There’s a famous phrase that pops into everyone’s head when thinking about starting a family – there’s never a good time to have a baby.

And it’s true – there is always something in the way, eg finances, career, even a global pandemic!

All these concerns are real and valid, but the fact remains that if we all waited until the ideal time to have a baby, humankind would quickly die out! So perhaps we should think of another famous phrase – feel the fear and do it anyway…

All of that said, starting a family is a huge milestone in life and one that shouldn’t be taken lightly.

“There are conversations that should be had if you are considering having a child,” advises Mary Johnston, Specialist in Counselling with Accord CLG.

“Having a child has a huge impact on your life, and you must consider the implications on things like your career, your finances and even your relationship.

“For instance, are you both planning to work after the baby is born? Have you considered the cost of childcare? And are you both on the same page with regards to staying at home/childcare/career breaks etc?

“Ideally many of these conversations should be had as a relationship gets serious. For example, do you both want to have children? Have you thought about how many you want to have?”

But things can change rapidly when you have a child. You might not have been particularly bothered about having children and now suddenly you want ten! Your career progression might suddenly feel insignificant – or vice versa.

“Communication is key with parenting,” says Mary. “You need to make sure those lines of communication, and honesty, are open.”

Here are some other areas that Mary recommends couples should consider when planning a family:

Fertility issues

Hopefully, fertility may not be a concern, but if it is, have you considered what you will do if you don’t manage to conceive within a set amount of time? There is often a lot of anxiety around fertility, do you agree on when it might be necessary to consult your GP? And would you consider fertility treatments or adoption?

Fertility issues

Childcare

If you are planning on working after having a baby, what form of childcare do you plan to use? Do you agree on your choice? Are you hoping that a family member or friend might help out? If so, you need to make sure they are willing and able. Many grandparents may be delighted to help out every now and again but might not be comfortable with something more long term or demanding. You also need to consider the cost of childcare, which can be exorbitant.

Parenting styles

Often, couples come from very different backgrounds, eg one may be from a more formal and neat home while another is from a large and loud family. Be open to the advantages of both backgrounds and respect differences. Above all, keep those lines of communication open.

Your relationship as parents

Becoming a parent is wonderful, but it can have a huge impact on your relationship – suddenly two becomes three (or even more!). There are three words you must keep in mind at all times during this time: communication, respect and honesty. You must be able to talk honestly with your partner about how you feel and any worries you might have. You must also respect your partner and their approach to parenting – and feel able to talk (and negotiate) if your parenting styles differ.

Having a baby is a major event – pregnancy, labour and then sleep deprivation and the natural worries of a first-time parent will test even the strongest of relationships. And what if there are complications or disabilities? There is little that is predictable about having a child – the key is to support and respect each other, and above all – communicate. And remember, there is no such thing as a perfect parent!

Accord CLG offers marriage preparation courses as well as marriage and relationship counselling. See more at www.accord.ie

Mary was chatting with Penny Gray, a freelance editor and writer specialising in beauty, property, parenting, health and lifestyle. She has worked for TVNow, Salon Ireland, Irish Beauty, and was Editor of Maternity & Infant magazine. Most importantly, she is a proud mum of two!