I am very intrigued by the life of a particular friend of mine. A mother of two, she’s always been prolific in her blogging and seemingly very honest about her experience as a housewife and stay-at-home mom, the mostly good stories tempered by the occasional crazy or bad one. She’s pregnant again with their “trying for a boy” baby (in my experience parents only have three children when their first two are of the same sex; then they have the “trying for a [blank] baby”.)
Perhaps I’m oddball in my obsessive budgeting of savings, considering it an integral part of our family budget, but I’ve noticed a disregard—or at the very least, apathy—in the families I know with children. I know my friend and her husband may not be struggling with her staying at home, but they’ve been concerned about money for sure, recently purchasing a house and now a new mini-van for their growing brood. I often wonder how they intend to send their three children to college, how they plan for an emergency, if they’re prepared if her husband takes ill again and cannot work for an extended period of time.
Of course I can’t claim to know what’s best for their family, and to be honest I’m not even sure what her husband does for a living or how much he makes. I’m mostly looking at them as an average young family making the decision to add another baby, and I honestly can’t imagine raising a family of three on a single salary.
But having a family is about sacrifice! You sacrifice for your children! But what if it’s stability you’re sacrificing? At what point are you endangering your future or that of your children? When you have three kids and no money for a college fund? When Daddy has a recurring illness that can occasionally become severe and potentially job-threatening, nevermind the potential for jobs to be lost at any moment due to economic or other reasons beyond anyone’s control? When all the groceries and the mortgage are tossed onto credit cards — just this month, ‘til we’re back on our feet.
Selfishness. We childfree folk all know the word well. It’s the word to describe our desire to see our retirement account fat and healthy, our savings comfortable enough to float us for a month or more should one of the partners in the relationship be out of work for one reason or another. The desire to carry no balances on high-interest credit cards, to pay in cash when possible and to have enough lying around to pick up a new pair of glasses in an emergency, or a new suit for that big interview.
Childfree couples certainly aren’t all wealthy. My husband and I do okay, but we live what I consider a modest lifestyle. Even so, we D.I.N.K.s (Dual-Income No Kids) take a lot of flack for “hoarding” cash or being big spenders. But aren’t we doing what we’re SUPPOSED to be doing? Preparing for our futures? I’m not talking about extravagant vacations, expensive luxury items or impractical but beautiful cars and homes. I’m talking about what I’ve come to consider basic needs.
When did saving become optional? We’re living in a world where savings is the first thing that suffers and credit is looked upon as cash-on-hand.
Although my husband and I make a comfortable living, I do not believe we can afford a child; this is unrelated to our lack of desire to have children. When I consider the expense of a child, from the endless needs of an infant that go above and beyond basic childcare and diapers, to the birthday parties and holiday gifts, to the school supplies, clothing, medical care, braces. And that doesn’t count the food or allowances when the kids get older.
And what of schooling? In the areas where we can afford to live comfortably, the schools are sub-par. Do you pay for private schooling or spend the money moving to a more upscale neighborhood? Or perhaps you hire a private tutor? If you do all that, where does the college savings come from?
Am I being alarmist? Dramatic? I don’t think so. And that’s why I get concerned when I hear my friend is adding another child to her family. Is it sacrifice, or is it irresponsible? That’s a decision between she and her husband and based upon the lifestyle they want to live. I honestly cannot understand how or why they do it. It’s not a reflection upon them— she certainly doesn’t understand my lack of desire for children either. We’ve just made very different choices in our lives.