Parenthood is one of the toughest gigs you will take on in your life. But it’s also one of the most rewarding. Blundering into it without conversation about expectations – from yourself and your support system – is bound to compound your stress. Dr Valeria Risoli, Clinical Psychologist at Dubai Physiotherapy ad Family Medicine Clinic, explains that there are 10 questions every couple should ask themselves before they decide to become parents. They are:
Why do we want a baby?
Frequently women feel the need to have a baby because of social or familial pressure: their friends are having babies, pregnant women are everywhere, they have been married for years and both sets of in-laws are asking when the baby is coming. “Ideally, a couple should make the decision of having a baby together, as they rely on each other and they feel the strong desire to add a life to their unity. If a woman feels that it is time to have a baby as it is the next step expected in life … I would suggest she think about it longer until the desire to become a parent feels more natural and only evokes positive thoughts and feelings,” says Dr Risoli.
What is my priority in life?
Dr Risoli says: “In my professional experience, I have met with many women who are not able to handle parenthood happily as they feel the urge to go back to work, to pursue their career. This is possible, of course, but it is also necessary to understand that if you plan to have a baby, for the first few months after delivery, at least, you might not be able to travel as easily as before or to be at your office 24/7, expecting someone else to take care of the baby from A to Z.
“A baby needs his parents to feel welcomed, wanted, loved, comforted and taken care of, so that they can build that special and unique bond. If your career is your priority right now, be aware that having a baby might take you off track for a bit and you might think about it twice.”
How is my relationship with my partner?
A baby brings change – in an individual’s life as well as in a couple’s relationship. “It requires a stable and strong relationship. Having a baby will not solve issues in a relationship. A baby can increase the relational difficulties as a newborn can bring a lot of stress, physically, mentally and practically. A baby will take a lot of time and energy. Having a strong relationship is the ideal ground to raise a healthy baby and provide with the best emotional and social support that he needs,” she adds.
How do I want to have a baby?
“Conceiving a baby is not always so easy. Sometimes there are obstacles, such as infertility, that can make conception a hard challenge. It is important to be prepared as a couple for the possibility of struggling and needing further treatments or methods to become a parent. Fertility treatments, surrogacy, or adoption can be alternative ways to become parents, but they require physical and mental energy from both in the couple. Discussing these topics beforehand can help them be ready, open, and stronger together in case getting pregnant doesn’t happen easily,” she says.
What do I expect from parenthood?
Dr Risoli warns, “Being a parents is tough. It is the most difficult ‘job’ you can get in life. It requires awareness, selflessness, commitment, love, attention, time, energy, unconditional dedication to another human being who depends completely on you.
“In saying this, I am not trying to discourage women and men from having a baby. On the contrary, I encourage people to embrace this new journey with open eyes, an open mind and full awareness. Being a parent is not something that we can learn from books or documentaries, it is something that we learn day by day, through the interaction with our baby. It requires the acknowledgement that raising that child is a life-long process.”
Am I willing to give up some of my time and space for the baby?
“Both parents have to give up some of their ‘me time’ to support each other in this journey and to be with the baby. Especially in the beginning, it is a moment of reorganising the routine around the baby’s needs, and this always requires parents to temporarily give up that evening with their friends or that gym session. Only through teamwork can new parents gradually go back to their habits and re-find the time for themselves. If you are not willing to give up anything of your individual and personal life, you might consider shelving the decision of having a baby, at least for now.”
Do I have the financial stability to have a baby?
“If you and your partner are not in a stable financial situation, or do not have a support system, it is not advised to plan to have a baby. If a couple has financial difficulties, they should be aware that the responsibility towards that baby is for life, or at least until he is a young adult who is independent. Providing the best they can to their children is what all parents want, so before having a baby, it is important to judge if they can offer that baby the best now and later in life,” says Dr Risoli.
Do we have a support system around?
“Having a support system around, usually family and close friends, is important for the new parents. Being able to rely on people who are close to us help us experience the pregnancy and the beginning of the parenthood with less stress and anxiety. In case a couple do not have close friends or family, especially expats living far from their home, they have to be aware that they can only really rely on each other, so their relationship has to be functional and stable,” she adds.
What UAE-based parents say
“After five years of being married we decided it was time to have children. We were in a mentally and, more importantly, financially stable place by this time. And so it made sense to have kids.” – Nilanjana Javed, Indian, mum of two.
“My husband Kunal and I did have a conversation – we were like, do you want to have kids? It was a yes or no question. Time was running out for me because I was reaching a certain age which meant that if I wanted to have children it would have to be now. Kunal is younger than me so he had the luxury of time. Unfortunately, I didn’t. Which is when we decided if we want a family then we need to start trying. It took us a while and we had to factor that in as well. So we did have this conversation a couple of years ago before I finally managed to conceive.” - Bindu Rai, Indian, mum of twins.