Ideas for thoughtful questions before baby
January 10, 2018 11:42 PM   Subscribe

What are some questions that will make for some thoughtful conversation between my husband and me before the birth of our first child?

My husband and I are expecting our first child, due in about a month. This weekend, as a surprise for his birthday, I am taking him out for our last fancy meal together as non-parents.

As a part of the present, I would like to prepare a list of questions that will act as converstation starters for us to both reflect on our relationship and time together until now and to talk about what the future will hold when another little person joins our household. (The main purpose of the questions should be to invite for thoughtful and romantic conversation, not necessarily to hammer out a complete life and parenting plan for the next 18 years.)

I am inspired by the idea of doing "The 36 Questions That Lead to Love" on a first date, or "13 Questions to Ask Before Marriage" before getting married.

A little bit about us - we are both around 30 years old, met at the beginning of university and have now lived together for 8 years, married for almost 2. We're both employed at good jobs, but of course early in our careers. We have bought an apartment together that is big enough for living with kids. We live in the city where we both grew up, close to family.
posted by coraline to Human Relations (9 answers total) 21 users marked this as a favorite
What kind of relationship do you want your kid to have with your extended family?

Are holidays going to be your family (the two of you and kids) or with others?

Thoughts about religion. Discussion of values that are important to you to share with a child.

Talk about things you liked and didn't like about the way you were raised and if there are changes you'd like, how you'll make those happen.

If you both work outside of the home, who will stay home with a sick child? (This is one of the many questions from the great book How Not To Hate Your Husband After Kids - I highly recommend you get this.)

How are child related expenses going to fit into your household expenses? What will your policies be about spending on child? How are these similar or dissimilar to other household spending policies? This is particularly important for child care. Some (many?) couples get into the habit of this coming out of the woman's earnings. That doesn't have to be the case.

What thoughts do you have about evenings/weekends and caring for the child versus some alone time? If one of you wants to go for a bike ride or manicure or yoga class, how often are those breaks okay and how will you behave about them? (Sometimes people hold these things against their partner. In the previously mentioned book this is called pissing on the gift.)

I'd also come up with a good list of household tasks and figure out who is currently doing what, what might change after baby, and what you might outsource. Laundry becomes much more of a chore. If bottle feeding, there are a lot more dishes. There will be new things to do. Feeling that these are unfair can be an issue. The previously mentioned book and the Gottman books have templates for this.

Get chatting about wills, life insurance, etc.
posted by k8t at 12:05 AM on January 11, 2018 [2 favorites]

Something essential was the "me time" that my husband gave me after the birth of each of our children. He worked full time and I stayed at home, but on weekend mornings I could a) sleep in, b) go for a walk / drive / shopping, or c) go with him and the kids to the flea market or other outdoor activities.
Knowing that one or two days a week I could get uninterrupted sleep was important during those first few months after birth.
posted by TrishaU at 12:17 AM on January 11, 2018 [4 favorites]

Ways to stay kind to each other at times when you're exhausted and stressed.
posted by Catseye at 12:37 AM on January 11, 2018 [13 favorites]

Babies rather instinctually from the beginning chuck a wedge between their parents from the word GO! because that's how they secure care and survival. The first 2 years are the easiest in some ways? If that makes sense?

Talk about (and keep discussing this at every developmental stage) how you will both take care of yourselves, your privacy, and your relationship.

Maybe a bit of overshare, but my husband culturally kinda put children above marriage and his own wellbeing. This did not go well for him personally, or for us collectively. He's since hit the wall on that and adjusted to a model that's more equitable for our family, but FYI.

THIS IS AVOIDABLE, but a lot of couples split up when their children are about 2 years old. You will see couples all around you divorcing. It's hard to see.

I know parents that survived the younger years by reaching out and accessing parenting classes, relationship therapy, and just generally being proactive....

- Ask your husband is he open to getting help when things start to get hard or painful.

The willingness to seek outside support is THE determiner between families that stay together, and those that shift into co-parenting. Make sure you get on the same page on this single issue and the rest is easy. Let this be the fulcrum of your discussions - but maybe not on the birthday night!
posted by jbenben at 12:43 AM on January 11, 2018 [4 favorites]

The idea of the 36 questions isn't that they are direct "what kind of person are you" questions, but round-about questions that sneak in and reveal the real you. If you haven't done the 36 questions, they might be fun too.

