Your life, in a word, is busy. Between your career, romantic relationship, and family and friends, sometimes it feels as ifthere’s barely time for any other interests, or even yourself! You may also want children, though. You’re just not sure when that should happen.

Whether you’re just starting to think about becoming a mom, or it’s been in the back of your mind for months or years, we’ve got you covered. Read on for some of the factors to evaluate when you’re deciding on the right time to start a family.

Consider Your Health

It may not be the first thing on your mind, but make sure to think about your health before trying to get pregnant. Are you in good physical shape? Can your body handle the additional stress of being pregnant for nine months, delivering a baby, and taking care of an infant afterward? If you’ve put healthy choices on the back burner in the past, now is the time to make sure you’re physically and emotionally capable of caring for a baby.

Schedule a checkup with an obstetrician/gynecologist to make sure your body is ready for pregnancy and parenthood. If you want to lose weight or need to make a lifestyle change such as quitting smoking, now’s the time to do it.

Don’t overlook mental health either. Pregnancy and parenthood are major life transitions, and it’s important to be equipped to handle them. If you have a history of depression, anxiety, or other mental health challenges, make sure your doctor agrees that it’s a good time for this next exciting step.

Consider Your Relationship

If you are married or have a partner, consider the impact that becoming parents will have on both of you as individuals as well as on your relationship. Have you been together long enough to build a solid foundation to start a family? What are your expectations of becoming a parent? What are your partner’s expectations?

The only way to learn what each of you expects is to talk about it honestly. In order to avoid resentment, both of you should be completely onboard with the idea of becoming parents.If your partner isn’t ready for parenthood, don’t try to make a unilateral decision. Talking to a therapist or counselor can help you work through this issue together.

Consider Your Support System

If you’re planning on parenting as a single mom, you won’t need to consider a partner’s opinions or desires. On the other hand, you’ll need even more support from other people — family members, friends, even neighbors. Determine whom you can rely on for help and support, and what kinds of childcare are available.

If you’re in a relationship, is one of you planning to be a stay-at-home parent? If not, who will take care of the baby? Keep in mind that even if you have a plan, that plan can change. What happens if the babysitter gets sick — or you decide to go back to work instead of staying home? You don’t need to make these decisions now, but having an idea of what to expect and what your options are may help you feel more prepared for this kind of lifestyle change.

Consider Your Finances

Babies are adorable and lovable and … expensive. Bringing a baby home means shelling out for items you probably don’t have yet—such as a bassinet or crib, a car seat, and a stroller—and that’s just the beginning! Diapers, clothing, baby food, formula, and even those cute stuffed toys add up, and as your child grows, the expenses increase. It costs an average of $233,000 to raise a child (not including college!), and it’s easy to spend significantly more than that.

That’s why it’s ideal to make sure you can afford a baby before deciding to have one. Do you (and your partner) make enough to swing the increase in expenses that accompanies parenthood? If one of you plans to stay home, can you absorb the loss of income? What about child care? That’s often one of the largest expenses for parents, so make sure you know how it will impact the budget.

Take a hard look at your current financial situation. Are you paying the bills every month? Are you saving for retirement? Have you built an emergency fund with three to six months worth of expenses? Is there money left over for the activities you enjoy? If the answer to these questions is yes, you’re probably in good shape. If not, consider creating a budget to track income and expenses, and see where you can cut back so you can financially support a baby without breaking thepersonal bank.

Consider Your Parenting Skills

How much do you know about parenthood? If you have younger brothers and sisters or babysat growing up, you may already have an idea of what it’s like to care for an infant, but people aren’t born knowing how to parent well. If you’re not comfortable with the idea of raising a child, talk to other parents you know and respect, read about parenting, and consider taking a class or joining a group of like-minded soon-to-be moms.

You can figure out many aspects of parenting as you go. Having an idea of the developmental stages of infants and children and learning about different parenting techniques, however,may help you feel more prepared for this new responsibility.

Consider — and Accept — the Unknowns

 Finally, part of becoming a parent is a willingness to take on the adventure of loving and raising a baby (or more than one!).Life will change dramatically. You will have less time for yourself, your partner, and loved ones. Priorities will shift, and the way you spend time will too. You’ll worry much more thanin the past.

You may not be ready yet to start afamily, and realizing that before making this transition is smart. If you are ready for parenthood, however — and havethought through all of the above considerations — you’ll likely know that this is it. You may have a sense deep down that this is, if not the perfect time, a good time to take the exciting step of becoming a mom. For more thoughts on when to start a family, consult the accompanying infographic.

Infographic provided by Natera.

Resources:

https://www.slideshare.net/InfographicsForBlogs/when-is-the-right-time-to-start-your-family
https://www.usda.gov/media/blog/2017/01/13/cost-raising-child
https://www.marriage.com/advice/family/ready-to-start-a-family/

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