Whether or not to have children is the decision that requires more forethought than any other decision you could possible make. Unfortunately, far too many people leave this decision up to chance, or up to the hormones that drive their “biological clocks” rather than taking time to realize all the of the implications having a child will have on their lives.
Having a child does not only affect the would-be parent. It affects the parent’s family, society, and of course, the future child him/herself. When considering having a child, you need to think about many different factors first.
Are you capable of raising a child? Not just having a child (most people are very capable of doing that) but raising one. Do you have the financial and emotional resources to help your infant grow into a happy, healthy, productive member of society?
Will you have to go on welfare if you have a child? Your decision to have a child should not be draining public funds that are desperately needed for other things, so you had better make sure you can afford the things that children need before you conceive. Don’t just think about diapers and formula, think farther down the road to things like sports equipment and school supplies. Remember that children will also want toys, and constantly pester you for the latest gizmos, and you will feel guilty if you are unable to provide at least some of those things. You need to be able to leave room in your budget for those little extras.
Is your relationship with the other parent of this potential baby stable and secure? Or will your child grow up watching you fighting, or being disrespected or abused by your mate? Remember, children grow up thinking of their home life as “normal,” so if your mate does not treat you properly, your child will grow up thinking disrespect and heartache are an acceptable part of a relationship. If you or your partner have anger issues that may cause you to lose your patience with a child, you need to get help for those issues before going ahead. You don’t have to hit a child to be an abusive parent, and those who say hateful things in the heat of the moment need to change that behaviour before attempting to become a parent.
Are you willing to put in time and effort to teach your child to be a responsible adult? It is not the job of the public education system to teach your child manners. As a parent there are things you need to teach your child about how to treat others and how to make
important decisions. If you’re not willing to engage your child in conversation or teach them how to read because “that’s the school’s job,” please, don’t have children. Children require intellectual stimulation from their parents, not an educational void until the age of five or six. Also, children will imitate you, whether you want them to or not. If you approach areas of your life, especially parenting, as though just getting by is enough (for example; not helping with homework or caring if your child is learning) then your children will believe that they, too, should coast through life. All this does is put more future adults into the welfare system to be a burden on others.
It never ceases to amaze me the number of people who have no experience with children whatsoever before actually having children. Would you take a car on the highway without having been inside one before? Would you skydive without training and lessons? Why would you assume the care and responsibility of a helpless little person who will look to you for guidance on every aspect of life if you’ve never dealt with children of various ages before? Not everyone babysits or takes a job as a camp counsellor as a teen, but you can always volunteer to help coach a local sports team, or to read to children at the library, or ask people you know who have children to let you babysit so you can “practice” your childcare skills. Children are demanding and exasperating, not because they mean to be (well, most of the time!) but because they have not reached an emotional level where they are capable of realizing that other people have needs, too. If you have no experience dealing with a range of childhood behaviours, you will find yourself stressed, losing your temper, and perhaps saying or doing things you will regret later. Don’t have a child without a range of hands-on experiences!
Although there are other things to consider when thinking about having child, such as which diseases run in your or your mate’s families, and whether you would be capable of parenting a child that ended up with a chronic illness or disability, the above things should be considered first. Parenting a child without any special needs is challenging enough, and if you decide you can’t realistically handle the above considerations, then you don’t need to think further about any special considerations. Once you’ve decided that, yes, you are ready to handle the job of parenting, please move on to consider trickier decisions like a child with special needs or adoption. Having a child is a beautiful and special experience, but as any parent will tell you, it’s the hardest job in the world. So don’t file that application until you’ve decided you can handle it!