Being married is a wonderful adventure, and it’s so much fun to dream of the future with the person you love most in the world. At some point early in your marriage, you and your spouse will probably tackle the big question of whether you want to have children. A common snag many couples hit during this conversation is the question of when.
To help you navigate this monumental life decision, we’ve got a few questions we’d like for you to ask yourselves (and discuss together) before making the leap.
1. What timelines do you have in mind?
It’s a good idea for the two of you to be up-front with one another about the timelines you each have in mind for having children. You may find that the two of you differ drastically when it comes to your dreams for starting a family.
Often, one spouse is eager to have kids quickly, while the other may have other goals or plans in mind. If you’re the spouse who is hesitant to have kids now, you may want to take some time to travel, earn a graduate degree, or reach a specific career or financial milestone before bringing kids into the mix. This doesn’t mean you don’t want kids; you’re just not sure if now is the right time.
If you’re the spouse who wants children sooner rather than later, it’s very painful to have the desires of your heart delayed. Having a different timeline on your dreams for your family than your spouse does isn’t easy, but research shows that waiting a little while before having kids gives you a more solid foundation and history as a couple.
2. Are you ready for your relationship to change?
Inevitably, the dynamic of your relationship changes once you go from being “husband and wife” to “Mom and Dad.” Having children is time- and energy-consuming, and you won’t have as many opportunities to date, travel, and simply relax together once you’ve begun having kids. That doesn’t mean you can never have alone time again, but it does mean there will be a long-term, drastic impact on the time you have together right now.
We encourage you to consider the potential changes and whether you’re ready for them yet. No matter how much parents love their kids, we’ve never met a parent who said, “I wish I’d had kids sooner.” More often than not, we hear parents saying they wished they’d had more time together–just the two of them–before having children.
And from the couples who do wait longer to have kids, we tend to hear, “I’m so glad for the time we had as a couple.” (Yes, we occasionally do hear couples say, “Why didn’t we do this sooner? This is fun!”) That alone time in your early marriage is foundational; once your children are out of the house, it’s just going to be the two of you. Build that strong foundation now to return to later.
3. Are you both ready to take on a family unit?
We can’t emphasize this enough: never take on a family unit until you’ve both agreed that you’re ready. To have a healthy family, it takes two people who are fully invested and willing to take full emotional ownership to make this work. You want to be in this together.
If one of you is hesitant about starting a family, it’s time to put on the brakes. If you’re the spouse who wants to have children more quickly, don’t pressure your husband or wife; truly, you don’t want to push him or her into parenting before the time is right. You don’t want to take on parenting yet if your spouse is going to resent it.
Of course, any couple can respond to a “surprise child” with resilience, but if you have the choice, wait until you are both ready to take on the lifelong commitment of having children of your own.
You’ll Know When the Time is Right
If you’re keeping lines of communication open and being honest with one another about what each of you want before you start a family, you’ll know when the time is right for having children. The most important thing is to honor each other’s desires, have patience, and continue to love each other in spite of any disagreements you may have on the timeline.
Right now, provide a space in your relationship to enjoy being a couple. And if you’re chomping at the bit to have children, try not to be impatient–but it is perfectly fine to show your enthusiasm for starting a family. Let your spouse know that when they’re ready for children, you’re right there with them.
When did you and your spouse decide to start having kids? Did you have disagreements about the timing? How did you handle it? We’d love to hear your stories in the comments section below.