So, questions to ask before you have a kid:

What was your favourite board game as a child?

Did you have any pets?

Did you used to play more outside or inside?

What was your favourite toy?

What is the earliest birthday you can remember?

What is your favourite baby photo?

How often did you see your extended family, growing up?

What holiday traditions did you used to have as a child (that you no longer have?)

Who was the most influential person on you as a child?

Can you remember your first day of school?

What is your earliest memory?

When did you first hold a baby?

Apart from me, who is your number 1 go to person?

What are you most looking forward to eating, post pregnancy?

What dreams do you have for our baby?

What baby product surprises you the most?
posted by freethefeet at 1:09 AM on January 11, 2018 [9 favorites]

Some of this may not fit your "romantic conversation" proviso, but should prompt thoughtful discussion:

Discuss what things the two of you will likely find challenging/uncomfortable, and figure out ways to mitigate those issues, if possible. For us, that included what the birth/hospital experience would be like, so we took the hospital's birth class. I'm also an only child and didn't have much experience at all with infants, so I took a separate dad class that focused on being comfortable around infants and caring for them in the first few months (eventually I took our infant back to the class to share our experiences and let other soon-to-be-dads hold the kiddo and change diapers etc.). We also practiced things like swaddling until we could do them without much thought.

As others have mentioned, figure out how "me time" will work and how it will be negotiated. You may have different needs in this regard, so keep that in mind.

Discuss how the two of you handle conflict, particularly when tired/stressed. It can be particularly helpful to have some shared language for "I am too tired/hungry/stressed to have this fight/conversation/discussion right now can we please table it for later," either in those words or other words that signal the same idea.

In addition to some of the money issues discussed above, discuss whether you can or are willing to solve potential problems with money. We have friends with high-paying, stressful jobs who hired a night nurse so they could sleep at night. Others have hired weekly cleaning services to remove that stressor. Others have taken big chunks of unpaid time off of work to free up some bandwith. Discuss whether you can afford some of these options and, if you can, whether they are things you value enough to spend money on.

Discuss how you want family visits to work immediately after birth and within the first few weeks after birth. Communicate your decisions to your family members in advance.

Discuss how you feel like your parents allowed you to flourish as a person, and how you can impart that to the new kid.
posted by craven_morhead at 7:40 AM on January 11, 2018 [2 favorites]

I like freethefeet's approach much better than the more prosaic questions. I also found personally, that like battle plans, parenting plans rarely survive contact with the enemy.

What traits did he appreciate most in his mother as a child? What traits does he appreciate most in her now?

How much of his father does he see in himself? Are there aspects of his father that he would like to eliminate or develop?

What was his first bedroom like? What posters did he have on the wall? What could he see through the windows?

Who was his favorite primary school teacher and why?

What was the worst trouble he got in as a child?
posted by Rock Steady at 10:08 AM on January 11, 2018 [1 favorite]

In my experience, parents deal with the stressor of little kids in two ways:

A - either they go the ‚kids first’ route, ie they are parents first, couple second; romantic love may be rekindled later on (or not)

B - or they prioritize their relationship (date nights, time alone together etc.)

IMHO, both approaches are OK, and part of it is cultural. Modern American upper middle class marriages often strive toward the ideal of B, but that doesn’t mean option A is wrong. Ask yourselves: Are you ok with romantic stuff being on ice for a few months-years, depending on the demandingness level of the spawn? Are you on the same page about this? How will you handle conflicts and changes of mind regarding this question? Obviously this is something that has to be re-assessed once you‘re in the middle of childrearing, but it might make for interesting discussion even now.
posted by The Toad at 11:46 AM on January 11, 2018 [2 favorites]

We are in the thick of this, as we have two week old daughter.

You can become pregnant again within 6 weeks of the birth. How would you like to handle birth control?

You are about to have a lot of important government documents and medical appointments for a new person. Who is in charge of all of that info and where will it be kept? Will both of you attend appointments? Will that change as the child grows older?

What kinds of expectations will your families have about visits, etc? What are you open to and what will you want to push back on? Who does the pushing back?

When you were a kid, who was an adult you particularly liked and trusted, and why? How can you be like that for your child?

What will you miss the most about your pre-child relationship?

What are you looking forward to about being a parent? What are you looking forward to in seeing your partner as a parent?

What do you want to replicate from the family you grew up in? What do you want to change?
posted by sadmadglad at 6:25 PM on January 12, 2018

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