When is the best time to start a family?



I’d like some opinions on when is the right time to have children within a marriage. I’m currently engaged and my fiance and I are finding it quite a dilemma. As I understand it, according to Catholic principles one can use NFP to plan a family but should only avoid pregnancy for ‘grave reasons’.

My personal situation is this: I am studying for a degree and don’t want to waste that by not really having much of a career once I graduate. It’s not so much that I’m career-driven - at heart I’m a ‘home and hearth’ kinda girl but I would worry that I was missing out on something, or that my husband would feel too burdened by the responsibilty of being the only provider.

Just to clarify, I know that having kids and working aren’t totally incompatible but once I start a family I will want that to be my top priority, so a career will have to go on the back burner.

Any advice on how to approach this? Do you think I’m I placing too much importance on career? Does wanting to experience the working life for a few years constitute a good enough reason to delay pregnancy, or is it selfish/misplaced priorities?

Thanks for any insight you can give me! Sorry this post is so long!



You will get much advice one way or the other here; unfortunately, only you and your husband, through prayer and discernment, can figure out whether God is calling you to have children now or later. Many NFP users say that each month is a discernment process; “What does God will this time?” As well, only prayer between you and God will determine if He wants you to both work and be a mom, or devote all your time to motherhood.

In all things, put God and His will for you first, and everything else will fall into place! Don’t worry on ‘missing out’ on anything; we all miss some experience or another on earth. Just make sure not to miss out on Heaven! ^^



I don’t think I can offer any advice, but I will be praying for you.




Richardsgirl- I’m in a similar situation, I will have only just graduated when we marry, and I totally understand your desire to develop your career. I was always thinking, in 3-5 years we’ll start having babies (although we would certainly be thrilled if we got pregnant before that), mostly because FH does not make very much at all and I am paranoid about financial security. However, the closer we get to the wedding, the more we think, let’s not wait that long! The way I see it, my degrees will still be there for me to make my career when my kids are older.

I agree with Malia- you must be prepared for a child once you are married, otherwise it would be prudent to hold off the wedding until you are. I have realized that I do want a career, but I am more afraid of my family’s comments about me wasting my education by having children too soon, than of actually having them!

Pray and discuss this with your fiance often- this has helped me feel more confident that we can handle whatever happens in the baby department :wink:


Pumpkinbeast and Malia hit the nail on the head.


From a purely practical point of view, if you think that being a stay at home mom might ever be in your future, it’s much easier to start out living on a single income and adjusting spending accordingly when the kids come along than it is to be used to a double income lifestyle and then have to adjust to single-income just as the expense of children come along.


Thanks for all the replies I’ve had! :slight_smile: I think Malia’s idea about having a specific goal and saving all my income for a few years before trying for a baby, is very good. I’ve had a bit of a chat with my fiance about that and we feel it’s workable.

To reply further to what Malia was saying, I definitely feel I’m open to the idea of children. I am really looking forwards to starting a family and would never consider a baby an inconvenience, even if it wasn’t quite in the ‘plan’.

My ‘problem’ is more that there are certain expectations - from my parents (who have given me a great education), my fiance, people in general, and from myself too! Basically I’m wondering how I can possibly do both - be professionally successful and the kind of wife and mum I want to be. It seems like such a tall order that I do find myself worrying about it, even though it’s a few years away… I guess you’re right in that whatever choices I make I will be missing out on something, that’s life!

I guess a lot of this is that I am worried about disappointing my parents. I know they just want me to be happy, but they have always said how bright I am, my dad has suggested I should go into politics or be a lawyer. It’s lovely to have that kind of encouragement behind me but it does sometimes feel like a pressure, too.

Anyway, thanks again everyone for the helpful advice :slight_smile:



the time to have a family is when you get married. that is the purpose of marriage. the career, for either spouse, is the means to take care of that family, as is the work you both do within the home. If you are not ready for children you are not ready for marriage. Same commitment. Gals, that career thing is great but please look at the big picture, the time you are home with your babies and young children is getting shorter and shorter when compared to your total lifespan and working life. You have plenty of time for a 20-30 year career once your kids are school age.


Thanks for your reply too Puzzleannie. I take your point that the work is there to support the family, not so much as an end in itself with family as an ‘add on’!

But just to clarify, are you basically saying that waiting is wrong? Couldn’t it be seen as responsible family planning to wait, say, three years as Malia suggested and consolidate the finances? I would like to be able to give the best possible care to any children that do come along - I don’t mean expensive trainers and the like, but hopefully to be able to afford to stay home while they’re still very young. I hope you don’t think I am being self-indulgent, I do want children and see that as part and parcel of married life, I’m more struggling on the practical side of it.


certainly it is a good idea to get your financial affairs in order, reduce debt, learn to budget, learn to live on one income, and most of all, plan your life together taking into account your joint and personal goals. That is what the courtship and engagement period is for. You have no right to the joys and benefits of marriage if you are not willing to accept the commitment and responsibility, especially children, as well.


