When I was engaged, my husband and I went through premarital counseling. It sure was helpful, but even without a trained professional, there were countless books out there to help couples get questions answered and topics to discuss in preparation of marriage. My husband and I did one of these question books and it really helped us communicate efficiently because as a verbal processor, I could discuss these ideas forever feeling closer and closer with my husband, but for him, it was helpful to have a limited time and structure so he could be fully present and have a guide.
More recently, however, as someone now with a baby on the way, I realized that there aren’t really any books out there regarding questions couples should/could answer together and talk through to better prepare for parenting together. Knowing how helpful the premarital questions were to us as a couple, I set out on a journey to create a comprehensive list of pre-baby having questions for couples.
I want to be clear that while I believe I have created the most comprehensive list I have ever seen, a few of these discussion points and questions I found through magazine articles or blogs, some I found through other internet articles. None of this is mean to plagerize, but rather help couples by having a comprehensive list to discusssion. (I have done my best to cite sources at the end of this post).
As a couples therapist, I know full well that this huge (literally for her) transition: pregnancy, loss of freedom, infant care, loss of sex life, and parenting can be a really difficult time for couples. The questions and topics can seem endless and overwhelming, so it’s OK if you don’t immediately know where you stand. Remember that it will probably take some time—perhaps even a lifetime—before you know where you stand on absolutely everything, You don’t need to agree on everything, but you should try to agree on most things. Try and tackle each issue as a team, when you have the time and energy to really listen to your partner’s point of view. This is not meant to be an argument with winner and loser; it’s a meeting of minds so that, once the baby arrives and you are running on four hours of sleep and haven’t showered in days, you and your partner can rely on a common front. Take the time to honestly discuss the questions below and so you are united in parenting and how you will teach what is good.
Last note before you begin: I hope this will be a helpful adventure for you two as a couple. Two important notes: 1) If you already have a baby, it’s not too late. Start talking now! It could still be a great practice to go through these questions. It’s never too late to find common ground. 2) If you have a question you just can’t reach a common front, I would encourage that if it’s really important to you or will cause you stress in the marriage, that you seek out counseling to help talk through it with a professional. Let me know if I can help you find someone to work with.
So here is the list of questions to go through. Some will take longer, some will be quick so maybe try to do between 1 and 3 questions at a given time.
1. Why do you want kids in the first place? Do you know why your partner wants kids? What is my primary goal in raising children? What are some of the secondary goals? Why now? Is one of you on the fence about a baby? Which do you think would make you happier — going out to eat with or without our child, and why?
There’s no right or wrong answer, but it’s essential to be on the same page about what you value, how you’ve already grown as a couple and why you both feel that it’s baby time.
The clearer you can get about your reasons for having children, the better. Dr. Gretchen Slover, Psy.D., licensed marriage and family therapist, told me, “Of course everyone wants to have children for the same reason, right? How many reasons can there be? The answer — many. In reality, not aligning with the same reasons to have children can cause the children and you grief in the future.” She said that often, expectant parents want children to heal their own wounds from childhood or to make up for things they missed out on as kids. She told me, “One parent may want children to fulfill their need to be loved because of past hurts, or to complete that imaginary white picket fence scenario, while you want children to carry on the family name and to raise them to make up for how you were raised. Having this discussion can help alleviate some of the future parenting obstacles that are in store for you.”
2. Are you ready to add another person (aka an amazing little human) into your family?
3. What is your understanding of co-parenting? What does it look like to you?
Which phrase best describes your role as parents:
- Establishing proper connections for our children
- Educating our children to be successful
- Nurturing our children’s heart
- Training our children in righteousness
- Being good friends with our children
Name five practical ways you want to accomplish this role.
Complete this statement: As a parent, I hope/wish that my partner will _____
4. Which statement best represents you? How will these beliefs affect day-to-day parenting?
- Practice makes perfect.
- Mistakes are opportunities to grow.
- Action is better than indecision. Act quickly, adjust as needed.
- Do what is expected. Excuses are not tolerated.
- Think before you act.
Raising children is one of the most difficult and most rewarding things you will ever do. Like all aspects of life, there will be moments of pure joy and feelings of elation as well as feelings of failure and moments where even the best plans need to be adjusted. Patiently standing with your spouse as you learn to parent together teaches your children more than just the process. It instills in them a deep sense of what is right and prepares them for many future relationships.
