I'm 22. My girlfriend and I live together and get along incredibly well. I have a stable job and a stable home. Life is going relatively well.

I'm not sure I want to have children. On one hand, being a father would be an incredible experience, and providing a person with the care and love that my father did with me would definitely be a worthwhile experience.

On the other hand, I struggle a lot with impulsiveness and a few other issues(ADHD, Partial Deafness, Auditory Disorders, etc) and I'm afraid of passing some of these values or disorders onto my children. If you look at my previous post(s), you can see that I wasn't the best child growing up, and I'm not sure how my parents handled it. Were my child to be like me, I don't think I'd be cut out for that, and the child would suffer as a result.

Me and my girlfriend are on the fence about kids. I have no doubt she would make an excellent mother, but I'm unsure on my own abilities in this picture.

How can I determine if I'm ready to be a father?

Note: Although possibly not relevant, we have though about adopting as well if we do want kids, but that's the subject for a different question.

  • 1
    Have you spent much time around children and babies? Babysitting a young child or infant would probably give you some idea what part of the day-to-days of being a parent would look like.
    – McCann
    Commented Dec 9, 2016 at 14:11
  • No way to answer this question objectively.
    – Dr. Spock
    Commented Dec 11, 2016 at 0:47
  • 1
    This is not necesarily opinion based, since the question asks how the OP can determine if they are ready for children, not merily if they are.
    – SQB
    Commented Dec 12, 2016 at 12:26
  • Assuming your girlfriend is of a comparable age to you, and you live in a country with reasonable healthcare -- if you're not sure, defer the decision. You have plenty of time to figure it out. As a male who has recently had his first child, the hardest thing for me to adjusting to the new life style. That meant putting my own interests behind the child's.
    – Prinsig
    Commented Dec 28, 2016 at 10:52
  • @Prinsig Funny enough, she's not near my age! She's actually quite a bit older, but we're fine with adopting, and probably would do so anyway. I do however appreciate the anecdote!
    – Anoplexian
    Commented Dec 28, 2016 at 20:49

5 Answers 5


You're asking a really hard question; I'm not sure anyone can answer it for you.

If everyone knew ahead of time how difficult raising a child was (as you have a fairly good inkling of), many people might never work up the courage to have children. For some, that might be the right path; for others, the joys far outweigh the difficulties.

If your major concern is that you will pass on your ADHD/other to your children, remember that your wife contributes half the child's genes. Do some research on the heritability of your various disorders (ADHD does have a genetic component); the genetic component of many disorders is getting a lot of attention in research right now. Ask your doctor about it; if you have a psychiatrist (or a knowledgeable psychologist), ask them to share what they might know.

Adoption is a great alternative to having your own biological children, and is very altruistic, but it comes with its own set of problems (and unknowns genetically). Any parent whose child has experienced the more serious problems possible with adoption will have their opinions about that option, too.

In the end, no one can tell you. Some people really want to have kids, others are afraid but take a leap of faith; some do it without very much forethought because it's expected by their culture, and some choose for a variety of reasons that it's not for them. There are likely a bunch of other scenarios I've missed. Luckily we live in times where alternative lifestyles are far more accepted.

There are many ways other than having children to give back to the world the love that you experienced. Just one off the top of my head - which might also help you answer your question - is to volunteer and train for emergency (temporary) foster care.

Good luck. I hope someone else has a more helpful answer.


Everyone is afraid of having children. The difference is in the reason why.

Are you afraid having children will ruin your lifestyle by consuming all your time, forcing you to give up your hobbies and prevent you from partying every weekend? Then you aren't ready to have a child yet. those fears are justified, by the way

Are you afraid you might make mistakes in raising your child, make their childhood miserable and ruin their future life? Then you have obtained the right mindset to raise children and are psychologically ready. those fears are also justified, by the way. You will make mistakes and they will lead to tears. Bad parents are those who refuse to recognize their mistakes and learn form them.

Nevertheless, you should check with your doctors to find out if any of your conditions are genetic and have a large chance to be passed on to your children. Should it turn out that they are and you don't want your child to deal with the same, consider adoption.

