happy ethnic family resting in bed with little dog

Should You Have Kids? (5 Questions to Ask Before Making This Big Decision)

You are probably a millennial (or Gen Z) who is asking themselves, “should you have kids?”. With bigger questions looming like “is global warming going to destroy the planet?” and “will I ever pay off my student loans?”, having the responsibility of kids is getting pushed much further down the list of things you need to figure out by time you’re 30.

As many of us are getting a later start on starting a family, we are realizing we have a little more life experience and are more aware of the nuances of family planning. Getting married at 20 and having 4 kids by 30 is no longer the norm. A 25 year old, fully developed brain can see that much more clearly.

I am a mom first and foremost. It is the most important role in my busy life and the one that brings the most satisfaction, happiness, and stress. Yes, stress is one of the top 3 emotions felt as a mom. But that is for a very good reason. Being a parent is like visiting Disneyland everyday.

This is good news for those that love Disneyland. If you are a proud annual pass holder, you are probably also someone who has always wanted a whole minivan full of kiddos.

photo of fireworks display during evening over castle kids at Disneyland
Photo by Zichuan Han on Pexels.com

You Live for Fleeting Moments of Unimaginable Joy

If you have ever been to Disneyland, you know that Disneyland is 80% planning, waiting in line, and overspending, while only 20% fun & magical. You may spend weeks or even months planning out an ideal trip. It’s the most magical place on earth, so why wouldn’t you want to go? But the day of, after spending an arm & a leg on tickets (hotels, flights, rental cars, etc. for those non-Californians) you find yourself cramped in a car taking a rather long drive through LA traffic, which feels even longer when the last mile takes 20 minutes just to enter the parking lot. Then takes another 30 minutes to find parking, wait in line, take a tram ride, and wait in line some more. Finally there’s that ever rewarding, awestruck feeling once you get through security and see that glorious Disney character posing in front of those gorgeous hedges.

That feeling lasts all of a minute. Then you are off to grab fast-pass tickets or try to be first in line for your favorite ride. You spend most of the day waiting in line for 20 minutes for a 2 minute ride. That although fun, feels like it didn’t last long enough. You then have to make the decision of whether to eat the overpriced food or not. Those Dole whips are delicious, but is that really a meal? The day flies by and before you know it you are trying to find a decent spot in the crowd to watch the magical fireworks at the end of the night. Then you fight your way through more crowds and tram rides to head back home through traffic.

That my friends, is what parenthood is like.

So when you ask yourself, “should I have kids?”. You should really ask yourself, “would I want to plan a trip to Disneyland everyday for the next 18 years?”.

It Starts During Your Pregnancy Journey

If you are already a parent, you know that means being stressed 80% of the time, while hoping that 20% filled with joy makes up for it. Any person who has carried a child will tell you it is uncomfortable at best and life threatening at worst. But this experience is almost always shared along with the tiny moments that were so meaningful you almost forgot how much pain you were in. Like hearing your baby’s heartbeat for the first time or feeling them kick.

In the early stages of being a parent it feels like those momentous occasions happen a little more frequently. So all the explosive diapers and sleepless nights are met with a pretty regular hit of dopamine. Their first laugh, their first steps, their first words. All priceless moments that any parent would say was well worth it. But is it really?

It doesn’t get easier over time (although some swear it does). The stress changes from late night feedings to arguing with a toddler about why vegetables are important to worrying if your teen is making good social choices when they are out on their own. The dopamine hits get further and further apart too. Meeting milestones every few months turns to every few years rather quickly. And it all flies by way faster than we thought it would. Overall we look back with hindsight bias and tell ourselves it was all worth it. While in the moment we are thinking, “How did I get here??”.

Why We Don’t Talk about the Stressors of Parenthood

Our parents (or other parent-type figures), often spring the question on us, “when are you going to have kids?”. This question is super unfair. It is loaded with all these other underlining thoughts and assumptions. Like…

  • “When are you going to get married?”
  • “When are you going to make enough money to afford a kid?”
  • “Are your reproductive organs working right?”
  • “Do your values align with mine?”

None of these questions should really ever be asked. Unless you are the person also trying to raise this hypothetical child.

Because there is a distance between their experience of having children and the present moment; I think a lot of folks forget just how hard, stressful, and exhausting it is to raise healthy, happy children. No one discusses with you the risks of pregnancy and labor. Or the struggles of making ends meet when you aren’t considered upper middle class. Or even how you could be considered upper middle class, but once your household size grows, you are considered barely scraping by.

If someone asked you, “when are you going to add more stress to your life?”, it would be met with, “Why would I want to do that!?”. That is truly what is being asked in these scenarios. No matter what stage of life you are in, having a child will almost always add stress to your plate. You could be a billionaire and you would still be more stressed after having a kid than prior to having a kid. Will a kid potentially add love and joy into your life as well? Sure! But will it balance out the systemic issues we have with providing for today’s children. Maybe not.

How to Prepare for Children

When we talk about stress in therapy, we often use this idea of having a bucket that is sitting under a running faucet. The water is the stress that inevitably shows up in little and big ways throughout our week. If we let that bucket overflow, that is the state of overwhelm and burnout. But if we put holes in the bucket the water will flow out in a more controlled manner, and the bucket won’t overflow. The holes are coping skills.

