“When is the best time to have children?” It’s a question that many future parents ask themselves. “Are we ready?” is another. The answers are all very different depending on the circumstances we find ourselves in!
If it was up to our own parents when the best time is, it would seem that NOW would be the right time. Most parents are itching for grandchildren and can’t wait for the pitter patter of tiny feet. But making the decision to start a family is probably the most important decision you’ll ever make and is therefore worth thinking about very carefully.
Money plays a big part in deciding when to have kids
Of course, finances are a very important consideration when making a decision about starting a family. But planning a family isn’t just about making sure your finances are secure. There are other factors to bear in mind which I’ll come onto in a minute.
Perhaps someone looking at our debt situation may think we should have waited a bit longer before having our daughter. But at the time when she was born, we actually weren’t in as much debt as we are now and we were managing it because we both had good jobs. A lot of our debt came after we had our daughter and was to do with the hubby’s business. We didn’t anticipate the amount of debt we would get into and how our working lives would change. Unless you have a crystal ball, you can’t predict the future!
Things are a lot tighter financially now that we have our daughter but she is the best decision we’ve ever made! And if we had waited until our finances were completely sorted, we could have been old and grey with no chances of having children.
If a couple are in way over their heads in debt and aren’t managing, then that’s definitely not the right time to be starting a family. The same goes for those people who aren’t working and are living on benefits. Living in poverty and not being able to support yourself let alone your family should be a huge warning sign that children are not the next step.
In my opinion, planning a family means you need to know your finances are on track and that you’ll be able to support your family but I don’t think money is just the deciding factor on when to have kids.
You need to also ask yourself the following:
1. Are you prepared for the sacrifices and lifestyle changes you’re going to have to make?
Yes, there are the inevitable financial sacrifices that come with having kids; going out partying regularly is a thing of the past unless you can afford a babysitter or have willing and able parents who don’t mind babysitting. Childcare can cost a small fortune!
But also to bear in mind is the personal sacrifices you make when you have kids. Before I had my wonderful daughter I used to spend my weekends having a leisurely lie in before taking a trip to the gym. I’d often have lunch out with friends before doing something nice with the hubby in the evening. Most of that has come to an abrupt end at least for the time being anyway! 🙂 Especially the lie ins – sleep deprivation becomes normal when you have kids!
I now know all the characters from Mr Bloom’s Nursery, Something Special, Peppa Pig, Dora the Explorer and Mister Maker. We spend time together doing family things such as picnics, going for walks and trips to the sea side or the park. We love doing that sort of thing now but it’s definitely a drastic change from before.
2. What kind of life can you offer your future child?
Having money will help support your child’s future education but thinking about the way you want to raise your child is also important. For example, whether you live in a rural or urban area, whether you have religious beliefs and whether you will adopt strict or relaxed parenting techniques can also determine the sort of life your child will have when growing up. What your own social attitudes are like will impact and reflect on your child as you raise them.
3. How will your jobs/careers be affected?
My choice of career was affected when I had my daughter but only because I realised that I didn’t want to spend any more time working in my old company. Having left at the end of my maternity leave and having relocated to another part of the country, I did find it hard to pick up my career as similar jobs just weren’t available. I ended up doing something else working from home and am much happier anyway.
In most cases, careers won’t be affected in any other way than financially. That’s only because one of the parents may stay at home with the child for the early part of their life and therefore a family may be living on one wage. Or if both parents still continue working, the need to pay for childcare arises. That can be very expensive!
4. How long have you realistically got before you’re ‘too old’?
That ticking clock does seem to get louder for us women once we reach our 30’s and many of us do set an age in our minds for how old we imagine ourselves to be when having kids. My ‘starting a family age’ in my mind was 30. And I had my daughter a month after my 30th birthday. So for us, this was evidently quite an important factor in deciding when we should have children!
Many families are leaving it later and later these days with women conceiving in their 40’s. 40 is the new 30 I believe!
5. What help and support do you have available?
Families that don’t have help and support have a long, hard road ahead of them. And by help and support, I mean the emotional kind. When my daughter was 5 days old and I was exhausted beyond words (I didn’t get more than an hour’s sleep a night for the first 5 days, same for the hubby!), my mum came to stay with us for 2 nights. She was just there for us, looking after our daughter for a couple of hours here and there whilst we caught up on sleep.
It was the break that I needed to regain a little energy! Just having someone there for emotional support makes things a lot easier especially with your first child.
6. Have you lived your life a little?
I don’t mean to sound like your life is over when you have kids! It’s definitely not! I love my life now, in a totally different way! But I’m glad I did certain things before having my daughter. This is the main reason I had that mental age in my mind of 30. I’d achieved where I wanted to be in my career and manage to travel to some great places which I’ll always remember. I know I will travel again but with children it’s different and you tend to go to places which suits the whole family.
When you have kids, everything becomes about them for the next 20 years or more so it’s worth making sure you’ve lived a little yourself before embarking on the journey of being a parent!
Children change your life in ways that you can’t imagine until you have them!
For starters, the bond between a child and their parents is like no other. That in itself changes you as a person. For me, my priorities have completed changed in every way. I don’t worry about work related problems anymore and I only have time for the people that have time for me. (That’s because I don’t have a lot of time at all!) Having children makes you responsible and for us, that’s been a great thing!
It seems there is no best time to have children. But if you consider fully what the impact will be on your life when you have children and how you will bring quality to their life, then the decision of ‘when’ will be easier to make.
What are your thoughts on starting a family and when is the best time to have children?
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* Photo by Nexus (Stock Xchng)