Truth be told, I do not like using the phrase “family planning” since it sounds synonymous with “Planned Parenthood.” While couples do plan to have kids, I find the phrase “family planning” a bit humorous. Some couples plan to have a dozen kids, but God only gives them a couple. Meanwhile, other couples say, “No kids ever!” and have a bunch. But the only full-proof technique for not getting pregnant is abstinence and I have not personally met any married couples who have opted for the “no sex” method.
When it comes to having babies, we can plan all we want, but that does not mean our kids are going to come on our timing. Do you know any honeymoon babies? Do you know any families that waited for years and never had any kids? Do you know families that said, “That’s it! We’re done!” only to welcome another bundle of joy into their fold nine months later?
One of my college professors had her tubes tied and burned and… still got pregnant! Her nurse said, roughly translated, “I hope you believe in God because He’s the only one who could have put everything where it needed to be for this conception.” Sometimes we say, “We’re done!” and God has other plans; whereas, sometimes we say, “We’re ready!” and God has other plans.
Although we cannot fully plan or prepare for parenthood, or know exactly when it is coming, we can have discussions with our significant others or spouses about the changes we are sure to face when we welcome precious little ones into the world.
How Long Will We Wait Before We Begin Trying to Get Pregnant?
Our lives seldom turn out exactly the way we plan, but before getting married, it is a good idea to discuss how long you both want to wait before actively trying to have kids. Since pregnancy often comes as a surprise, Eric and I strongly recommend that couples consider waiting until they are financially and emotionally ready to have children to get married. If you and your sweetheart would not be able to support children on your salaries, or if one of you plans to stay home with your kids, it is best to wait to get married until you are more financially stable. Not rich, but just able to financially support a family.
So talk about what you would consider an ideal time to wait before actively trying to get pregnant. It is good to be on the same page about this prior to the wedding night (and engagement). How shocked would you be if your sweetheart leaned over to you during your first week of wedded bliss and said, “Let’s start a family!”? Freaked out? Elated? Having and raising children are two topics premarital couples cannot talk about enough! ~smile~
Prepare for a Financial Change
Kids bring a lot of change into the household – and that change is certainly felt in the bank account. Babies cost a lot of money, but bigger kids are not cheap either. Though I do not think it is wise to put off having kids indefinitely while waiting to have the “right” amount of money, it is smart to take some financial precautions on the front end. Save, save, save! Some couples save the wife’s income and live off of the husband’s income. That way when the babies come, they have a lot of money saved for the event. Then if they choose for Mommy to stay home full time, they are already used to living on his income. It is a great plan!
When the babies come, also be prepared to take a step back in lifestyle. You may not have the money for all of the little extras new couples grow accustomed to, such as eating out several times a week, expensive coffees, and long weekends. But don’t fret. Chances are you will get back to a comfortable place again soon if you are careful with your money and stay out of debt! ~smile~ Plus, the blessing of children largely outweigh those little extras!
Prepare for a Social Change
Most every parent I know has gone through a social change after having kids. Those who were night owls prior to having children find themselves falling asleep at 8pm. Babies have schedules all their own and for the first few months (or longer), parents’ lives revolve around the helpless, but very loud, baby. ~smile~ Your time with friends and nights out will probably take a back seat for a while, but the day will come when you can have fun again. Remember that during those 3am feedings when you wonder if you will ever sleep through the night again. ~smile~
Prepare for a Change in Goals
Kids do not only change your financial status and your social scene, but they often change your goals. A friend of mine who recently had a baby said that completing her dissertation seems so unimportant in the scheme of her life. Right now becoming the youngest executive in your firm may seem more important than anything, but becoming a parent may very well change your perspective. If you have some smaller goals (run a marathon, climb a mountain, receive some certifications, etc.), it may be a good idea to do them now!
Prepare for What Steps You Will Take if You Have Trouble Conceiving
It is an unpleasant topic, and most couples do not think it will ever be a problem for them, but it is a good idea to talk through a plan of action if you find it difficult to conceive. How do you feel about the idea of fertility treatments? How long will you try to get pregnant before seeing a fertility specialist? Will you be comfortable using chemical treatments or are you only interested in all natural methods? Are you both open to the idea of adoption? Do you have reservations about adopting? If so, talk them out with each other. Would you ever consider foster care? Why or why not?
Take these questions and discuss them with your sweetheart. It is best to talk these possibilities through now while you are clear-minded than later when you are emotional and not thinking through your life’s circumstances as objectively.
Prepare for Outside Influences
How much influence do you want your parents and in-laws to have on your kids? What about friends and siblings? Talk about your concerns together. Will you allow your kids to go to sleepovers? Under what circumstances would you keep them from going to a birthday party or playing with other kids? How much TV will you allow them to watch and at what age? What kind of shows are off limits? It may seem silly to talk about these scenarios before engagement, but if your future spouse is planning to watch the SAW horror movies with your five-year-old children, you will want to find that out now. ~smile~
Prepare to Discipline
This topic is so not fun to think about, but it is a huge part of the parenting process. The Bible is clear that parents who do not discipline their children do not love their children. Giving in to everything may seem loving, but it does not prepare children for living in a world with other people. Giving them small consequences for their actions while they are still young is merciful. Otherwise, they will receive much harsher punishment from the world later for the same offenses (e.g., stealing, lying, disrespect, etc.). So talk about your ideas of proper discipline and see where you agree and differ. Could your ideas use some tweaking? Can you get on board with his or her ideas about discipline?
The Power of a Complete Thought
My friends who have super young kids like to reminisce about a time in their lives when they were able to think in complete sentences. ~smile~ Kids are blessings, but they are also constant. When you have sweet babies crawling or running around, especially verbal ones, you will find that your ability to problem solve, carry on a full conversation, or even complete a simple thought wanes. Even though no one is ever fully prepared for parenthood, take this time in your life (while you are well-rested!) to discuss the “what ifs” and your parenting philosophies. ~smile~
How do you and your significant other differ on your ideas about child rearing?