Are you ready for kids? Can you afford them?
What is the only thing that you should plan for?
These days the average age of a first-time parent has jumped significantly! This is the oldest generation of parents to have ever existed. We can assume that this group is more mature and therefore more prepared for parenting, with a clearer understanding of what it takes, right? Why, then, are these two of the most frequently discussed questions at parent forums, blogs, and in social media: 1. Are we ready for kids? And 2. Can we afford kids?
Let’s take these one by one…
“Are we ready for kids?”
No matter how prepared you think you are, you are never ready enough! When it comes to parenting, that’s the simple truth. How can one predict the nature of a completely separate human being? It’s hard enough to predict what children will be like from stage to stage, how can one anticipate “all of it”? For that matter we can’t know how ready we are for anything in life before it happens.
The only sure thing as you enter the unknown world of parenthood is that parents can prepare their environment to provide their child’s needs and comforts. They can do what needs to be done for the physical care of the baby, but how they will “be” with the baby or how the baby is going to “be” can never be known in advance.
So what can you do to be ready internally? Trust yourself and life. Know that your path will unfold, and you have limitless potential to respond to it. Remember that you are living this life because you are strong enough to live it. If you weren’t, you wouldn’t be entertaining this question ― subconsciously or consciously. Also know that as you enter parenthood, you will never be the same again ― in a great way!
“Can we afford kids?”
This is a delicate question, as unpredictable as the first. Yes, you can set up a budget for expenses like a crib, bedding, diapers, formula, clothes, and sundries, but you never ever know what else might arise. One mom I met in a workshop told me that her autistic son has cost her family $100K in therapies, and they are amazed how these unanticipated expenses have been accompanied by two big promotions for her husband in the last year. Another dad told me that the birth of his son inspired him to quit his job and stay at home to care for the baby. He was shocked that he and his wife are managing just fine financially.
As with anything in life, you cannot predict what you will be able to afford or not until you actually face it. Planning defensively robs you of the excitement that comes from expecting a baby—a beautiful experience of life that is short lived, but oh, so fulfilling.
As a wise person once said, “As life has a way of unfolding as it is meant to, I have learned to trust life.” So let go, and trust yourself. Know that you have come this far by partly planning and partly responding to what simply shows up. When my husband and I bought our first home, we thought we would live there forever because we would never be able to afford another one. As it happens, we have moved three times in 15 years. My father-in-law always said, “Once you make a financial commitment, you will find a way to meet it. A good work ethic is all you need. The rest is a crapshoot.”
So now the big question…
“What is the only thing you should and can plan?”
Growth! Yes, that is the only unavoidable and inevitable life event. So if you’re going to prepare for anything, prepare for this. And know that you will grow just as much as your kids. They will nudge you, tug you, bug you, and challenge you from day one.
In the beginning, you may be challenged by not getting enough sleep or entertainment or being able to finish chores, but you will be amazed by your own ability to respond, and that will make you more patient and teach you to let go. As the children get older, they will nudge you to think outside the box (“But why?”), live in the present moment (“Play with me now”), open your mind (“You’re not always right”), and most importantly give up control (“You’re not the boss of me!”)
Always keep in the back of your mind that in this parenting ride you will be growing up along with your children. By the time they are adults, you will be more compassionate, kind, and empathetic. Your kids will raise you while you raise them.
You can prepare for this from the get-go very simply. How?
- Start by being emotionally intelligent and mindful. Address feelings as they come up so that they don’t blow up in your face. We all know suppressed feelings have volcanic tendencies. Remember, guilt, doubt, fear, and worry are constant companions in parenting. Address them as they show up. Learn to sit with feelings and actually work through them until they lose their power over you. Feelings are impermanent. Like waves they will ebb and flow. Know how to step back and not get on the emotional train every single time.
- Know you have an infinite ability to respond and not react. That is a choice you can work on and exercise. Kids will give you plenty of invitations to get out of control. Knowing your own triggers and strengths will assist you. Most of the biggest challenges parents face are embedded in a lack of self-worth, self-confidence, self-respect, and self-love. Work on strengthening your emotional core, so you can bounce back quickly if needed.
- Know your breath and its rhythm. Learning how to manage your breath will assist you in learning how to manage yourself and your kids. Whether through meditation, breath work, or pranayama, this skill must be developed early on. It’s the only skill that will bring you quickly into the present moment where your kids naturally live, and it’s the only skill that teaches you how to be emotionally intelligent, mindful, and acquainted with your connection to life itself. Your breath unites your inner and outer worlds—so that you are prepared for the growth that will come from this little teacher who is about to arrive in your life.
Read more from Tools of Growth.