Q: My husband and I are in our early thirties and are contemplating parenthood.

For us it will be a conscious choice after careful consideration. We are trying to consider the pros and cons of parenthood by talking with friends who have children.

Everyone says parenthood is worth it but they can't say exactly how or why.

Are my friends simply responding to a cherubic little face looking up at them with adoration? Or is parenthood really so wonderful?

A: Yes, parenthood really is wonderful, and not just because of the smile on a child's cherubic face.

You would still marvel at your child if her little face were bent out of shape or if you -- or she -- were blind or if she had Down's syndrome or spina bifida. You might say that this was true because she was flesh of your flesh, but if she were adopted, the connection would be just as real and just as tight. Parent and child are drawn to each other like magnets.

Your friends may tell you that they had children to ensure their immortality or to make them feel complete, but very few can explain the happiness they bring.

Parents can no more quantify the rewards of parenthood than they can weigh pleasure or measure joy, and they can barely remember what pre-child life was like. Children make the past seem pale in comparison.

What is right for one couple, however, is not right for another, so you must consider carefully.

You should know that parenthood is not only more fun, more poignant and more rewarding than any job you'll ever have, it's also the only one you'll never want to quit. And yet it's the hardest, most creative, most demanding job in the world.

You'll have to feed and rock a cranky baby night after night, no matter how tired you are; lug a heavy toddler on your hip even though your back is aching, and do these and all parental tasks willingly, most of the time.

Ask yourself: Are you fairly easygoing? Will you mind taking twice as long to walk somewhere and only get half as far as you meant to go? And will you push a swing 100 times, and then 50 times and then please, just 20 times more?

Are you generous? Will you exchange fancy restaurant dinners for fast-food meals without griping? Will you adjust your work schedule to spend more time with your child?

Are you curious? Will you study a doodlebug with your little boy even though bugs give you the willies? Will you play Pokemon with your daughter just for fun?

Are you patient? Will you let your 9-year-old take a half-hour to tell you about his field trip before he gets to the point of the story? And will you drive to birthday parties and soccer games weekend after weekend, as if you have nothing else to do?

Are you a good teacher? Will you look for ways to open up your child's mind to new ideas and old values? Will you encourage her to work for her own satisfaction, not yours and not for prizes either?

And will you treat your child with as much respect as you treat your boss, and demand respect in return?

If you can do all that, you're probably ready to have a baby because you obviously have a lot of love to give, and if you start thinking about babies night and day you'll know you're ready.

If you do get pregnant, read all about child development and then read "The Intentional Family" (Avon, $12.50), by William J. Doherty. It will teach you about family development and the rituals you'll need to stay close.

Questions may be sent to margukelly@aol.com or to Box 15310, Washington, D.C. 20003.