Many of us pick an arbitrary age when we think we'll be ready to settle down and start a family. Often it's based on our own perceptions of our maturity. Sometimes it has to do with society's expectations, or whatever the norm is in our community.

Being a great parent isn't always about how ready an individual is, though. It takes two to make a baby, so it's helpful to ask a slightly different question. Is this marriage ready for a baby?

Mothers go through pregnancy, labor and birth, so yes, you need to feel ready for that, but moms and dads raise families together, and the quality of your marriage has an impact on many of your child's outcomes. The state of your relationship is probably the most important factor to consider if you're hoping to get pregnant in the near future.

There are signs that you and your spouse are ready to bring another person into the world.

1. You're over the honeymoon period

It's natural, and healthy, to want to focus on each other in the early days. Sooner or later, though, you'll hit a stage where your relationship is no longer all about you. You've bonded as a couple, and you find that outside responsibilities (like work, volunteering and caring for other family members) fit seamlessly into your life. A baby won't fit seamlessly into your life (babies change everything), but it's vital that you and your spouse can maintain a happy, functional relationship while juggling other responsibilities.

2. You're working as a team

Developing great teamwork takes time, and it's an ongoing process. In an ideal world, it gets better year by year. You and your spouse need to know and appreciate each other's strengths and weaknesses, and devise a way to use each person's talents within the relationship. This allows you to craft a shared life that runs smoothly when times are good, and is resilient in the face of problems and challenges. That's a really good basis for raising a family.

3. You're no longer broke

If you wait until you can afford a family, you may never have one. Estimates of the cost of raising a child in the USA are currently at around $250,000, and most of us will never feel financially ready for that kind of expense. We all just figure it out as we go along, adjusting and budgeting and making it work, no matter how much money we have. Having said that, being broke and pregnant is stressful, so get your finances under control before starting a family, if you can.

If you have a steady income, a budget that works and the ability to start saving a little each month, you're in a good place to start a family.

4. You've worked out how to settle arguments

Really. You need to do this, because arguments happen. And they happen more, for most couples, when a baby arrives on the scene. Evidence suggests that your marriage will deteriorate somewhat after a new birth.

This isn't terminal, and is completely normal, but it is a reason that you and your spouse need to learn to deal with conflict effectively before introducing a child into the mix.

5. You have a plan for the future

You don't have to have everything figured out at the start. Life is full of surprises and plans change, but having some idea where you're going is helpful. If you both know (and agree on) where you want to be in the future, how you want to raise this family and how you'll make it all work, that's a strong sign your marriage is ready for the next step.

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