A couple of thoughts:

  1. It’s your life. Your dad has already had his life to do with as he has seen fit. It’s your turn now.

  2. You don’t know what might happen. The assumption is that every couple is healthy and fertile, but that is definitely not the case. We waited a year before trying to have children. Neither of us has any health problems or anything that would have given us some indication that we wouldn’t get pregnant within a few months. Nearly three years later, we have one little saint in heaven but none here on earth with us. This is why I would not advise you to get married and immediately stop working to wait for a pregnancy. If I had done this, I would probably be in a mental hospital. It’s been difficult enough to cope with the infertility while working full-time and keeping busy. If I was at home in an empty house every day, waiting for something that I knew was not going to happen, I would have to be heavily medicated.

  3. As long as you and your fiance are willing to welcome any happy surprises, why worry about it? If you want to prayerfully discern whether or not you feel it would be prudent to use NFP for a little while to get settled into the marriage, I don’t see a problem either since you don’t seem to have any intent to use it long-term. This could give you a little time to figure out a household budget while married and living under the same roof, and figure out what will and won’t work.

Of course, man proposes, God disposes. He might decide that you should have a kiddo 9 months after the wedding. God bless and best of luck to you! :slight_smile:


What is your degree in? Is it a type of job where you can work part time? You could start working full time, then when the kids come, take a few years off, and go back part time. Believe me, I wish someone would have hit me over the head with the info puzzleannie just gave you BEFORE we got married. I wish I would have had enough sense to believe it then. We have been married almost 12 years now, and I am finally a stay at home mom. I wish we would have waited to get financially ready BEFORE having our kids, because then I had to work just to keep us afloat. We did a major lifestyle change, and now are doing it the right way, with me home with the kids. I regret the years we lost though. So listen to Annie, she’s got it right. I know.


there’s just one thing somebody should warn you about, babies have their own sense of timing, regardless of all your best planning intentions.

expectations from parents and others are all very well, but it is your life–but also your prospective husband’s life–and these are matters for the two of you to discuss and decide.



The most important thing is to be in God’s Will.


Get used to it! (half joking, half serious :slight_smile:

It’s great to please your parents, but not at the expense of other important relationships.

My college aged daughter is engaged and wants a family right away. I don’t consider her education a waste. Anything that helps her be a good mom is an investment. —KCT


Yeah you are right…this has to be about what’s right for me and my future husband, not my parents, lovely as they are. I feel sure that I do want to get married when I graduate, I dont want to wait years and years…it probably just means making sacrifices on other fronts I guess.

Thanks for all the different perspectives…it really helped me as this whole issue has been going round and round my head! I guess I will just pray a lot and take it as it comes…:slight_smile:


Sarah, No one here can answer this question for you. This is something each couple discerns themselves in prayer. You might also seek spiritual direction on the matter.

Just reasons.

Why do you believe that you would be “wasting” your degree? Education is not wasted because one is not putting it to *commercial *use.

Don’t conform your and your fiance’s vision of your marriage and family to any outside “expectations”. What is YOUR vision for your marriage?

And what does Richard say about being the sole provider? Why do you believe he would be “burdened”? Why do you think you are missing out on “something”? What is that something?

A “career” is not a back-burner proposition. If you are not going into a career to stay there and advance then I would suggest that you not go down that path. I think you would find that it becomes an issue of never being the “right” time to get out. There’s one more project, one more promotion, etc, and if you start “needing” that income… well then…

Yes, I think you and Richard should decide what YOU want, not what society tells you to want or what society expects.


Personally, I don’t think that it does constitute a good reason. But, that is not for me to say.


Oh boy.

A “career” is a job, unless it is a vocation. We here on earth have one goal–to get ourselves and our loved ones to heaven.

Motherhood/Fatherhood is a vocation. I hear what you are saying about feeling like you missed out and disappointing your parents. This is only the beginning of such decisions. Once you are married and have children having made the decision to stay home with the children, you will baffle your parents with your parenting decisions such as “Cry It Out VS Attachment Parenting” or vaccinate VS no vaccines or Bottle VS Breast. The list goes on. Then, just when they have you figured out, you may decide to homeschool which opens up a new can of worms for the unsuspecting grandma/grandpa.

Point is, once you are engaged and then married, you will be making decisions for your family based on your own prayer and research and adherence to your faith. Your parents input can be helpful, but they are not your future children’s parents. You are.

For the record, I am a stay home homeschooling mom with a masters degree that I never used. I will likely never use it and don’t care to. When the children are all grown and the good Lord sees fit to stop providing more (LOL), I would love to go back to school in Theology or Sacred Music. Maybe I would work for the church.


Re: when is the best time to start a family?

*After *you get married.

Everything else is personal.

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