Culture plays a major role in deciding the appropriate ways to go about friendships, career, love, and marriage. Over the years, marriage has been closely linked to planning a family and having children. Some families are still expected to have children shortly after they have been married, while some enjoy the luxury of deciding when to. Several factors can help in this decision-making process. This article aims to highlight some of the points that can be kept in mind when deciding to start a family -
For the prospective mother
Changes to anticipate – Most prospective mothers are aware of the fact that change will occur but not everyone may be conscious of how the changes will impact them specifically. There will be a break from work, physical exertion, most daily activities and chores that were once important. The question to ask oneself is - what are all the things that might change for them, and how they might be impacted by these changes at this point in their lives. For instance, would it be okay to let work take a back seat at this point? A younger mother may feel resistant to bringing in these changes at a crucial time in her career, or at a time when a probable passion is a priority. Individual experiences to change may differ and it is important to consider this aspect because no prospective mother can be urged to feel okay about this by someone else.
Emotional health and the role it plays: It’s important to recognize that good emotional health doesn’t necessarily translate to feeling good and being completely ok for all 9 months of pregnancy. What is doable and pertinent here is to have in place existing support systems where you have people to reach out to when you’re not feeling good. It is normal and expected to have periods of ups and downs in this phase. The point isn’t, however, to strive to reach a space where you don’t have these feelings at all.
What is relevant instead is to find ways to manage and cope with different situations by having different safety nets: your partner, in times where your partner is unavailable, your immediate family, or else, friends, and in their absence extended family.
Other than finding ways to connect with others during times that you’re not feeling ok, it will also be useful to talk to a mental health professional or a helpful wellwisher (depending on what your individual comfort level is) about having a coping plan in place in case you have a bad day, face a triggering situation etc.
Acceptance of uncertainty- Sleep schedules, eating patterns, time management, and even the mother’s body proportions become uncertain. What might help is to make a quick note and remind themselves of things that will still remain constant, because prospective mothers may feel anxious about accepting so many differences in themselves. Some of these may be considered unwelcome costs to pay to have a baby. But, if the benefit of having a baby seems greater, the prospective mother might be at a good place to consider other important aspects.
2. For the prospective father
Sharing- In case household responsibilities are not equally divided before the pregnancy, this is a shift that will be required before planning the life-change. Since each family and prospective mother will feel differently about what is required the most of the father, it is best to discuss expectations together. The prospective father’s role may involve cooking, laundry, groceries or just being around a lot more. If the prospective mother is having difficulty stating expectations clearly, ideas or cues could be dropped to ask if a certain kind of help would make things easier for them.
Here it is relevant that we re-establish the importance and invisible nature of emotional labour. Sometimes, a husband may help out in terms of suggesting that domestic help is hired to take care of certain household tasks. However, the responsibility of delegating work often still falls on the woman, not reducing any of the labour for her after all. To elaborate, there needs to be an understanding of more concrete, hands-on ways in which help happens and is distributed in the house.
Work- The information of being a prospective father could be shared at the workplace to request for a certain amount of flexibility. Peer support at work could be essential in allowing for more time and energy with the family during the period. This might involve accepting that a few opportunities or projects might not be easy to grab at this point.
It is also essential that the husband check if the organization he works in offers paternity leave. In the case of a pregnancy, despite buffers such as maternity leave in place, a woman’s career trajectory is often badly affected. This doesn’t happen in case of the father though. Keeping this in mind, it is necessary to see what more can be done to help make the transition back to the workplace easier for women.
Relationships - Relationships with friends, family, and parents-in-law might be altered during this time. There may be an increasing need for the assistance of others in their lives. Leisure time with friends may be less frequent. The prospective father will have to gear up for responsibilities and prepare for the new family member.
3. The family as a unit
Finances- Raising a family is a demanding task to be committed to. With new members, there might be additional pressure. Before planning a pregnancy, it might be important to estimate how much money it would require to lead a desired lifestyle with the family. For instance, speaking to people who are going through a similar phase in life might help. The impact of the mother stepping down from her role for some time will affect the overall financial status of the household. However, it is relevant that the mother not is made to feel any lesser during this period, so that her self-esteem is not negatively affected.
Resilience- The relationship between two partners may also go through ups and downs. Since priorities, expectations, sleep, appetite and time spent with each other change, partners may take time to adjust with each other and find their comfort in new roles. To ensure this will happen, it is important to pay attention to how the relationship is being sustained and tended to before the pregnancy. If the relationship needs working, health professionals may be consulted before preparing to start the family.
4. Social support
Sources of love and attention- The couple may seek for assistance outside the marital bond for their child. Whether it is a grandparent, a friend, or a neighbor, it is important for the couple to have a resource to back them up, in case of emergencies or a desperate need for a break. Prior discussions with their support system can help bring this question at ease.
Sometimes the requirement of a social support system is also to simply provide respite from all the stress that comes with the pregnancy. Persons who can offer a compassionate listening ear, somebody who you can be yourself around without fear or judgment.
Structurally, a pregnancy takes a toll on the parents and the mother in particular. While there is no way that a person can avoid all difficulty it is possible to reach a point where you have certain support systems in place when the going gets rough for you and your partner.
When a couple feels like the prospective parents, the family unit, and extended support systems are in place, they may have a discussion about planning a baby and decide what aspects need more working for them.
In case the contents of this article have got you thinking, and you’d like to share your views or discuss this further, please feel free to reach out to us on 1800-270-1790. Our counsellors would be happy to assist you.