Preparing for parenthood is a huge financial challenge, especially if you’re expecting your first child. There are all the expenses you’ve prepared for, before the baby even comes, but there are also plenty of hidden costs that tend to sneak up on new parents. Being a single woman, I haven’t yet experienced the joy of parenthood, nor have I dealt with its costs. However, I was very aware of how hard my mom worked to cover all of my expenses growing up. My mother was a single parent who was willing to make any sacrifice necessary for her daughter. As I grew up, I became more aware of how much my mom sacrificed to make ends meet. My mom is no longer with me, but while she still was, she shared many details of our financial history with me (once I was an adult). I can now see how much she gave up, and how hard she worked to support me. She never said “no” to my school supplies, clothes, occasional treats, and so on.
While I may not be having kids any time soon, my single mother taught me that even though I truly want to be able to afford kids at some point, they come with tons of expenses I hadn’t considered. Yes, there are certain aspects of parenthood that require learning as you go, and a child will bring great joy to your life even when you aren’t prepared, but I think having an understanding of the finances you may have to manage can only help. Here are five costs of childcare that my single mother taught me to look out for:
1. The costs that come with not having someone else to fall back on.
When you’re a single parent, and you’re working, trying to balance everything can be difficult, and it can be expensive. Not only is there no one to pick up the slack, but when your sitter cancels on you at the last minute, you don’t have a spouse that can run home when you are stuck at the office. Often this means paying for last-minute care. Other times, it just means paying extra for child care when you need alone time. My mom wasn’t able to leave me with the other parent when she needed a moment to herself. She had to bring in a nanny, or a babysitter.
2. Celebration costs (birthday parties, gifts).
Celebrating birthdays and buying gifts can add up. We may think of it as a childhood necessity, but it’s really a luxury. When I think about what my mom must have given up to make sure that I could feel special on my birthday, and celebrate, I realize how many extra hours she must have had to work. Arranging cake, food, and goodies for your kid’s friends gets expensive. Furthermore, if you’re going all out, costs such as entertainment, decoration and so on, can make a party very pricey. Similarly, if you want your child to be able to participate in activities and celebrations at friends’ houses, that often means buying gifts, which stretches the budget.
3. Healthcare costs.
Even without children, I know from personal experience that healthcare can be a huge stress. And if you’re not getting health insurance through your company, it can take a significant chunk from your monthly budget. Not only does adding health insurance for your child cost money, but your own healthcare costs can increase. For a single parent, funding the cost of delivery and post-partum care is a major undertaking. The costs before birth are well publicized: more frequent doctor’s visits, ultrasounds, and other tests. However, after-birth costs are equally serious, and my mom was not as encouraged to plan for them. According to Parents.com, prenatal, delivery-related and post-partum costs can add up to about $8,802. 4. Education costs
One of the biggest challenges of single parenthood is the fact that there is sometimes only one income to cover a child’s costs. (Of course, sometimes there is child support, or costs are split between two divorced parents.) Education costs are rising rapidly. While private school and higher education might not have been part of the long-term financial plan in my family, it is something that many parents want to give to their children. Even without factoring in private school or college, there are still school supplies (which my mom would not have let me go without) and field trip fees, etc. Getting your child to and from school can be an additional cost (both time-wise and financially). Not only was this a financial challenge for my mother, it was draining and created additional stress.
5. Extracurricular activities
In terms of a more unexpected education cost, what children do after school can also be a headache, especially when a single parent can’t come pick up their child immediately after school. While extracurricular activities may have made it easier for my mom (because it makes pick-up time more flexible for working/single parents), it can also require you to pay extra. Sports equipment, musical instruments, and other necessary supplies do not come cheap. My family used to buy a lot of gently used products, or dollar store items, to help alleviate that cost.
Looking at my mom’s example, she had to deal with all of the parenting challenges that came her way, by herself, without a lot of time to plan financially. Dealing with these costs in a single-income household creates a lot of strain, especially when, according to CNN Money, the cost of raising a child is more than $240,000 (in 18 years). I am still in awe of single parents (and all parents) who are able to navigate the financial challenges that come with raising a child. While I am not trying to have kids in the near future, I think it’s important to understand this so I can appreciate everything my mom went through, and so I will be able to plan for the future.
Amy Nickson is a web enthusiast. She works for Oak View Law Group, a leading consumer and bankruptcy law firm based in CA and operational across US. She loves social media, as it gives her endless opportunities to reach out to a larger audience in a more unbiased way.