On their wedding day, the bride and groom are asked: “Will you accept children lovingly from God and bring them up according to the law of Christ and his Church?” Dreaming together about the children you hope to have is one of the most exciting parts of getting married. However, unless you’re entering a step-parent family or already have children, the nuts and bolts of daily parenting are probably not high on your radar screen. Here’s a suggested list of items that couples should discuss before they get married regarding children and parenting. See if you’ve covered most of them.
- Do we both want to have children? [Note: Because the Catholic Church teaches that marriage is ordered toward the union of spouses and the procreation and education of children, if one or both spouses intends never to have children (as opposed to postponing pregnancy for a just reason), the marriage could be considered invalid.]
- Do we hope to have children right away? What are the financial, educational, or medical factors that could affect this decision?
- If we are hoping to postpone pregnancy, do we both accept the Catholic Church’s teaching that contraception is immoral? If not, are we willing to learn more about what the Church teaches and why?
- Are we familiar with Natural Family Planning? Are we open to using NFP either to postpone pregnancy or to try to conceive? Have we taken an NFP class together? (See also, “When Can We Use NFP?”)
- How many children do we hope to have? What are the financial, educational, or medical factors that could affect this decision? For example, how do we envision educating our children (homeschool, Catholic or private school, or public school)? Do we hope to pay for our children’s college education? Do these issues direct what we think about the number of children in our family?
- Do we feel pressure from our parents or in-laws either to have children right away or to postpone pregnancy? How will we deal with that?
- If we have difficulty conceiving, how would we deal with potential infertility? What if our physician confirmed that we were infertile? How would we feel? What would we do? Are we aware of what the Church teaches in regards to infertility treatments and reproductive technology?
- Would we ever consider becoming foster parents or adopting?
- How would we deal with an unexpected pregnancy? What would we do if our physician told us that our unborn baby was sick or would be handicapped?
- What did you like most about the way you were raised?
- What would you like to change in the way you raise your own children?
- If one of us is not Catholic, have we discussed in which faith we hope to raise our children? [Note: The Catholic Church teaches that in a marriage between a Catholic and non-Catholic, the Catholic party must promise to do all in his/her power to raise their children in the Catholic faith. The non-Catholic party must be aware of this promise but is not asked to make the same promise his/herself. See the article on Interfaith Marriages for more.]
- How do we plan to pass on the faith to our children?
- How do I expect parenting to change our marriage?
- Do we want one parent to stay at home once we have a child?
- What is the hardest thing I expect to deal with in raising a child?
- What do I anticipate the most about becoming a father or mother? What causes me anxiety about future parenthood?