5. Did you do any babysitting growing up? How much? How did you like it? Would you like to do that forever? Exactly how much harder do you think is it to have kids than to have cats/a dog? How do you feel when you attend a baby shower?
6. Can you fart in front of one another?
I’m totally serious. I know couples that have been together for a long time (and some have kids) who don’t fart in front of each other. I’m not sure how or why they do it. I’ll let you in on a little secret: parenting is really, really gross sometimes. It starts in pregnancy, with the multitude of sounds and smells your body produces, rears its head in childbirth (see what I did there?) and keeps a steady pace for the next few years until you experience the joy that is potty training. There will be a day when your child poops in the bathtub and you have to find something to retrieve the turd, making a point to listen to the voice in your head saying, “Not your hand. Don’t use your hand. Don’t be a hero.” The time will come when you’ll have to decide who will clean the puke off the car seat, and you’ll have a legitimate argument about which one of you is most likely to vomit from the smell of vomit. See where I’m going with this? In the grand scheme of things, farts are the least of your concerns. You have to own the gross stuff in life and find the humor in it. The first rule of surviving parenthood is that you learn to laugh about the good, the bad, and the ugly — together.
7. How strong are we as a couple right now? On a scale of 1-10 how would you rank your general happiness, your communication, your commitment, your responsibility. How would you rank your partner’s?
Ashley Davis Bush, psychotherapist and author of 75 Habits for a Happy Marriage, says, “You need to feel that things are working, that you are close, that you handle things well together.” A baby won’t make anything easier, so be sure you work on solidifying your relationship first and foremost. “Often couples are feeling rocky and think that having a baby will bring them closer together,” Davis Bush says. “Not true. Having a baby can be a stressor on the relationship, so you have to start strong. If you start weak, things will only get worse.”
8. What is your wildest dream when you see yourself with your child? If a crystal ball could tell you the truth about the future kid, what would you want to know? Complete this sentence: I wish I had a kid with whom I could share ________ .
9. FOO questions: Who took care of you when you were sick? Who was home more? How did your parents arranged their work schedules and who took you to after-school programs? Were your parents overcautious? Did you grow up in a house with lots of yelling? What types of food did you eat? Did you have your own bedroom? Were you allowed to sleep in or did parents wake you up early on the weekends? How did you spend your extracurricular time? Did you go to stay away summer camp? Sleepovers?
Etc. Talking through your experiences will help inform the thousands of choices—on child care, discipline, religion, diet, hygiene, sleep and more—you’ll make in the trenches of parenthood.
10. More FOO Questions:
How would the class identity of our kid compare to the one you had growing up? How do you feel about meeting the expectations or disappointments that come with that? What difficulties from your own childhood are you, quietly, in the back of your mind, trying to fix by raising your child differently? Who is the person who strongly influenced your view about the reality of family life or parent-child relationships? What is the thing you most hope to replicate from your own upbringing?
11. How will you take care of your mental health? How might yall deal with post partum depression?
If either of you have any mental health issues such as anxiety, depression, substance use, or an eating disorder, it should be discussed before having children. Will you continue medication once pregnant? Are you in a mentally stable place to handle a child? What kind of support will be needed with the added stress of a child?”
Having kids is one of the most stressful things you can do, and you need to be prepared to handle any mental and emotional issues that will arise. If you currently have mental health issues, things become more complicated, with children. Discussing your needs and making a plan with your partner will help you be prepare for when your child comes. Your mental health concerns needn’t stop you from having children, but you should know what to do when symptoms arise so that they don’t affect your child or your relationship with your partner.
12. Do you travel well together?
It doesn’t get much more stressful than traveling. I don’t mean once you’re actually on vacation. I mean the art of getting ready, packed, parked, through security, and on the airplane before it takes off. Do you bite your partner’s head off about how you should have left 20 minutes earlier? Do you complain about everything from the weight of the luggage to the seemingly endless lines? Or are you the partner that runs to the airport Starbucks to grab food and coffee before either of you get to that point? Parenthood is stressful, and you have to build each other up, especially when times get tough. If you don’t travel well together, you probably aren’t going to do well when you’re both running on no sleep with a crying baby. If you’ve never flown together, try going to IKEA on a Saturday. If your relationship can make it through that, it can survive anything.
13. Are you both OK with your sex life being put on the back burner? How Much Sex do you imagine having? How long could you imagine us not having sex before you’d think something is wrong? What’s the longest you’d be OK going without sex with me?
