I had my first daughter when I was in my early 20s. I was a single father soon after that. In short, I was catapulted into the world of being a parent when I was still pretty darn young myself. I love my family, and I wouldn’t take it back for the whole world. However, if I was being honest with myself, there are a lot of things I should have done before I had kids.
There’s the selfish side of the coin, wishing that I could have traveled more when I was young for example. Most of the things I wish I could have accomplished before my kids came along are things that would make their lives better, too. Taking the time to be prepared for a baby means preparing to support them the way they need to be, both emotionally and financially. If I could go back in time, here are some of the things I would accomplish before I had a baby.
I love spending time with my kid. However, we have never been able to travel farther than about a six hour drive away due to not being able to get enough time off work or not having enough to spend on a trip.
It’s not selfish to want to have other experiences before having children. Travel, or the general ability to go and do things, will make you a more rounded and interesting person. When you have kids, even a trip to the grocery store becomes a full production. I'm sure that many parents wish they would have taken some time to do some things before having kids.
Kids are expensive, there is just no way around that. We can talk until we're blue in the face about spending less money on kids, but we won’t ever be able to talk about not spending any money at all.
Just out of graduation with a child, I was predictably flat broke. Money can’t buy happiness, but there are a billion ways that having money makes being a parent easier, which means your child has a better foundation to start from. There are big things, like if I had been more financially ready I wouldn’t have had to move so many times with my daughter. Then there are little things too, like if I had more money, I wouldn’t have to buy the diapers that were so cheap but fell apart and made my life miserable.
It can be difficult to define “when” you are financially ready to have kids. In hindsight, I would have made sure that I had paid off my student loans at least half-way and saved up six months-worth of an emergency fund. Currently, I can’t afford to pay much more than my minimum payment on my student loans. At this rate, I will have my own children in college before I pay them off. My lack of an emergency fund has burned me time and time again, and it’s much more difficult to build up that emergency fund when I have the constant expenses of my children.
Not every potential parent should go out and buy a house and a big car just because they think they will need them when the baby comes. But for me personally, I wish that I would have been able to purchase those things before the baby came.
When my daughter was born, I realized that my very small car made it difficult to get a car seat in and out. If I had taken the time to make sure I could afford the right vehicle, I could have saved so much money and stress later.
Buying a house would have been the right decision for me, but it took me five years after becoming a parent to be able to do that. For some people, renting is a perfectly good option. But in my area, there are a lot more options for buying than renting and a mortgage will cost much less than monthly rent. If I had been able to buy a house before my daughter came along, I would have a ton of equity built up in my house by now.
There are lots of ways to know whether you are ready to be a parent, and sometimes we just become parents whether we are ready or not. My family is full of love and laughter, and I wouldn’t change that for the world.