How Much Do You Plan Your Life With Parenthood Costs In Mind?

Forget retirement. Are you saving for parenthood?

Everything about raising a child is more expensive than it used to be, starting with daycare (exorbitant) and going through college (ha!). Even in my set of calmer-than-average parents, who are, let’s be clear, the only ones I can stand, people discuss language immersion and gym and swimming classes for kids who aren’t yet three.

If Ben and I had set out to save a certain amount of money before having a kid, I’m not sure what our target would have even been. I’m not sure I would have ever felt like we had enough. Instead we decided that maximizing on our relative health and youth was the best choice we could make, and I don’t regret that. We’ve skimped, cut corners, gotten everything secondhand and from the library. So far, it’s been okay, going with the Standard childhood package with no upgrades, instead of the Deluxe. It helps that, in our fancy-pants part of Brooklyn, even the Standard package feels almost decadent. So far, we don’t feel less than.

But ye gods, the Deluxe version is everywhere: babies rolling by in $1,000 strollers that look like SUVs, toddlers shrieking excitedly from inside the country club-like kids gym, kindergarteners kicking past on scooters wearing more expensive shoes than I do. One can’t help but notice and someday Babygirl will too.

Does the prospective cost of parenthood put people off of it?

Let’s leave aside the emotional cost for the moment, the pervasive idea in our society that motherhood especially means going through a kind of boot camp that is intended to break you down and then build you up again into a fractured, barely recognizable version of yourself — a “mom jeans” wearing version of all patience and no needs. What about the actual financial cost?

I know that it’s a significant consideration for friends of mine. One woman I know decided to get pregnant a second time but still spent her first trimester crying because she didn’t know how she and her husband would handle the expense. Other friends have delayed getting pregnant at all or decided to have an Only because anything else would feel extravagant.

In this personal essay on The Mid, a woman frets about costs even before seeing the plus-sign on the pee stick:

My career and love life, after teetering precariously close to the gutter for most of my 30s, are finally thriving, but sometimes, all I see is what I don’t have. …
It’s a daily struggle to act as if I am going to have kids, and make decisions according to what would be best for those future people when I’m still not entirely convinced, cynic that I am, that they will ever exist. Should I order a glass of champagne or stick with seltzer? Is $100 too much to spend on a bra? Should I visit a friend in Bangkok this summer or save my money for a rainy day? WWAGMD (What Would A Good Mom Do)?

Expecting yourself to act like a Good Mom while you’re still unencumbered is intense. Part of me is shouting, Of course you should go to Bangkok. If you do have a kid, you probably won’t have another chance for a while. Yes, buy the good bra. Sure, sock money away, plan for the future. You also need to take care of yourself, though — you as you are, not you as you wish you would be. Deal with the now: that’s what a good mom, and a good person, should do.

At the same time, I get it. Now that parenthood really and truly has become a Choice for many of us — though not Texans, sorry about that — it’s as though those who do make the decision to reproduce have to justify it by going all in: emotionally, financially. That feels like it can mean swearing off alcohol and starting a 529 well in advance. It’s exhausting.

At times like these, it’s useful to recalibrate with a completely different take, like this other personal essay from the same site: What My Mother Taught me About Being Poor But Getting Things Done. Even with little money and a shitty car, you can still be an excellent mom, exactly the kind of mom your child needs.