According to the CDC, American parents are waiting longer to have children. If you and your spouse are trying to decide whether a family or a childfree life is for you, consider these questions:
- Have you done enough things for yourself that you won't resent tabling the rest for many years? Have you taken a trip, finished your novel, perfected a few gourmet dishes, gone out in high heels to get rip roaring drunk and come home while the sun was rising?
- Do you have family nearby, or the kind of help that you can truly depend on? Even when single childfree friends swear they will do anything to help you, are they the types you'd feel comfortable asking, without feeling like you'd owe them, to do favors like come by when the kid has pinkeye to play so you can disappear to get a few hours of work done?
- Do you work well collaboratively as well as independently? Are you able to maintain your grip on sanity when posed with the concept of following a clear set of instructions without seeing any tangible or satisfactory results?
- Have you ever worked anonymously? Can you thrive without getting recognized for your toils--is it possible to make do without bylines, or praise, or end of year bonuses, or thanks, or smiles or eye contact?
- Are you secure enough in your relationship that you can spend a few cumulative years just plain not-liking your partner and still have enough good will to coast?
- Are you a feminist? If so, could you handle a roommate -- perhaps even someone coming from your own body -- who does not identify as such, or at least won't for many years?
- Would your self-esteem allow you to feel or unstylish or frumpy or simply or unattractive or simply invisible for a few years to the rest of your life?
- How flexible are you? Does fundamentally altering your body, your identity, your views on screentime, or what makes for a pleasant Saturday morning seem like something you're up for? If you suddenly had to abandon your plans to be a social influencer, a home-birther, a home-schooler, a vegetarian, a Tiger Mother, an Attached Parent, a Free-Range Parent, or #goals, would you be okay?
- How is your self-control? Do you think that you have it in you to be the angriest, most frustrated and most exhausted you've ever been and then suddenly shunt that anger elsewhere?
- Do you have at least one friend who gets it? A friend to whom you can complain about even though you don't technically have any 'real' problems, even though you knowingly chose this situation? A friend who can convey everything in one sympathetic look while your milk is coming in and you feel like you want to die except everybody keeps asking you how happy you are? A friend who will take you out for drinks and say, "I see what you're going through and you are going to be okay and this is normal"?
- Are you organized? Will you be able to keep track of feedings, doctor's appointments, medicine schedules, playdates, the school calendar, the vacation calendar, the traveling hockey schedule without falling apart? Would your partner be? Could you could ask him or her about this right now and he or she would not tell you you're crazy for asking about this so soon?
- Do you have a goal, a purpose, a dream, a vocation to pursue once your children are no longer tiny and eventually leave home?
- Do you think that you and your partner will have stuff to talk about when in several decades it will be just the two of you again?
- Do you feel, like the Bionic Man, up to being shattered beyond repair, barely alive, and then, without a rest period, slowly become better, stronger, faster in ways you never imagined?
- Do you have enough storage on your phone for all the photos you will take of a person who will ostensibly ruin your life but with whom you will become utterly obsessed?
If you answered "yes" to most of those questions, you are still not remotely ready to become a parent. But you're probably ready enough.