I was out for dinner with three friends recently, including one who’s six months pregnant with her first baby. As you might expect (and as seems to happen all the time these days), the topic of children came up and my friend Sarah (not the pregnant one) said she wasn’t sure if she was quite ready to have a child, though she wants to become a mum at some point. She asked if I’d questioned whether I was ready when we decided to have Tibbons.
My answer was honest: no. I had no doubts or questions of readiness. Buuuut, I was also aware that I couldn’t possibly know what I was “letting myself in for” until the time came and I was literally holding the baby. I was right of course and in that sense I don’t think it’s really a case of being ready when you decide to have a child (if you make that decision): as with all things in life most of us cope with what comes our way. Of course, there are degrees of coping – some people scrape by and others flourish, and I’m not saying anyone who has a baby at any time will do just fine regardless of any other factors. Sadly some people don’t, but thankfully most do, and surely that’s not because they all worked their way through a long checklist before getting pregnant to make sure they were as prepared as prepared can be? No theory test here.
And honestly, who’s ever truly ready to put another person first all of the time, to forego sleep night after night, month after month? Or to face the nappies of a freshly weaned baby come to that?
Who’s ready to be completely blown away by the love they feel for their offspring? You don’t have to do it all with a smile on your face – no-one expects you to find being a parent easy (especially other parents), but even where you find it challenging, even where it uncovers reserves of patience in you that you never knew you had, you don’t need to wonder how ready you are, worry that you didn’t know exactly what you were taking on – you’re doing it, feeling your way as you go and you probably don’t even have time, or energy, to stop and think in those early days. And then, all of a sudden, you realise that your energy is back – that parenting isn’t always going to be all-consuming, that they are little for such a little time, and you treasure them even more.
So Sarah, don’t think of it in terms of readiness or preparedness. I’d say it’s about what you feel rather than what you think. Go with your gut.