Can you afford to have another child?

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Can you afford to have another child?

My kids are two years and four days apart in age. And I’m going to be honest, we didn’t really think it through financially when we decided to get pregnant again just after our daughter turned one.

Our finances had not totally recovered from the labor expenses of our daughter and my career most certainly had not gotten entirely back on its feet after a seven month hiatus. (Contrary to popular belief, there are not a lot of advertisers looking for pregnant actresses to sell their fast food or beer in commercials. So I had three auditions from the time I started showing until I had sort of recovered from having a newborn.)

We were still in monthly diaper expenses with our first born and we needed to get her into a daycare and our marriage hadn’t totally found its bearings in the parenting way and now I was pregnant again.

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We hadn’t really thought about how the two years difference would mean that we would have three years of double daycare expenses before our eldest started kinder. We’d have at least a year of double diaper costs. Our second child is a boy so all those boxes of adorable girl clothes sitting in our garage were of no use. (I mean, we’re open minded, but we figured we’d wait until our son asks to wear the pink princess dress instead of forcing it on him for his newborn photos.) We needed another crib and another changing table and another car seat.

Oh, yeah, and another bedroom. We already felt claustrophobic in our tiny two bedroom rental the first year of our daughter’s life. So we needed a bigger place and another $800 a month to pay for it.

We had made great strides on paying off our debt before our daughter was born. That progress had been greatly slowed and not yet recovered.

But still, we knew we wanted another kid and so we just moved forward with that idea.

In retrospect, I’m glad we didn’t think about it too much. I know a financial planner would cringe while reading this and I understand why. It’s not smart to have a child without really considering if you can afford it. It’s not smart to have a child without really considering what your life will look like with another large financial stress and what that stress will do to your existing children and marriage.

My father is a CPA and he would tell you that you should not have another child unless you can be certain you can pay for that child – which makes a lot of sense. My mother is a mother and she would tell you that you’re never going to have enough money for another child so you should just go for it if you know that’s what you want – and that makes sense too. (I happen to be their third child – who wasn’t originally part of the plan, but is pretty damn happy to be here.)

I think if my husband and I had waited longer between kids we would have been more cautious. I think we would have had to think about it harder and weigh our options more. I think we would have been happy and settled with our family of three and we would have had to really consider if we were ready for the adventure of an addition.

But we were already in the thick of it. We were already in diaper mode and breastfeeding mode and long night mode and not knowing what comes next mode. Our relationship was already surviving babyhood and my career was already on hold and, for us, it felt easier to just stay there for another round.

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The one thing we did consider before trying for a second baby was whether or not our marriage could afford another child. We don’t have the extra finances for babysitters and we don’t have family nearby to give us a break. We’ve got each other. While we outnumbered our children 2 to 1, my husband was my break and I was his break. That already left limited time for fostering our marriage. So we did ask ourselves if our relationship was ready for a 2 to 2 ratio of kids to us.

And we did ask ourselves if our personal needs could afford another child. We were ready to accept that our personal goals and careers and wants would remain on hold a little longer.

I think we were prepared for (as much as you can be) and communicative about the emotional aspects of having another child. But financially we took a major gamble to have another baby so soon.

Were we lucky? Uh, yes, in many ways we have just lucked out. Particularly that we managed to keep qualifying for insurance despite a long gap in work. And we’ve been lucky with additional work that has helped cover childcare expenses. But mostly we were lucky that we could have another child. We were lucky that it was in the cards for us.

I know families who were sure they wanted two children and after having one they decided that that was enough. I know families who were sure they wanted two children and after having two they decided that that wasn’t enough. I know families who are emotionally torn about having another child. I know families where one partner is certain they want another child and the other partner is certain they don’t – and that’s really hard.

Can your marriage afford another child? Can your finances? Can your career? Can your sense of self or your patience or your stress level afford another child?

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Maybe in your heart, you know the answer to those questions one way or another. Maybe there’s no real way of knowing until you know. There’s the path you take and the path you don’t. You figure out how to make the first work and you let go of the second, which doesn’t exist (in this dimension anyway).

Would I recommend having another child before you are sure you are financially ready? Probably not. I mean it sounds like terrible advice to say, "you should just have the other kid and hope you can pay for it".

Would I go back and have our son again before we were financially ready? Yes. Absolutely. Without a doubt. He’s an expensive little red headed package and I would not trade him for all the money or financial ease in the world. He’s priceless.

Image: Ben Grey