7 Signs You Aren't Ready to be a Parent

Pete Ross

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One thing I’ve noticed over the last decade or two is society’s unwillingness to appropriately judge adult behaviour, especially when it comes to parenting. You’ll hear constant excuses like, “you don’t know what anyone else is going through, so don’t judge them,” and ,“every parent is just trying their best.”

The bar has been set so low that so long as you don’t do anything that kills your kids, hey, we’re not gonna judge you, cos that’s mean. Well, I’m calling BS. I can and will judge you as a parent, because your choices as a parent have consequences, both for your kids and for all the people your kids will come into contact with over the course of their life.

Here is a list of signs that, in my opinion, show you aren’t ready to be a parent. You should either fix them before you have kids or, if you’re already a parent, get on top of them and sort yourself out so you don’t bring damaged people into the world.

You don’t see yourself as a role model

If you really, truly want to be a parent, one of the first things you realise is that every decision you make matters. What you give your kids to eat, how you talk to your spouse in front of them, how you treat grades at school, what you let them watch on TV, what experiences you give them growing up. The list is exhaustive.

And it’s not just about what you choose for them, it’s what you model for them.

Your job as a parent isn’t just to keep them alive until they can leave the house, it’s to raise a fully functional, resilient person who can meet the adult world head on and thrive. If you don’t take the responsibility seriously, you’re going to raise a kid with all of your own insecurities, dysfunctions and inabilities. That’s because your poor choices don’t just impact you, they impact everyone around you, and as a role model your child is going to mirror many of your behaviours.

Are you going to make mistakes? Sure. None of us are perfect. But knowing you’re a role model every second you’re in front of them - and acting as such, should be your baseline.

You have no financial sense

A common refrain when it comes to your finances before having your first child is “you’re never going to be ready.” For most of us that’s true, you never feel like you quite have “enough.” There’s a big difference, however, between feeling like you don’t quite have enough and your finances being an absolute train wreck.

As I said above, if you can’t get it together financially, there’s a good chance your kids will inherit your behaviour. This is why we have the phrase “cycle of poverty,” because learned behaviours in a family setting become incredibly difficult to break out of. It takes a conscious effort by an individual to do that, and often they’ll be met with the rest of the family trying to pull them straight back down.

One of your most important jobs as a parent is being able to provide stability. Stability means a feeling of security for you and your child that life doesn’t have to be a constant struggle, freeing your mind up to aim higher. So if you’re one of those people who can’t stop shopping, who never seems to get the hang of saving money, get your act together financially before you have a kid.

You think “adulting” is hard

Dear god, all these twenty and thirty somethings who think it’s cute to talk about “adulting” and how it’s so hard to do. It’s not cute, it’s pathetic. Please, don’t breed anytime soon. Being able to adult — that is, to have your act together, is a basic requirement for parenting. If you’re the type who can’t even handle keeping a clean house, having clean, ironed clothes ready or ensuring an adequate amount of food on hand, you’re not ready for kids.

My wife is a teacher, and over the years she has seen a lot of kids come to school with dirty school uniforms, not being fed, or lunch not packed. Then there are the parents you see routinely take their kids in late because they simply don’t get up in time.

Now, a lot of you are probably ready to jump down my throat: “you don’t understand their situation, you shouldn’t judge them!” Guess what? I don’t give a damn. Parenting is not about you. When you become a parent, it’s your job to make sure your child is well fed, clean and at school on time. This is not difficult (assuming you don’t have cystic fibrosis or some other debilitating disease). If you think it is, don’t have kids.

You and your partner don’t have a healthy, functional relationship

Do you and your partner fight a lot? Would you have what some would call a tempestuous or turbulent relationship? Or, let’s take things down a notch. Do you have a shared understanding of what you want out of life and what you want for your kids?

That’s something you really need to get sorted out first if not. Remember, and I’m going to beat this point to death, you’re a role model for your children. If you and your partner are always fighting, or speaking to each other rudely, or can’t finish a conversation without an argument happening, you best get on top of that real quick.

