Being a parent is a full-time job you can never quit
While many developed countries are seeing a decline in birth rates, in Tanzania, having children is not optional but a necessary part of adulthood. In fact, the median age for women in Tanzania to have their first child is 19 to 20 years old. Having a baby is so ingrained in Tanzanian society that people will never ask you, ‘do you want children?’ Instead, they’ll assume that you do and ask, ‘how many children do you want?’
However, while having a child is one of the most life-changing experiences that can happen to a person, it’s common for Tanzanians to have children without carefully assessing if they are ready to be parents.
The thing is, being a parent is a job that you can’t (and shouldn’t) quit. In fact, it’s an obligation that you will have for the rest of your life, despite how grown your children get. So before you have a baby, here are 7 important things you need to consider about becoming a first-time parent.
Is your body in good shape?
While most women’s bodies are able to carry a pregnancy with no complications, having a human being grow inside you does physically strain your body, so you want to make sure that you are in good health.
For instance, if you are overweight and pregnant, you are at a higher risk for complications like high blood pressure, blood clotting, and dystocia (baby getting stuck during delivery). So you may want to lose some weight beforehand. Or you may have some other condition like a weak cervix that increases the likelihood of a miscarriage.
All in all, it’s important to visit a doctor (preferably a gynaecologist) and have a full assessment to ensure that there are no issues that may affect you or your potential baby’s health.
2. Are you financially ready?
Babies are expensive. They need new baby clothes every couple of months, diapers, formula milk, strollers, and so many other baby products. Moreover, you may have to hire a nanny to help you take care of the baby, and eventually, you’ll have to pay for daycare and nursery school.
It’s clear that there are a lot of expenses associated with having and raising a child, so you have to look at your income and savings and consider if you are prepared to provide the best for the human being you want to bring into the world.
Furthermore, are there other financial sacrifices that you are going to have to make in the process? For instance, stop spending on things that you’ve grown accustomed to like expensive dinners, vacations, and the latest iPhone.
3. Are you in a stable relationship?
Some people think that a baby will help fix the issues that they have in their romantic relationship. And while the birth of a child can bring a couple closer together and put what’s important into perspective, it’s not going to solve your problems and mend your broken relationship.
Your child deserves to grow up in a stable and healthy environment, whereby you and your partner have mutual respect and love for each other. So, if you have issues with your significant other, then your priority should be to work on your relationship through counselling, rather than having a baby.
On the other hand, if you are going to be a single parent, then you need to make sure that the people (friends, family) you will have around your child are good role models.
4. What’s the maternity leave policy at your company?
Not everyone can quit their jobs once they have a baby, so it’s important to know how much time you can legally get off work when you become a parent.
In Tanzania, an employer cannot terminate your employment because of a pregnancy. However, you are only entitled to maternity leave (with pay) if you have been working for a company for more than 6 months. If this is the case, you are entitled to:
84 days of maternity leave with pay if you give birth to one child
100 days of maternity leave with pay if you give birth to more than one child
If due to any delivery complications you require extra days off, you will have to use sick leave days, annual leave days, or talk to your employer to get extra unpaid leave days.
Unfortunately, a father only gets 3 days of paternity leave with pay, regardless of the number of children they have.
5. What support system do you have?
In addition to being expensive, baby’s require a lot of attention. In the first 6 to 8 months, most babies do not sleep through the night and wake up about every 3 hours. Plus, they require constant supervision throughout the day.
So, you will definitely need some extra hands. Whether it’s from your partner, nanny, parents, friends, and relatives, you need to ask yourself, “who will be there for me when I have this child?” Luckily, Tanzanian culture is very family-oriented and new parents often get a lot of help raising their children from relatives.
6. Do you need to move?
Does your current residence have enough room for your baby and the potential nanny or family member that will move in to help you? If not, then can you afford to move to a bigger place? Once again, your finances have to be in good condition to support all the changes you may have to make once your baby arrives.
7. Are you ready to be selfless?
Once you become a parent, not only will you lose hours of sleep but your entire way of life will have to change. You are no longer the most important person in your life. Before you do anything, you first have to think about the impact it will have on your child.
For instance, you may really want to go on vacation, but it may be better to save the money for your child’s tuition fees. Moreover, you probably won’t always be able to do spontaneous things like going partying on a Thursday night with your friends or taking a quick trip to Zanzibar.
This doesn’t mean that your life will be completely boring, but that your priorities will drastically change. So if you are mentally and emotionally prepared for this, then well, you should have a baby!
Take your time
At the end of the day, no pressure from other people or society as a whole should influence your decision to have a child. So hopefully these questions have helped you assess whether you are ready to be a parent or not, as a baby is a gift that you can’t return.