When you are considering having children, you have to consider the fact that the faucet will start flowing more forcefully and quickly. Do you have enough holes to manage it? Do you have the coping skills needed to control the flow? Will you be able to prevent it from overflowing? Some individuals may have a slight trickle prior to having kids. So a sudden rush of water still feels manageable. But if you are holding your bucket under an already broken faucet, can you handle it becoming a raging waterfall??

Asking yourself or your partner, “should you have kids?” is a tough question. Try asking yourself instead:

  • “Do we have the resources needed to cope with an increase in stress?”
  • “Is our relationship in a place where we can focus on another life and not feel disconnected?”
  • “Do we want to significantly alter our lifestyles?”
  • “Is ‘the joy of parenthood’ a value that tops others in our life currently?”
  • “Would I want to plan a trip to Disneyland everyday for the next 18 years?”

The decision is yours.

woman in white top using a cellphone

Do You Take My Insurance?

5 Ways to Receive Affordable Therapy

One of the most common (if not the #1 most common) question I receive in intake calls is, “Do you accept my insurance?” It is always a bummer to speak with a therapist that feels like a good fit and then find out that they don’t accept your insurance. Unfortunately, not every therapist takes every insurance, and many therapists don’t take insurance at all. This limits access to affordable therapy services for many clients, but there are alternatives to finding affordable therapy.

Finding the right therapist for your unique needs can be tough, but it isn’t impossible. There are more ways than ever to find a therapist that meets your needs and provides affordable services. In fact, most therapists strive to not just provide affordable services, but to have lots of recommendations for low cost services throughout their communities as well.

Many individuals seeking out mental health treatment haven’t had to look for a therapist on their own before. Entering college, starting a career, recently engaged, having their first child…all these periods of life transition can spark an interest in getting some professional guidance on how to cope. Unfortunately, scheduling that first session at a therapist’s office isn’t as straight forward as making an appointment for your annual exam at your doctor’s office. It involves a good amount of research and an open mind to find the right fit. I can provide you with a few tips and tricks on ways to find an affordable therapist for your mental health needs.

Key Takeaways

affordable therapy

#1 Check Your Insurance Directory

If you want to utilize your insurance to cover therapy services, it is totally possible to do so. The easiest way to find an “in-network provider” is to go directly to your insurance provider’s directory. Therapists become “paneled” with various insurance companies in their area and are then listed by the insurance provider. Another way to find out if a therapist takes your insurance is to check the therapist’s website or personal directory listing. Sites like Therapy for Black Girls allow you to filter results by your insurance provider, so you know prior to reaching out if they are paneled with your insurance provider.

#2 Ask about Sliding Scales

Often times, therapists that do not work with insurance providers offer what we call a sliding scale fee. A sliding scale is usually an offer to reduce the normal fee per session by $10 to $50 in order to make services more accessible. Therapists may or may not advertise that they have a sliding scale, so it is always helpful to ask about this during an intake call. The fee may be reduced for a set amount of sessions or be in place for the entirety of your services. Organizations like Open Path Collective also provide a list of mental health practitioners across the country that provide reduced rates for therapy services.

#3 Look for Local Community Clinics

Many major cities have mental health centers that provide reduced cost services for various populations and from various mental health providers. In San Diego, there are multiple centers that provide mental health services at a cost that is significantly lower than the average price of therapy in the area. The Center for Community Counseling & Engagement is one of these clinics. Services are provided by graduate students at San Diego State University whom are studying to become licensed mental health providers. The student therapists are supervised by a team of licensed professionals, and provide services at a cost of $12 to $50 per session. Urban Restoration Counseling Center also provides reduced fees ranging from $60 to $120 per session depending on the type of service rendered and the professional providing it.

#4 Utilize Scholarship Resources

With the increased support for providing accessibility to mental health services, it has become more common to find scholarship type resources to supplement the cost of therapy. The Loveland Foundation is one such fund that provides vouchers to be used with therapists from the Therapy for Black Girls directory that reduce the cost of services for a decided amount of sessions. In San Diego, the New Life Counseling Center also provides reduced services from licensed professionals thanks to an established fund within the center. Asking about the possibility of getting assistance with the cost of services is the first step in discovering new ways to cover the cost of therapy.

#5 Advocate for Mental Health Policy Changes

This is the most long term solution to making therapy more affordable and more accessible to everyone. Currently, insurance providers cover services for diagnosable and medically necessary mental health treatment. This is a vast improvement from just a few years ago when mental health needs were not covered at all. However, we still have a long way to go. Getting insurance companies to provide coverage for preventative care and the more nuanced mental health treatment will require more advocating for policy changes. We all hope to reach a point where you can make an appointment with your therapist and pay a simple co-pay for as many sessions you need and for as long as you need to feel you have reached a place of wellness and happiness.

Finding a therapist that takes your insurance is not the only way to find affordable therapy services. Knowing these tricks of the trade can help make therapy a little more accessible for everyone. Anyone and everyone who wants to better themselves should be able to receive mental health treatment. Utilizing some of the suggestions above can help to make affordable therapy more accessible.