Having children is an undeniably transformative event. The second that bundle of joy takes its first breath, you’re suddenly thrust into a brand-new role—more specifically, an unpaid, 24/7/365 one that only starts to let up when you’ve clocked 18 years. If this gives you pause, you’ll have to seriously consider your answer to a life-changing question: “Am I ready for a baby?”
“Parenting is a life-changing event. While parenthood can be one of the most amazing and rewarding times in your life, it is a major responsibility that you need to prepare for,” says licensed mental health counselor and life coach Dr. Jaime Kulaga, Ph.D. “You will never be ‘ready’ to have a baby. You will always wonder if you will be a great mom or dad, if you make enough money, and fear will never fail to run through your mind with a zillion other ‘what if’ questions. But these thoughts are okay and perfectly normal.”
However, while questioning your own aptitude for loving and nurturing might actually be a good thing, there are plenty of warning signs you might have missed that definitely mean parenthood shouldn’t be your next project. So, before you start planning that nursery on Pinterest, make sure you’re well-acquainted with these signs you’re not ready to have kids.
You can’t imagine a life where you can’t do exactly what you want.
While parenthood doesn’t mean you’ll never go to a concert, Michelin-starred restaurant, or movie that starts after 8:00 p.m. again, it may mean forgoing some of the things you once enjoyed—at least for a while.
“It is okay to be selfish. Selfishness has got a bad reputation in our society, but sometimes selfishness can make you a better and more prepared mom or dad down the road,” says Dr. Kulaga. “For example, it is okay to want to travel the world, spend time with a new spouse, get your education, and move up in your profession before you have a child. And, during those times in your life, you need to be selfish so you can complete some major life goals that will equip your future self and future family down the road. If you are in a phase in your life that requires you to be a little selfish, embrace it, go for your goals, and think about having a family at a later time.”
You’re not putting any money into savings.
If your savings account looks especially anemic, you’re not alone—in fact, according to research from BankRate, 55 percent of Americans don’t have enough money to cover even three months without a job. However, if you’re not ready to start making some major changes to your spending and saving habits, it’s a good sign that you’re not ready to have kids. After all, babysitting, trips to the doctors, and even diapers can seriously add up, especially if you’re not prepared for those added expenses.
“Children are expensive,” says Dr. Kulaga. “Even just the very basic needs like formula, food, diapers, clothing, and healthcare can be thousands. You need to have some money in savings to prepare for accidents and issues that arise that you can’t think of. For future parents that want children, you will never monetarily feel ready for baby, so you don’t need tens of thousands in the bank before you take the leap into parenthood, but you do need a cushion to protect you for emergencies.”
You love making plans—and hate when they change at the last minute.
Children are many things, but predictable is rarely one of them. If you like making plans weeks or months in advance and find yourself frustrated when they’re canceled at the last minute, it might be time to reevaluate whether kids are a good choice for you at the moment. An ear infection, tantrum, or injury can all derail those plans faster than you can say “ticket insurance.”
You hate asking for help.
They say it takes a village to raise a child, and that’s undeniably true. From babysitters to family members to close friends, it truly takes a surprising number of adults to manage even a single kid. However, if you’re not the type to ask for help, even when you desperately need it, you may find yourself adrift (possibly on a frequent basis) when you have kids and inevitably need a hand.
“You can’t do it alone. You will need support systems or you will break down. When you have children you need doctors, friends, outlets, the community, local resources, the educational system, et cetera, et cetera,” says Dr. Kulaga. “The whole village is in on raising this one small human. If you don’t have any support systems, hate asking for help, or don’t like where you live, you’ll want to reconsider having children at this time. You can have children, but first put resources in place so that you have the support you need to raise this child to the best of your abilities.”
The thought of feeling needed is icky to you.
For many people, knowing you’re wanted is amazing, but feeling like you’re needed is a less pleasant experience. If you consider the idea that someone might genuinely depend on you on a daily basis less-than-enthusing, you might want to wait a while before you take the plunge and start a family.
The thought of living in one place for a prolonged period of time sounds terrible.
While many families do move around with their children, there’s something to be said for providing stability during your child’s formative years. Being able to pack up and go at a moment’s notice will likely be a thing of the past when your kid has school, friends, and a life of their own that they don’t want to uproot every time your wanderlust takes hold.
“It can be fun, interesting and such a cultural experience to move around from home to home, city to city, state to state, and even country to country, but when you have a child, that is tough to do,” says Dr. Kulaga. “Children often thrive off of stability. It decreases anxiety in their home, school, and friend sectors of life when you provide more stability for a child. If you just want to up and move because you just like to up and move, now is not the time to have children.”
The thought of ditching your current weekend plans horrifies you.
Before kids, weekends can be used pretty much however you want. You can sleep late, drop $100 on brunch, start day drinking before most people are even out of bed, or—if you’re so inclined—head to the office to catch up on work. After kids, there are piano lessons, medical appointments, playdates, soccer practice, and countless other kid-centric activities that will quickly make lazy Sundays a thing of the past.
You and your significant other are having relationship problems.
Kids can make a good relationship closer, but what they won’t do is mend one that’s already at its breaking point. While there are countless amazing single parents out there who start the process alone or find themselves splitting after their kid is born, if your relationship is on rocky ground, having a child certainly won’t make anything better.
