Choosing to have a baby is a life-changing decision. It’s a commitment that will completely transform your priorities, routines, and way of living. Equally, parenthood is one of the richest experiences life has to offer — many parents find added value and meaning following the birth of their child.

It’s certainly not a decision to make lightly. But what are the signs? How do you know? This article will explore the practical, emotional, and intuitive indicators that you might just be ready to have a baby, whilst acknowledging the reasons now might not be the right time.

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1. Is it really what you want?

The first point to address is making sure having a child is what you want. This might seem like an obvious statement. But, much like choosing marriage, there are many societal expectations that can pressure you into making a decision; especially as you reach a certain age. 

You might also receive comments and pressure from family or friends, especially if you’re in a committed relationship. And then there’s the small matter of your partner’s wishes. But regardless of what those around you (or society at large) expects, take time to reach deep within yourself, to understand what you want.

2. Are you in a committed relationship?

Having a baby isn’t a way of fixing a relationship that’s not going well. “If you have problems resolving issues now, it only gets worse after the baby comes because you are sleep-deprived, grumpy, and it is stressful,” relationship expert Dawn Michael, Ph.D. told Bustle. “You will have to talk about how each person feels about parenting. Both of you need to be on the same page when raising a child.”

Essentially, any issues that are below the surface in your relationship are likely to amplify with the extra stress of raising a child. But what are strong indicators of being ready? Consider if you and your partner are able to navigate conflict, support each other through tough times, express needs, and, above all else, communicate clearly.

The stronger the foundation of the relationship, the better you’ll be able to manage the transition into parenthood.

3. Can you balance the emotional with the practical?

For many, being ready is an intuitive process, commonly known as “broodiness.” But if you feel ready, how do you balance practical elements? Key areas to consider are your relationship, your finances, your willingness to make significant sacrifices and changes to your lifestyle, and how you spend your time — this includes considering how having children might affect your career.

Patience is valuable: if you know you’re ready, it pays to then assess the rational, practical side of having children and explore what needs to change before you’re ready. For example, you might realize you need to be earning more money or be more financially stable. Or you may need a larger apartment.

Ask yourself: “is now the right time?” Balancing the emotional aspects of children with practicalities is important. It’s not that everything has to be perfect — there’s no doubt many parents make things work with limited resources and find a way — but it pays to be as prepared as you can for your child’s arrival.

4. Have you explored your childhood trauma?

As you’re reading this article, I’ll assume you’re dedicated to your personal growth, so we won’t shy away from shadow work. All of us pick up traits from our parents, and without bringing awareness to this can pass on similar parenting styles to children. Research shows parenting styles often pass through generations — whether positive or negative.

Depending on your upbringing, it’s worthwhile exploring any traits or ways of relating that need to be worked on and healed. Being a parent is a big responsibility, but it also provides an opportunity to break cycles of trauma or not-so-good parenting; to bring a more mindful, conscious approach to raising children.

It’s not to say you have to have everything together, but at least have taken time to reflect on your potential shadow elements, your childhood, and ask yourself: what needs to be healed to be the best parent I can be? You might also consider the ways your parents were supportive and loving, and look to model those positive traits.

Either way, such emotional and psychological work — be it alone or with a therapist — is one of the best gifts you can give your children. Knowing yourself, truly, before taking full responsibility for another, will pay off immensely in the long run.

5. What are your beliefs about being a parent?

Last but not least, take time to explore the beliefs you hold about parenthood. Clarifying beliefs will help you gain a clearer picture of whether you’re ready for children. It works both ways. For example, if you have beliefs like “I’ll be no good as a parent,” or you feel anxious about the huge life change, it could be a genuine desire for children is hidden by fear or feelings of unworthiness. These can be worked with — feeling anxious is normal!

Conversely, as explored earlier, you might find you have beliefs or expectations that are swaying you towards making the decision when it isn’t necessarily what you want. These include beliefs such as “I should become a parent” or “parenthood is a necessary part of life” or “we’ve been together for x amount of time, aren’t kids the next step?”

Parenthood is a big deal, there’s no denying it. It pays to spend some time and self-reflection to make sure it’s fully right for you and your partner. Make sure it’s what you truly want, consider how practical having a child would be, and if now’s the right time. When the decision comes, it can be the best decision you’ll ever make — and by taking time to deeply reflect, a decision made with confidence.

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