I write this as a Dad with a newborn that is about two months old.
I’m writing this while going through the newborn stage because I’ll likely forget how this felt a few years later because of hormones. Forgetfulness is why you hear a surface level yeah it’s hard but it’s so worth it type of talk from other parents.
You won’t hear about regrets on TV. You’ll seldom hear a guy say — I became depressed. There’s an unspoken taboo about sharing raw emotions for the fear of being judged as a bad parent.
I won’t sugarcoat my experience.
Parenting a newborn is one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. I write this to my younger-self because while this advice might be right for me, it’s not right for others.
I do realize that on a world scale, this advice isn’t sustainable and would lead to a population crisis.
I cannot imagine how difficult it would be to have a child without financial security. There are unforeseen costs that come with children.
If the pregnancy isn’t smooth, you’ll need more medical visits. Without a great insurance plan, childbirth is expensive.
After your newborn arrives, you have diapers, baby formula, and baby clothes to purchase.
Hopefully you have a good paternity / maternity leave policy at work so that you can solely focus on taking care of the newborn without having to juggle work the first several weeks. I took 3 weeks off and still felt that wasn’t enough. I now understand why Europe gives months off to mothers.
Then there’s sleep deprivation. If you don’t have extended family that can watch the baby at night for you, be prepared for exhausting days where you and your partner juggle shifts watching the newborn. Nuclear family doesn’t seem so great when it’s just you and your partner handling life and the newborn.
Money can buy happiness in the newborn stage. You can improve sleep deprivation by hiring a night nurse. It’s expensive but it might be the difference between you reaching your breaking point and becoming depressed. For me personally, it got me out of the pull towards depression.
Finally — God forbid your kid gets sick and you need medication and more doctor visits. Now you need to take time off work to do that but work threatens to fire you. You get fired, take care of your kid, but then can’t pay your monthly rent. I don’t need to continue this funnel of horror.
The point is this — if you live paycheck to paycheck, fix that first before having kids. Kids will add financial stress. Save up enough so you can live for at least half a year without income.
When you’re going through long night shifts with your kid and your patience is wearing thin due to a lack of sleep, the last thing you want to think about is how to pay the next month’s rent or how you’ll be able to afford the next powered can of baby formula.
Do you truly want to be a parent?
If you don’t like your job, you can quit and find another. If you’re underwater in business, you can cut your losses and declare bankruptcy. If you don’t like where you live, you can move. When your child is born, there is no quitting.
When you’re done with work, you can go home and forget about work. There are no off-hours with babies. You are ALWAYS on the clock.
To bring a child to life and become a parent is the most serious decision you’ll make. Treating it as anything less has kicked a lot of folks in the ass.
Ask yourself why you want to become a parent. There are right and wrong reasons.
A wrong reason is because your parents want a grandchild and they are pressuring or shaming you into it.
A wrong reason is because your religion pressures you into populating the world or else you’re unworthy. A wrong reason is because your friends and siblings are doing it and they are pressuring you into it.
Religion won’t take over for you at 2 am when your baby is crying and you’re not sure why. It won’t be there when you’d give anything just to have someone take over for a couple of hours so that you can sleep. It won’t be there to soothe you or your kid when the entire family is sick and everyone is coughing.
Will friends be there to watch the baby every single day while you’re at work? No. Parents might be there for the first few months — and then what? You and your partner are on your own.
The decision to have children must be yours. If your partner doesn’t want kids and you do, that’s a whole other can of worms that leads to a bad outcome if you go forward with having kids.
So how do you know if you really want kids? It sounds corny but you need to listen to the whispers of your heart and gut. The desire needs to be intrinsic.
The hard part is hearing the whispers of your gut without those whispers being drowned out by what parents, religion, and friends force upon you. That’s where having time alone to reflect comes in handy. A solid psychedelic trip and introspection help too.
Do you feel your life just won’t be complete without bringing a child into this world and raising them?
Do you feel you’ll regret not having children and raising them to be capable adults?
If the answer is yes, then having children might be right for you.
Is your relationship solid?
If I didn’t have a solid partner in my life to share parental duties with, I’d be in deep trouble.
Having a baby together will not improve a relationship that is already poor.
Do not have children in the hopes that it will save your relationship. It 100% won’t. It will only amplify any conflicts you previously had in your relationship and break them open.
The first few weeks with a newborn will test your patience to the edge of it’s breaking point. As you and your partner take shifts to watch the baby, you’ll be walking zombies for weeks. You’ll be living in survival mode.
That means if you were able to walk on eggshells with your partner before in order to save the relationship, those eggshells will be crushed. From the stress, you’ll have less patience and a short temper. There will be moments you’ll say hasty words and come back a few hours later and say — I’m sorry, I was just frustrated and very tired when I said that.
If you’re already in a bad relationship and tuned out the whispers of your gut telling you to get out of this relationship a long time ago, you’re in for a world of hurt. You now have to juggle the pains of a newborn and your partner.
At best, you’ll stay together and resent each other. Your kid will know it. The other choice is to break apart quickly and now you’re both single parents. One thing is for sure, you’ll think back and ask — why the hell did I decide to have a child with this person.
Read anonymous experiences from real parents
You can ask parents that you know about their experience with parenthood but it’s rare to hear the raw truth. You won’t hear things like — I don’t know if I’d do it again. Or how about — my life has never been the same and I’m depressed. Or how about — it caused my divorce. You’ll mostly hear It’s hard but oh my god, it’s so worth it.
No parent wants to open up for the fear they’ll be called a bad parent — Jeez, what will my friends think of me?
To get the real-deal, you gotta go online where parents talk about their experiences anonymously.
That’s where Reddit comes in.
r/beyondthebump - excellent discussions about the challenges of newborns and toddlers.
r/oneanddone/ - A group of parents who planned to only have one child. It’s great for understanding the challenges of having multiple kids.
r/regretfulparents - You’ll never hear these stories told face to face but you’ll be surprised by how many parents find themselves in a very dark place. It’s a worthwhile read to at least understand the challenges that can come with having children.
r/childfree - It’s a community of folks who specifically chose not to have kids.
These communities have helped me navigate my own mental challenges after having a newborn. It’s a good place to connect with people who also share your struggles. Seeing that some folks have it far worse than me gives me gratitude for the good things that I already have.
You have one life to live. Live it purposefully. If you want kids, have them purposefully. Don’t get pressured into it. Read about parenting experiences from others. Don’t go into parenthood accidentally. Once you’re in it, you can’t undo it. You, your partner, and your child deserve the best from each other.