  • So true. Readiness involves a willingness to put aside your own interests and priorities for the child's. Commented Dec 9, 2016 at 15:20

This is not specific to having children, but more general to all choices that will be life-changing and irreversible:

If you're not sure if you're ready, you're not ready.

Of course, this advice does not really help in how to go from "not sure" to "ready", but I've found with kids that this is in part also a factor of time. But I've noticed with the topic of kids especially, that there's also a lot of social pressure to have kids and your "I'm not sure if I'm ready" is your own mind saying "Oh shit".

So asking other people if you're ready is asking for trouble, because social pressure is likely going to push you towards having kids. Just keep doing your thing and at some point you'll notice the "not sure" will fade and you'll either really be ready to have kids or you'll decide not to have them yet.

You're 22. The average age at which people have their first child in western societies can be as high as 30. It won't hurt to think about it longer.

  • "If you're not sure if you're ready, you're not ready" - I'm sorry, but strongly disagree. If someone is 100% sure they are ready, they are either intimately familiar with parenting role (e.g. tons of much younger siblings), or more likely overconfident to the point of not really knowing what they are doing.
    – user3143
    Commented Dec 10, 2016 at 1:12
  • +! for last paragraph. I am firstborn, and my parents were 39 and 34 when I was born.
    – AAM111
    Commented Dec 10, 2016 at 2:21
  • @user3143: agreed for people who bypass the "Not sure if ready state" entirely and immediately think they are ready, but I think people who start with doubt will probably be ready by the time they think they are. They tend to change their mind after careful thought and obtaining more information.
    – Erik
    Commented Dec 11, 2016 at 10:12

I know this is cheesy, but I believe it sums it up pretty well. From the movie "The Princess Diaries":

Courage is not the absence of fear but rather the judgement that something is more important than fear; The brave may not live forever but the cautious do not live at all.

This is not a way of advocating that you need to have courage and jump in right now. It is rather the idea that there will always be fear around any major life decision, especially kids. There is something particularly terrifying about being responsible for something as precious as a child. If you aren't scared, at least a little, you probably aren't cut out for it.

The best way to determine if you are "ready" is, as the quote above suggests, if the experience of having kids is more important than your fear. If you value that experience more than your fear, go for it. If you know you can love your kids through your mistakes and can do your best, do it. If your future kids (and your love for them) are more important than being scared, you are ready.

You will never be totally prepared for parenthood. No amount of advice, reading or classes will ever prepare you fully for raising children. But the fact that you are asking here and trying to get prepared shows that you want to be the best parent possible. That counts for a lot. A perfect parent isn't one who never screws up. It is a parent who loves their kids and does their best.

As far as adopting or having your own biological children, @anongoodnurse's answer sums it up pretty well. See what the likelihood of passing certain things on to your children would be and make a decision from there.

To sum up, if the experience of being a parent and your love for your future kids is more important than your fear, go for it. You are ready. Otherwise, wait.


If you have to ask, you likely aren't ready. This is a very good time to be honest with yourself.

You have to willing to completely put another person's needs before your own for YEARS. You can't watch your favourite sport on TV because the kid has an event or is sick. You can't afford tickets to the best concert and it's the only chance that band will ever be in your city because your kid needs something. You feed, clothe and look after them before yourself. Always. Parents do not get sick days. We all assume that our kid will be perfect. I taught special needs children, including many autistic kids for 30 years and believe me, not one of their parents thought they'd have the sorts of problems that come with a child with a special need. That parental experience doesn't stop until the parents or child dies. The government stats say 1/33 kids has a special need -- those will range from minor to major.LINK

I chose not to have kids. I felt I was just selfish enough that I would not be the best parent in the world. Personally, I think that has to be your goal -- to be the very best parent.

Stuff happens. I found myself with a 4 y/o to bring up and it was life changing. I certainly have tried to be a great parent. However, I also wasn't driven to be a mum and if there were do-overs, I'd make the same choices. Including having the best kid ever in our home. I honestly think that because it truly is the hardest job you'll ever have, you need to be or should be driven to have kids.

Now if you wait for the best time to have a child -- that will never happen. There is no best time. There are better times. I am in my sixties and would not want a baby now. I'd refuse to do it at my age as I no longer have the stamina for a little one. But, having a 4 y/o appear in my 40s turned out to be pretty wonderful.

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