I’m not saying you’ll never have sex again, but it will take a while before either of you lies in bed without immediately passing out. It takes time to adjust to your new roles as parent and spouse. Co-sleeping, nursing, and healing all take their toll on a sexual relationship. Turns out it’s not that easy to feel sexy when you’re not 100% sure when your last shower was. Luckily, intimacy and attraction can be expressed in infinite ways. Flirting, flowers, hugs, kisses, babysitting while partner takes a night out, buying partner booze for babysitting during your night out … As long as you’re open and honest with each other about your wants and needs, you’ll do fine. But having kids will put a serious damper on your do-it-like-rabbits-in-every-room-of-the-house ways. For about 18 years, give or take. I can only assume this is why Viagra was invented.
14. What are your greatest fears as a parent? What are fears you have for my children? How could these affect my parenting?
15. Are you happy to help?
told a story re: an exchange with his coworker, who was expecting his first
baby: Coworker: “Do you change diapers?”
Coworker: “Well, I’m not going to change diapers. That’s gross.”
Brandon: “Are you married?”
Brandon: “Well if you plan on staying married, believe me, you’ll change diapers.”
Teamwork is an essential part of parenting. And yes, I think taking turns changing poopy diapers is part of that. (Or knowing when it’s a two-person job, like when you have to change the diaper in the backseat of the car and someone needs to hold the damn bag.) A little reciprocity and communication go a long way. Take turns doing chores or split them up in a way that works for both of you. Be willing to ask for help and be happy to give it in return. I say “happy to help” because I think everyone should want to help their partner. You should help out of love, never out of resentment or obligation.
16. Now with that happy heart, How are the two of you going to split parenting duties? Will you both split everything or are there distinct Dad Duties and Mom Duties? Do you take turns waking up at 2 am (or 3 am or 4 am or 5 am…)? If you’re nursing, can he change all the diapers? If you go the formula route, do you take every other bottle, or divide the day into childcare shifts?
In some families, Mom changes all or most of the diapers, while Dad gives baths and reads bedtime stories. You’ll work out the details once baby arrives, but discussing beforehand how much each of you will be involved and can prevent burnout and disappointment in your partner’s level of involvement. You may want to just go with the flow or you might work better with a list of daily duties, such as who gets up with baby during the night (would a tag team approach be best or does one cover overnight but get to sleep late and nap when baby naps?). These issues may seem inconsequential now, but once you’re in full-on parenting mode, knowing what to expect from each other can get you through the day and avoid new-mom meltdowns. Waiting until you haven’t slept in six days to divvy up who’s gonna do what is a horrible idea.
True, this is the kind of thing that tends to work itself out, but you should have a sense of who does what.
17. If pregnancy screening reveals our baby has disabilities, what do we do?
The vast majority of babies are just fine, but what happens if a test during pregnancy reveals an abnormality? Would you consider terminating the pregnancy? If you decide to have the baby, can you financially and mentally handle caring for a child with a medical condition? Figuring out how you would handle this extremely sensitive situation could preserve your sanity — and relationship — if you’re faced with it.
18. What are your name deal breakers? What names do you think are awesome?
What last name will our kid/s have?
He may have his heart set on his son being His Exact Name Jr., while you think any child you push out should bear your last name. The goal is to lovingly compromise, of course — especially because no one wants to have that fight in the hospital. If one is adamantly against it, throw it out. You want to both be happy with what you name your child.
19. What kind of delivery do we want? Have you agreed on a birth plan?
A home birth in a tub may sound dreamy, but if he saw how it can all go to shit on Girls, it may be hospital or bust for any wife and child of his. Do your research, and present your case. Wherever you give birth, if the thought of seeing your in-laws while you’re in labor makes you want to remain childless forever, your husband needs to (politely) explain your wishes before grandparents barge in.
