Some choices (Paper or plastic? Coffee or espresso? "The X Factor" or "The Voice"?) are easy. But some, like when to have a baby, can be more of a challenge.
"When my husband, Bret, and I started to discuss having a baby, we lived in California, while my family was back on the East Coast," says Caley Bowman, 32, a marketing manager in Asheville, N.C. "I wasn't sure I wanted to be so far away from them. Plus, I'm really active and didn't know if I was ready to give up my lifestyle. Then there were the finances to consider. Could we afford it?"
Caley and Bret mulled parenthood for months before finally deciding they were ready. Some couples struggle with the idea even longer. "So many factors go into the decision, and it's different for every couple," says Lisa Mazzullo, MD, assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine.
How do you know? If you can answer "yes" to these four questions, you might be more prepared than you realize.
1. Is your relationship healthy? Or, if you're single, do you have a strong support system? "Healthy does not mean perfect," says Mazzullo. But you should be able to communicate well, have mutual respect for each other, and share tasks well. "Any stress that a couple has around money, sex, or family should be dealt with before getting pregnant," she says.
2. Are you ready to focus outside of your career? Even though men can shift their priorities once a baby is in the picture, women face more challenges, including the physical ones of pregnancy (fatigue and physical strain), as well as possible guilt surrounding the decision whether to keep working. "Couples need to decide together what the plan will be -- if someone will quit working or if they'll seek child care outside the home," says Mazzullo. "It can be an emotional decision, so it's better to make it before you get pregnant."
3. Do you know the maternity/paternity policy at work? Every company is different, says Mazzullo, and you need to make sure you have a plan in place, whether it's saving up vacation time, using short-term disability, or saving your pennies and taking unpaid time off for the first few months of your baby's life.
4. Are you financially ready? "This doesn't mean you have to have a five-bedroom house, two cars, and all your credit cards paid off," says Mazzullo. "But you should have enough disposable income to comfortably afford the basics: diapers, child care, medical expenses."
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