Eons ago (it does seem like eons now), I had written this post about how there seemed to be certain default variables in our society, that determined whether a couple was ready to have a baby. Mind you, these are not variables that the couple uses to take a call as big as this – these are sensible reasons that are usually offered to them, free of charge, unasked for, by their well-wishers. Surprisingly, there seem to be no default variables to define if they are ‘not’ ready to have a baby. For that, being a married couple is enough, and the rest will fall in place, magically. Because isn’t it to procreate that a man and woman decide to get married in the first place?
Ahem. No would be the answer. No. Even if you are going aww at the sight of every baby stroller in sight, and all your friends are continuously sharing pictures of their ‘cute little ANGLE’ (true story, by the way). Even if your biological clock is ticking away and your mom and your husband’s mom and the neighbor’s mom and his cat’s mom are reminding you of it every day, no. Unless, you have thought through and discussed and solved and are able to counter all of the variables that say no, you’re not ready to have a baby.
Because dude, let me tell you this – babies are hard work, and responsibility, and they cost you time and money. Yes, money. Now the pro-baby brigade might go all – ‘How can having a baby be a financial decision, it’s an emotional decision, love is all that matters’. Yes, love is all that matters, but when you are in a financial rut and unable to provide the luxury that you once dreamt of for your child, trust me; it won’t be the best of feelings. So question one, are you in a position to maintain the sort of lifestyle you always hoped you would, after having the baby as well? If yes- great. If not, and you’re ok with it, great again. But if you haven’t thought of it, think.
Question two, what sort of a lifestyle do you have now? If you are the spontaneous, carefree sorts, you might want to remember that having a baby will change that. I’m not saying that you will stop partying, stop traveling, and stop the road trips, no. But will you be able to decide at midnight that you want to embark on a 12 hour drive at 4 AM? Probably, but you will need to consider things like – oh but by 4 baby wouldn’t have done her potty so should be leave at 5 when she would be done? Or, if we leave at 4, will we reach a place with food joints by 7, because baby needs food at 7. Or, have we packed enough diapers, and water, and milk and wipes? Small things, but you will need to plan them. If you have thought of it, perfect. If you think you need a few more impromptu pub-hopping nights before you get to the ‘Can we have one of the grandparents manage her on Saturday night, next week, so we can go have a drink?’, take your time.
Questions three and this is for women with jobs and careers that they want to continue with – What’s your plan for the baby once maternity leave is over? Because it gets over, in a blink, and you’re left with this tiny bundle that needs to be fed every 2 hours, and hormones that are all over the place and that will make you wonder if you’re being selfish thinking of anything other than the baby. So when the baby is 3 months old, or 6 (if you’re lucky), who is going to manage the baby while you are away?
In our Indian households, the first answer is ‘my parents or his’. And you’re lucky if you have that option. I did, and I went to work without a worry until my baby turned 10 months old, very peaceful, and aware that her grandmother was there with her. Because in my case, my mother-in-law was pretty clear that she would manage the baby until she was 10 months old, and was actually looking forward to it. The point here is, it’s ok to depend on your parents, but it is not ok to think they are obliged to manage your baby, because let’s face it, it’s your baby, you chose to have it. So do you have a back-up plan? Because honestly, our parents will never say no to taking care of their precious grandkids. But to hold them to it wouldn’t be the nicest thing to do. Also, I personally feel that our parents have every right to deny being full time baby sitters ‘cos they have done their duty with us, and it’s our turn now. I had a friend complain to me about how her friend’s ‘mean mother-in-law refused to take care of her kid and so her friend had to quit her job’. To which my only question is – who did you have the kid for? For your Mom-in-law? If yes, are you frigging kidding me? And did she say she will manage the baby full time and back out? If yes, hard luck girl, you should have planned better.
So again, do you have a plan? Are you ok with a full time nanny managing the kid alone at home? Are you confident she won’t have the TV running soaps the whole day ensuring your kids have an early addiction to the idiot box? Or are you ok with a day-care? And not worried that the children might catch infections and illnesses more often because of all the other kids? Or did you always know that you might have to quit work for the baby? As long as you have thought it through and are convinced, there’s nothing to worry about. The problem arises when you think things will automatically happen as they are supposed to. They don’t.
Which is why I admire folks who have 2 kids and are managing everything perfectly, happy with their decisions, just as much as I admire folks who are pretty damn clear that they aren’t having a baby because they are not cutout/ready for it. Atleast you have your priorities clear. Very often, I come across older relatives, family friends, who are depressed that their child has chosen to not have a child of their own, because it seems so wrong. And every time, I sit and explain to them that wrong would be when they have a child because they are supposed to, and not because they want to, and that would be a bigger wrong. No point in looking back and regretting a decision as big as bringing a whole new person to this world and not being able to handle the change.
I have even been asked, rather accusingly, how I could support these folks who are ‘denying themselves and their parents this natural phenomena of procreation’, when I myself chose to have a child at the “right” time. And the answer is, when we chose to have Zo, we were pretty damn clear about how it would change things, how we would manage things, and our back up plans. In fact, I was prepared for a baby much earlier, but I chose for ‘us’ to be prepared before we went ahead. We are lucky folks who have more ‘us’ time than most couples we know because of our parents’ support, but as I keep saying, that’s a luxury we enjoy for as long as we have it. And that we need to be prepared to handle everything sans the luxury, if the need arises. Yes, like boring old people, we make ‘if-then-else’ plans.
Thing is, babies are awesome, and babies are also responsibility for life. I personally believe (and I have said this before here I’m sure) that I did not know what responsibility meant until Zo was born. So if you want to have kids -2, 3, 4 a whole dozen, go ahead. But know what’s coming up, atleast to some extent. And if you think it is going to be tough for you to manage even one, ensure that you don’t succumb to pressure. If you think you need time to decide, take it – the biological clock doesn’t matter as much as the mental clock does.
Eventually, what matters is that you know what you are doing, and that you’re happy with it.