By Ashley McIlwain
“So, when are you guys going to have some babies?!”
This was a question posed to my husband and me … at our wedding reception. We hadn’t been married but an hour, and the baby question was already being asked. I remember being dumbfounded wondering if it was some sort of odd joke (It wasn’t). At that point I was thinking, “Well, how about starting by letting us at least consummate our marriage.” I bit my tongue, and thankfully, kept my thoughts to myself. But this raises an important issue that many couples face.
“When are you going to start making babies?” is a question we get asked a lot. Granted, it’s a logical question, and I don’t think most people intend any harm by it. The problem though is so many couples are being pressured into the next stage of life before they’re ready for it. It starts with, “When are you going to get a boyfriend/girlfriend?” Next it’s, “When are you going to get engaged?” After that people start asking, “When is the big day?” You get married, and it’s “When you are going to start having children?” Then you have a child, and it’s “When are you going to have another kid?”
Seriously, is it any wonder that people never feel content with where they are at? We’re always being shoved on to the next stage before we barely arrive at the previous one.
My husband, Steve, and I have been married now for over three and a half years, and the pressure is definitely on for babies. Time and time again, I hear of couples saying they too feel constantly bombarded with the message that children should be on the way. While I think having children is an amazing miracle, it can’t be something couples are forced into prematurely.
Despite the surrounding barrage of “have babies now,” Steve and I have managed to avoid a hasty case of baby fever. We are aware it’s important to consider that we don’t have forever to make the decision of whether or not we want children for biological and physiological reasons, but at the same time, we are also aware of how important it is to be prudent about such a life-changing and momentous decision.
Before Steve and I even got engaged we talked about our expectations and thoughts surrounding kids. We asked the essential questions of one another like: “Do you want kids?” “If so, how many kids do you want?” “How soon after getting married do you want kids?” And so on and so forth.
As we got on the same page with our plans for a family, one of the first things we did was discuss our ideal timeline. Obviously things can happen that are out of our control, but that doesn’t mean we can’t do our best to plan accordingly. For us, we decided that we wanted to spend time together, grow and develop our marriage, build a strong foundation for a future family, gain our financial footing, and check some things off of our to do lists before having kids, so we settled on a five year minimum plan.
After five years, we will revisit the topic to see where we are at. Taking into account our age and current state; we will then decide from there what we want to do about adding members to our family. Having a timeline has helped us to stay focused on what we have decided about our life no matter what others have to say about it.
People are always going to have their opinions. They’re going to weigh in on what they think is best for you, even if they hold no stake in your relationship whatsoever. That’s human nature, so it’s important to establish boundaries as a couple surrounding the topic of children.
Families can be one of the biggest sources of pressure for a couple when it comes to having kids. I’ve seen so many parents demanding grandchildren from their children. This always makes me so sad and sometimes angry because it’s inappropriate to put such expectations on a couple, especially early on in the marriage.
Fortunately Steve and I have avoided such parental demands. My mom has always said that having children changes everything, and though the most rewarding of roles, parenting is hard work. So, she said she would never, ever try to force us into something with such gravity. In her words, “I lived my life, choosing to have children. I enjoyed every second of it, but now this is your life. It’s not my place to try and live it for you or impart my wishes on you. That’s yours and Steve’s decision.” I’ve always been so thankful to not have those expectations placed on us by our families because we get it from enough other places.
Not everyone is as fortunate though to have such selfless parents, as I have witnessed one too many times. It’s crucial, as a couple, to establish boundaries for when those contemplating what you should do about having a family speak up. Decide whose opinions matter and stick to listening to those voices. No matter what though, the decision is between you and your spouse, and no one else should be making that decision with or for you. Not with something so life-changing because they aren’t the ones who are going to deal with the consequences of that choice. You and your spouse are going to be the ones sleep deprived, dealing with the financial implications, changing diapers, and raising those children day in and day out. That’s why it’s imperative that the two of you establish strong boundaries surrounding the decision-making process of building a family.
Having children is a big life change. If you don’t believe me, just ask anyone who has children. They will tell you firsthand. It’s not that this is a bad thing, but it’s something that should be given careful consideration.
Many times I have seen young couples catch a serious case of baby fever, rush into having children, and then discover that it’s not what they thought. Children are such a blessing, but before you have them, it’s vital to sit down with your spouse and educate yourselves on what bringing them into this world means for you guys.
Look into the financial, relational, physical, emotional, and spiritual implications. Granted, most of parenting is trial by fire, but it’s still helpful to educate yourselves and plan as best you can. Discuss how you are going to balance it all. If she gets sick during the pregnancy, who is going to help her with her responsibilities at home and/or work? How will you make time for one another after the child arrives? If you are exhausted, how will you handle that? Financially, develop a budget together. There are realities to having children, so discussing logistics is wise. At least you will have some rough idea of what you are getting into, and that’s a good starting point for when your child arrives.
As I’ve said throughout, children are a miracle. They are literally a tangible product of the two of you becoming one. There are few things that rival such a blessing and spectacle. But, too many times people blindly and ignorantly allow themselves to be pressured into having children. The next thing they know, these bundles of joy become anything but that. Or the marriage falls apart under the strain and stress leaving the little ones in the wake of a disastrous home situation.
If you want to add onto your family, it should be a time of excitement. Part of that is being wise, planning as best you can, and making sure that it’s a decision that you and your spouse have made together and with certainty. That sets you, your marriage, and your future family up for the best success possible.