"When is the right time to have a baby?" women all over the
planet have wondered/Googled. We want answers, we crave guidelines, but maybe
that's because society has always acted as if it has cracked some code. We have
checklists to complete—things to learn by age 25, experiences to have before
age 40, bucket lists before we die. We enjoy the illusion of control and of being
We want to make sure we're planning our lives correctly, as
if there's a universal map to follow. And we grow up thinking that there's a
simplified series of events that everyone should follow: go to college, get a
good job, marry your soul mate, have two children and a dog, live happily ever
And yet the older I get, the more I realize that the maps
were always imaginary. The checklists, too.
Life is more nuanced than
black-and-white statistics and broad-stroke studies would have us believe,
although that doesn't stop society from coming up with all sorts of standards
Like, say, when you're supposed to have a baby. The rules
have changed throughout history—women are now expected to start a family much
later than a few decades ago—except new standards still exist. New rights and
So many of us go into motherhood believing that we're
already behind, failing, less than. Or, perhaps even more tragically, we put
off having children—waiting, waiting, waiting for the perfect time that never
comes. Frozen in fear for what might happen if our ducks are out of order and not
in a row.
Here is where I'd like to call bull. Despite what you've
been told, you do not need these 8 things before having a baby:
Marriage is a beautiful foundation to start
a family. I think most of us would agree that, given the choice, we'd start a
family within a healthy partnership—someone who balances our lives, witnesses
the progression, shares in the responsibilities and memories. And yet that's
not always an option, no matter our intentions and efforts. That's OK.
Just because you don't have a signed legal
document doesn't make you any less loving as parents. (Babies don't ask
for documentation, in case you haven't heard.) Many women get married later
down the road, or they divorce partway through, or they decide to stay single.
It's all OK.
There's so much guilt and embarrassment
that comes with starting a family without a ring on your left finger, but in
the scheme of things, it's an unnecessary burden to carry.
2.A college degree
It might be more difficult, but it's
entirely possible to finish a degree while tackling new motherhood—women
are doing it every day, all over the world, successfully. Society likes to define intelligence and
accomplishment with a diploma, but that doesn't have to dictate who we are and
how far we go.
There are no rules to follow, no standards to fall short of, no storyline to compare yourself to.
I didn't have savings when I got pregnant;
I didn't even have health insurance. Heck, I didn't have a job! And you know
what? I made it through just fine. But that doesn't mean I was immune to panic
attacks over the sad state of my finances. Shouldn't I have six months in
savings? A 401K? A college fund in place? I'M SO BEHIND! I'M SUCH A FAILURE!
Yet I've learned that finances really can
grow over time. And never underestimate the motivation of motherhood to better
our lives and tackle big goals.
5.All the baby stuff
Trust me, I understand the allure of trendy
baby nurseries and shiny gadgets, but they do not define you. Stop scrolling
through Pinterest, put down the glossy magazine and hear these words: You do
not need a $700 stroller that will collect dust in two to three years. You do not
need a $600 baby crib and matching décor. Your baby does not give a single
damn, I promise you.
Boiled down to basics, here's what you
need: a warm place to sleep (which, let's be honest, could be your bed), a safe place to live (which could be small and
rented), food (which could come from your body) and LOVE (which is already
inside of you). Everything else can be thrifted, handed down, borrowed or
You will never be fully ready to plunge
into the unknown. And just because you don't feel ready now, that doesn't mean
you won't figure it out as you go. Life has a funny way of changing us in ways
we never saw coming, slowly preparing us along the way.
Having a set-in-stone plan before having a
baby sounds awfully responsible, but, more than anything, that's probably
setting you up for some big-time disappointment. Pregnancy and motherhood are
lessons in flexibility, resilience and blind faith—no matter how intricate
our plans might be. After all, some of the most important
lessons come from life's unplanned moments.
Bottom line: There are no rules to follow, no standards
to fall short of, no storyline to compare yourself to. You can be just fine,
just as you are.