professionally. There is always the possibility of a flexible work schedule or telecommuting opportunities if they are offered by an employer. However that option will not always be there for you. This isn’t to say that a person can’t have a child and a successful career, too. Many people can and do. However you should enter into parenthood knowing that having a child can place constraints on your availability to your employer. There will be doctor appointments, calls from the school nurse or daycare provider to pick up your child, or days when he or she is too sick to be left in someone else’s care.
If you want to start a family because you are trying to fill an empty place in your life, you should wait. You need to feel that you are complete and whole all by yourself in the present moment. Women who have been pre-diagnosed with a chronic medical or psychiatric condition are that much more likely to experience post-partum depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder, or psychosis than other women. If you are facing these odds and choose to proceed with a pregnancy it should be done so under the supervision of a qualified physician. It is your responsibility to yourself, your family and your unborn child to have a safe and uneventful pregnancy and birth experience.
If you are struggling with money matters, having a child is going to add an additional financial obligation to running your household. The costs of raising a child from birth to early adulthood are enormous. Financially there may never be a perfect moment in time to have a child, but it is beneficial to do so at a time when you are better able to afford the inherent costs. Many parents count on Earned Income Credit and other child-related exemptions and/or credits made available to qualifying families. I can tell you from personal experience that the refund you receive at the end of each tax year hardly compensates for the stresses of trying to eek by during the rest of the year.
Sometimes women don’t give themselves the opportunity to plan for pregnancy. I was one of those women. Though I don’t regret the two beautiful children that I was blessed with, I do wish that I would have given myself the opportunity to ask these questions. I hadn’t even made decisions about college or a career before I got pregnant. I was still trying to figure out what degree program I should be pursuing in college. I won a full scholarship to a business school at the end of my senior year, but chose to wait because I didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life. I was caught up in foolishness and a new found freedom. I fell in love and entangled myself in a relationship that I wasn’t adult enough to be having. My choices resulted in an unplanned pregnancy and a lost opportunity for a completely funded education.
I suffered with depression and obsessive-compulsive disorder as a child and later in life received a diagnosis of bi-polar disorder. I faced debilitating post-partum disorders after both of my pregnancies, one at 20 and the other at 30. Nothing could have prepared me for the horrors of that. My condition prohibited me from being cognizant and clear in my decisions and therefore as present as I needed to be in my relationships with my children.
I would not trade my children for the world. They have taught me so much about love, life and myself. During all of that I struggled financially and emotionally, strove to build a career and have a social life or a relationship, and parent my children. More times than not I was unable to balance all of the responsibilities that I was adding to my plate, but for the majority of the time, I gave it my best shot. Not all women face those struggles to the extent that I did. Most of my struggles were typical of all parents – paying bills; meeting career and educational goals, juggling between work and after school activities, but by a large margin they were also atypical. My only wish is that I would have had the time to figure these things out about myself before I had my children. It would have helped me to be that much more of a parent the first time around.
My oldest child is 23. I have expressed how much I wish I had my issues under control when he was young. Maybe I wouldn’t have yelled or rushed him so much. Maybe I wouldn’t have made some of the poor personal choices that I did. I have made my apologies and he has accepted. He and I are close these days. We share deep, meaningful conversations and observations about life. I see so much of myself in him. Emotionally, he faces some of the same struggles that I faced since it seems that he inherited my disorder. I am silent and watchful as he navigates those waters, holding my breath with each step that he takes.
I got the help I needed after my second child was born. She is bright and beautiful, passionate and strong. I am so ready for this job now. This time around I get to do it with more peace of mind and clarity. I am more than up to the challenge these days. Life is a journey. Children are a gift that we choose to give ourselves. Like many gifts they come with responsibility. I know that you’ll be a great parent someday, but if you have the opportunity to stop and make sure that it is the right day, your life and the lives of your children will be that much more rewarding.