20. Will you circumcise a boy?
Is it a given that if you have a boy you’ll want to have his foreskin removed? A lot of dads want their sons to look just like them. Others want just the opposite, because it’s what they would have preferred had they been able to make the call for themselves. You can’t know what he expects until you ask, and there’s not much time to debate once the baby arrives — and has a penis. Although this has been a societal norm for years in the United States, the AAP does not feel the medical benefits of circumcision, including slightly lower risks of urinary tract infections, sexually transmitted infections, and foreskin infections, is sufficient evidence that all boys should undergo the surgery. The U.S. circumcision rate is currently on the decline. According to a health care data analysis from SDI Health, 56 percent of baby boys were circumcised in 2006, but only 32.5 percent were circumcised in 2009. This data does not include outpatient procedures such as circumcisions performed in doctor’s offices or at religious ceremonies. Many parents choose circumcision for religious or cultural reasons; others feel it is more hygienic or helps the baby to “look like Daddy.” Parents who decide against circumcision often don’t want their child to undergo the pain of an unnecessary surgery. Others believe the foreskin is needed to protect the tip of the penis and that it increases sexual pleasure, and state that teaching proper hygiene will lower their son’s risk of infections despite not being circumcised. If you don’t agree on this one, you may find you’ll have to fight it out. Sometimes Dad’s opinion carries more weight in this case because he’s got the goods and therefore may feel more strongly about the matter.
21. Should you bank your baby’s cord blood?
Wonder what all these cord blood bank commercials are all about? They can cause all kinds of emotional responses from hormonal moms-to-be. If you haven’t thought about the cord blood issue yet, you and your partner should do your research and decide if you want to pursue it. Mitchell S. Cairo, M.D., Chief of Pediatric Hematology, Oncology and Stem Cell Transplantation at Maria Fareri Children’s Hospital at Westchester Medical Center, says that there are two types of banking: private directed donor banking and public banking. With private banking, “the cord blood is processed and stored frozen to be only used by the donor or family member at the family’s discretion,” Dr. Cairo explains. With public banking, “the cord blood is donated by the family to be processed and frozen and will be used by bone marrow transplant physicians to treat other patients throughout the world and is no longer under the discretion or controlled by the family who donated it.”
Private banking is expensive, and is therefore recommended to families who have other siblings diagnosed with a disease treatable by sibling cord blood transplantation. Otherwise, if you’d like to bank cord blood, the AAP recommends the public donor route. The only downside to donating your baby’s cord blood is that sometimes the hospital requires the umbilical cord to be clamped and cut earlier. Recent research has suggested that waiting longer to cut the cord — a few minutes or until it stop pulsating — will allow your baby to receive more of the cord blood and crucial stem cells.
22. Will you breastfeed?
Speaking of baby duties, how do you plan to feed your child? Do you have an opinion on breastfeeding versus formula? This is often a decision that Mom ultimately makes, but Dad may have strong feelings about it too. You may wait until you’re expecting to come to a resolution, but learning a little about your options right now may help resolve any differing opinions. The AAP considers breast milk the best nutrition a child can receive in the first year of life. “We now know that nursing your child strengthens not only the quality of your relationship with her but also improves her health, enhances her brain development, and provides her with precisely the type of nourishment she needs at each critical stage of her development,” writes Joan Younger Meek, M.D., in The New Mother’s Guide to Breastfeeding. “Breast milk is such a rich, nourishing mixture that scientists have yet to identify all of its elements; no formula manufacturer has managed or will ever be able to fully replicate it.” Beyond medical reasons, the choice between breastfeeding and formula feeding may depend on whether you’re willing to commit the time and energy it takes to breastfeed and whether you’ll be able to pump during work if you’re not staying home with Baby. In January 2011, the Surgeon General launched a call to action to encourage breastfeeding support in the U.S., citing a study published in the journal Pediatrics that estimated that the nation would save $13 billion per year in health care and other costs if 90 percent of U.S. babies were exclusively breastfed for six months.
Whatever your decision, it’s worth doing thorough research to decide what’s best for your family. Bear in mind that, despite some moms’ best intentions to breastfeed, some women can’t do it or fail to produce enough milk.
How do you feel about Formula? Is one partner willing to take over a night feeding? Will you pump?
23. Will you use cloth diapers or disposables?
Since the invention of disposable diapers in the 1950s, a majority of parents in the United States have opted to forego yesteryear’s cloth-and-safety-pin approach. Now, new cloth diaper models are available (think snaps and Velcro along with fleece or biodegradable liners) and parents with green and/or economic initiatives are choosing cloth more frequently. Some people argue that the energy and water it takes to launder cloth diapers is equally as harmful to the environment as the energy used to manufacture and break down disposables in landfills. And for some parents, the potential green benefits don’t outweigh the convenience of disposables.
As for how much you could save financially if you chose cloth, Consumer Reports estimates that parents spend $1,500 to $2,000 on disposables per year. The cheapest form of cloth diapers, pre-folds, could run you under $300 total (washing and drying included), while more expensive models, all-in-ones available for $17 to $25 each, could cost around $800 to purchase and launder. Keep in mind, though, that cloth diapers can be reused on subsequent children.