Believe it or not, there are even parents who will talk dismissively about the other parent in front of the children. Yeah, that’s gonna end well.

If you don’t get on top of it, your child is going to think that’s normal behavior. Your poor choices and inability to get it together will mean that they have a damaged, unhealthy view of what adult relationships are. They’ll likely make the same mistakes you do, have the same bad relationships and pass the same propensities onto their kids.

You’re not prepared to sacrifice — both the known and unknown

Parenting is sacrifice — we all know this. You sacrifice sleep, money, a social life and yes, sometimes sanity. But there’s a whole bunch of other stuff you might have to sacrifice that’s in no way foreseeable. For instance, my daughter is only just coming out of a phase where she couldn’t go to sleep without me or my wife next to her, and on average it took her an hour just to get to sleep. Sometimes 2.

It meant that my wife and I had very little time together at the end of the day — not great for a marriage. This was coupled with her not being able to stay in her own bed, meaning my sleep quality was awful and I felt like a zombie. No parent expects to be going without sleep when their kid is 6, that’s supposed to happen when they’re a newborn. So the only solution was that for more than 6 months, I slept in the roll out bed next to my daughter instead of next to my wife most nights.

When she was going through the “terrible twos” my wife and I just didn’t take her out in public, because tantrums would always ensue.

That’s mild though. Consider parents of kids with autism and other special needs. The sacrifices are immense. Parenting is almost never a best-case scenario — it’s a lucky dip of what you get, and you better be prepared to sacrifice things you never thought you would.

You have no sense of stoicism

Stoicism is important when it comes to parenting, because your children are going to go through phases. Some will be short, some long, and some just utter hell. Through it all, you need to have in the back of your mind that famous stoic quote: “this too shall pass.” It’s a dual strategy of both meeting challenges head on and working to fix them, but also realising that it’s not going to be fixed quickly.

You know why so many kids get medicated? Because parents and teachers aren’t prepared to try out different things and actually give them time to work. It’s so much easier to pathologise behaviour and medicate it away than to actually deal with it. We’ve had multiple, difficult phases with our daughter and each time, it was a combination of patience mixed with trying different things that always got us the right result eventually.

Parenting is never going to be easy or quick.

You’re unprepared to set boundaries

If you’re a good parent, your kids aren’t going to like you sometimes. That’s life. It’s because as part of their development they’re always testing boundaries. What so many parents get wrong is that they can’t set a boundary because they can’t stand the thought of their child not liking them for a few minutes.

When a child tests a boundary, you need to step up and show the boundary is there, not remove it because you want to avoid conflict. All you’re doing is turning behaviour management into a credit card. You’re constantly deferring payment, which means the bill is going to come due at some point. It won’t be pretty.

That’s because society has boundaries, so even if you won’t enforce them in your home, your child will be faced with them eventually. If you’ve abrogated your responsibility as a parent and your child has turned into a nightmare of a person, that boundary might be as small as getting fired from multiple jobs or as severe as jail.

So if you’re a people pleasing type that lets others walk all over you, you need to grow a backbone before you have kids. Adults don’t test boundaries often because they generally know what they are. Kids? They do it all the time. Sometimes you make it a soft boundary where you can talk to them and set them straight. Other times, they’ll just keep stumbling forward and you have to present a very hard boundary. The main thing is that the boundary is always there.

Final takeaway

The main thing I want you to take out of this is that parenting is far more than just keeping a child alive for 18 years. That little person is watching and modelling you the entire time, so it’s important that you get as many of your personal inadequacies fixed before you bring them into the world. If they’re already here, get to work on sorting yourself out.

Everything you do as a parent matters, and the reality is that your parenting can be a force for good, or a force for evil in the world. It’s not about raising your kid to be a doctor or astronaut or billionaire, it’s about raising them so that everyone around them benefits from their presence.

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I write about career, performance, psychology, self development and business humour. I'm an author, former national competitor in judo and strongman and a former military instructor.

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