By Mandy Loh

In our frenetic, fast-paced world, our lives are jam-packed with work, relationship commitments and social activities, all competing for our time and attention.


It’s not that surprising, therefore, that many couples nowadays wonder if they would be able to manage when a cradle is thrown into the mix. However, all it takes is some mental preparation and discussion to sort out many of these issues.


Consider Your Life Priorities
A good first step is to discuss with your spouse your life priorities. Are career goals or other commitments taking up all your time currently?


Could they merely be an excuse to delay having children because you have other hidden fears/concerns? A heart-to-heart discussion about whether both of you want children, and are ready for children, would help to crystallize your thoughts on this issue.


Says Centre Manager and Senior Counsellor of Care Corner Counselling Centre, Mr Jonathan Siew, “I think it is always good, first, to talk openly about the ‘why’ behind ‘I want to have a child’ or ‘let’s not have a child’. Usually there’s a valid reason behind it and both partners should learn to listen to each other carefully and respect the way the spouse feels. After understanding the “why”, they can work together to deal with any fears or psychological blockage.”


He adds, “For example, if there are concerns that having a child would hinder career development or affect current lifestyle, a couple should explore making adjustments together as a team to accommodate the joy of parenthood. Once having children is deemed a priority for both of you, you will make the effort to find quality time for your child amidst a hectic lifestyle.


Consider Your Childcare Options
After you have decided to start a family, the next major topic of discussion would be childcare arrangements. This could be one of the more difficult decisions for parents-to-be or new parents, with many considerations coming into play.


A few factors to consider would be the current financial situation, personal expectations of parenthood, and the availability of quality alternative care. Some mothers choose to return to work even if it is possible to maintain the desired lifestyle on a single income, because both parents enjoy their careers. Other couples might have a preference for one party to stay at home with the child, but have reservations due to a loss of income.


Here are a few helpful questions to guide you in this decision-making process:


1) Are you able to afford it?
If one parent stops work, would it just mean having to cut back on luxuries and extras, or would it create an unsustainable situation where basic needs would be compromised?


2) Which full time role would suit you best?
Are you at your best at home with the baby? If staying at home with your child makes you stressed, frustrated or bored, it might not be the healthiest or best option for you or your child.


3) Can you find someone whom you are comfortable with, to take care of your child?
If you have to leave your child with a caregiver for most of the working day, it is important to have peace of mind that your child is in good hands. For most parents, grandparents or other relatives will be the ideal choice, if they are available and willing to do so.


What happens, though, when a couple cannot agree on this matter?

Jonathan believes that “these major issues should be discussed before having a child. If the couple cannot reach a concurrence on the arrangement or find a win-win solution, it is best to put the plan of starting a family on hold. As in managing any differences, the couple should focus on understanding the needs and worries of each other,and work together to find alternatives.”


He highlighted the need to empathise with each other, and look beyond the impasse: “For example, if the husband insists that the wife should stay at home to look after the baby, and that their financial situation allows it, but the wife prefers to continue working, it is important to understand the concerns and needs behind each person’s preference. The husband, in this instance may be concerned about the upbringing of the child and may not trust anyone other than his wife.”


“On the other hand, the wife may want to have a job because she is concerned that she may not be able to cope with staying at home with the child the whole day. Furthermore, her career could be part of her identity, and she is not willing to give that up. She may also be concerned about financial instability should her husband be retrenched one day.”


“Having the patience to listen to and acknowledge each other’s views would allow both parties to better appreciate each other.”


There is no perfect solution, only one that is in line with the desired lifestyle and values. As long as the issue has been discussed constructively to reach a well-informed decision, both parties should have the confidence to push ahead in the agreed direction.


At the end of the day, addressing differences requires a positive attitude to embrace alternative perspectives and solutions.


I Love Children would like to acknowledge and thank Mr Jonathan Siew, Centre Manager cum Senior Counsellor of Care Corner Counselling Centre, for his contributions towards this article.


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