Should I have a baby?

It’s a question that many adults ask themselves when they reach a certain time in their life. They may have already obtained the personal, career and educational goals they set for themselves, find themselves ready to add a new member to their family — but aren’t sure whether deciding to have a baby or not is right for them at this point.

If you’re reading this article, know that you’re not alone. It’s normal to have conflicting thoughts about choosing to have a baby. It’s a lifetime commitment, after all. Deciding to have a baby is a big choice to make — and only one you should choose when you are 100 percent ready.

If you’re asking, “Am I ready to have a baby?” continue reading this article for guidance in making this life-changing decision.

Do I Really Want to Have a Baby?

Before asking, “Am I ready to have a child?” you need to ask yourself whether you really want a child in the first place. Being a parent isn’t the right path for everyone — and there is nothing that requires you to have a baby once you reach a certain age or stage in your relationship.

The number of women who are choosing to live childless has risen over the last few decades. There are many reasons behind this. Some women are living childless by circumstance (being unable to naturally conceive or take advantage of other family-building options), while others are living childless by choice because of their beliefs about their career, non-conformism, environmentalism, finances and more.

If you find yourself questioning, “Do I really want a baby?” you should evaluate your feelings before making a decision to have a child or not. If you have a partner, this is an honest discussion you should have with them. Your feelings are always valid, and they should not be ignored because you believe you “have to” do something.

You may be in a growing proportion of women who are ambivalent about having children. If you are, there is no magic solution to determining whether you will wake up one day and want to be a mother. This is a question only you can answer in your own time.

If you are struggling with this question, discuss the situation honestly with your partner (if applicable) and consider speaking with a therapist, if that will help.

Am I Ready for a Baby?

Once you have decided that you truly are interested in becoming a parent, there’s another important question to ask: “Should I have a baby at this point in my life?”

If you are in a committed relationship, this is a discussion you must have with your partner. Raising a baby together requires a strong partnership, and you should both be on board before making the decision to have a baby.

But, how exactly do your determine whether you are ready to have a baby? There are a few things that play a role in this decision:

1. Finances

Ask yourself this question: Are we ready to be parents and commit to the financial requirements of raising a baby?

Deciding to have a child is not cheap. On average, it costs parents over $230,000 to raise a child to age 18, which comes out to about $13,000 a year. Before you determine if you are ready for a child, you will need to evaluate your personal budget to see if you can cover the expenses of a baby (like diapers, childcare, medical care and more). Keep in mind, the annual cost of having a child grows each year as he or she does.

You and your partner (if applicable) should discuss your financial situation and how it will be affected by the arrival of a child. Will you both continue working full-time, or will one of you wish to stay home with the baby? How will that affect your financial situation?

2. Emotional Readiness

Before choosing to have a baby, you should also evaluate your personal feelings about becoming a parent. Again, having a child is not something you should do because you feel like it’s the next logical step. Both you and your partner should be excited for the prospect of raising a baby — challenges and all.

First, you’ll want to make sure you’re deciding to have a child for the right reasons. While there are good reasons to have a baby, there are not-so-good reasons, too. Children are not ways to solve a failing relationship, and they should not be brought into the world because you feel like you need more love. When you have a child, you will be there to help them feel secure and safe — not the other way around.

You will need to recognize that having a child will completely change your life. The things you are used to doing — having date nights, spontaneous adventures and “me time” — won’t be as easy when you have a tiny human depending on you. These are the things to talk about before having a baby. Are you and your partner ready to potentially give up your own interests and desires to do what is best for your new child? Are you excited for these changes to your life, or will you regret your decision later on?

3. Evaluation of Future Goals

When do you know you’re ready for a baby? The answer: When your future goals and plans revolve around raising a family.

When you make the decision to have a child, they will become your first priority. This means that your personal goals may have to be delayed to do what is best for them.

Continuing your education while also raising a child is difficult, and you likely won’t be able to take any jet-setting trips until your baby is older (and your travel funds are not being put towards diapers). It can also be harder to advance in your career with a baby; any extra time or effort you may usually put into your job becomes more difficult when there is a child waiting at home for you.

If you are asking yourself if you are ready for a child, ask yourself this: Are you willing to give up those personal goals for new ones related to your family?

4. Availability of a Support System

Finally, when deciding whether or not to have a baby, you should also consider what kind of support is available to you. Even if you are co-parenting with your spouse, it can be exhausting to raise a child — and there will likely be times where you need assistance.

Think about your friends and family who may be there to support you as a parent. Do you have someone who can babysit your child when you need a night out? What about someone to teach you the ropes of raising a baby and even be there during the first couple of weeks of adjustment?

While you can certainly raise a child without a support group, it will be much harder. An available support system should be an important part of how to decide to have a baby at this point in your life.

Deciding to Have a Baby — or Not

Ultimately, you and your spouse are the only ones who can decide if you are ready for a baby. While there are plenty of “Are you ready to be a mom?” quizzes out there to spark your conversation, there is no magic way to determine “yes” or “no” to this question.

Research and understanding is key to deciding to have a baby. You must know how it is to have a baby before moving forward with this life-changing decision. It’s not a choice to make lightly, no matter how excited you are.

Remember: Whichever choice you make, it will be the right one for you. To have a baby or not to have a baby is a personal decision, and it is no one’s business but your own. This is your life, and you ultimately will be the one affected by adding a new bundle of joy to your household.