Is there a right time to start trying for a baby? This is a question that couples often discuss in their “family timeline.” The factors of finances and being old enough to be ready are often discussed. There is more to making this life-changing decision.
Military families have unique obstacles and challenges to planning a family. Moving can happen on short notice, deployments change the family dynamic and structure at home, and depending on where you live there may be little to no support from a network of family or friends. Weighing all of these challenges are additional logistics to consider. It doesn’t mean you can’t have a family.
This means different things for different families. For some, it means totally paying off all debt. But for some that isn’t a feasible goal – that school loans will be present for 15 years, so paying that off means they will be 40 when they start to have children. For some, it means having a financial buffer so that one parent can take off work for a period of time with a newborn, and there may or may not be maternity/paternity leave.
This may also mean your job or your partner’s job is in a place where you feel you are financially ready to support a job change or children. Perhaps you have a specific financial goal, or a certain savings amount in mind – like an emergency fund of two- or three-month savings as a financial buffer.
There are resources on your military installation that can help you shape goals and budgets for children if specific financial goals are in mind before having children. On Navy and Marine Corps bases, the Navy Marine Relief Society can provide budget guidance. The Fleet and Family Support Center on Army bases provides workshops and classes on budgets and finances. On Air Force Bases, the Airmen and Family Readiness Center (AFRC)s off financial education, readiness, and budgeting classes.
Having children is an emotional endeavor. When you are in a committed relationship with your partner and have reached “that stage,” you may be in an emotional state of readiness. If your partner and you continue to think about and feel ready to be parents, and are concerned about regretting not having children – you may be emotionally ready. Emotional readiness is not something you can evaluate in one moment. There also isn’t a timeline for how long you have to feel ready. Have a conversation with your partner – if you both are feeling emotionally ready then decide together when you want to check in again to see if you are ready. Being a parent is a journey of ups and downs like a roller coaster – starting off with the same goals will help the journey go as smoothly as possible.
Before embarking on the journey of parenthood – ensure that you are both healthy. Before pregnancy, IVF or adoption, getting an annual exam from your medical provider will ensure you are up to date on preventative medicine exams. These exams can help you manage chronic conditions that may change with pregnancy or children. Whoever coined the phrase sleep like a baby was just plain wrong. Newborns are up several times in the night, sometimes for several hours. The lack of sleep can lead to frazzled emotions. Being at your optimal health can help you weather the storm of sleepiness nights and colic.
This one may never be perfect for a military family. In the civilian world, families often live near their parents or extended family which can provide an extended network of support. This is especially important after a baby is born to both support the parents and the child as they grow. If there are not military installations near family, it may not be possible for a military family to be stationed there – much less time it during a pregnancy or birth.
While being near family is not usually feasible for the military family, most military families are in the same situation. This creates a unique network that understands what it is like to parent alone and may be ready and willing to help with meal assistance, babysitting or even helping to clean house to help out.
Living overseas can be a frightening concept for some. While it is daunting, there is medical care provided by the military which usually means you are receiving care in a language you are familiar with and understand. The overseas community is a tight network due to being in similar situations – far away from family. While it may seem like you would have less support from others while overseas, the reality may be the opposite.
So, while being “geographically ready” may be a goal – don’t make this a deal breaker.
The truth is there is no perfect time. Having a family and what that looks like is different for each family. There isn’t a way to perfectly plan or predict it. What you can do is plan ahead as much as possible. Ensure you have financial resources in place to support a child, time off from work, and any support you may need. And here is the honest truth – no one is ever 100% ready or prepared, but military families know how to go with the flow! Any pre-planning that can help and will make that process a bit smoother.