Sitting across from a friend of mine at lunch, I remember thinking, God help her if she decides to have a baby.  This may sound cruel, but it’s not meant to be. I felt like it would make her miserable. She herself had told me she had absolutely no patience for children, and I could see that splitting time between her career and a child would be a bigger challenge than she was up for.  She didn’t want to be sidetracked.  And I could respect that.  This baby stuff isn’t for everyone, no matter how much your body tries to trick you into thinking you were born to breed.

We’re well-versed in all the societal and biological pressures on women.  But there’s more to it now than getting married, having children, maintaining a career and keeping the wrinkles away.  That’s right. Life has gotten EVEN MORE complicated.  And with that comes rethinking the entire dynamic. Should we even GET married?  Are children a prerequisite to happiness?  Is a career everything? Is female equality a pipe dream?

For those of use who do want children, but don’t adhere to a traditional family dynamic, there are now new questions.  How do I do this on my own? Where will I get support? What’s my body in for? Okay, well, don’t get too overwhelmed!  Here’s a list of questions you might want to ask yourself before you decide whether or not you should be a parent, married or not:

1)   How much of your decision is guided by pressure from relatives, friends and/or a spouse to have a child?  If this is a substantial number, you may want to rethink.  This is YOUR body, YOUR decision.  Are you responding to pressure? Then you probably aren’t thinking about what’s best for YOU or any potential child.

2)   Does spending time with children seem like a chore? Seems simple, but I know a lot of people who have kids who don’t actually like children much.  If the thought of getting on the floor to play endless hours of CandyLand sends you screaming, or you fantasize you’ll have children that quietly go about their day without placing demands on you or your schedule, this path is probably not for you.  Rethink what your involvement will look like and make sure you aren’t fooling yourself.

3)    When you think of any future children, do you think about how you might facilitate their dreams, or do you think about how they will fulfill your own?  I know a lot of people who see their children as a “legacy.” Be careful to recognize that your children will be their own person, with their own likes and dislikes and that they may not share your dreams.  Selflessness is a big part of parenting and you may realize the real joy is in accepting your role as a facilitator for your child’s dreams – not your own.

4)   Do you feel you are a patient person?  We may not want to admit it, but many of us lack patience.  That’s okay, hope is not lost.  Everyone’s patience is tested as a parent. But make sure you are open to learning that new level of patience required for raising children.  That means, giving YOURSELF a time out when you feel like you might blow your top.  Ask yourself whether or not you have any issues that require the help of a professional therapist – working out your anger management issues with your children is not only unfair to them, it’s destructive, abusive and teaches them to behave the same way.

5)   Do you feel financially ready for a child?  There is a widely held belief that you’ll never be ready to have a baby.  You just have to do it and somehow it will all work out – the diapers, baby food, clothes, etc. will all materialize one way or another.  That’s actually true!  But you’re doing this on your own, and the last thing you need is to be stressed during, say,  an IVF or your pregnancy.  Make sure at the very least to set aside money for potential fertility treatments, added expenses therein, and any loss of work you may experience as a result of pregnancy and post-partum.  Waiting until you have a million bucks in the bank is ridiculous, but you deserve to have pregnancy free of overwhelming financial strain.  Make sure you have set aside $20K and enough to cover you for 4 months of bills in case you have a tough pregnancy or delivery.

6)   Do you have a good support system throughout a planned pregnancy and once your child is born?  I am originally from Boston and most of my family is out of the country or on the east coast.  Even though I didn’t have a huge support system, I made sure to have my mom out for a month while I did IVF and for couple of months when the baby was born.  I also chose to have Godparents for my Lil’ Nugget, both of whom have no children and one who is local.  Creating your own tribe is not just a question of friendships, but of dynamics.  Make sure you pick people to be in your inner circle who are local if you can, and to keep ties with distant family members fresh through tools like Skype and Facebook.

7)   If using a donor, are you comfortable with your child potentially seeking them out as an adult?   I won’t even talk about anonymous donors – the reason?  I don’t believe in it.  Your children are GOING to want to know about their roots, even if those roots lie in a donor.  Pretending your children won’t be angry about this later in life is like sticking your head in the sand.  This is a decision for your kids, not you.  So make sure that you can be okay with your child’s potential desire to seek your donor out and satisfy their own curiosity.  We can’t control how the donor will respond, but we can help our children go through this process by keeping the lines of communication open from the very start.  Don’t make your donor a pariah. It will only backfire.

8)   If using a donor, are you comfortable with relatives and friends knowing?  I know this seems obvious, but I’ve seen a lot of people vacillate over this issue.  If you have a traditional family, for whom single parenthood or donor conception is a conflict, make sure you have armed yourself with a lot of information and the ability to stand on your own principals.  Not everyone is going to agree or understand.  But not everyone is in your position either. No one knows you better than you.  The ability to keep that in mind will be important to cultivate, not only during conception and pregnancy, but during the course of your child’s life.

9)   If using a known donor or surrogate, have you considered the legal ramifications in your state or country of residence?  Get a lawyer, look up the laws in your specific state and arm yourself with the facts.  Surrogates in certain states are considered legal parents and donors are given certain rights that you may not be comfortable with.  Even if things are amicable now, you can’t promise an agreement won’t be broken, so make sure you are going into this with the best protections and with your eyes open.

10)  Do you feel comfortable with your life as you know it changing? This is everything from your yoga classes to your hours at work to your dating life.  Your life will change.  Anyone who pretends they will somehow balance it all out perfectly all the time is lying to themselves, especially single moms. And remember, if you are teetering on this decision because you worry it will disrupt your morning yoga classes, you probably shouldn’t be having a baby until your priorities change.

I was surprised to find out that some women don’t think about the complex legalities involved in donation and surrogacy, and who are sort of “winging it” when it comes to getting pregnant. This decision is not like deciding whether or not to lease a car or buy it – it’s real, it’s permanent and it will eventually be a person with feelings.  If you are spending less time thinking about your donor than you have about anything else in your life, you aren’t thinking hard enough!  Sit down, take a breath.  Getting pregnant tomorrow won’t matter if you end up in a legal bind, a messy situation with an ex, or with a child who wonders why you decided to have the donor be some married guy you had sex with from JDate.  Not so cool.

But what I can tell you is that if you feel comfortable with all the issues above and still look forward to pregnancy, it will be the best decision you’ve ever made in your life – hands down. Looking into your baby’s eyes, and knowing that you share an unbreakable bond with someone is inspiring, beautiful and life-altering. I know. I’ve been there.