By Dr. Joti Samra, CEO & Founder of the Psychological Health & Safety (PH&S) Clinic and MyWorkplaceHealth
I’m in my early 30s and I do want kids – eventually, just not now. I just don’t feel ready, yet as a woman I know the clock’s ticking. How do I prepare myself for what I imagine will be a sea of change in my life?
The short answer? There is no way to fully prepare (ever) for the changes children bring!
Now, for the longer answer … Our societal demographics are changing substantively, particularly for women. More women are pursuing higher levels of education. They are putting off co-habitating with partners or getting married (or remaining single by choice). An increasing number are becoming the primary household breadwinners. They are waiting longer to have children, and many are choosing to not have kids at all.
As a woman in your early 30s, it is good to hear you recognize that on one hand you realize you aren’t quite ready for kids, yet on the other hand understand that there are some biological considerations you need to be mindful of.
Unfortunately, the plethora of images we see in the media, particularly of celebrities who are having children well into their 40s, leads many to have a false perception of the ease with which a woman can get pregnant as she ages. The reality is that fertility starts to decrease as a woman moves into her mid to late 30s. The risk of pregnancy complications and health issues (both for mom and baby) also rise. While it’s true that many women can easily get pregnant and carry the baby healthy to term even well into their 40s, a significant number do struggle and encounter fertility or pregnancy-related difficulties as they age.
The question of how to prepare oneself for the significant life changes that come along with having a child (or children) is one I am often asked. The reality is this is almost impossible to do. If you were to ask any parent this question, he or she would tell you the same thing.
However, there are a number of life situations you can think about in order to prepare. Are you in a stable, respectful, loving relationship? Having a child to either “save” a failing relationship or in spite of significant relationship issues because of the perceived pressures of the proverbial clock ticking is almost always a bad idea.
Are you in a secure position financially? Can you manage the increasing financial demands a child or children will place on you? Designing a baby budget is a great idea to gauge your position in this regard.
Do you feel like there are dreams you have that are immensely important to you that you want to achieve before having a child (e.g., backpacking across Europe for a few months)? If so, plan this into your life.
Are you willing to accept that for a fair number of years your primary focus in life will shift significantly and you will have no choice but to sacrifice most things in your life for children?
When you think about not being ready, what does that mean to you? Put pen to paper and try to articulate in clear, specific words what your fears are. This may help identify how to best move forward.
There is no rule book that can help you prepare for the myriad changes children bring to your lifestyle, and at some point you need to weigh the pros and cons and take a leap of faith. Working toward creating a stable life circumstance with respect to relationship, finances and emotional health is the best thing you can do to prepare.
Excerpted from Dr. Joti Samra’s “Ask the Psychologist” weekly column in The Globe and Mail.
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