And Baby Makes Three, Part 2
There are many options in our society as we approach the 21st century. More and more couples are waiting until they have been married longer to have children. There seems to be great wisdom in that decision because it allows the couple more time to nurture their relationship. It also gives each individual some time to mature and address the other changes and transitions that come along in early adulthood.
Many marriages that are not going to survive are over in two years, and other within five years. Given that rule of thumb, waiting until you have been married or living together consistently for at least five years makes sense. Get to know yourself as you mature and change from ages 20 to 30. Your entire outlook on life may change during that time, which will influence your thoughts, desires and interests. Share your new awareness with your partner and watch carefully to see if the two of you grow together, rather than apart. Put off long term decisions until both of you have evolved to that next level of self awareness. And remember, people don't necessarily mature at the same times.
Arrange a routine that allows both partners ample time alone and for each other. This may mean taking turns getting up at night for feedings (breast-feeding technology makes this possible for almost everyone); rotating early mornings on the weekend; arranging for someone to come in to help with housework one or two days a week . . . or to care for the baby while you take some time for yourself (take a nap, a bath or walk without the baby); if the baby goes to a nursery, take turns driving the child . . . use your imagination.
Schedule one morning, afternoon or evening each week to spend together, alone.
Begin now to TALK about your true feelings, interests and dreams for yourself and your family.
Involve family, friends and neighbors in your lives before the child is born to alleviate your fears about leaving him/her alone with others.
Talk to your partner about how you were raised. If there are major discrepancies, try to come to an agreement about how to handle things with your child.
If you can't come to an agreement, go to a counselor or pastor for assistance. If you don't get help there, look for a support group.
If either of you were raised in an overly rigid, strict, isolated family discuss how that has affected you.
If either of you were raised in families that had little or no consistent rules, discipline or structure, discuss how that has affected you.
If you have serious differences in your religious, philosophical, political, male/female stereotyping or parenting beliefs and practices . . . get help NOW from an objective outside party (this means not family members, friends, neighbors or others who think and behave just like/opposite one of you). A support group or counselor would be best in this case.
If either of you has been abused, neglected or assaulted as a child, teen or adult, seek outside help NOW. Those wounds don't just go away . . . they can be easily resurrected during times of stress . . . and this is going to be a stressful time!
If either of you grew up with family or friends who were addicted to alcohol or drugs, involved in violent relationships with partners, family members, etc., moved around a lot as a child or teen or were separated from one or both parents, brothers, sisters and loved ones, seek outside help NOW. You may not realize how it affected you, so talking about it with a trained professional can help you be more aware of danger signs.
BOTTOM LINE: Do everything you can to ensure that you are committed to one another as much as you could be to anyone/anything else . . . and make a pact to nurture that relationship consistently, unless to do so would place one or both of you, or a child, in a position to be harmed physically, or emotionally. Above all, you must agree that the emotional and physical safety and well-being of a child is more important than anything else . . . including being in a relationship that is harmful for the child. After you make the choice to have a child, your desires no longer come first, the baby's needs do.
For those who are in a committed relationship, and contemplating having children: Do all of the above.
If you can't come to an agreement on any of those tips, particularly the last one . . . DON'T HAVE CHILDREN TOGETHER. If you are not willing to put a child's needs for safety, stability, etc before your own desire/need to be involved with a partner who is putting the child at risk of emotional or physical harm, then perhaps you shouldn't have children, at least for now . . . and that is okay.
Learn to compromise, perhaps you can resume your career after the child is in the nursery, day care or kindergarten. Or perhaps one of you could work at home or parttime and care for the baby. Remember, if you decide to have a child, your priorities will change, at least temporarily.
Allow yourself to grieve the loss of your dreams . . . whether it is the dream of living your life as a Mother/Father, the dream of climbing the corporate ladder, starting your own business or anything else you feel has been taken from you, including your independence. It would be advisable to postpone pregnancy until these issues have been dealt with and you honestly feel no resentment toward anyone for forcing you to make a decision you are uncomfortable with.
Making a decision to put your desires or needs first is a healthy and insightful choice. We are not all cut out for parenting! Choosing to put the well being of a child first, sometimes means making a decision not to be a parent. If this causes so much distress in your relationship that you feel you have no choice, think of how trapped you will feel once you have a baby you don't want or can't care for. Go to couple/marriage counseling immediately!
Give yourself credit for your awareness, courage and growth. Choosing not to have children will also cost you emotionally, particularly if you have parents or in-laws who are desperately awaiting a grandchild. Putting your needs above the desire to please those whom you love is very difficult, but it may be best for everyone, including the child.
LuAnn Pierce is a licensed social worker and therapist, as well as an author and publisher. She has worked with hundreds of youths and families in the last 15 years. Ms. Pierce writes columns for several other publications and is the publisher/editor-in-chief of Person to Person.
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