Knowing Your Needs Before You Have Kids
It's important to know your pain points before you start your family.
Posted June 3, 2021
- For couples who are planning to have children, it can be helpful to identify individual and family stressors before starting a family.
- Having children rarely creates new problems for couples. Rather, small annoyances from before tend to get upgraded into bigger problems.
- Some examples of common triggers include finances and environmental stressors; sources of joy might include faith or physical fitness.
The beauty of individuals, couples, and families is that we are all unique. The strengths we have vary widely from each other; likewise, our weaknesses and fears will be vastly different. In the middle of the road, we have those things that cause us just the teensiest bit of stress. Like points of light in a constellation, these likes, dislikes, and fears make up the star systems of our lives.
Long before Vikings became masters of the sea, thousands of years before Europeans crossed oceans to colonize other people groups, Polynesians mastered long-distance voyaging that enabled them to travel thousands of miles across the Pacific Ocean. They used an art called Wayfinding that leveraged the use of the sea, birds, weather, and stars to guide them through uncharted waters towards a safe place to land.
Couples who are planning to have children can learn many things from these ancestors. Just as these early explorers used the stars to find their way, couples today should identify what their individual (and family) systems and stars are as they find their way into family life.
The seas are going to be turbid, and this water truly is uncharted. The Polynesians knew their stars, so they knew which ways to go and which ways to avoid. We can apply the same principles in our lives to address new and old challenges that will arise.
For your family, you won't know what new stressors will be created when you have a child, but you do know what stressors you encounter now as an adult and in your relationship. You also know what brings you joy and fulfills your needs for connection, peace, and love. These are your stars.
If you are not sure what these are, figure them out now, long before you have kids, because you won't have more emotional energy, physical energy, or mental energy after they arrive.
Examples of Pain Points
Everyone is different, but a few common themes endure in terms of potential pain points that we would like to avoid in our lives. Some noteworthy ones include:
- Job/Career status
- Environmental stressors
- Relationship distress
How do you know if these apply to you or what your specific pain points are? Ask yourself these two questions:
- What do I easily get mad about?
- What do my partner and I frequently argue about?
The answers to these two questions will tell you a lot.
Examples of Pleasure Points
We each need to engage in things that bring us joy and fill our emotional bucket. When our needs are being met, we feel healthy, capable, and have room to deal with the casual stress of life.
Some examples of pleasure points that can fill our bucket are:
- Physical intimacy
- A sense of purpose
- Connection to friends
- Physical fitness
How do you know what yours are? Ask yourself these two questions:
- What activity consistently puts me in a good mood?
- What would I be very sad about if I were to lose it?
Why Does Knowing One's Needs Matter?
It’s fine and well to know these things about ourselves, but why is it important that we have a good grasp on these before we start our family?
When interviewing parents about their experiences after they had their children, a sentiment we heard, again and again, was that rarely are new problems created in your relationship and yourselves. Instead, what happens is that those pain points from before, those you’ve always had, get upgrades.
The small annoyance is now a big issue. The tropical storm that wouldn’t even have changed your weekend plans is now a category 4 hurricane barreling towards you.
Knowing what will become an issue, will allow you to anticipate your triggers. This foreknowledge will allow you to prepare preventative strategies and conduct regular maintenance so that you can downgrade your hurricanes and board up your house before a storm hits.
One couple I work with that is preparing to have children but not yet pregnant is working through this now. They identified that, for the husband, one of his biggest needs is alone time to re-charge.
Well, anyone with kids can tell you, good luck with that, and he is doomed. But that doesn’t have to be the case.
Because he knows that he is a much more tense and unsettled person when he is not able to get away for a few hours. He and his wife are planning on how to incorporate alone time (for each parent) during the week.
This is just a plan and practicality might still go out the window when a child arrives, but the point is that they are anticipating this. They are coming up with some kind of way to tackle a future potential problem. They have mapped a star, and they are trying to navigate with it.
A major benefit that this husband shared was just knowing that this has been talked about. Now, he says, he can anticipate having a safety valve for when he gets stressed.
He also appreciates that his wife is in on the decision-making process. In this way, he doesn’t feel guilty or selfish for wanting to take care of himself. Simply the knowledge that there is a plan has brought him peace as they head into family life.
Likewise, for his wife, she needs financial security. For her, knowing that they can pay their bills while she stays home with a child will ease her mind. She says that will allow her to focus on those tough first months. As a result, they know that they want to have a certain amount of savings as a cushion before they get pregnant. This is another star that they are using to navigate their path.
As you and your partner head towards starting a family, find your stars. Don’t just stop at one or two. Map out three, four, five, or more. Make up your constellation, name it, and use it to carry you into a new land and great possibilities.
Astran, I. (2017). Traditional Wayfinding: Ancient Navigation through the Pacific. Stmuhistorymedia.org. https://stmuhistorymedia.org/traditional-wayfinding-ancient-navigation-…