When you add “raise a healthy, well-adjusted human” to your to-do list, it’s best to ask yourself and your partner a few important questions before you’re committed for life.
Becoming a parent is a life changing event, and there are many things to consider before having a baby.
This permanent identity shift can feel daunting and may bring on a process of grieving for the loss of the “old you.” Many parts of your life might change or need adjusting, such as your role at work, at home, and in relationships.
You can’t necessarily avoid all stress related to having a baby. But talking about those big changes beforehand can ease your transition into parenthood.
Discussing key questions about your mental health and plans for the future before entering into this new phase of life can be essential to creating a flexible plan and a healthy outlook.
Many areas of your life can be affected by adding a child to your family, whether through childbirth or adoption. These include:
- personal life
- social life
- financial status
A good starting point for this big life decision is to ask questions about practical matters, such as your budget and parental or maternity leave.
The postpartum period can often be full of hormonal changes fueled by sleep deprivation. Asking questions about mental health, physical wellness, and division of labor in your partnership is also important.
Talking about these considerations can help you develop a plan to navigate stressful periods that may come with parenthood.
Even the strongest relationships tend to change with the addition of a new child. Here are three questions to consider discussing with your partner before having a baby.
How will child care and home chores be divided?
Newborns and young children need round-the-clock care, which often comes with a certain level of sleep deprivation for parents.
Before having a baby, you may want to talk through how you plan on dividing nighttime feedings and diaper changes. Some couples may divide nighttime duties equally every night, while others might choose to be on overnight duty for an entire night every other night.
You may also want to discuss how you’ll handle nighttime feedings, especially if you plan on breastfeeding or chestfeeding. Some parents may:
- pump breast milk for bottle feedings
- nurse baby directly
- supplement breast milk with formula
When it comes to parental leave and child care, you may want to consider how you will share the responsibility of caring for your child in the long term and how this might affect your partnership and your career.
If you have equal parental leave, you may be able to take turns staying home and returning to work after your baby is born. But as the baby grows, will one of you work while the other stays home to be the primary caregiver, or will you opt for child care in or out of the home? Some families are able to call on relatives, like grandparents, to help fill a child care role for babies and young children.
It’s easy for housework to pile up when a new baby is born, and it’s important for both partners to feel supported for the work they do for the success of the family, including domestic labor.
Try having an open dialogue about how you’d like to divide chores, such as:
- doing dishes
- cooking meals
- doing laundry
- taking care of pets, if you have any
You can always try one method and change things up as you go if it doesn’t feel right for your family.
How will you nurture your relationship after the baby is born?
Relationships often change as both of you adjust to your new roles as parents, and many couples can experience a reduction in their relationship satisfaction during the postpartum period.
You may need to look for new ways to nurture your relationship. As parents and caregivers, alone time with each other may come in small bursts, rather than long periods.
Try to honor your precious time together by hiring a babysitter or asking a relative or close friend to watch your child for a couple of hours each week, if possible.
If you have a support system, consider accepting offers to help so you and your partner can rest. You may feel more nurturing toward one another if you can get a few hours of uninterrupted sleep.
What are your expectations of each other as parents?
You and your partner may have very different ideas about what the other’s role will be after the baby arrives. Do you desire a more traditional role, or are you both unconventional in your approach to parenthood?
You may not always see eye to eye in this area. Sometimes, compromise may be the only solution. Understanding each other’s expectations could help you avoid frustration and arguments.
Choosing your mental health is choosing your family. Parenthood can be stressful, and it’s important to enter into your new roles with mental wellness in mind.
Consider discussing postpartum depression (PPD) with your partner and support system
PPD can be detrimental to both parents and children. And it’s not just the birthing parent who can develop PPD — men and fathers are also at risk for developing this mental health condition.
While PPD has gained much more visibility in recent years, stigma often still surrounds this condition. This may make it harder for people to get help when they need it.
It can be easy to miss PPD symptoms as a sleep-deprived new parent or caregiver. However, your partner, family, or friends may recognize symptoms in you if they know what to look for.
Even if you do not have a history of depression or PPD, it’s important to discuss PPD symptoms with a doctor or therapist before having a baby.
Try talking with your partner and support system, if you have one, about advocating for each other if you develop PPD symptoms.
PPD can be a painful experience, but treatment is possible. It can be helpful to know the symptoms and discuss how each of you will seek treatment beforehand.
Is either of you at higher risk for depression?
Though just about anyone can experience PPD, some people may be at a higher risk for developing this condition.
If you experience anxiety or depression before childbirth, your chances of experiencing PPD may increase. A family history of depression or anxiety can also put you at greater risk of PPD.
Other environmental factors may also affect the risk of PPD, such as:
- lower income or fewer resources
- depression during pregnancy
- lack of support system
What does a doctor or therapist advise you to expect before, during, and after your baby arrives?
It’s important to talk with a doctor and therapist about what to expect emotionally and mentally before, during, and after your baby arrives, whether you or your partner plans on giving birth or you intend to adopt.
Some birthing experiences — such as long labor or traumatic birth — can increase your chances of developing PPD. Some people experience depression before the baby arrives, while others don’t experience it until months after the baby’s birth, if even at all.
A doctor or therapist can go over what’s common and what symptoms to look out for. They may also be able to provide information for local resources and helplines.
The reality is that raising kids costs money. Expenses — and the money stress around them — can add up. Consider talking about how bringing a baby into the world might affect your finances.
What are the details of your parental or maternity leave?
If one or both of you work and plan on continuing to work after your baby arrives, it’s important to look into your company’s maternity or parental leave policies.
If you find out how much time you and your partner get off, you can plan your leave as best you can. You can’t always predict exactly when your baby will be born, but you can have a tentative plan in place.
Some businesses offer paid leave, while others offer half pay for a limited period. One of you might have to use sick days or save up personal days to extend the time you can spend at home.
These policies can affect your monthly income and budget, so it may be best to save and plan as early as possible.
How will your budget change, including expenses for your new baby?
Diapers, diaper cream, onesies, and bottles are only a few of the new items you’ll need to budget for when baby comes.
It’s important to go over your current budget and factor in the cost of adding a baby into the mix, including expenses for medical care and child care.
You’ll also need to factor in potential lowered income from a parent staying home, if necessary.
Consider discussing whether you can count on any support from relatives and loved ones, such as baby shower gifts or hand-me-downs, to cut costs.
What are your child care options?
The cost of child care may make you rethink your work schedule.
If you and your partner are returning to work part- or full-time, you may want to look into child care options early. You might find that it’s more economical for one of you to stay home full- or part-time.
Consider talking about your child care options. Some parents are more comfortable leaving their baby with a day care provider, while others prefer to hire a nanny. Family or friends may also be options if they live close by.
Having a baby presents a major life change that can be as stressful as it is joyful.
Taking the time to talk with your partner about the physical, mental, and financial changes that come with parenthood can reduce stress and help you develop a plan for the future.
Before deciding to bring a baby into the world, consider asking each other questions about your:
- mental health and wellness
PPD can affect everyone in your family, including your baby. Before becoming a parent or caregiver, consider talking with a doctor or therapist about:
- symptoms of PPD
- your risks
- advocacy for your partner
- treatment options
Planning ahead can help you be prepared for anything, so you can focus on nurturing your growing family.
Postpartum depression resources
You can find additional help and resources for PPD at:
- Postpartum Support International Helpline
Planning for Pregnancyfrom the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
- “Defeat Postpartum Depression” podcast with Arielle Wozniak