8 Conversations You Need to Have Before You Have Kids
You know your partner’s coffee order, their most embarrassing memory and the weird sounds they make when they sleep. But you’re about to find out a whole lot of new things about them when you bring baby home. That’s because adding someone new to your family will change your relationship dynamics in ways you can’t anticipate. But the best way to prepare for the unexpected is to start having the hard conversations now. Not only are you not being interrupted by a wailing infant (yet), but you’re rehearsing how to communicate when situations get tense. Here, real couples share the conversations they recommend any parents-to-be have before baby arrives.
Sophie, a mom of three in Brookline, MA, found it helpful to talk with her husband about what she liked—and didn’t like—about her own childhood, and encouraged him to do the same. This method helped them align on things like family size, vacations and parenting styles. “It’s easy to get so caught up in the minutiae of parenting, especially when kids are babies,” notes Sophie. “But taking the long view could help us focus on what mattered: Both of us wanted to raise our kids in a happy, loving home. When you’re aligned on that goal, stuff like sleep schedules matters less,” Sophie says. “It also helped us to know where the other person was coming from when we did disagree, which made it easier to see the other person’s perspective and have a conversation instead of an argument.”
Gloria, currently pregnant and due to give birth in 10 weeks, had been with her partner for five years. But as globetrotting digital nomads—the pair is currently based in Costa Rica—she wishes they had spent more time talking about what their family would look like once the baby was here. “Vaccines, co-sleeping, childcare…now that it’s real, we’re on very different ends of the spectrum,” says Gloria. “We talked about it in the abstract, but I wish we would have gotten on the same page before we had gotten pregnant.”
“We had no idea how pricey childcare would be,” says Erin, a San Francisco-based mom of a toddler. “I would definitely tell couples to budget out childcare and have a plan.” One thing to remember: Expensive childcare is temporary. Erin notes that she has friends who stopped working because their paycheck would only cover childcare costs. “Even if that’s the case, I think it’s a good time to talk about how you both see money and what your financial goals are as a couple,” says Erin, adding that this might mean thinking of paying for childcare as a long-term career investment. “I’m glad we never saw childcare as a responsibility that my paycheck should cover and that we were able to tweak our budget so we could cover childcare.”
If you and your partner are married, you may have already navigated conversations about faith prior to your wedding. But these discussions can take on even more meaning once kids are involved. “I’m Catholic, and my husband is Muslim,” says Jenna, a mom of two in Scarsdale, NY. “We talked about how and whether we would raise the kids in any faith. In our conversations, we both realized we had some ambivalence about our religious backgrounds. We think we may choose to raise our children with faith as they get older—they are both young elementary school now—but I’m glad we decided that not making a decision is a decision.”
It’s not uncommon for one parent to shoulder most of the burden of childcare, especially if one parent is staying at home. Talk through divisions of responsibility prior to having a baby, suggests Helen, a Queens, NY-based mom of a toddler. “I always tell friends to talk with their partner about a fair division of labor. Just because one partner is going into work doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be helping with overnights. Being with a baby all day is exhausting, and it is work.”
“For us, it was getting on the same page that we were a team. We knew problems would come up, but we decided that we would have a problem. We wouldn’t be a problem,” says Vanessa, a mom of two in Bound Brook, NJ. “It sounds simple, but getting aligned on goals made it easier to work together, instead of against each other when things came up.” To that end, Vanessa and her husband read a few parenting books when they were expecting their baby, and also had conversations about relationship communication styles. She adds that it was helpful for them to anticipate that hard times were one element of parenting and decide early on that they would be on the same team and tackle communication challenges together.
Stress, a lack of sleep and two points of view can set the stage for a rocky period in your relationship that can be hard to anticipate. Joanne, a mom of one in New York, NY, says she’s glad she and her husband began seeing a couples therapist prior to their wedding, who they turned to during their pregnancy and early parenting as well. “Being with another person is hard,” says Joanne. “Sometimes, you need a neutral third-party to help you navigate things that come up. And it can be a lot easier if you already have a relationship with a counselor or therapist you both trust.” Talking through what-ifs while you’re expecting, such as postpartum depression, a child with medical challenges or pushy grandparents can not only help you anticipate potential bumps in the road, but allow you to develop a loose plan of how you’ll handle them.
Fussy newborns, picky toddlers, months-long daycare waiting lists—there are a lot of challenges that will be outside of your control. But one thing you can align on before you bring baby home is how you’ll protect your family. With State Farm®, you can connect with a dedicated agent who will help you choose the insurance plan that makes the most sense for your growing family. While you can’t control the future, it’s reassuring to know you’ve got the support you need.