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What Do You And Your Partner Need To Discuss Before Having Kids?

Conversations before having a baby

The pre-kids parenting/partner ‘pow wow’ is a big topic. Let’s be clear about one thing upfront: ‘accidents’ do happen. People get pregnant without planning it, and many mothers get through and thrive in this context. But if you are the planner type, what conversations should be happening before a baby enters the equation? Here are a few I’d recommend.

Is now the right time?

This is an age-old topic/question for couples or people in relationships. Some would argue the answer is “There is no right time.” A baby is going to change your life regardless. If you’re making a lot of money and have a nice house, you might feel ‘settled’ or ‘stable’ but the baby will still adjust many aspects of your life. As such, it’s hard to think of a ‘right time,’ be that 24 or 34. But there are some ways to think about it, as noted in this Parents.com article:

Along with biological clocks and financial issues to consider, couples should make sure they’re on the same page about when they want to start a family. One of you may be eager to go forth and multiply; the other may be hoping for a few more years of couple time before adding Baby to the equation. You might want to come up with a checklist of the things you’d like to do or achieve before embarking on parenthood, paying special attention to things that become more difficult once you have kids. Is there a vacation you’d like to take together? A certain number of years you’d like to wait after you’ve begun living together? Would any changes in your financial status (a significant promotion or a loan payoff) speed up or slow down your ideal schedule? Drafting a plan can help you realize and respect each other’s desires.

The last sentence there is really important: realize and respect each other’s desires. If you’re bringing a baby into a situation where that hasn’t happened, it’s going to be much harder.

The sharing of baby duties

This can be a tough one too. Most societal norms revolve around the woman taking the bulk of this responsibility and the man having certain, specific roles. This narrative is shifting, though. Men are working from home more than ever — at least in America — and that’s creating a new generation of ‘Mr. Mom’-type stay-at-home dads who bear a larger day-to-day responsibility for infant and child care.

You should lay out a general plan of who will do what. On a given week, that might evolve because one of you has other responsibilities related to work or family or whatever else, but have a general idea of “We’re in this together, but here are our specific roles as well.”

Circumcision 

If you’re having a boy, this is a topic that needs to be discussed before the birth. As the Parents.com above linked above notes:

Many parents choose circumcision for religious or cultural reasons; others feel it is more hygienic or helps the baby to “look like Daddy.” Parents who decide against circumcision often don’t want their child to undergo the pain of an unnecessary surgery. Others believe the foreskin is needed to protect the tip of the penis and that it increases sexual pleasure, and state that teaching proper hygiene will lower their son’s risk of infections despite not being circumcised.

Oftentimes you’ll see the male partner ‘win out’ in this discussion — within same-sex couples, at least — because he ‘knows the equipment’ or some such. Regardless, you need to try and be on the same page here.

Religion

This is a huge one, and probably worthy of its own blog post down the road. Start by considering this: many people select their partner based on religion. That’s how specific dating sites like J-Date and Christian Mingle began to thrive. As a result of that trend line, a lot of couples are from the same religion already, which makes this discussion a bit easier. (Still a large percentage of people convert to another religion before marriage; one of the people I work with on this website, for example, converted to Catholicism to get married a few years ago.)

So, because faith is very important to many people, oftentimes couples are already of the same faith before they decide to start discussing the possibility of kids. That makes things a lot easier.

If you’re not of the same faith, this is a crucial discussion — and it becomes complicated because any living grandparents (your parents) will probably want to get involved, especially if they have strong faith/church allegiance of their own. Religion is responsible for starting many of the wars of the last few centuries, and it won’t be a series of easy discussions at the micro-level in your family either — but those discussions are essential to have.

Cloth vs. disposable diapers

Here’s the basic math from Parents.com:

As for how much you could save financially if you chose cloth, Consumer Reports estimates that parents spend $1,500 to $2,000 on disposables per year. The cheapest form of cloth diapers, pre-folds, could run you under $300 total (washing and drying included), while more expensive models, all-in-ones available for $17 to $25 each, could cost around $800 to purchase and launder. Keep in mind, though, that cloth diapers can be reused on subsequent children.

This is usually a discussion that happens closer to childbirth — or at least typically within the third trimester.

Breastfeeding

This discussion typically involves both partners, but the final vote will usually go to the woman. Different women have different viewpoints here, but there was a study in Pediatrics in late 2010 that showed the U.S. would save $13 billion annually in health care costs if 90 percent of babies were breast-fed exclusively for six months. (As with all studies, you can find other studies that are not as favorable to breast-feeding.)

Much of this discussion comes down to the female partner’s life outside of being a mom — if she’s a busy professional and intends to return to work, sometimes breastfeeding (pump and dump) becomes a hassle and formula is a better option.

Discipline

This is a huge topic — up there with religion — that many parents hold off on. After all, it’s very uncommon for you to need to discipline a child in their first few months of life. But as they get older and need guidance and reinforcement, it helps if you’ve had these conversations already. The parents being aligned is crucial.

There are different theories on spanking, for example — and your viewpoint on these theories is usually tied to your own upbringing plus what sources you’ve read. There are different theories on time-outs. If you Google “how to discipline a child,” for example, there are 192 million search results. Clearly, this is a topic people think about and write about often.

In the end, it’s what works for you and your partner — which is ultimately what all these discussions come back to as well.

What else would you add here as a conversation you and your partner needed to have before baby or during pregnancy?

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