Can You Ever Feel “Ready” for Kids? 400 Readers Weighed In

Two of my best friends are pregnant. It’s thrilling, and joyous, and makes me want to get on the next plane to Australia to gently squeeze their bellies (after a two-week quarantine in a budget hotel room). Their announcements, which both came within a few weeks of each other, also got me thinking: How did my friends, so similar to me in so many ways, decide that they were ready for kids? What is this feeling that they both experienced, that I have not?

The concept of “feeling ready” to have a baby—and the idea that this feeling might, in some ways, be a myth—is complex. Even between my friends who are parents, there are so many conflicting opinions. Mystified and intrigued by so many different answers to the same question, I decided to create a survey, asking the parents of the Man Repeller community: How did you know you were ready to have kids?

Within those 400+ replies, there were a lot of complex feelings—opinions that shifted after birth, concerns that were validated, regrets, and overwhelming joy. Below, a selection of enlightening, thoughtful, and honest responses from the Man Repeller community.

Thoughts on What “Ready for a Baby” Feels Like

“If you think you’d be fine on your own as a single parent—whether you’re currently coupled up or not—you’re ready.”

“Confidence that your self-worth is about who you are—not your social life, the cool events you go to, or what you look like.”

“Mostly the readiness to sacrifice, to take responsibility, and to step into the unknown.”

“I lived my childless life to the fullest. I moved abroad fresh out of college, I slept tons, I traveled whenever I could, I partied (which was important to me at the time), and I entertained friends and family constantly. Once I met my husband, we spent seven years doing much of the same. Once we had our son, we’d both reached a point where we wanted to live life at a slower pace, spend our time at home, and focus our attention on someone besides ourselves. (Though in hindsight, there was definitely too much attention on that new little baby and not enough on us!)”

“Knowing what severe sleep deprivation feels like, and being willing to give up all your wants for the foreseeable future.”

“I had mostly conquered the Saturday night FOMO that haunted me through my 20s and early 30s. I also married someone with whom I’d done a lot of work and therapy to get to a stable place.”

“My values shifted. Solitude, fun, and spontaneity became a little less urgent than wanting to know what parenting was like.”

“I was never that excited about having kids because I understood that it would be super challenging, and I try to avoid a lot of responsibility. I was more ready to have kids than I was keen on wanting them. I was ready to take it on, and I remain fully committed, but that didn’t come from any expectations of experiencing joy in parenting. You can’t use the hope for joy as your main motivator for parenting, because you still have to do the best job you can even if it makes you miserable and you hate it. Understanding that is how I understand being ready for kids.”

“Knowing that you want children in the long run. If you see your life with kids in it, then at some point… you just have to have them.”

“Wanting it more than not wanting it.”

On Whether “Feeling Ready” Is a Myth

“My best friend from childhood had a baby when she was 25, living in NYC. Twenty-five in New York felt like 16-and-pregnant everywhere else. Her mother-in-law told her that no matter when you have one, you are never ready for a baby. And I really think that’s true. I always wanted kids and was so eager to get pregnant, but when my daughter was here I wasn’t really ‘ready’ for any of it. So much of pregnancy and birth was a mystery to me, and even at 30 I had very few local friends who had kids. I felt alone in a way I had never felt before. So even though I felt ‘ready’ I don’t think I was any more ready than my friend had been five years earlier.”

“I thought I was, but boy, was I wrong. I had lots of experience working with kids. I have multiple related bachelor’s degrees, as well as a masters in a related social work field. Additionally, I was one of five kids and raised by a school teacher. Still, I had no clue just how hard it would be. There is no level of realistic ‘readiness’ in my opinion.”

“It’s not truly possible to be fully ready for motherhood. I think it’s often confused with excitement. I think it’s possible to be prepared, sure, in the sense of buying all the things. But ‘ready’ is just not possible, because once you’re actually a mom you realize there is so much more to it. It’s an ever-changing situation.”

“I personally knew I would never be fully ready for kids, so I just had to dive in. It was fucking scary. I was not excited to be pregnant because I was not confident I could be a good parent, even though I knew I wanted children.”

“I don’t think you can ever truly be ready for the emotional hurricane about to turn your life, body, and world upside down. But I would say that waiting is key. I had a fruitful and fun decade in my 20s, so now that I’m house-bound I don’t have any feelings of regret.”

“I never felt ‘ready’—I just felt that I wanted to extend the family I created with my husband. I was more a ‘want’ rather than a ‘being ready.’”

“I felt ready, but in actuality I was not. But, you manage! Blind confidence helped me get through a terrible pregnancy. You cannot understand how little you are ready until the babe is in your arms and you get to take them home from the hospital without so much as a test or questionnaire about being an actual parent.”

