Deciding to have kids with a partner is one of the biggest steps you can take in a relationship, not to mention your life. Everything you know about your lifestyle is about to change! Like all things relationship-wise, it’s a great idea to have an honest discussion with your partner about your thoughts and feelings on the matter before embarking on any big decisions. Not only is it a great time to share your perspective, but also to learn more about your partner. If you’ve always pictured yourself being a hyper-involved parent while your partner has always been of the “let them figure it out for themselves” mentality, now is a great time to discuss that—and not 15 years into the future when you get called into the principal’s office.
Of course, with deep questions, it can be so clutch to have a script (hi, 36-questions to fall in love) to follow. We asked relationship experts for the best questions to ask your partner before having kids, so you can both uncover more about your motivations for kids, your preferred parenting styles, and more. Not only will these be massively helpful if you do have kids down the line, but you’ll also gain insight into your partner’s vision of a family as well. And who doesn’t love learning more about their partner?
1."Why do you want kids?"
This is a great question that’s so “Omg, why wouldn’t I ask that,” but people often skip it completely. This question is one of the most powerful to ask your partner, says Kyle Elliot, MPA, CHES, founder and life-coach at CaffeinatedKyle.com because while many couples discuss when to have kids or how many they’d like, few dive into the reason behind wanting kids in the first place. “Taking time and space to discuss the rationale behind your partner wanting children is a powerful opportunity to learn about your partner on a deeper and more intimate level,” Elliot adds. For such a simple question, you can get super-deep answers right away.
2. "How much free time do you have per week for us to focus on us as a couple and how much free time do you have per week for us as a family with kids?"
This question comes courtesy of Amanda Pasciucco, an AASECT Therapist. Asking this can not only help you both discover if you’re on the same page regarding time-management but also can help you see if your partner understands the systemic context between how time as a couple and time as a family unit are different, explains Pasciucco. “If your partner cannot know their time now, they won’t know it when they add children,” Pasciucco adds.
3. "What are your strengths and weaknesses and tendencies when it comes to money?"
Knowing the answer to these questions can help identify you and your partner’s personal financial identity, explains Keisha Blair, author of Holistic Wealth. Understanding your financial identity is critical for new parents (or parents-to-be) who are about to undertake at least 18 to 21 years of huge financial outlays or joint money decisions together, explains Blair. “Preparing for a baby entails lots of spending and some big money decisions,” Blair adds. Before you have kids and need to upgrade your home, get a new car, or even add the cost of monthly diapers and other essentials to your expenses, its best to talk about the nitty-gritty stuff now.
4. "How will we save or invest for our kid’s future or college education?"
Along the same lines of general financial identity, it’s also good to have a cohesive plan in place for future saving. Nicholas Hardy, LCSW, a psychotherapist, suggests this question as a good way to plan ahead. “It’s not uncommon for children to inherit money from relatives and or for parents to reserve money for their children’s future,” Hardy says. If either of those situations occur, what are your beliefs as a couple on how the money should be invested? “If this is not discussed, tension could rise and cause major division when money is involved,” Hardy adds. Better to talk about money early!
5. "What are our guiding beliefs when it comes to discipline?"
“No child is perfect,” says Hardy, so you’ll have to discipline them in some way, shape, or form, sooner or later. How you and your partner choose to discipline can be a direct reflection of your own childhood experiences (good or bad) and discipline (or a lack thereof) is a major component of a child’s development, Hardy says. Therefore, establishing a common ground approach is essential.
6. "What happens if I can't get pregnant right away?"
You may want to look into adoption the moment you hit the year-of-trying-without-success mark. Your partner, on the other hand, may expect to pursue every single fertility treatment to get a biological child, no matter the cost. You obviously want to discuss—and ideally get on the same page on—these difficult but major decisions.
7. "How are we supporting this child?"
Maybe you've both always worked but one of you hopes to stay at home when the baby comes. Two people plus a needy little person living on one salary calls for serious sacrifices, from living in a cheaper area to draining your savings. You've got to figure out if those are worth making.
8. "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.
9. "What kind of childcare will we use?"
If you both want or need jobs, leaving your baby with your retired mom might seem like a no-brainer. But is your partner hoping their 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.
10. "How are we going to split parenting duties?"
Waiting until you haven't slept in six days to divvy up who's gonna do what is a horrible idea. So, beforehand, go over hypotheticals like: 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?
11. "How much religion will be in our kid's life—and which one(s)?"
Just because your partner didn't protest your childhood pastor officiating your wedding doesn't mean they'll be as blasé about their kid's upbringing. Touch base on birth rituals (Baptism? Bris?), weekly worship, and celebrating holidays. If you practice different religions, plot out how you'll explain your individual beliefs without slamming the other side.
12. "Will we circumcise?"
If you're having a baby with a penis, you'll need to address this hot-button topic. 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 your partner expects until you ask, and there's not much time to debate once the baby arrives—and has a penis.
13. "Where are we raising our kids?"
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. (Or farther away—see no. 9.) No time like the present to ensure you're seeing eye-to-eye on these quandaries.
14. "How much help do we want, for how long, and from whom?"
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.
15. "What are your name deal breakers?"
Your partner may have their heart set on their kid being Their 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.
16. "What kind of delivery do we want?"
A home birth in a tub may sound dreamy, but if they saw how it can all go to shit on Girls, it may be hospital or bust for any partner and child of theirs. 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 partner needs to (politely) explain your wishes before grandparents barge in.
17. "How do you feel about kids sleeping in our room—or bed?"
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.
18. "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.
19. "How strict are we going to be?"
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.
20. "How exactly will we discipline our kid?"
Discuss the tactics you're okay 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 their lap.
21. "Will we send our child to public or private school?"
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.
22. "How organic/vegan/earth-friendly are we going to go?"
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 your partner where you stand.
23. "We're going to follow our pediatrician's recommendations for immunization, right?"
OK, this isn't even a question. Just do it.
24. "How will we handle any kind of coming out?"
Might I suggest with love and acceptance? But even if you know your partner will love their kids unconditionally, if they've got older relatives who will shun a gay or trans grandkid, get on the same page about how you'd respond to that.
25. "How will we keep our relationship strong?"
It's effing impossible to be a happy parent if you're on -edge (okay, 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—for your relationship. 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.
This article originally appeared on Cosmopolitan.com. Minor edits have been made by the Cosmo.ph editors.