How do you know when is the right time to have a baby? And when am I ready for a baby?

Okay, excuse me for a second while I stop laughing.

Honestly, I hope we all know that there is never really a great time to have kids. There’s never a perfect time to do anything that will radically change your life! But nevertheless, we can be wise.

I missed posting a reader question yesterday, and I want to catch up because I think this one’s a good one! Recently a woman asked me how to know when she’s ready to have a baby:

We are not currently trying to get pregnant as we are sorting out some health issues and healing my vaginismus (really appreciate your posts on that by the way!). My husband has baby fever though and I feel like all my friends are having babies or getting pregnant and I feel left out because all I want in life is to be a mother! I know that the common phrase is “you’ll never be ready” but if a couple had the liberty of deciding when to start trying, what kind of things could they consider in their own lives before they add a baby to the mix? Physically, relationally, emotionally, spiritually? I follow your blog closely and you haven’t covered this topic yet, and maybe it’s a conversation you’re going to start having with your own daughters soon?

I think I actually have this conversation with my daughters almost everyday! Oldest one would love to get pregnant by accident, because if you do things wisely they’ll wait until next fall, since we’re all planning a big missions trip to Kenya in August. Younger daughter who just got married would like to wait a few years.

So let’s talk about a few different things when it comes to planning when to have children and figuring if “am i ready for a baby”.

If you’re having sex, you are defacto ready to have kids

One of the things we repeatedly told Katie before she got married was that as much as they may try to NOT have kids, there’s always the possibility they’ll get pregnant. And you have to be prepared for that if you’re also having sex. Having a baby can never be seen as a tragedy. We may make all these perfect plans, but God may have other ones, and nature just may intervene.

As my pastor said last Sunday, there are lots of accidental parents, but no accidental babies.

Children are a precious gift and the mistake is not on them!

So never get too wedded to your big plans. If you want to make God laugh, make plans! He knows the answer to your question “am I ready for a baby” and it might not be when you think you are ready. It’s fine to have things to aim for, but these should never be things that you invest your whole heart in.

There are two big schools of thought when it comes to being ready to have a baby: One says that you have to have your life totally sorted out and have all your experiences first, and the other says you don’t.

I have some family members who decided to do the “big things” in life before the baby came. They took super interesting jobs that required moving far from family for a few years. They hiked, kayaked, travelled, had big adventures. And then, after about a decade of marriage, they started their absolutely adorable and bustling family. We were roughly 12 years ahead of them in terms of our age when our kids were born; I was an empty nester at 45; she won’t be until she’s 57.

Keith and I have been travelling and taking jobs in interesting places and having our adventures now. We didn’t do it in our twenties. We were quite poor and Keith was in school when we started having babies. We lived in a tiny 2-bedroom apartment until Rebecca was 4 and Katie was 1 1/2, and we moved to Belleville and bought a house. We didn’t have a car in those early days. I hadn’t figured out what I was going to do for work or career. We hadn’t figured out much of anything, except that we wanted to have a baby!

Keith and Sheila buy house before baby - When Are We Ready to Have Kids? And How Do We Decide?

Keith and me buying our first house in 1998–four years after we had our first baby.

Which approach is right? I don’t think there is a “right” one when it comes to knowing “am I ready for a baby”. There are pros and cons to each. Personally, I’m glad I started young because I think I had more energy at 25 and 26 than I did at 37 or 38, and I didn’t mind my house being a total mess when I was 30 nearly as much as I’d mind it now. I’m glad we had our kids before we had the money to buy anything nice!

And the grandparents were all young, so they could help more and enjoy the kids more. And now we’re able to enjoy the empty nest years when we’re still healthy and energetic and young.

On the other hand, there can be a lot to say for getting your marriage rock solid, for having adventures early, and for getting a nest egg saved and a house bought. There’s no right answer. It’s what matters to you.

At the same time, if you can minimize stress fairly soon, it may be good to wait

While there is no perfect time to have kids, we can all likely think of some really lousy ones to have kids.

It’s hard to have a baby when you’re three courses away from graduating from university. It’s hard to have a baby if your husband is three courses away, and won’t be able to get a full-time job until he’s done. It’s hard to have a baby when you know  you’ll need to move in a few months for work or school. It’s hard to have a baby if your parents or someone close to you is terminally ill and you want to spend that time with them.

Having a baby is wonderful, but extremely stressful. And it does make money more of an issue, because it’s very hard for the mom, at least initially, to work and contribute to income.

One thing Rebecca and Connor have been doing is to save all of Rebecca’s income for a down payment on a house, and live off of Connor’s, so that if and when a baby comes, they don’t notice a change in their standard of living. I’m encouraging Katie and David to do the same thing.

If you know your income situation, work situation, or school situation is going to get significantly less stressful within a short time frame, then delaying having a baby may be a good idea.

You’re likely not ready to have a baby if you’re still unsure about your marriage

Also, if you’re in a rocky marriage and you’re not sure if it will last, having a baby will not make that marriage more stable. It will just add more stress to it. If your husband is habitually using pornography, refusing to work, or doing something else that jeopardizes the relationship, please deal with those big issues before you plan to add a baby to the mix.

And as this woman asked, are there relational, emotional, or spiritual milestones you have to meet before you have a baby? I think deliberately getting pregnant in the middle of a spiritual or relational or emotional crisis is not a good idea. When God is doing a major work on healing something from your childhood, or dealing with something in your marriage, then it likely is good to wait.

But I don’t think you have to have everything figured out. After all, one of the things you’ll learn when you become a parent is that everything really does change. You may have thought you were healed from something in your childhood, but being a mom will bring it up again. At the same time, being a mom may heal other things! Becoming a mom is such a seismic shift in your emotional self that I don’t think you can ever truly say, “I’m ready!” But the cool thing is that as you rely on God, on a daily basis, you find you really do grow.

Whatever you do: A baby is a blessing

The letter writer mentioned that her husband has baby fever; so does Rebecca’s! I think we get to that age where friends all start to have babies, and we really want to follow them. That’s a God-given desire. It is wonderful to love a baby, and having my babies was one of the most satisfying and worthwhile things I have ever done. (And having a baby can help with vaginismus, too!)

I don’t think we need our financial life totally settled, with the house and cars bought, the secure long-term job acquired, all the right furniture bought. These things can come in time. Often couples get into trouble, too, thinking that they need the house and two cars before they have a baby, and they want a baby, so they end up buying a house before they’re ready and getting into too much car debt. You can have kids in an apartment. You can use second hand baby stuff. You can get by with very little.

Having Babies in an Apartment - When Are We Ready to Have Kids? And How Do We Decide?

Keith setting up Katie’s crib and moving Rebecca into a “big girl bed” in our small apartment

So don’t have high expectations about what it takes to have a baby, or when is the right time to have a baby, but reduce stress as much as possible first where you can.

We're never really ready to become parents, but is there a good time when you should or shouldn't have kids?

Those would be my simple pieces of advice, and now I’m eager to hear what the rest of you think! So leave a comment and tell me, when did you think you were ready to have kids?

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