24a. Should you co-sleep?
Opinions differ as to whether having a baby in bed with his parents is detrimental to his health, particularly if it reduces or increases the risk of SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome). On AskDrSears.com, renowned pediatrician William Sears, M.D., hypothesizes: “I believe that in most cases SIDS is a sleep disorder, primarily a disorder of arousal and breathing control during sleep. All the elements of natural mothering, especially breastfeeding and sharing sleep, benefit the infant’s breathing control and increase the mutual awareness between mother and infant so that their arousability is increased and the risk of SIDS decreased.”The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends against co-sleeping, which is sometimes termed “bed-sharing.” In a 2005 article in Pediatrics, it is stated that is “more hazardous than the infant sleeping on a separate sleep surface.”
Even beyond bed-sharing, you may want to discuss whether or not Baby will sleep in your room. Will she have a bassinet next to your bed, which can make night feedings and tending to her when she cries easier? Or will she have her own nursery so you and your partner can have a little privacy in the bedroom? If both of you desire to share your bed or your bedroom with your baby, you’ll need to pinpoint why it’s right for you. If one of you is for co-sleeping and the other against it, you’ll need to figure out who will give up the fight (or his side of the bed) before Baby arrives.
24b. Also, as child gets older, How do you feel about kids sleeping in our room — or bed? What age is the cut off? If you’re firmly against opening the bedroom door to kids and your partner’s on the fence about it, better to hash that out before you’re both desperate to get some rest.
25. How many children do you want? After having one child, What if trying to conceive in the future is challenging for us?
Cocharo says couples should also discuss the possibility of not getting pregnant right away, and how that may feel. So questions like, “How would you feel if we were unable to conceive?” or “How do you feel about adoption or surrogacy?” are important to talk about. “Infertility is a very stressful and challenging obstacle for many couples. Rather than silently hope you’ll be one of the lucky ones with no problems, discuss the importance of having more children ahead of time,” Cocharo says. “Ask each other about your openness to infertility treatments, as well as adoption or surrogacy. Assuming that your partner feels how you do, without discussion, is a recipe for disappointment and disaster down the road.” This one variable — number of kids — will have more impact on the dynamic of your family than almost anything else.
26a. What kind of childcare will we use? Do you both want to work? Is one of you going to stay home? do you want to send your child to daycare or are you more comfortable with an in-home nanny? Are both parents going back to work? Is one parent going to stay home? Ask the grandparents to take on a few days? Find a day care center?
Finding a situation you’re both comfortable with is key. If one parent is giving up their salary, discuss how you will make up for the loss in income. This financial shift will take some getting used to and you’ll need to adjust your budget, so communicate with each other openly. “I went back to work two months after my son was born, which meant that I needed to track down hard-to-find infant care. While an in-home nanny siphoned any income I made that year, the comfort of knowing that my son was safe and loved in our home was priceless.”
Try to anticipate conflicts before they arise. 26b. If your child is sick and both of you are working, who will stay home? . How did your parents divide parenting responsibilities (like sick days, snow days, or washing the dishes)? How would we want to change that? These can be volatile topics, rife with ingrained stereotypes on gender and division of labor, so it’s important to tackle these questions slowly, steadily and gently before getting pregnant.
If you both want or need jobs, leaving your baby with your retired mom might seem like a no-brainer. But is your husband hoping his mother would do the honors instead? Or is family too far away, so you’ll need a nanny or daycare? You gotta know what’s feasible, because the answer will likely need to become a new line item on your budget. Have you discussed whether one of you wants or needs to stay home with your child or if you’ll be using child care? This decision is sometimes driven by financial factors and sometimes by each individual’s passion for pursuing a career. Staying at home with a child can be just as tough as the corporate grind, even if you love what you’re doing. Take some time to talk over each of your ideal work/family balance scenarios and how you could achieve them. Remember — there’s no shame in deciding either to stay at home or to place a child in day care or with a babysitter. As long as the two of you are in agreement as to what’s best for the family, that’s all that matters.
27a. What lifestyle and SES are you expecting for your children? Do Brand names Matter? Fancy Vacations? Private lessons/education? Car when they are 16? Will you create a new budget together? How will you save for your child’s education and expenses?
Be clear and up front about this with one another.
