Having a Baby - Costs and Benefits
Are you Having a Baby?
When it comes to having a baby, there are both costs and benefits.
The decision whether or not to have a child (or to grow your family) is a very personal decision. It depends on a myriad of factors, each of which can tip the balance in one direction or the other.
If you are pregnant or considering trying to conceive, the question of whether it is a "good" decision is one that only you can answer yourself, or together with your partner. Your friends, your mother, or your neighbor down the street shouldn't have a say as to whether you get pregnant. One exception of course is if you are under 18 and still living at home. Then, you might have to answer to mom.
What Should be Considered Before Having a Baby
You should have a thorough medical examination before trying to conceive, to make sure that you are in good health. Some chronic conditions can interfere with your ability to conceive (i.e. endometriosis, thyroid conditions, etc.) Your doctor can provide more information. It would be best to know starting out. If you are a smoker, use illegal drugs, or drink heavily, these bad habits should be stopped, as well. Start taking a prenatal vitamin at least 6 months before you want to start getting pregnant. Because of the risk of accidental pregnancies, studies are now recommending that all women of childbearing age (15-45) take prenatal vitamins. In addition to considerations with respect to pregnancy, chronic health conditions or diseases may impact your ability to care for your child long term. For example, if you have had cancer, but it is in remission, what if it comes back? What would your prognosis be? How long would your child have with his or her parent?
Younger women generally have an easier time conceiving, but may not be financially ready or have stable life circumstances to allow for the demands of a baby. On the other hand, older women lose fertility over the years and the risk of miscarriage, Down's Syndrome and other complications rises. What is the "right" time to have a baby? Only you can answer that question. If you are adopting a baby later in life, do the math and consider your age at certain milestones: high school graduation, college graduation, age 30 (potential marriage).
Its startling: One estimate provides that a child born in the year 2000 will cost approximately $165,000 to raise to age 18. With inflation factors, that rises to over $235,000. For just one child.
Considerations Before you Conceive a Baby or Adopt
Your Job Situation
Finances and jobs tend to go hand-in-hand. But the career consideration has another dimension. If you are a woman, rising through the ranks in your company, or an entrepreneur, consider the potential impact a child may have. Balancing motherhood and career is an oxymoron. There is no balance. The best you can expect is to try to squeeze more hours out of an already packed day. But don't despair. Many, many women manage to work out of the home and happily raise a family. It can be done.
Your Partner - do you have one - will he or she contribute financially and socially to the child's upbringing?
Believe me, four hands are better than two. Study after study shows that children brought up in two parent households fare better than those that don't. However, even a connection to the other parent is better than nothing, in most circumstances. Participation in the child's life is important and foundational for self-esteem. Given the high cost of raising a child, discussed above, both parents should be contributing financially. If you have concerns or questions in this regard about a current situation, you should contact an attorney or social worker. If you have a "gut feeling" that your partner may not be as excited about becoming a parent as you, and thus may not be a part of your child's life after he or she comes into the world, this is something to seriously consider before making your decision.
Your Life Stability
Are you paying off student loans, living on Top Ramen and living in a tiny studio apartment with a bicycle as your only means of transportation? You may want to wait a few years until you have some better stability. Likewise, if you anticipate a major job change, a relocation, or other life disruption in the year ahead, a baby will not fit in well and will cause undue stress for both of you. Be patient. It will be a much more positive experience if you wait.
Other Family Members
Will you have the help of Mom or Grandma - or maybe a nearby Aunt to help pick up the slack? Relatives, if they are willing and able to help, can be invaluable not only during the early infant and toddler years, but also during the hectic carpooling years. If you have a job, a pet, or more than one child, you will soon be pulled in so many directions you'll soon wish you could get your hands on one of those "time-turners" from the Harry Potter books. Babysitters can only help so much, and they are expensive. Free is a good price, plus you know that relatives are reliable and love your child, probably almost as much as you do.
Costs and Drawbacks of Having a Baby
- Cost/Expense - "start-up costs" are extraordinary (car seats, formula, bottles, breast milk pumps)
- Time/Energy - 24 hours in a day = 18-20 spent on a newborn. School aged children require homework supervision and carpooling to extracurricular activities.
- Impact on Scheduling - less flexibility
- Potential impact on Career
- Vacations - need to arrange for childcare, or increased expense if you bring them along
- Babysitters - need to arrange in advance before going out on a date
- Increased grocery bills, utility bills, gas bills
- Increased car insurance when your child learns to drive
- College savings
- Housework at least triples - even with only one child (laundry, dishes, toys)
- Crying babies
- Terrible 2's
- Teenage attitude
Benefits of Having a Baby
- Fingerprint art
- Toothless smiles
- Cooing grandmothers
- Wobbly first steps
- Tucking them in at night - whispers and soft kisses
- Staring at a sleeping child from the bedroom door
- Marveling at another notch in the door jam after a recent growth spurt
- A reason to go to Disneyland again
- Re-discovery of your favorite childhood books
- The soft, sweet smell of a newborn's head
- Swelling pride when you attend sports events, theater performances or recitals - or all of the above!
- Joy of being able to heal a scraped knee with a kiss and a lollipop
- Experiencing the true magic of the holidays again, and believing in Santa Claus once more
- Showing them the YMCA dance - and watching them perform!
- Snowball fights
- Enjoying the unique personality of your child, and wondering where he or she comes up with such amazing questions
- Knowing that when you turn 90, your grandchildren will be there to help you blow out the candles
- The feeling of the deepest love you'll probably ever know
The list is endless.... if you are a parent, please add your own blessings!
© 2008 Stephanie Hicks