There’s a lot of planning and talking that should happen before a couple gets married. How do each of you handle money? How do you feel about debt? Who’s a saver and who’s a spender? What area of the country do you want to live in? How many kids do you want to have?
Another issue, if you plan to have kids, is whether one person will stay home with the children or if you’ll both continue to work. I believe this issue is not discussed frequently, especially since some couples are nervous about having kids and take a wait-and-see-how-we-feel-5-years-from-now attitude. If you’re not even sure you’re going to have kids, how can you be sure who’ll take primary care of the child?
When You Don’t Plan for a Child
For instance, my friend, Jessica, took this approach when she got married. She and her husband were married for eight years before they decided they’d like a child. They both planned to continue with their careers, but when Jessica was off on maternity leave, she really enjoyed staying home with the baby. Still, when her leave was up, she put the baby in day care, but the baby was miserable and cried non-stop. Luckily, Jessica’s mother was retired and agreed to live with them and care for the baby for the year. However, Jessica went on to have another child and quit her job and was a stay at home mom for four years, until her youngest went to school.
Even if Jessica and her husband had discussed who would stay home with the baby, chances are what they actually did was much different than what they might have hypothetically discussed eight or nine years prior, before a baby entered the scene.
Until you have a child, you often don’t know how you’ll feel about caring for one. Many people think they’ll continue with their careers, but then after the baby comes, they don’t want to put the baby in day care.
You Know You’ll Have Kids, But. . .
Some couples do know before they’re married that they plan to have kids, and they may even have strong opinions about who will stay home. However, they should still remain flexible because life doesn’t always go as smoothly as planned.
For instance, my husband and I planned to have two or three kids, and I wanted to stay home with them. When we had our first child 3.5 years after getting married, I wanted to stay home with him as planned, but I couldn’t. I was the primary breadwinner at the time, and my husband was a graduate student with a small teaching stipend. There’s no way we could have survived on his income alone.
My husband ended up staying home with our son the first two years (until I felt comfortable putting him in day care), and my husband only took a half load of classes during that time.
While my husband didn’t mind staying home, he didn’t want to do it forever, so we didn’t have our second child until 4.5 years later, when I was sure I could stay home and my husband could work full-time, as we had planned.
Juggling the needs of a family can often be one of the toughest parts of being married, especially since the life you plan for is not always the life you get.
My Question for You
If you’re married with kids, before you got married, did you and your spouse discuss who would care for the children? Did your plan turn into reality, or did you have to change your plans?
If you’re not married, will you discuss this before marriage, or will you simply wait to see what the future brings?