Babies come with a magical power: They make your every nickel disappear. Cribs! Diapers! Postnatal care! A tricked-out Bugaboo stroller with a built-in Blu-ray player! These little creatures have the gall to ask for food too. Make a realistic financial plan and leave some leeway for the unexpected
27b. Set realistic short-, medium- and long-term
goals for your career and family lives, and revisit them as needed.
Few topics are as volatile as work and money—the top factors, says Seidel, in the breakdown of a relationship. Couples are much more likely to get divorced three or four years after having kids—in some cases, even earlier, she says. Be honest with yourself and your partner about your goals before getting pregnant. Example: “I never anticipated the amount of cleaning up after a baby and laundry I would be doing. It seems endless. Neither of us is really good at housework, so we both agreed that having a cleaning lady was a good idea,”
28. Is your home large enough for your family? Are you happy with your current home and set up? Baby proofing?
29. What language or languages will your child speak?
30. Will they be raised in a certain religion? How much religion will be in our kid’s life — and which one(s)? What values do you hope your children embody in their own lives? Prayers at dinner or before Bed? Sunday School? Summer Camps? Vacation Bible school? How will you set an example for them? Does this mean attending religious services, or living according to your own moral guidelines in any particular ways?
Just because your partner didn’t protest your childhood pastor officiating your wedding doesn’t mean he’ll be as blasé about his kid’s upbringing. Touch base on birth rituals (Baptism?) weekly worship, and celebrating holidays. If you practice different religions, plot out how you’ll explain your individual beliefs without slamming the other side.
31. How organic/vegan/earth-friendly are we going to go? If you’re a vegetarian, do you want to raise your child with the same dietary restrictions?
Breast milk, cloth diapers, and growing and blending your own baby food is just the beginning. If it’s important to one of you, it needs to be important to the other too. But if becoming an organic farmer isn’t as important as being a sane mom, tell him where you stand.
32. Where do you stand on sleep training? Which statement below best represents your beliefs? What are some of the pros and cons of this belief?
- Letting infants cry until they soothe themselves teaches independence.
- It is important to figure out what our children are telling us when they cry, then decide how to handle the situation.
- It is never okay to let our infants and toddlers cry.
Also, What will you do when a child wakes up at night (feedings, nightmares, bed wetting, sickness, habitual waking, storms, asking for a parent)?
33. What role do you see your parents playing in our lives after the baby is born? How much help do we want, for how long, and from whom if anyone other than grandparents?
Let’s say that Grandma and Grandpa want to stay in your home for eight weeks to “help.” Is that good news or bad news? How much will they influence your own style of parenting? How much is Grandma allowed to spoil them? Discipline them? Eager grandparents who want to move in for eight weeks to change every diaper can be a blessing or a curse. Decide how you much you’d want the help of either set of parents — before they start requesting off from work.
Just like you want to be a united front to your children, it is just as important to be united when talking to parents.
How frequently do you want them involved? How would you handle a situation in which your children’s grandparent disagreed, openly opposed or defied your parenting method(s)? How will you handle disagreements or conflicts with grandparents?
34. What about conflicts between the two of you? Different parenting strategies? When you reach an impasse, what do you do?
My technique? Bombard my husband with complex, important questions and expect an immediate answer. It has taken me years to learn that giving him space to think and come back with an answer is invariably the better way to go. In the heat of an argument, it can be hard to stay calm, so Seidel suggests approaching each topic as an attempt to understand your partner’s position. That means actively listening—not finishing each other’s sentences—and framing conflicts around how you feel, not about who’s right and who’s wrong. One brilliant mom friend of mine and her husband invented their own quirky technique: By standing or sitting in a certain spot of their house, they can gently signal that a conversation needs to happen, without conflict or confrontation.
35. Where are we raising our kids? If one gets the better job that would mean our family has to move, do you willingly follow, or will you resent the other?
One of you may want to trade the city for the suburbs before welcoming a kid. You both may want to live closer to one or both of your families once you start your own. No time like the present to ensure you’re seeing eye-to-eye on these quandaries.
36. What challenges do you think will arise if we are a multiracial family?
37. Who will be our kid’s guardian should something happen to us?
You may not want to think about the possibility, but securing your child’s future in writing will offer peace of mind.
38. How strict are we going to be? Which is more important to develop, obedience or responsibility? How do you plan to do this?
Kids learn from a shockingly early age which parent to ask to get their way. Chat about how tough a stance you’ll take on screen time, sugary treats, and all other kid vices — and how you’ll work to maintain a united front, especially when he or she tried to play one of you off of the other or manipulate or only ask the more lenient parent.