On How Feelings Shifted After Birth

“There’s a lot of mourning that comes with accepting motherhood. Letting go of what I had and what could’ve been was the only way I could be happy as a mother. I had a surprise kid while on birth control and had only two months to prepare for my daughter. I have a college degree, a career, and a village of support, so I decided I had the means to raise my daughter well, rather than putting her up for adoption. (Abortion wasn’t an option since she was so far along.) And then, I became a single mother a year ago and had to re-commit to being a mother again since my reality was substantially different from when I first made my decision. I didn’t know my ex was going to choose a typical millennial life over his daughter, but it happened and I had to adjust. It was way too late to be a factor of being ready, and more about willfully changing my mindset and constructing a reality I could live with.”

“One thing I naively did not realize was the constantness of it all. The baby is always there. And the baby always needs you. The closest thing to ‘free time’ is scrolling through Instagram one-handed at 4 a.m. while your baby is attached to your leaky boob.”

“I was surprised at how naturally caring for a child came to me once she arrived. I no longer really yearn to have nights out with friends, and when I do have the opportunity to go out, it feels more special. Financially, I have found alternatives to shopping and ways of treating myself—I use Rent the Runway instead of dropping $300 on a nice dress that I’ll wear once or twice, we stay in and cook a nice meal instead of going out, and I’ve learned to appreciate a lot of the ‘free’ amenities that the city offers, like libraries and parks.”

“Honestly? I felt guilty because it was hard, and I couldn’t believe that this was the new reality. I wanted out. I wanted a break. I dreamed of leaving the house to nip to the shops and instead checking into a hotel, taking a bath, and sleeping forever. I now know that those feelings are normal.”

“After giving birth I realized that ‘readiness’ was mostly referring to a mother’s ability to survive within a capitalist patriarchal society. For the most part, mothers still lack support in society, so readiness is really about having all the things that would allow a mother to continue to participate in society despite having kids. That is: steady employment or financial stability, a co-parent or a support network, ability to secure child care. Without these things, a mother’s ability to participate in society becomes negligible.”

“I realized after having our daughter that I wasn’t really ready at all! The expression ‘all the gear but no idea’ springs to mind. We were ready in the sense that we had all of the practical elements in place, but it’s difficult to put into words what a baby needs from you. And I mean on a constant cycle, all day, every day. I found it difficult to adjust to the fact I felt there was never any time for anything else apart from keeping the baby happy. I also felt (and still feel) deeply guilty about not really enjoying it.”

“I did a complete 360. I thought I had made a huge mistake and wasn’t supposed to be a mother. Having a newborn was the hardest experience ever.”

“The most shocking thing to me coming back from the hospital after having my son was not having the independence to say, ‘I’m going somewhere, I don’t know when I’ll be back.’ If you’re someone who is very independent and enjoys doing things out of the blue then it will take time to adjust. I feel horrible saying it, but it is the truth. However, I love my baby with all my heart, and even though it took a few months to adapt, I would not change it for anything in the world.”

On What They Wish They Knew Before Becoming Parents

“It took a while—we’re talking years—to settle into it. I didn’t even like being called a mom for a while because I had preconceived ideas of what a mom actually was. I’d tell myself that not everyone instantly loves parenthood, and you can come to love it incrementally. Also, I’d tell myself to enjoy the sweetness of the moment and stop worrying so much. I also read somewhere that comparison steals joy. It’s so true. Don’t get drawn into comparisons with other parents, pregnancies, and kids—resist it at all costs!”

“Take your time and don’t rush. Be ready, feel ready, as it is a tough job, but also a rewarding one, beyond what words can explain. If your biological clock is ticking, then I’ll say go for it—you won’t regret it, and you will become ready once the little one is there. That toothless smile is everything!”

“I wish I had kids sooner, but I’m glad I finished my degree first. I watched a friend do her degree with kids, and she didn’t get everything out of it that I was able to. I think you’ll never feel completely ‘ready,’ but I do think you have to feel confident you want kids. The one feeling you shouldn’t ignore is the feeling you might not want kids at all.”

“Don’t focus so much on the material readiness. Instead you should travel, go out to eat, and spend time with your partner because your quality time spent together is going to help postpartum and solidify the bond as life partners through thick and thin.”

“I didn’t really come to grips with how my career would be put on complete pause. Unless you can afford a good daycare or babysitter, it really slows things down. My twin boys weren’t planned but I did have seven months, then one month in the hospital to get mentally ready before giving birth. That said, even if you’re ready financially, maybe you might not be emotionally. It’s a ride regardless. Awesome ups and downs.”

“My pre-baby self was very optimistic and naive about the ability of a mother being able to pursue a career, other interests, and hobbies after having kids. I would tell my pre-baby self that it’s going to be a lot harder than you think and that you’re going to have to work a lot more than you think in order to be able to ‘do it all.’”

“Save more. Losing my job while pregnant and then husband getting laid-off has been a little stressful, but it did lead to me setting up my own business. You’re never ready—it’s all so unknown: emotionally, physically, financially, and romantically (it can be a bust on your sex life.)”

“It’s not about being prepared, it’s about being available. New things happen everyday that you can’t prepare for—you just need to be available to attend to them.”

Graphic by Lorenza Centi.

Gyan Yankovich

Gyan Yankovich is the Managing Editor at Man Repeller.

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