Growing up, I never once saw myself as a mom. I didn’t daydream about my wedding day and what my life would look like as a wife. I did, however, love to think about what my future house would look like, how many books I would publish, and whether or not it would be possible to be a writer IRL.
Today, I’m all of these things. I’m a writer, I’ve completed one manuscript, I’ve purchased my first home, and I’ve gotten married. I’m also a mom. Of all of these “accomplishments” (we’ll call them), the toughest challenge thus far has been the task of parenthood.
My 1-year-old daughter has become the center of my universe, which is typically what most moms on the internet will tell you. She’s also completely changed my life — emotionally, physically, professionally, and of course, financially.
How much does raising a family cost?
A 2017 study found that it would cost about $233,610 to raise a child in America, from birth to the age of 17. We all know, though, that parenting doesn’t stop at 17. And that six-figure total is only for one kid. Imagine having two. Better yet — imagine doubling that number and going for four?! I actually can’t. My brain cannot compute.
A family with four kids will spend just under $1 million raising them on average. They’re also expected to save another $1 million for retirement and enjoy their life day to day through travel, entertainment, and hobbies. Are you as stressed as I am? Will these hives on my face ever go away?
One of the most significant contributing factors to whether or not people choose to have kids in the first place is freedom. The average American will earn $1,400,000 in their lifetime, and the choice of how they’ll spend that money isn’t always straightforward. Having kids would mean you’d have to give up time away from work and time you’d spend on travel. For us, deciding whether or not we were ready to be parents was looking at whether or not we were financially capable of this responsibility. Numbers speak volumes when it comes to raising a child.
Now just over one year into parenthood, I can understand the struggle of balancing your financial situation with your desire to raise a happy and well-loved child. The cost of diapers and the cost of breastfeeding were a couple of the main expenses I decided to track. In year one, I spent $752 CAD ($564.12 USD) on breastfeeding supplies and $505.65 ($379.32 USD) on diapers. Otherwise, year one was a breeze financially compared to year two — and we’re only a few months in. And the cost of materials is just one side of the coin when it comes to children. For us, it’s a multitude of factors that we now weigh when considering the future.
To take control of our financial future, my husband and I are strongly considering having an only child. When we tell people this, they tend to think we’re joking.
“You’ll change your mind,” they say. “You don’t want an only child,” they gush. “Only kids are weirdos,” they insist. We’ve heard it all, and we already have one kid. I simply can’t imagine the judgment people receive if they choose to have no children. Since it’s difficult for people to understand, let me share some of the main costs that impact the decision that people might make regarding raising a child.
What financial factors weigh on the decision to have a child?
In America, parents spend around nine to 22% of their income on childcare. In Canada, which is where I reside, it’s closer to 32% of annual income spent on childcare. This was confirmed the moment I started to research potential daycares or dayhomes in my community.
Luckily, we have a retired grandma available to watch our child part-time — which meant we would only require two to three days of coverage per week. Two days per week would end up costing us $715 CAD ($536.36 USD) a month. Three days would total to $1,005 CAD ($753.91 USD). Full-time childcare would cost us 23% of our income.
If according to the 50-30-20 rule, we’re supposed to put 50% of our income towards needs, paying for childcare would leave us with 27% leftover for shelter, food, transportation and beyond. If we had to pay for two children in childcare, we would be stumped.
2. Financial goals
A big part of my life is personal finance. I mean, heck. I write about it all day every day. Therefore, for myself and my husband, saving money is extremely important to us. We’d like to save enough for retirement, for travel, for home maintenance, and for our daughter to go to college. This means that we need a majority of our income to go towards savings.
Currently, 20% of our income goes towards savings. We are not willing to decrease this amount at the risk of being unable to live the lifestyle we’d like to live. If it costs around $1,145 per month to raise one child, doubling that total for a second child might broadly impact our goals. Selfishly, it’s hard to imagine.
3. Time = money
We already touched on the fact that many adults considering having a child will always wager their ability to spend time doing the things that they love. Having one child has already had a significant impact on my earning potential. By breastfeeding my child, I estimated that the time spent doing so cost me $16,320 CAD ($2,242.60 USD) in lost wages. In one year, I spent 32,654 minutes breastfeeding. That’s 544 hours, at nearly 1.5 hours per day, every single day.
Would I change a minute of that time? Absolutely not. Would I choose to do the same again? Right now — absolutely not. Personally, that is the time I’d much rather spend focusing on work, so that I can save enough money to provide a comfortable life for my daughter.
4. Giving birth
Being that I am Canadian, this factor doesn’t exactly come at a price tag that it would my American neighbors. In the United States, delivery expenses range considerably, from $3,000 to $37,000 per child, for a vaginal birth. For a C-section or if there are any other complications, parents can expect to spend $8,000 to $70,000 per child.
The delivery of my baby girl cost us $0. If things were different, and we weren’t located in Canada, we may not be fortunate to live our lives debt-free, as we are now (aside from our mortgage). I did have to spend the following month focusing on my health and purchasing products to ensure a safe and speedy recovery — but that cost is insignificant in the grand scheme of things.
Similar to time, how you choose to live your lifestyle can significantly depend on your family. If a couple has one child, you always play the game two on one. If a couple has two children, they get to play man to man defense. If you’re outnumbered, it’s zone defense, and the pressure is at an ultimate high.
When people ask my husband why we only want one child, as though it’s their business, I like to bring forth an example for them to reference next time they’re at the airport. I tell them, next time you go on a vacation, I want you to look at all of the parents you can find. If the parents have more than one child, you may notice that they aren’t as relaxed as those with one. That’s because, for them, it’s not a vacation. Well, not a relaxing one, at least.
To be honest, I’m prepared for many people to be offended by me not wanting a second child, or to find flaws in my argument that don’t apply to them. The thing is, this decision is personal. Yet, for some reason, I’m having to explain myself to strangers when they ask when we’re having our second — even though we may not.
Some people will never understand our decision, and that’s okay. They don’t need to. I’m just grateful that where I live, we have the privilege to be able to make the decision of whether or not we have another child. I hope that one day, everyone can say the same.
Curious how much it will cost you to raise a child? Check out this calculator to find out.
Alyssa Fischer claims she’s not an expert on personal finance — which is why it’s easy for her to explain financial topics without getting too intense. You can find her on her blog, Mixed Up Money, where she proves money isn’t boring (and that it’s also a little funny). You can also spend all day ranting with her about your finances on Twitter.
Image via Unsplash