39. What is the difference between discipline, punishment, and redirection? Which do you plan to implement? When and how?
Why would I choose to punish or discipline my children? Why might I choose not to discipline or punish when my children display incorrect behaviors? If you ask 100 different people about the best theory on childhood discipline, you’ll probably get 100 different answers. What types of punishments are acceptable when it comes to kids-to-be? Time-outs? Spanking? You don’t have to nail down every scenario, but make sure you and your partner are in the same stratosphere.
Will you spank your children?
- If so, give three examples of times you would spank your children. Is there a time to refrain?
- If not, what methods would you use? When and how would you implement them?
Marriage and family therapist Chrissy Powers, herself a mom of two, says discipline is a must-discuss item. “Discipline is about so much more than just correction. We learned about discipline from our own parents, and as all married people know, each family is different. I wish that most people understood that discipline is more about the relationship with your child,” she says. “My husband and I have had to get on the same page with this, but it’s taken us four years to do so because we had different ideas of how to discipline. When bringing up the topic of discipline, I think a couple should discuss how they were disciplined as children and what they did and didn’t like about it.”
“It is very
important for parents to discuss the disciplinary techniques they will use
before they start
a family, and to come to an agreement, whether that be time-outs, grounding, taking away favorite things, sending children to their room, or spanking if it is one of their choices,” says Ron Mackey, author of Parenting: The Bottom Line.
Some doctors, psychologists, and pediatricians believe that spanking can have harmful side effects as a child grows up, possibly leading to violent behavior, slowing mental development, and hindering achievement. But those in the spanking camp believe that spanking (not beating) is an effective disciplinary tool because a gentle swat catches the child’s attention, provides a consequence, establishes that you are the parent, and lets them know that they are participating in unacceptable behavior,” Mackey says. He also cautions that bad behavior ending in a spanking should be explained to the child, so he can change the behavior, and that you should show affection and give reassurance of your love after spanking. Mackey calls this “training, correction, and discipline.”
According to Mackey, although most pediatricians are against spanking as a primary form of discipline, more than 53 percent believe that under certain circumstances it can be effective. It’s also worth noting that 74 percent of kids who were spanked when they were young say that they spank their own children.
Because presenting a united front is vital in disciplining, you’ll want to have your game plan hammered out by the time your little one needs it. This may mean reflecting on your own childhoods, researching a variety of methods, and figuring out how you’d like to approach behavior problems as a team. Discuss the tactics you’re OK with — and the ones you absolutely won’t use. For instance, the time to learn that your spouse thinks spanking is acceptable is not when your child’s belly-down on his lap.
40. What age should this stop? What do you imagine doing when you are very angry and feel like hitting? What’s an appropriate punishment or consequence for a child hitting you?
41. Will we send our child to public or private school?
What kind of school experience do you want for your kid, how much are you willing to pay for it and how will those (staggering) expenses change your financial options? How much will you sock away for college? If one of you insists on private school, does that mean that you, say, buy a smaller home?
The reason to have this talk sooner rather than later? It affects where you live and every single expense, because as your student loans never stop reminding you: Paying for education is freaking expensive.
42. We’re going to follow our pediatrician’s recommendations for immunization/ vaccination, right?
43. How will we handle any kind of coming out? When we learn the sex of our child, either before or after birth, what significance will that have for you? (And what impact might it have on our parenting?) Would you let our son go to kindergarten in a dress?
Might I suggest address this with love and acceptance? Even if you know as the mother or father of your kid, you will love them unconditionally, if he’s got older relatives who will shun a gay or trans grandkid, get on the same page about how you’d respond to that.
44. How will having this baby change you as a couple? How will we keep our relationship strong? How do we plan to say connected? How will we make time for our relationship after baby?
It’s effing impossible to be a happy parent if you’re on -edge (OK, maybe even miserable), because you and your partner are passing ships in the night, teaming up only to tackle spit-up, dirty diapers, and feedings. In the midst of acclimating to this whole parenting thing, you still need to have adult conversations — and some sex every now and again — to stay happily married. Tackle how you’ll keep the spark alive, whether through monthly date nights, a yearly weekend (or week!) away, or just an hour a day after bedtime for kid-free talk.
45. What does respecting the father look like in your house? Respecting the mother? If a mother or father are wrong, commit a sin, or lose their temper, should they apologize to a child? Ask for forgiveness?
