Making the decision to bring a child into the world is a difficult one. Among other things, it requires both partners being on the same page about wanting children and identifying the right time for you as a couple to take this huge step.
The most important thing couples can do prior to bring a child into their growing family is to ensure that they have a solid marriage and that they are crystal clear on each others’ beliefs when it comes to having and raising children. If you are at a stage in life where you and your partner are considering becoming parents, take some time to sit together and really understand each other and the motivation behind wanting a child.
Talking about children is a very touchy subject for most people. Therefore, the goal of the conversation should only be to learn more about each other’s points of views. Compromises and solutions should be identified only after both partners fully understand each other’s viewpoint. Doing it earlier could run the risk of an argument becoming out of control.
Take turns asking each other the following questions.
1. Do you want children? Never assume that your partner has the same opinion as you. Hopefully you have already discussed this prior to getting married but it is always a good idea to check in and see if your partner has changed his/her mind.
2. How many children would you ideally like and why? This can give you a sense of what vision your partner has for your future and can give you some insights as to why your partner has this vision.
3. Why do you want to have children? Many young South Asian couples feel immense pressure to have children immediately after they get married. Other couples feel pressure to have children otherwise they would be considered selfish. It is very important to understand the motivation behind wanting a child. If either partner feels they “should” have a child, enough exploration should be done as to where this pressure is coming from and if it is reasonable to give into the expectation.
4. What are the current unresolved issues in your marriage? Do you believe having a child will improve these issue? This is a great opportunity to ensure that neither of you are wanting a child to mask any underlying couples issues that you may be experiencing. A child will not improve marital problems; it will only exacerbate them. If one or both of you has serious concerns, it is best that you hold off on becoming parents until you address these problems sufficiently.
5. Who do you imagine staying at home with the children, if either of us? And for how long? While situations can change when the child is actually brought home, it is important that you understand any implicit expectations that might be present in your relationship. It is best to put everything on the table and find a reasonable solution after you understand each other’s points of view.
6. What are you willing to sacrifice for a child? Many first time parents are not aware of how large of a sacrifice having children is. For some parents, it requires sacrificing time from friends, work or hobbies which can be jarring and unpleasant if not addressed prior to the baby’s arrival. If it seems that either of you are hesitant to make significant changes in your lifestyle, it may be worth exploring whether having a child at this time is appropriate for you the two of you.
7. How would having a child affect your educational/career plans? Are you ok with that? Again, ensure that both of you are ready to make the changes necessary to have a child. If it seems too difficult, unpleasant or unappealing, it may be a sign that waiting for a little while may be a better decision for your marriage.
8. What religion will the child be raised in? How do you imagine the child expressing this faith? Religion on its own is a very sensitive topic. When it is coupled with children, it can be the source of very deep rooted and hurtful conflict if not managed properly. South Asian couples should never assume that their partner is of the same religion as they are or that they would want to pass on the same values they grew up with. It is best to address this openly before there is a grave misunderstanding that can lead to resentment.
9. What parenting values would you like to pass on from your parents? And which would you like to do differently? All parents make mistakes and every child, when they are ready to become parents themselves, has the opportunity to choose their method for how to raise a child. Most of the time, we will resort to what our parents did when we are younger, regardless of whether it was good or bad. By identifying specifically you would replicate and what you want to change, you are less likely to go on autopilot and copy your parents thus making similar mistakes to what they made. This can also help you see the compatibility of your parenting styles with your partner’s.
10. Do you like children? Some people do not enjoy being around young kids. Not everyone is meant to be a parent and the answer to a question like this can offer your partner an opportunity be honest with you about how they truly feel about having a child 24/7.
11. Would you feel like less of a man/woman if you did not have children? This is another way of understanding why you want to have children, if the motivations are healthy and how important it truly is for your individual and joint lives.
12. If one of you is ready for/wants a child and the other doesn’t who decides? Having a child is a joint decision made by both partners. This is especially important so that there is no build up of resentment that a major decision was influenced primarily by one partner. It is just as important to know how to make the decision of when/if to have kids as it is to actually decide that a child is in your future.
Talking about children is a very sensitive topic that many couples are surprised can be so difficult. It can be the source of significant conflict if both partners are not on the same page about when and if to have children, how many to have and how to raise them. Use these tips on how to navigate sensitive topics to avoid an unhealthy argument.
Do not assume this conversation can be completed in one sitting. It is recommended that the first time you run through these questions solely for the purpose of finding out what you both believe and what other questions arise from the ones above. Expect that you will disagree on some topics. You are different people and just because you are in a relationship does not automatically mean you think the same. To find a compromise or solution on topics that you differ on, set up another time in the future to discuss again.
Have this conversation as many times as is necessary so that you both feel empathy from each other and feel understood. Without that, one or both of you could begin the next stage of life with contempt or resentment toward your partner. These poisonous emotions will deteriorate your relationship and will affect your young child whether you want it to or not.
Most importantly, keep in mind that a child will not make you happier in your marriage nor will it fix any pre-existing marital problems. If you have concerns with your relationship with your spouse, it is imperative that you address them before you become a parent.
Have you used these questions? We’d love to hear how that experience was for you and your partner!