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Excerpted from

The Parenthood Decision: Discovering Whether You Are Ready and Willing To Become a Parent


Why You May Need Help Making the Parenthood Decision

IN SPITE of the fact that the idea of parenthood is becoming increasingly enticing to many people and more and more are contemplating taking the big step, parenthood also poses some serious concerns. Most people are smart enough to realize that just wanting a baby doesn't mean one is physically, mentally, and emotionally prepared to have one. Nor does the desire to have a baby mean that one will necessarily be a good parent. Many potential parents are plagued with questions and doubts such as: "Am I ready to become a parent?" "How will having a baby affect my marriage ... my career?" "Will I make a good parent?"

Nowadays, more than ever, we are keenly aware of the fact that some people make better parents than others. With child abuse, delinquency, and runaways at a record high and with our growing awareness as to what contributes to these problems, people are more cautious about having children than they have ever been before.

And with the stresses of modern living and the plethora of social and political problems we face, many potential parents are uncertain whether they have the time, strength, or patience to raise children or whether they want to bring children into this chaotic world.

In addition, many potential parents are stopped by their fears - fear of childbirth, fear of losing their identity, fear of losing their attractiveness, fear of losing their personal free time or their alone time with their partner.

Many are certain they want children but are not sure that now is the time. For various reasons (problems in their relationship, career pressures), they may feel they should wait. At the same time, they may feel compelled to have a baby now. They may feel pressured by their biological clock, by well-meaning relatives or friends, or by a strong desire for parenthood.

If you relate to any of the above situations, this book will help you resolve your conflicts about this major decision. By presenting important information, providing exercises, and posing thought-provoking questions, I will help both those who are unclear whether this is the right time to become a parent and those who are undecided whether parenthood is right for them.

In addition to addressing the concerns and ambivalence of couples, The Parenthood Decision also addresses those of single women who are considering becoming parents. Many women, discouraged about ever meeting a man they will want to marry, much less a man they would want to be the father to their baby, are seriously considering becoming single mothers. For example, the U.S. Census Bureau reported in 1995 that more than a quarter of the nation's never-married women now become mothers, an increase of 70 percent in the last decade.

The increase was particularly sharp among educated and professional women. The number of single women who have become mothers is actually higher when you take into consideration that the census report only counted never-married mothers, leaving out the many divorced and widowed women who went on to have children after their marriages ended. With celebrities like Michelle Pfeiffer, Rosie O'Donnell, Madonna, and Kate Jackson becoming single mothers, this trend will no doubt increase.

And it isn't only women who are longing for a child. Since fatherhood has finally been given the focus and respect it so richly deserves, today there are a growing number of men who are also yearning for parenthood. As never before, men are trying to reconcile deeply ingrained notions about marital roles and high-powered careers with equally strong needs to nurture and bond. Single men are also considering parenthood in numbers unheard of just a few years ago. Some are considering adopting; others are asking female friends to have their baby.

Last but not least, today more and more teenagers are wanting to have a baby. Often motivated by a desire to have someone to love or to hold on to a boyfriend, these young women openly talk about their desire for a child. While these teenagers are not likely to buy the book, I strongly recommend that their parents, teachers, and other concerned adults do and that they share the information with the teenager.

There are also a great many women and teens who are already pregnant but are undecided whether to keep their baby or give it up for adoption. If this applies to you, this book will help you with your feelings of ambivalence whether they are centered around not being certain you can adequately take care of a child at this time, not being sure whether you will be a good parent, or, for those of you who are in a relationship, not being clear as to whether your relationship can withstand the added stress of having a child.

Whatever your situation, The Parenthood Decision will help you take a close and honest look at your life to determine whether parenthood is right for you. It will help you make your decision whether you are in a relationship or not, whether you are a potential father or a potential mother, whether you are planning to give birth to a baby or adopt a child. It will, in short, help anyone considering bringing a child into their home and heart.

In addition to helping those who are ambivalent concerning the prospect of parenthood, The Parenthood Decision is also for all those couples and singles who have already decided to get pregnant or plan to adopt. Many potential parents plan for a baby for several years, putting aside a portion of their earnings, buying a house in a neighborhood within a good school district, sometimes even changing jobs or careers in order to have a more flexible schedule. But most people do not prepare emotionally for parenthood.

