07/11/2014 03:08 pm ET Updated Sep 10, 2014

Should There Be a Pre-Pregnancy Contract?

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Written by Jan Cloninger

I just read Rebecca Onion's article on saying that before she becomes a mom, she needs her husband to sign on the dotted line. She proposes drawing up a non-legal contract "outlining expectations and setting a course for periodic re-examination of the division of labor."

There was a lot of chatter online about whether the concept would work, why it might be needed in the first plac, and if the author was even ready to become a parent if she had that much concern about the changes being a mom might bring to her life.

But as the founding director of a non-profit that supports families throughout the parenting process, I commend Ms. Onion for taking a proactive approach to parenting. So many couples start families without having the important conversations about how their lives will change and what's important to them as they raise their children. Then they end up dissatisfied, frustrated or fighting because the realities of family life don't align with the imagined expectations they never expressed to each other.

After working with hundreds of parents, we put together a workbook The Courage to Parent: Finding Our Strength... Empowering Our Children that helps parents develop a personal parenting plan. We strongly suggest couples complete the first half of the book prior to becoming parents. It may not be a contract -- but it is a way to be proactive not just about the responsibilities parenting brings but also to develop a shared set of principles and philosophies to guide the parenting process throughout your child's life.

We started A Place To Turn To for one reason -- because kids don't come with instructions! And every parent is doing their best to figure out how to do one of the most important jobs they'll ever do, without benefit of training and support. Every child is different, every family is different. We don't tell parents how to parent but rather give opportunities for them to question, learn, explore and integrate what's most important into every day life.

Being intentional -- thinking about the parenting process, having conversations and negotiating with your co-parent along the way, knowing who you are and what's most important to you -- makes a world of difference in the quality and experience of raising your child.

I applaud Ms. Onion for stopping to think about the changes that will take place in her life, expressing her needs to her husband, and trying to get on the same page before bringing another human being into this world.

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