How To Know If You're "Ready For Parenthood"

by Lara Rutherford-Morrison

Deciding to have a child is perhaps the most life changing choice a person can make — but how can you know if you’re ready? In a recent interview with Shana Lebowitz of Business Insider, psychologist Carl Pickhardt identified the four things you need to be ready for parenthood. While the simple desire to have a kid — to give love to a child and help it grow — is of course central to the decision, it’s not the only consideration. There are other key issues you should think about before taking the plunge into parenthood.

Pickhardt has written several books about parenting, including, most recently, Surviving Your Child’s Adolescence. He told Business Insider that there are four key considerations that potential parents should keep in mind as they prepare to have children — but, too often, he said, these maybe-parents only take one factor into account: What Pickhardt calls “the great persuader.” This is “[t]he readiness to invest your love and care in this little person.”

However, there are other, more practical things to take into account when thinking about having a kid, and though these factors may be less compelling than the desire to give love to a child, they will have a huge impact on your happiness and success as a parent. Pickhardt urged wannabe-parents to keep these issues in mind — in addition to “the great persuader” — when making their big decisions. According to Pickhardt, a new parent needs:

1. Support — whether it’s with a partner or not.

As the saying goes, “it takes a village.” Parenting by necessity involves other people, so it’s crucial to have stable relationships in place with your support network. If you’re starting your family with a partner, Pickhardt emphasized the importance of having a strong foundation with him or her — and of being prepared for strains on the relationship. “[Y]ou are going to get to know your partner in a way you never got to know them before,” he said. Together, you’ll face challenges that are new to you both, and will have to find a way to work through conflict — about everything from logistical issues to broader questions of parenting philosophy. “[T]he partnership has to support all those changes,” Pickhardt cautioned. And for people who are approaching parenting solo, Pickhardt stressed the importance of having a strong support system of family and friends to share the hardships and the joys of raising a child.

2. The ability to work very hard.

Parenting requires “an adequate work ethic,” Pickhardt said. It’s an incredibly difficult job that goes on 24-hours a day, with no breaks and no vacation. Parents need to be prepared (or as prepared as they can be) for that change going in.

3. Self-Care.

Having a child, by its very nature, requires parents to give over their time, energy, and love to this new person they’ve created. But Pickhardt warned against parents “self-sacrific[ing] to the point where they feel the child is tyrannizing their life.” Surprisingly, he told Business Insider that kiddos should come third in your order of priorities — after, first, yourself and, second, your relationship. After all, if your well-being and the well-being of your partnership suffer, it will negatively impact your child, too.