Along with sleepless nights and being forced to spend time with other parents won’t stop inviting you to play charades, bickering with your spouse is a big part of your life as a parent. But such arguments as “I thought we wanted cupcakes and, not, cake cake for Kimmy’s first birthday?” or “How about you cut your nails so your big toe doesn’t puncture my shin?” are far different than those that start out like “Umm I’ll be damned if our son isn’t brought up in the church” or “If you think I’m staying home from work today to watch the kids, you’re crazy.” In other words, it helps to be as aligned with your spouse regarding certain some parenting issues as you are (hopefully) with finances and how down you are when the rare opportunity for a quickie arises. Otherwise, there will be some barn burners that your relationship might not survive.
If anyone can sort out the mess before it, it’s Dr. Jenn Mann. She’s a licensed therapist but her most relevant CV item is dealing with the familial wreckage of the Lohans (yes, those Lohans) and the Margeras (yep, same ones), which she does as host of VH1’s Family Therapy with Dr. Jenn. She also takes on more typical family problems in such books as The A to Z Guide to Raising Happy Confident Kids. We asked Dr. Jenn about some conversations all couples should have before they have children. Here are some talking points you should be sure to tackle.
How Important is Religion in Your Home?
“Couples often have fantasies of how it will be when they have kids and don’t share that with their partner,” Mann says. If there are two Gods in the home, the first step is deciding which religion, if any, the child will have. Or if you’re both of the same faith, what level of commitment you expect from the kid and each other. Having children often makes someone’s faith grow stronger, or strengthens a person’s desire to have their child enjoy the same kind of childhood they experienced. Don’t wait until that first lazy Sunday with the baby to find out that you need to be dressed and ready for Sunday school in 15 minutes sharp.
How Do You Feel About Circumcision?
For most of his life, your son’s penis — and what exactly to do with it — will be his welcomed responsibility. Except at the moment when you decide whether or not to snip the tip, of course. “Circumcision is a hugely overlooked issue,” Mann says. “This tends to be something people have strong opinions about. Most dads want their son’s penis to look like theirs.” Parents, she says, often take into consideration religion, what generations before have chosen, and medical concerns.
Will You Send Your Kid to Public or Private School?
If you’re not already fighting about this then you’re missing out on the joys of parenting. Plus, some school districts require an application at least three generations ahead of time, in addition to notarized letters of recommendation from a minimum of two states attorneys general. “Not as many parents as you’d like to think have this conversation,” Mann says.
What Neighborhood You’ll Live In
How important to you is availability of ramen versus affordabilty of rent? Everyone has their own ideal dot on the neighborhood matrix. Better make sure yours and hers are at least in the same quadrant, says Mann. “Sometimes one person’s like ‘We’re moving to the suburbs’. It’s a big decision and if one person has a belief or fantasy about a certain location, it’s important to communicate that.”
What Type of Diapers You’ll Use
Do you prefer to clean poop, or to have your wallet cleaned out by buying diapers? Determinig which option is less — apologies…shitty? — is worth bringing up. “Some people are like ‘I don’t want toxins near my child’s body’, others are hardcore environmentalists who don’t want to waste,” Mann says.
How Much Screen Time Do You Want Our Kids To Have?
This is an ever-increasing issue. Are you okay with sitting your kids in front of a Peppa Pig for an hour? Is an iPad an okay road trip companion? Or do you not want to bathe your kids in blue light just yet?
Do You Want to Co-Sleep?
You may have begged for years to get another person into your marital bed. But now that it’s finally a reality you realize that person will be your 7-pound baby, and maybe that option doesn’t seem so alluring now. The question of co-sleeping is a very personal one that might come down to this: Would you rather not have to climb out of bed to attend to your baby? Or would you like to have your own sleep schedule be defined by when your toddlers go to bed? “It impacts the couple’s ability to be intimate emotionally and sexually, and to sleep and have privacy,” Mann says.
Who’s Going to Change Their Work Schedule?
Until diapers start changing themselves, one of you might need to stay home while the other picks up shifts driving for Lyft, learning to code, or finally figuring out how to arbitrage the global markets (or at least figure out what that means). “You’d be amazed how many people will make assumptions about how things will go and the other person has a different vision,” Mann says.