“If you want a child in order to keep a relationship going, this is a huge sign you are not ready for children,” says Dr. Kulaga. “A child brings in a whole new level of responsibility that is not easy for a couple—especially a couple in turmoil—to handle. If you are going to have children, you want your relationship to be strong and in a very confident place: this way you can give the child the attention they will have to have early on (and for the 18 years following!).”
You hate meeting new people.
Like it or not, having a kid means you’ll inevitably be introduced to dozens if not hundreds of new people over the first few years of their life alone—and many of them will want to get to know you better. From classmates to teachers to parents eager to set up playdates, your life will suddenly be inundated with fresh faces—and if you’re not ready for that, it might be a good idea to reconsider your timing.
You don’t like taking charge.
While it’s nice to imagine that you and your child will get along as friends, the fact is, parenting and friendship simply aren’t the same thing—and that means you’ll have to step up and take charge, even when it feels foreign to do so. Just imagine: if you can’t even choose where to have dinner, how are you going to make important choices about another person’s health and safety for the next two decades?
You can’t imagine putting anything above your career.
There’s no reason to assume you won’t be able to continue your career once you have children, but that doesn’t mean your work life won’t change. A sick kid, a daycare that closes for a snow day, or finding out that you would rather stay home once the baby’s born can all throw a wrench into that ascent up the corporate ladder you once envisioned for yourself.
You harshly judge parents who stay home or work.
The choice between staying course on the career climb or staying at home with your children is a difficult one for any parent to make, but everything from illness to emotional needs to economic necessities can change those best laid plans before you had a baby in an instant. So, if you happen to have judgmental feelings about either stay-at-home parents or working parents, it might be worth exploring that before you have a kid and find out that you’re stuck in a very different role than you’d imagined.
You only think about the cute stuff you’ll do together.
Are there tons of adorable things about having children? Absolutely! You’ll get finger-painted art projects, a ton of warm “just because” hugs, and an adorable chorus of “I love you”s over the course of a lifetime. You’ll also get vomited on. If you’re ready for only the former and not the latter, you’re not ready for kids.
You want a baby because it will make you and your significant other a family.
The idea of having a family is a comforting one to many people, but having kids isn’t a guarantee that it will be happy trails from here on out. While you will have to parent those kids for the rest of your life, there’s no guarantee that your significant other will stick around—after all, kids can be a serious source of stress, even on otherwise steady-seeming relationships.
You hate sharing your space.
Even if you have a big enough home for your potential kids to have their own bedrooms, that doesn’t mean those are the only places your kids’ stuff will end up. Before you know it, you’ll have a tent in your bedroom, a toy box in your living room, and various reminders of your little one’s existence scattered throughout your home—not an image ideal for most neatniks or those loath to share.
You just feel like it’s the inevitable next step.
While, for many people, having kids is just what you do when you’ve met the right person or are of a certain age, if those are your main reasons for having them, you’re not ready. Having kids is a lifelong commitment, and one that rarely works out just because someone felt pressured into doing it. “It’s okay to not want children. Our society has a great way of making people, especially women, feel as if it is their ‘job’ to have children,” says Dr. Kulaga.
You’re constantly stressed out.
Kids do many wonderful things, but relieving stress is rarely one of them. If you’re already feeling like you’re in over your head with other aspects of your life, you’re probably not ready for kids; from the time commitment to the financial strain they can cause, it’s unlikely you’ll find yourself less stressed out after their arrival of a new baby.
“If one thing in this world is going to press your buttons, it is a colicky, screaming baby who hasn’t let you sleep in two weeks!” says Dr. Kulaga. “Babies push buttons. They cry for seemingly no reason at times, younger children take anywhere from five to 35 minutes to tie their shoes, and every single child ever born will spill on your carpet, spit up on you before work, and kick and scream in isle five of Target. If you are a very reactive person who finds themselves angry a lot, take time to work on finding outlets for your anger, increasing patience and minimizing aspects to your life that cause anxiety before having a child.”
You can’t function without plenty of quiet time.
A little alone time can do most people a world of good. If abundant alone time is non-negotiable for you, you might want to alter your timeline for becoming a parent. Even the quietest, most well-behaved children will need you at inopportune times, and all it takes is a fight over a toy or a scraped knee to turn that blissfully silent afternoon you were hoping to enjoy into a cacophony of screams.
You’re feeling unfulfilled.
Fulfillment can come from many things in life, from a great career to a satisfying relationship, but if you think that having a child will necessarily mean you’ll achieve it, you’re likely to find yourself disappointed. While raising children can be an undeniably fulfilling process, counting on it to change how satisfied you are with other aspects of your life is a recipe for disaster.
You desperately want to give your parents grandkids.
Even as adults, the desire to please your parents can be a hugely motivating factor. But in the end, even if they’re highly involved in your children’s life, it’s you who’ll be raising those kids, not your parents, so it’s worth thinking twice before giving into your parents’ demands that they become grandparents.
“Often, you may find it is the people closest to you, like your parents and siblings, that want you to have a baby. Parents might dream of becoming grandparents, but you have to remember, that is their dream and you can’t live your life for other people. Everyone has their own passions and purposes on this earth and they are not all alike. If you are only having children because society is saying you must do this, this is one sign you should not take the leap into parenthood,” says Dr. Kulaga.