Choosing to Raise a Child of an Unplanned Pregnancy
When you are facing an unplanned pregnancy, you always have options. However, a combination of factors can often lead women in this situation to wonder whether they are ready to be a mother — even if they had no desire to have a child prior to their pregnancy.
How to know if you’re ready for a baby is not an exact science. There are many things to consider, and these factors will have different weight in each woman’s individual situation. Ultimately, you are the only one who can decide whether raising a child is right for you.
4 Things to Consider Before Becoming a Parent
So, what should you know before having a baby? What are the things to think about when having a baby?
An unplanned pregnancy in no way means you have to parent but, if you are considering this path, think about these factors before making this lifelong commitment:
1. Your Personal Goals and Future Plans
Some women who face unplanned pregnancies find themselves thinking, “I’m not ready to be a mother.” Usually, this is because they have certain educational, personal or career goals that they wish to achieve before settling down with a family.
Having a baby is a decision that will affect the next 18 years (and more) of your life. When you become a parent, your child’s needs will always come first. This may mean you will have to put your own desires aside to do what is best for him or her.
For example, women who become mothers in college are less likely to finish their degrees, and women who have a child are less likely to be hired than women who do not have a family. If you choose to parent as a result of your unplanned pregnancy, you may need to put off personal trips and other plans, and it may be harder for you to maintain a relationship with someone who is not your baby’s father (if he is not already involved in the parenting).
Many women count these personal goals and plans as things to do before becoming a parent. But, when you have an unexpected pregnancy, the timing can be less than ideal. So, how do you know if you are ready to become a parent?
In general, here’s how to know you’re ready for a baby, keeping these factors in mind:
- You are comfortable with putting aside your personal dreams and goals while you raise your child.
- You do not anticipate regretting the loss of those goals and/or blaming your child later on.
- You look forward to the new goals that come with raising a child.
2. Financial Readiness
Another important question to ask yourself when considering parenting is, “Am I financially ready for a baby?”
It costs hundreds of thousands of dollars to raise a child to age 18, and being financially ready for a baby is key before committing yourself to this investment. As a parent, you will want to give your child the best opportunities possible — but it can be difficult for you if you simply cannot afford to do so.
You may consider speaking with parents you know to better understand the modern costs of raising a child, and a discussion with a financial planner can be especially helpful. How much you can expect to spend is one of the most important things you need to know before having a baby.
Here are some other financial things to consider before having a child:
- Can you afford to spend $13,000 a year on expenses for your child?
- Will you be raising a child on one salary or two, if you are co-parenting?
- How will you factor in the costs of childcare?
- Will you be able to establish a college fund for your child?
If you are pregnant but not financially ready for a child, there are programs that may provide the financial assistance you need. For example, federal programs like the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) provide assistance for food, health care referrals and nutrition education for low-income mothers and expectant mothers.
3. Availability of a Support System
It takes a village to raise a child, which means you will need to have a support system when you become a parent, especially if you plan to raise your child on your own. Even if the baby’s father will co-parent with you, you should consider the other friends and family members who can help during your baby’s childhood.
This support system is not often a common consideration for future parents, but it should be. Raising a child on your own or just with your baby’s father can be exhausting. Think about loved ones who you can turn to for support (whether it’s financial or practical, like childcare) and ask about their potential involvement before you have a child.
When it comes to this support system, here are some things to consider before becoming a parent:
- Do you have friends or family who can watch your baby if you (and the father, if applicable) have to be somewhere else?
- Do you have a loved one who can support you through your pregnancy and the early months of being a parent?
- Is there someone who can answer your questions and teach you the things about parenting you want to know?
4. Your Honest Feelings
Even keeping all of these things in mind, there is really only one way how to know when you are ready for a baby: You are excited for the prospect of being a parent, and you are ready to commit to any of the challenges that will come with this journey.
You can be as financially ready as possible and have all the preparations in place for being a parent but, unless you are emotionally ready for being a parent, you likely will not be able to give your child the life (and parenting) they deserve. These feelings are not something to be ashamed of; deciding to become a parent is something that your whole heart should be behind. It should not be something you decide to do because you feel like you “have to.” If these are your feelings, remember that you have other choices, too.
If you are not ready for pregnancy, you may consider abortion as a way to avoid the physical and mental challenges of carrying a child. If you are simply not ready to have a baby of your own, you might consider adoption to give a waiting family the child they’ve wanted for so long.
Sometimes, how to know if you’re ready for a baby can be complicated. If you are unsure about which path is best for you, please reach out to an unplanned pregnancy counselor or a trusted loved one to discuss your unplanned pregnancy options.