46. Is “because I said so” an acceptable answer to a child when they ask for something?
47. What role does humor play in your family? Would you use it to diffuse tension, while disciplining, to make a point or teach a lesson, or purely as fun? Will we be the kind of family that can talk about farts?
48. How do you imagine a typical day with your children (routine, exploration, structure, spontaneity, indoor play, outdoor play, sports, music, drama, etc)?
49. What lifestyle standards do you have today that you have to keep, or you won’t be able to function? How would we accommodate those things, especially during the first few years? When does mom get a break? What does that look like? When does dad get a break? What does that look like?
50. If a crystal ball could tell one positive part of your child’s future environment and one negative part of his/her future world, what would you predict or want to know? How might you handle this?
We must consider the world in which our children might be raised.
51. Name four ways you want to have fun with your family. How will you balance family-centered time, children-centered time, and parent-centered time?
52. Which best describes how you will protect your children from negative influences:
- We will keep our children away from children and adults who believe differently than we do.
- We will ask and expect people with other beliefs to conform to our standards when around our children.
- We will be the referees as we expose our children to a variety of situations.
- We will be coaches on the sidelines, giving advice but not interrupting our children’s interactions.
- We will let our children learn from their own actions.
53. What activities or skills do you want your children to learn? What is your motivation for this? If they want to try something new and then want to quit, how quickly do you let them quit?
54. When, if ever, should you leave or cancel plans on account of your children (i.e. throwing a fit, tired, poor influences, exposure to drugs/alcohol, your child’s aggressive behavior, another child’s aggression, exposure to the cold, exposure to the flu, has the cold or an illness)?
55. What counts as spoiling?
Will you be tight or loose with Kid Money? Do they get everything they want? How old will they be when they start getting an allowance? Do they have to do chores to earn that allowance? Do they have to do chores anyway even for no allowance. How much TV can they watch, and how much Internet surfing is too much?
56. What should our kid’s relationship with technology be? At what age should our kid get their first cell phone? Ipad, Computer in their room? VR headset? Are there curfews? None at the dinner table? Will there be “Play outside, reading, or drawing” mandatory hours?
57. Do you consider yourself more of an introvert or an extrovert? What if our kid is very different from us in this or other ways?
58. What would be a difficult issue to parent a kid through? How will you talk to them about drugs and alcohol? What type of sexual education will you want to give them?
59. What is something from your own childhood that you don’t want to have your child repeat? What kind of parenting strategies might help them avoid that?
60. How can I show you gratitude when I’m a sleep deprived zombie bending towards resentment?
61. What are the things that you imagine you would be unwilling to give up or change about yourself, even for your children, even for me?
62. What if we have a kid and it’s not great? Will we feel like we ruined our lives? What do you think about couples counseling?
63. What other challenges do you predict could arise because of the differences in your personalities/ parenting styles?
64. Imagine it’s 20 years from now, and we’re sitting in this same spot talking about our kid. What would that conversation be like?
Role play it out.
65. What do we want our future to look like?
It’s easy to get caught up in the excitement of starting a family, but what do you want life to look like when your kids are grown? Will you travel to Ireland? Buy a boat? Move to the mountains? Go back to work? Do you dream of family vacations with one or two adult children, or Thanksgiving meals with a football team of kids gathered around?“At some point—18 or so years after the baby arrives—the baby will leave. And the two of you will have to look at each other alone all over again. Also, yall will be free to make some choices,” Brittle says. “Don’t wait to start dreaming about what you’re going to do. It really doesn’t matter what your dream is, but it matters that you have one. It’ll help you keep your head up when the baby demands all your attention, and it’ll give you vision for the future when you’re overwhelmed by the present.”
66. At the end of this: what are you most excited about in partnering with your spouse as you enter this journey as parents? What are you most worried about in partnering with your spouse on this journey?
Again, I hope this was a helpful adventure for you two as a couple. Two important notes: 1) If you know a couple struggling to communicate in this transition of a newborn or pregnancy, please pass this on. If you already have a baby, it’s not too late. Start talking now! It could still be a great practice to go through these questions. It’s never too late to find common ground. 2) If you have a question you just can’t reach a common front, I would encourage that if it’s really important to you or will cause you stress in the marriage, that you seek out counseling to help talk through it with a professional. Let me know if I can help you find someone to work with.
Wendy Copeland, LMFT
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“The 36 Questions to Ask Your Partner Before having Kids”. The longest shortest time podcast.