When You Have a Career, When Do You Have Kids?
Someone recently asked me, “Where are you delivering your baby?”
I said, “Huh? Baby?” I didn’t think I gained that much weight on my vacation, you know?
“Oh, sorry,” he said. “I thought you were planning to have a baby. You’ve been working hard and talking about having kids.”
That got me thinking. Yes, I’d been working hard. I was trying to figure out how I was going to have a kid and afford to raise it.
I did, in fact, know which hospital I want to deliver in! But I need to save up money for the hospital bill (either a $1,000 or $2,000 deductible, depending on how you interpret my health plan) and fix up my house. I am working full time, and I still feel like I’m falling behind.
The cost of raising a child has risen significantly in recent years: a typical family can expect to spend almost $13,000 per year on a child. I don’t have anywhere close to that much room in my budget right now.
I’m not even a big spender. My husband and I took one vacation in the past five years. We’re not eating steak and lobster every night. It’s more like pasta or rice & beans.
Ask people about preparing for having a baby and you’ll eventually hear, “You’ll never be ready. Just have one!”
But money for childcare doesn’t exactly appear out of nowhere. Daycare in my area costs over $1,000 a month. One of us would have to stay home, so we’d have far less money.
I asked people what they did to afford childcare, and the answers varied. A handful of parents work opposite shifts. Some people said that one parent stayed home for a few years, or a grandparent or other relative stepped in to help.
One couple said they used daycare — but they made $30,000 more per year than my husband and I do. One mother said she didn’t make very much money when her child was young, so she qualified for a lot of benefits, like SNAP and heating assistance.
I’m in the middle: we don’t qualify for any assistance, but we can’t afford daycare.
I’m guessing family might help us buy a crib and a car seat, and just about everything else could be bought secondhand. But no one’s volunteered to take care of a baby while we work, or help pay bills.
I also work at a place where “flexible hours” and “working from home” might as well be a foreign language. For a long time, there was no room set aside for pumping, because nobody needed one.
Someone once wanted to leave for a doctor’s appointment due to an acute injury, and they were told not to because they had an important meeting to attend.
However, I’ve been there so long that I could easily take 6–8 weeks off, paid. That’s not something a lot of women can say.
Common lore says that women need to have a baby before they turn 35, because then you’re just tempting fate. But the risks of problems and infertility go up gradually over time, and are often overestimated. Having a healthy baby at 35 is perfectly doable.
Some factors are tipping the scale. My husband has summers off; if I had a kid in, say, April, we wouldn’t need to worry about daycare for 5 months. My parents said that, once the kid was a toddler, they could babysit frequently. My in-laws indicated they’d be generous with baby shower gifts.
Based on the way things are going, I figured two more years would be good timing. Child costs can only go down, right?