aby fever is in the air. Your best friend’s wife just had a baby. So did your cousin down in Georgia. Your sibling just adopted the cutest one-year-old in the foster care system. You’ve had a taste of what it’s like to hold something tiny and cuddly in your arms and you are ready for one of your own, dammit! But before you jump head first into parenthood, there are a few things you should probably know.
Children are expensive
No matter how much you may want a child, you’re always going to want to keep your finances in mind. Raising a child can be a very rewarding experience--but it becomes infinitely more difficult to enjoy all of its rewards if you’re constantly stressed about money. According to a 2017 survey, a child in a middle-income home will rack up about $233,000 in costs from the time of birth to 18 years old. That’s roughly $13,000 a year.
There are a lot of factors you need to take into account just for assessing your financial stability for providing for your child. Being able to feed and clothe your child is just the beginning, the absolute bare minimum of what you’ll need to provide. On top of that, you’ll need to consider things like childcare, education, and medical expenses.
Food and Clothing
These are the basic necessities you’ll need to be able to provide for your child. It’s required by law. Usually, if you are able to provide for yourself and still have a fair amount of money left over, you should be able to provide for a child as well. Even so, keep in mind that the cost of a child is only going to increase.
The amount of money you’ll spend on food for your child is going to increase exponentially as they get older, and dietary restrictions could bring even more expenses. Similarly, during the first few years of your child’s life, and again, right around the time they start puberty, it might seem like you need to buy them new clothes every week. In some cases, you may actually have to. Especially when they’re younger, children are pretty infamous for outgrowing their clothes overnight.
As your child gets older, and especially when they’re still a baby, they’re going to need near-constant attention. From electrical outlets to choking hazards to a flight of stairs, there are dangers in pretty much anything your child might come across. If you want to be sure your child is safe at all times, you’re going to want to make sure that there’s always someone there to keep an eye on them.
You’ll need to keep certain aspects of your life in mind when it comes to childcare. Do you have a partner? If not, you’ll absolutely need to invest in some kind of childcare because you’ll need to go to work to continue being able to provide for your kid. If you do have a partner, do both of you work? You may not actually need to consider the costs of childcare if the answer is no, but if it’s yes, you’ll likely need to think long and hard about the kind of care you want for your child when you can’t be around.
Daycares are going to be more expensive than a daytime neighborhood babysitter, but they’ll also be more reliable. A daycare will have set hours, usually during the daytime when you would be working, and they could possibly offer some early education opportunities for your child. If you’d like to take a more frugal approach, though, a neighborhood babysitter is a possibility. They can keep an eye on your child close to home. Just make sure it’s someone you trust.
Whether you’re raising a child from birth or thinking of adopting an older child, at some point you’re going to have to think about the kind of schooling you want them to have, as well as any kind of educational accommodations they might need. Despite what we’re often led to believe, not all education is equal--and a lot of that comes down to the environment that your child is in while at school. Schools in lower income areas tend to experience lower academic achievement than schools in higher income areas.
Public schools can be just as good as some private schools, but the school district your child will attend is often based on the area you live in. With a public school, your child can get their education for no extra cost than the tax dollars you would be putting into the school district anyway, but you also need to consider what kinds of opportunities your local school district offers. Does it have programs that can help your child if they have a learning disability? Is it safe?
Not every school district can guarantee you these things. Not even private schools can guarantee you these things, but statistically, a private school is much more likely to offer your child opportunities that will help them succeed in moving on to higher education and in living successful adult lives. That being said, unless your child is able to get into a private school based on an academic or athletic scholarship, you will most likely have to dish out a pretty penny if you want to see your child succeed there.
Kids get sick. It’s one of those unavoidable facts of life. Before you start thinking about whether to bring a child into your life, consider what kind of health insurance you have--if any. A trip to the doctor’s office can be affordable with health insurance, but can put a lot of strain on your bank account without it. And if your kid gets really sick--sick enough to need to go to the hospital--and you don’t have health insurance, hospital bills have the potential to put your whole family out on the street.
You’ll have to make sacrifices
When you bring a child into your life, you are making a commitment. You’re making a promise that you will provide for your child, yes, but also that you will guide them and be a good role model. While parenting can, indeed, be a very rewarding experience, keep in mind that you’re going to have to make sacrifices from your own life if you want to raise them to be healthy adult individuals.
On top of being provided for, children need to be nurtured. This means you’re going to have to spend time with them--even when you don’t want to. Your child is going to learn how to talk, walk, and socialize from you, which means you need to be on your best behavior, and especially during their formative years.
You’ll likely wind up spending a lot less time with your friends, a lot less time going on dates, and a lot less time just existing in your own company, and you’ll need to make peace with that. Until your child is able to care for themselves, to cook for themselves and to handle being alone without getting themselves into trouble, you’re going to need to be around--which means your own social life is probably going to take a hit.
You may also need to make some financial or personal growth sacrifices. A few extra packs of diapers might take precedence over that little bit of extra money you wanted to put towards paying off your student loans. Your child’s integration into a school with a great program for their learning disability might be more important than a job opportunity two states over.
They aren’t always cute
It’s easy to look at someone else’s kid and think “I want one” when you only have to seem them for short periods of time. When you’re around your own child, however, you’re around them extensively--which means you’ll see them at both their best and their worst. The wide eyes and soft coos aren’t going to last forever.
You’ll likely endure a lot of screaming and crying, and at any age. A baby is probably going to cry through the night at one point or another, so be prepared to lose sleep. Your toddler is going to throw enough tantrums to make you rip your own hair out. The ten-year-old might want nothing to do with you. Your teenager is going to break rules and cross boundaries and test your patience.
Kids aren’t always cute. You’re sure to experience some of the highs of being a parent, but you’re also bound to experience some of the lows. You’ll probably question why you ever thought being a parent was a good idea in the first place. This doesn’t mean it’s a bad idea.
Kids are going to give you a run for your money. Literally and figuratively. Raising one could be one of the most fulfilling things you do in your life, but make sure you know what you’re getting into before just jumping into parenthood.