Having children or adopting children is one of the single biggest decisions you can ever make in your life. How do you figure out when you and your significant other are ready to take this momentous step? What are the important factors to consider before you decide to have children?
Kevin from Gainesville, FL writes:
“Lately my wife and I have been talking about having children. We’re in our thirties, which is certainly older than our parents were, but we still feel so young in so many ways. We’re still working on building up our income; we’re hardly suffering, but I don’t know if we have a lot to offer a child yet, and I don’t want to have a kid if I have nothing to give him when he grows up. And are we emotionally mature enough? I certainly hope so, but sometimes I just don’t know. How do we know if we’re ready for children?”
At least you’re thinking about the question instead of diving right in! A lot of people have children because they just think that’s what you’re supposed to do at a certain age. Of course, age isn’t what determines readiness. I think you’re on the right track thinking about finance and emotional maturity. Having children is a practical decision and also an emotional one, and that means you need to have something to offer which is both practical and emotional.
Some degree of humility is a good trait in a parent. Parents often think they are infallible—or become convinced of it precisely because they are terrified of making mistakes. Having a little fear of going wrong and a little humility to go along with it may stop you from making some of the worst mistakes. So to me questioning yourself is already a sign of emotional maturity. Whether you have what it takes from there is something only you can answer after careful self-reflection.
As far as money goes, that is also a very individual choice. All of us were brought up with different conveniences (or otherwise), and have different standards for what constitutes “enough.” I would advise you to think about the short term and the long term. Do you have enough money to take care of your child now, and do you expect to have enough to pay all your child’s expenses through the age of eighteen? Do you foresee being able to send your child on to higher education? If the economy remains poor or gets worse, do you have any sort of security to give to your child in the long run, such as a family business you can pass on?
You may never feel completely “ready” to have a child. Don’t ignore your intuition, however—if your intuition tells you to wait, then wait. If your intuition sends a positive message despite your uncertainty, on the other hand, you may be as ready as you’ll ever be. Also, ask yourself why you want to have children. Examine your reasons and make sure that they come from an emotionally mature place before you decide to go forward with the decision.