More and more couples are deciding to wait to have kids much longer than their parents and grandparents did. This generational gravitation towards pacing oneself is smart, according to experts. While there’s absolutely nothing wrong with getting married and hopping on the new-parent bandwagon right away, there are many benefits to taking some time to simply be a married couple—and tackling a few things to do before having a baby. “Once married, many couples may feel the need to reach certain tangible goals before having a baby, such as buying their own home or saving a certain amount of money,” says Michele Moore, licensed professional counselor, certified coach, and relationship expert at Marriage Mojo. “Other reasons include wanting to achieve personal aspirations, such as completing additional education or even traveling cross-country or internationally before settling down, and simply enjoying young adult experiences before committing to the stable and predictable home life that parenthood typically requires.”
There’s no denying that having children changes you as a person, but what many couples don’t realize is that it changes you as a couple too. That’s why relationship experts recommend that all couples take the time to do some important things as a family of two before becoming a family of three (or more!).
Here are their best recommendations when it comes to things couples should do before having baby.
Travel to faraway or adventurous destinations.
This is one beloved activity that will be pretty difficult to do during those first few years of parenthood. Traveling is simply much easier without kids—especially traveling abroad. So if hiking the Appalachian Trail for two months is on your bucket list, Moore says now is the time to do it! “Having kids won't necessarily put an end to your wanderlust, but your sojourns will likely be cut short, at least for a few years,” she says.
Have the money conversation.
While it might not be a favorite topic of discussion, going over your finances, as well as your saving and spending habits, is a wise idea before having a baby. “Money is one of the leading causes of divorce, so it's important to get on the same page about your financial goals and just how much money a baby will cost (hint: a lot),” says Moore. “With so many dual-income couples these days, it's also worth talking about your expectations in terms of who will stay home with the children (if that's an option or even a desire).” And if childcare is the right option for you, don’t forget that it costs—a lot. Planning for the financial weight brought on by a new baby before your little bundle arrives (or is even in the picture) is only helpful.
Work on building a strong respect and sense of teamwork.
Having an in-it-together mentality goes a long way when you’re making important decisions about your child, even before he or she arrives. Handling the stress of feeding, changing, and caring for your baby will require a team effort. “It is important to work on these skills and tools for how you as a couple will handle the real symptoms of sleep deprivation so that it doesn’t create an environment of irritation and conflict,” says Dana McNeil, a marriage counselor in San Diego, California.
Check in with each other daily.
One of the tools McNeil teaches her clients to utilize when they come to couples therapy as new parents is how to have a stress-reducing conversation. This involves setting aside a mere 20 minutes a day to process the events and frustrations brought on in the last 12 or so hours and talking things through. “Each partner spends about 10 minutes talking, and during that time their partner is not solving their problem, but listening for understanding to share emotions and express support,” McNeil explains. “Having your partner connect with you emotionally about the frustrations, worries, anxieties, and stressors you are experiencing and showing genuine empathy and support will go a long way to ease the transition to becoming parents.” You can also download an app like Lasting to work on your communication skills and build your relationship.
Commit to regular date nights.
You and your partner might go on frequent dates now, but after having a baby, you might find it hard to find the time (or a sitter!). But don’t stop dating! Even if you can’t go out to a candlelit dinner, you can amp up the romance at home by letting your partner know that you appreciate them and are still attracted to them, flirting with them, and reminding them that you deeply desire them, explains McNeil. “Getting in the habit of having conversations before baby comes about your worries, fears, and concerns about how you will work as a couple to keep your intimacy alive is important and bonding work to do as a couple,” she says.
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