If you’re thinking about starting a family, you may be getting really excited and just ready to go. But hold up just a minute. You’ve waited this long to have a baby, so why not wait just a few more months so you can check off these eight things from your to-do-pre-baby list?
Chances are likely that you’ve already done a few of these things in your time together as a couple. With the average age of first time parents on the rise, lots of couples who are getting ready to have their first child have already established careers, settled into a home, and traveled much of the world.
In fact, according to a new study cited in a CBS News article, the average age of a first time mother in the US is now twenty-five, as opposed to 21 in 1970, and the number of first births to women over thirty-five has gone up eight times since 1970.
But even if you’ve already established your home and career, making sure you’ve got these eight pre-baby steps covered can make your pregnancy healthier and your journey into parenthood slightly less stressful.
1.Pay Off Debt
According to a 2010 Forbes article, the average household debt in the US is 136% of household income. We’re obviously spending much more than we’re making, on average. Even if you aren’t struggling with more debt than you make in a year, having a load of debt can really crunch your budget when your baby arrives.
Get serious about paying off debt now, before you get pregnant, and you’ll free up room in your budget for your baby and will relieve some stress that only gets compounded when a baby arrives.
2.Establish Some Savings
Besides having high debt, most American families and households have very little savings. Saving up at least a basic emergency fund before baby arrives can really ease your mind, especially if, heaven forbid, there are problems with the pregnancy or you have a preemie who ends up in the NICU for a couple of months.
No potential parent likes to think about these possibilities, but now is the time to do so. If you have three to six months’ worth of expenses (Note: this is your basic, essential expenses, not what you actually make per month) in savings, you’ll be able to deal with crises as they arise and will be much less financially stressed.
3.Create a Baby Budget
The last financial to-do before you get pregnant is to create a baby budget. Do some research online, and talk to friends to figure out just what this new little human is going to cost your household. While everyone will tell you how expensive babies are, the truth is that if you don’t have a lot of money, you don’t have to put off having a baby.
As long as you’re good with your money and live on a budget, you can probably slide the new baby’s expenses right in there. After all, you don’t need every baby gadget on the market, and it’s okay for your baby to use secondhand toys and wear secondhand clothes. If you want to know what you really need for your child, talk to your grandparents. They seem to have raised a generation just fine without all the extra gadgets and gear new parents tend to pay for today.
While you’re working on getting your finances in shape, you should also work on getting in shape physically. This is most important for moms-to-be, who will have an easier time getting pregnant and remaining comfortable throughout pregnancy if they’re at a healthy weight to begin with.
You don’t have to be perfect physically to have a baby, but eating right and being physically active as a couple will help you feel better, have an easier pregnancy, and, eventually, keep up with a toddler.
If you’re not happy with your home or want to move before your baby, do it before you get pregnant. A woman’s nesting instinct will usually kick in sometime during the second or third trimester, and if you’re moving during this time, it can drive a pregnant woman up the wall.
Whether you want to buy a new home, settle into a more kid-friendly area of town, or rent a bigger apartment, go ahead and do it now before you get pregnant. And if you’re generally happy with where you are but would like to renovate or make some major changes to your home pre-baby, go ahead and start doing it now.
6.Take Time for Each Other
Despite what the gloomiest of parents like to tell parents-to-be, your life as a couple isn’t over when you have a baby. It will change dramatically, though, and you’ll definitely find it more difficult to make time for just the two of you. Take advantage of being able to go to dinner on the spur of the moment, sit through an entire movie, or take a weekend away now before you’re even pregnant.
Make some memories together now and work on strengthening your relationship so that you can draw on that during the first few months of parenting, which are often when it’s most difficult for couples to have any time alone together.
7.Talk About Parenting
Since you’re already in a committed relationship, you probably know that you each come into the relationship with different expectations, largely formed by the way you were raised and the people you have been around your whole life. If you think you came in to your partnership or marriage with different expectations, though, wait until it comes to parenting.
You will have so many decisions to make as parents, and it’s better if you can make many of those decisions before you’re even pregnant, so that you’re on the same page through this journey called parenthood. While your expectations, techniques, and goals as parents will change as your child grows and even as you add more children to your family, starting out being basically on the same page – and leaving plenty of room for conversation as your child grows – will help you create a united front and support one another as parents.
The one thing that many couples wish they could do more of after they have children is travel. Once you have a baby, you no longer dream about backpacking through Europe or taking off on a cross-country road trip. (Seriously, no one wants to be in a car with an infant that long.) Before you get pregnant, talk about your traveling dreams, and commit to fulfilling at least one of them.
If you’re generally good with your money and don’t have a ton of debt, this could even be an area where you splurge with a credit card and pay down the trip later. Travel credit card deals can help you get the most bang for your buck when it comes to traveling, and you are more likely to regret never taking the time to travel than you are having a few hundred extra bucks in debt to pay off before the baby arrives. If you need to travel on a tight budget, just pick your cheapest travel-related dream, and do it. After the baby arrives, your traveling will mostly be relegated to family vacations, theme parks, and, perhaps, educational trips, so make sure you choose a romantic destination now.
Gearing up to become parents is a really exciting time. You’re probably already talking about your dreams for your children and wondering what they’ll be like. Will she have her mother’s eyes and her father’s curly hair? Will he love baseball or computers or playing the piano?
There’s nothing quite as wonderful as bringing a new life into the world, but the experience is even more wonderful if you give yourself time to prepare for it.