Parenthood is not a leisurely walk in the park, that’s for sure. Any parent can attest that it is an entirely life-changing event. While there are countless amazing ways having a baby changes you as a person and you both as a couple, there are also many challenges. So it’s important to have certain conversations with your partner before delving into the world of parenting.
Before you conceive, there are specific conversations that you should have with your partner. You want to make sure you’re on the same page, a real team. Of course, no amount of conversation can fully prepare you for parenthood. However, having one (or several) talks can help set up a stronger foundation for the journey.
Conversations to Have Before Having a Baby
Mutual Understanding: Do we both want to have a baby together?
The first question should be: do you both want to have a baby and be parents? Plain and simple. This is something that cannot be forced or pressured. It’s essential to have a conversation about each other’s desires to become a parent. Discuss what that ideal life looks like for each individual in the relationship.
For some, they may have wanted to become a parent all their life. For others, they may not feel ready yet to become a parent, or maybe they realize that it’s not something meant for them. It’s important to discuss with one another your true feelings. Talk to one another and discuss whether each person truly wants this. (Hopefully, you had this discussion before marriage.) But when you are both sleep-deprived and in survival mode – you don’t want a partner resenting their spouse for a choice they felt forced into or didn’t actually want.
Work: Will one of you stay home with the baby?
Every family is different. Some families have one person who stays home with the baby. If this is your family, you will need to determine with your significant other who will be the one to stay home with the baby. This includes during the initial parental leave from work and afterward. You should discuss short-term and long-term child care with one another to determine an agreeable plan.
Perhaps, both parents need or want to have a career. In this case, alternative child care will need to be discussed. Both partners must navigate how they feel about daycare centers, grandparents, and nannies when talking about childcare. Whether it’s full-time or part-time work, it’s essential to speak to each other about your short-term and long-term work goals as well.
Also, different conflicts may arise during parenthood. If possible, both parties should discuss the nitty-gritty details as much as possible. For example, if the child is sick, who will stay home with the baby if both parents happen to be working? Perhaps one parent’s work is a little more flexible than the other. However, it’s best not to assume this and have a conversation with one another so that it’s clear. It will help to know this information ahead of time to avoid frustration in the future.
Finances: How much can we spend?
The world of baby products is neverending. This also applies to the cost of those baby products. Things can quickly add up, and it’s important to talk about budgeting and finances. You may want to ask each other, “Exactly how much can we afford in a month for baby expenses?” Try to discuss your monthly budget for anticipated bills and unanticipated costs if you have the time. Anticipated expenses can include formula, diapers, clothing, creams, toys, childcare, etc. Unexpected expenses may involve something unforeseen, such as medication, therapies, or treatments. Try to talk about how much you can put aside for rainy days that you didn’t expect.
It’s also worth discussing how much you can spend vs. how much you want to spend. Some parents have different wishes that may cause conflict. For example, one parent may want to buy their baby’s clothing all brand new and feel strongly about it, while the other parent may think that buying second-hand clothing is more in line with what will work for them and their budget. Hence, it’s important to chat about finances ahead of time.
Birth Plan: What are we comfortable with?
How will the baby come into the world? Literally. This is a topic that is essential to discuss as some people can feel very strongly about their birth plans. Hospital, birth center, or home birth? It is crucial for the person giving birth to discuss how comfortable they feel with the various options. For example, do they feel strongly about natural birth, epidurals, or C-sections? How can their partner support them during this time? This topic in itself is packed with details. However, if both parties discuss their wants and needs with the birth plan, it will be helpful when it’s go-time!
Beliefs: How do we feel about breastfeeding, formula, sleep training, etc.?
Sure, this might be a lot to unpack. But it may be worth simply going through some of the babyhood topics to know where each of you stands on the subject. For example, how does one feel about breastfeeding vs. formula? Who will be doing the feedings? This includes daytime and nighttime feedings. How will you split up the feedings? Perhaps if mom is exclusively breastfeeding, it might be nice to discuss what is expected from the other parent. Maybe they will be in charge of diaper changing instead. It seems like small details, but this will come in handy when both of you are in survival mode during those sleep-deprived nights.
Topics like sleep training or parenting methods can cause conflict and will be helpful to get on the same page before having a baby. Discuss your thoughts about where you imagine baby sleeping, how you will handle baby’s sleep, and what type of parent you imagine yourself to be. Maybe there is a parenting style that you identify with. Talk about it with your partner and see if you are on the same page.
Ultimately, you and your spouse are going to be the ones primarily involved in your baby’s care. So these topics can be helpful to discuss with one another before baby comes into the picture. It’s important not to assume things of one another. How you were raised might be different from how your partner was raised, so your expectations may differ. Talk in detail about topics you feel very strongly about, even if they are not on this list.
Having discussions to help avoid conflict in the future is helpful preparation for being the best parents that you can be to your baby. The more you know about your partner and where they stand on things will not only guide you during parenthood but in your relationship with one another as well.