By the time you and your partner are discussing having children, you likely already have quite a solid foundation for your relationship. Nevertheless, having kids or even thinking about having a baby can bring up all sorts of question marks in your relationship. Knowing what's important to tell your partner about your needs and expectations can help make things a bit easier for both of you.
As intimidating as it may be to put your feelings on the line in discussing having children, having a kid with your partner will be harder than talking about it. So you can consider having these conversations as one of many important gauges for how prepared you two are.
"Raising children is a lot of work, and can add extra emotional strain on a relationship if you aren't on the same page," David Bennett, certified counselor and relationship expert, tells Bustle. "So, facts and beliefs that may not have mattered as much before children take on more importance after children." You may think your partner knows everything about you, but once you start the conversation, there's likely a lot you will learn.
Having children is by no means a requisite for becoming more serious in a relationship, but if it is the path you want to take, it's important to be as sure about your decision — and as confident in your decision — as possible.
Here are seven things that are important to tell your partner before having kids.
Your Financial Values
Finances are incredibly important in a relationship, even without kids. And once kids are part of the picture, this issue gets even more magnified.
"It's not just who will pay for what but also what expectations you both have finically once you become parents," sexologist, relationship expert, and author Dr. Nikki Goldstein tells Bustle. Your views on allowances, staying home from work, and vacations are all important to be discussed.
Your Expectations For Your Relationship Post-Children
Once you have a child, your relationship will change. But that doesn't mean you should neglect the importance of keeping your romantic connection alive after having a child. This is important to tell your partner before you have a child, so you can discuss your priorities.
"Often people forget about their relationship when they become parents," Dr. Goldstein says. "Yes, there is a little one that needs a lot of attention but in order to be great parents, there needs to be support and connection, and not added stress and conflict. Discussions around your expectations for the relationship moving into this next phase need to be had, and possible areas of conflict need to be discussed." Telling your partner what you need to feel supported is a good step.
How You Feel About Your Own Upbringing
Since there is no handbook for parenting, it's natural for you to look to your childhood for what you do and do not want to do as a result. Once you've started thinking about this, it's important to tell your partner.
"I ask couples to share about their early childhood experiences and then decide how they want to do things differently and how they want to do things exactly the same," licensed professional counselor Kirsten Brunner, MA, tells Bustle. "If there is unresolved trauma, grief or confusion, I encouraged couples to work through these things in counseling so that they can enter parenthood with a clean slate." You will likely both feel better after opening up the conversation to this subject.
Your Mental Health History
Having a kid is the kind of major event that can bring back mental health problems from you or your partners' past, so it's important to talk openly about mental health before having children.
"[Parents] who have a history of depression, anxiety or bipolar disorder are more likely to experience Perinatal Mood & Anxiety Disorders (PMAD)," Brunner says. "[It's] no cause for alarm but just good to know, so that both parents can make sure that they are surrounding themselves with ample clinical and emotional support." This isn't about expecting the worst, but providing room for support and growth within your relationship.
How You Deal With Sleep Deprivation
Talking to your partner about your sleep needs may seem like a really trivial conversation in the early stages of planning to have children, but it's an important component.
"I ask couples to talk about how they do with sleep deprivation," Brunner says. "If one of them does better on limited sleep, they might handle more of the night shifts and their partner might step into the [helper] role during the day. If they both struggle with having their sleep interrupted, I encourage them to research postpartum doulas or talk to family members who can help out during the challenging sleepless nights of the fourth trimester." This kind of conversation is a way to show practical, loving support for one another way in advance.
How You Expect Your Career Trajectories To Continue
If you have an idea of what your five or 10 year plan is career-wise, even after having kids, then this is important to tell your partner about. Anything can change, but having your partner on the same page about your priorities is essential.
"It's true that none of us know for sure how we are going to feel about returning to work until we bring our baby home," Brunner says. "But it is definitely a good thing to discuss and plan for with your partner." You may be surprised about how flexible, or inflexible, they are with their own plans.
Once you've been with your partner for a while, it's likely that you two are largely on the same page about the big-picture of raising children. But breaking down each of your own expectations, and laying them on the table, can be a good way to make you and your partner feel more comfortable taking the next step.