Unfortunately, there is little help available to guide potential parents with the emotional aspects of this decision, either from their families, in school, or in the media. Some people have suggested we should be issued a license before being allowed to become a parent or at the very least be required to take a course in parenting. While you may feel these measures are too extreme, no one can argue that the more one knows about him or herself before deciding to have a child, the better parent one is likely to be.

The basic premise of The Parenthood Decision is that potential parents should be physically, mentally, and emotionally prepared to have a child. This involves taking a look at one's present situation - career, relationship, financial status, health. It involves becoming educated about what parenthood requires and what it entails. And last but not least, it involves taking a close look at one's personality and the personality of one's partner.

I will help you as potential parents to explore all aspects of parenthood, from whether you have the kind of personality that is conducive to parenting, to whether you are willing to give up or postpone some of your career and other goals in order to focus on raising an emotionally healthy child. I will help single parents decide whether they can handle the stress and responsibility of parenthood alone and help couples decide whether their relationship can withstand the added stress and pressures of parenthood.

There are many aspects of the parenthood decision. And while it is impossible to address them all, I have designed The Parenthood Decision to help potential parents explore three major areas:

1. Whether you are physically, mentally, and emotionally ready to become a parent at this time

2. Whether you are willing to face the changes in your lifestyle and relationship that this lifelong commitment entails

3. Whether you are emotionally able to provide the kind of environment necessary to raise a healthy child

Part I will address the parenthood decision in general, including such issues as exploring your reasons for wanting a child and avoiding the most common mistakes potential parents make when deciding and dealing with ambivalence.

In Part II, I address whether you are ready to become a parent. In addition to offering important information on what it means to be prepared for a baby and how having a baby will affect your life, I will offer questions and exercises that will test your readiness and help you decide whether you are prepared to become a parent at this time.

In Part III, I will address whether you are willing to be a parent at this time. While you may believe you are willing, you may not have all the facts. By providing important information about what being a parent actually entails, I hope to help you look clearly at the day-to-day realities of parenting. I will again provide exercises and questions to help you focus on this issue in ways that you may have overlooked or to look at it from an entirely different perspective.

While you may have determined that you are indeed ready and willing to have a baby, you may not be sure you are able to be a good parent. Many potential parents are plagued with questions such as: "Will I repeat the same mistakes my parents made?" "Will I be a better parent than mine were to me?" "Will I have the patience, tolerance, and stamina necessary to be a good parent?" Consequently, in Part IV, I will help you answer these questions by providing important information and questions aimed at revealing your innermost thoughts and feelings, as well as exercises to help you get to know yourself better as a potential parent.

Throughout the book, I encourage you to take your time in answering the questions I pose and to answer them as honestly as possible. Try to remain open to learning about yourself (and your partner) without becoming overly critical. Your feelings will no doubt vacillate as you discover more and more about yourself and/or your partner, but I encourage you to read the book through completely and to answer all the questions before making any decision. It isn't unusual for potential parents to change their minds several times during the decision-making process before reaching their final decision. This does not mean they are indecisive people. In fact, the more you allow yourself to go through a variety of emotions, the more certain you will be about your final decision, since you will have examined your feelings from different points of view.

When you have completed the first four parts of the book, you will have a more comprehensive picture of yourself as a potential parent and will be able to make your decision from a place of confidence.

It may be that you discover you are ready, willing, and able to become a parent and that a celebration is in order. Or it may be that you decide that you are willing and able to become a good parent, but you are not quite ready for the responsibility. Or you may realize that while you are ready and willing, you will need to do some work on yourself or your relationship before you will be able to parent in the way you want.

Therefore, I offer one last part to the book, Part V: If You Are Not Ready, Willing, or Able. For those who still have the hope of becoming a parent, I will make suggestions as to how you can remedy the situation - whatever it might be - that prevents you from being ready at this time. For those of you who have decided it would be best if you didn't become a parent at all, I will offer hope and alternatives.

At the end of the book, a Bibliography, a recommended reading list for further information on specific issues, and a list of resources have been provided.

Becoming a parent can be the most rewarding, fulfilling act of one's life. Through our children we can experience compassion, learn patience and tolerance, and experience a depth of love we aren't likely to feel any other way. At the same time, parenthood can also be the most stressful, demanding endeavor we will ever undertake. Being prepared, especially being emotionally prepared for a child, will help potential parents feel confident about their ability to be the best parent they can be.

Tags: Parenting and Families