So you got married and are in a stable relationship, and now you’re ready to have a child. What could go wrong?Plenty. Many great relationships are severely tested by the arrival of a child. And we’re not just talking about the natural conflict points like changing diapers and lack of sleep. Amazingly, the worst conflicts happen over issues that the parents-to-be really should have talked about before they got pregnant. If you are planning to have a child, have a newborn, or even have growing children, these are the conversations that you must have with your partner before it is too late.
Although miscarriage is relatively common, and pregnancy can result in many dangerous health conditions for mother and child, many men and women are surprised by pregnancy complications. This is because in our society, people rarely discuss the reality of pregnancy as a medical condition, preferring to focus on fun things like baby showers. So take a deep breath and dive in to some of life’s most difficult possibilities. What will happen if you have a medical condition that threatens your life? Do you want prenatal genetic testing? If so, what conditions, if any, would you prefer not to know about? What will happen if your child is found to have any of the conditions? How will it impact your lifestyle and your other children? Do you and your spouse have wills? Who would make important decisions if you become incapacitated? The purpose of these conversations is not to terrify you. By opening up a discussion you will identify whether you are both on the same page and if not, what to do about it.
Surprisingly, this is one of the most common sources of conflict among new parents. Many people manage to date, marry and have a child without discussing whether the child will be raised in a religious tradition and if so, how that will be manifested in your daily lives. When the parents have two different religious faiths, issues can occur if you disagree on how your children will be taught about religion. An interfaith partnership does not necessarily result in automatic conflict, but it’s best to talk about how you will combine your faiths and introduce your child to religion. Don’t overlook the probable opinions of your family. Make sure you both agree that the grandparents don’t get to determine whether your baby is baptized and what church they belong to. Finally, if you think your spouse or partner doesn’t have any religious preferences, he or she may shock you by suddenly wanting to take the child to church, mosque or temple. Don’t let this be a surprise.
If you are having a boy, will he be circumcised? A new generation of parents is re-examining this procedure. Do you have a religious tradition that mandates circumcision and if so will you abide by it? Do you feel ambivalent about the practice? Is your physician telling you it is medically necessary? There is new research indicating that there are both pros and cons to circumcising infants. Educate yourselves.
Are you financially prepared for a child? Do you have health insurance? Who will absorb the costs of having a child right now? This often leads to a bigger discussion about childcare after the baby arrives. Will you both work? Will one or both of you work part-time? Will one person stay home full-time and if so will that put extreme financial pressure on the other parent? This conversation is a must for anyone contemplating parenthood.
5. Family Size
Parents-to-be often joke about family size. Some men automatically say they want a “whole houseful” or “a hockey team.” This kind of fantasizing is usually quickly replaced by the reality of having just one child – the sleepless nights, constant feeding, laundry, and care of an infant, which can be extreme. But having a child is also the most incredible experience a couple can have, especially when you see little imprints of you and your spouse on your new child. So how many do you want to have? This is a conversation that will probably require a few years, as you adapt to having a child. Once you’re thriving as a family of three, consider how having more children will impact your family and work loads. Is this your only child? If not, when will you have another one? How far apart do you ideally want your children spaced? How many do you want? Will you ever consider adoption? What birth control will you use once your family is complete? This should be an ongoing discussion between you and your spouse.
6. Childcare Duties
This is a big one. How will you split childcare duties? Many women and men think they have the same idea about how the workload will be shared, but when the baby comes along this changes. Dad may think he’s helping equally by changing a few diapers, but mom may feel totally alone in early parenting. Spend some time around families with babies so you can get an idea of how much care a baby requires. If you are breastfeeding, then consider giving dad some duties so that he helps and also doesn’t feel left out. The way early childcare is split between parents tends to stick, meaning that you should establish your roles early on so that you are both happy with the way your family is structured.