fter a few years of marriage once things are a bit steadier, young couples begin to ask “are we ready?”
As a therapist and a parent, I can assure you that you’ll never really be ready for parenthood.
The truth is, nothing can fully prepare you for the transition to parenthood. Even after more than two years of being a parent I’m still not ready—physically, emotionally or spiritually.
Here’s an example: Last week was my daughter’s 1-year checkup. I attempted to pack for our expedition (any trip outside the house with a 2.5 year old and a 1 year old seems heroic). My son serenaded me with a boisterous rendition of “The wheels on the bus” while I used my body as a buffer between Madelyn’s hands and the dog’s water bowl.
I’ve recently adjusted to this joyful chaos, so we actually got out the door pretty fast. I had books for the waiting room, lunch for the park and extra clothes for any messy “incidents.” As I pulled into the parking garage at the doctor’s office, I thought, “I’m getting the hang of this two-kids thing!”
Aaaaand then I looked into the backseat and discovered the truth: Robbie wasn’t wearing any shoes.
Nothing can prepare you for parenthood! But I believe there are three important questions to ask before embarking on the journey.
How Healthy is My Marriage?
When my husband and I were at the altar, our Pastor said something I’ll never forget:
“Your marriage it’s own life force. It exists outside of each of you, and you’re both responsible to nurture and protect it.”
I had never thought of marriage that way, but he was right. Marriage needs to be cared for. On your wedding day, it’s hard to imagine that marriage could ever take a back seat, but with so much competing for your time—work, social events, volunteering, friends and family—it can quickly end up last on the list. If it stays there, you’ll find ourselves living in a dark and lonely place.
Sadly, research tells us divorce rates spike during early parenthood. However, if you place protective boundaries around your time together before baby arrives, you’re likely to sustain that habit when the need to support one another is even greater. When I meet with pre-marriage couples, I encourage them to do two things:
Depart Daily. The dishes can wait. So can your email. And unless you’re on a wilderness retreat without cell service, not a day should pass without connecting—face to face, voice to voice and life to life. Keep in mind, connections aren’t built simply by recapping the day’s events. That wasn’t how you fell in love. And it’s certainly not how you stay there.
Withdraw Weekly. Protect time each week to get away. Whether it’s dinner at a new restaurant, miniature golf or a quiet place for a serious conversation, depart—just the two of you—to deepen your bond. Closeness requires authenticity and vulnerability. If you’re reading this and thinking, “Those words are terrifying,” I encourage you—lean into that fear. What road blocks are keeping you from feeling safe? Maybe you’ve never felt comfortable being vulnerable. Maybe there’s been a threat to your marriage affecting your closeness. We can’t move forward with road blocks. And if a baby comes, you’ll need your spouse like never before.
How Healthy is My Identity?
I have a mission statement for my therapy practice: Help people embrace their God-given worth and engage in authentic relationships.
This is essential at any point in your life, but especially when you become a parent. When I had my first kid, I suffered from an “identity crisis.” I’ve always loved kids, and I thought the transition to motherhood would be easy. I wasn’t prepared for the emotional roller coaster stemming from lack of sleep, long days with a colicky newborn, and lack of quality time with my husband. Over time, I believed a lie, “I’m a terrible mom and wife.”
One night, Steve and I “departed” from the day’s events and I dissolved into a puddle of tears. He put his arm around me and admitted he was struggling too. He said, “I work so hard to provide but somehow can’t meet all the needs at home.” In that moment, something I tell clients came to mind, “Your worth is not attached to your performance.” I was trying to be the perfect mom—the Proverbs 31 woman! And Steve was trying to meet everyone’s needs. Because we believed we were coming up short, we felt worthless and lost sight of the truth: Our worth is inherent. Sometimes we just need grace and space to grow under new circumstances.
When you hear lies about your identity, can you get back to the truth?
How Healthy is My Community?
Hebrews 10:25 says, “Never give up meeting together.”
When you’re in a dark spot, who calls out truth in you? Do you have an “emergency contact list?” When Robbie was shoeless in that doctor’s office, I got some looks. A voice inside was eager to scream, “You’re a terrible mom!”
Thankfully, I have an amazing community of women. We know one another’s stories. We meet together regularly. We laugh and cry and pray for one another. When I left the doctor, a text went to my emergency contact list and I got exactly what I needed: Grace. Vulnerability. Truth. I felt loved, known and normal. Authentic, loving community is a precious and vital lifeline.
Nothing can fully prepare you for parenthood, but the needs parents have exist before they conceive a child. Don’t wait for the positive pregnancy test to build a strong marriage, strong identity and strong community.
Katie Gohde is a licensed professional counselor at LifeGate Counseling Center in Atlanta, Ga.ÊShe received her masters in counseling psychology from Northwestern University in 2005. At LifeGate she sees clients ranging from adolescents through young adult women, pre-marriage couples and young families. In addition to her therapy practice, she leads a Strong Marriages Healthy Ministries group at Columbia Theological Seminary and co-leads a quarterly preparing for marriage seminar with her husband, Steve.