The Cost of Parenting: Trying Not to Go Bankrupt as a Result of Having Kids
Don’t we just love them beyond all measure?! Our children are our pride and joy. Beyond work, beyond what we want for ourselves, they have the capacity to make us feel that we’ve done something meaningful. Except on the days when they don’t. But that’s a whole other blog post. The point is, we don’t really weigh up what they cost us as a way of measuring their worth. It’s not like we’re going to say “Nah, you’re too expensive, I’ve decided I’m not going to be a parent anymore”. But. Kids are expensive. And sometimes they can break the bank. Not to mention marriages. So how do we provide and enjoy the ride without stressing out quite so much about our finances?
Pre-kids it’s hard to imagine money struggles getting the better of your parenting. I mean you’re aware that having children is going to require more expenditure than if you were to not have them. But most of us simply don’t base our entire decision about whether or not to have children on whether we can afford them or not. If we did, there would be a lot fewer humans walking the earth. Projections of income and expenditure mapped over a 25-year period, from birth through university times X number of children we end up having, would probably make for successful birth control. So, if we’re lucky enough, we instead go with notions of love and believe everything will work itself out somehow. We look at it as a long-term investment; we hope that our children will look after us when we get old. We have the children. And some years later we may find that the spending that children require sometimes outstrips our earnings. Instead of re-mortgaging the house, it’s time to implement some changes to make things more manageable. Please forgive me if this is like teaching you to suck eggs.
- Say No
Just say it. Say it out loud right now. “No, you cannot have a Nintendo Switch”. “No, you will not die if we don’t book out an entire salon so fifteen x 12-year-olds can have mani /pedi’s for your birthday”. “No, we cannot go to a nearby island for a week-long barefoot holiday because your friends are there the same week (daddy and I are seriously considering going on our own though!”). Our kids don’t need everything they ask for. Even if it’s within our means to provide gifts, extravagances and new devices with every new release, it’s prudent to reserve those funds and see how they get on without things. This has never been more so the case than living in these uncertain times of Covid-19. Furthermore, hearing you say “no” gives them the security of parameters.
You are excelling. But in this context I really mean, lay it all down in a spreadsheet. Honestly, as boring as it sounds, listing out all your incomings and outgoings helps you determine a family budget you can live with. It may not give you everything you want (living within your means can be a rude shock at first), but the power you gain by having full transparency across what you can afford, and the ability to make well-informed decisions, makes you a happier person, parent and partner. Plus you will sleep better at night, and that is worth gold!
- Date Night
Bear with me here. Once the full flush of young love has worn off and date nights disappear, replaced by logistics and child chauffeur services, there is an opportunity to get you and your partner back on the same page. Resurrecting a night off together each week to discuss your finances is sexier than it sounds. When tension mounts through marriage, as it is bound to do, you can often trace its source back to money. The conversations we didn’t have, the things we didn’t agree to, the unmet expectations, can cease to be a thing when we give each other a platform to express concerns and check-in about what expenses are coming up and what direction we want to head in together. Having a safe space and designated time to weigh up the admin of your lives and move forward in agreement means that problems can be contained and managed, and you can actually enjoy the rest of the time together.
- Don’t Keep Up
It’s natural to succumb to that thief of joy: comparison. Comparing ourselves to others is never a good thing. For one, no one really knows what is going on with someone else. So, its best just to focus on you and what you can change. Setting benchmarks based on what your friends provide for their kids, from gadgets to getaways, is the gateway to disappointment and losing sight of your own manageable goals. Just remember everyone has a back story that you are not party to.
Your children don’t need much. But they do need you. By living within your means, you’re giving them more of that. Spending time with your children and each other is worth its weight in gold.