How do people afford kids and also have time for them?
May 14, 2009 6:40 PM   Subscribe

Time, money, work, and children. How do people do it? It seems we could afford it, or have time for it, but not both.

I've been thinking about having kids for a while now, and Mr. Rabbit seems to slowly be warming up to the idea, so I think it's time to really analyze how we could make this work. The thing is, I already feel like my life is really busy -- how the heck could I add kids to that without going crazy?

We would both still have to work full-time -- we have a balanced household budget, but there's not a whole lot extra and we could not meet all our financial obligations on one salary -- and we don't have family close by (no built-in babysitters). I'm wondering how other people do this. If you and your partner both work full-time and make a modest living, how do you add children to the mix?
posted by rabbitrabbit to Work & Money (15 answers total) 29 users marked this as a favorite
We didn't. My wife quit and stayed home with the kids. It is actually less expensive this way when you account for the clothing, gas, day care costs, power lunches and everything else that we would buy for her to work. It was 100% her decision, in fact I was a little hesitant about it at the time, and it was the best decision that we (she) ever made. The kids benefit immeasurably too.

And, it also turns out that I'm quite jealous of her. The years that she has spent nurturing, laughing with, and teaching our kids are a million times more priceless than any crap I've done at work during the last 10 years. I haven't filled any photo albums with moments in my office or awesome projects I've completed, I'll tell you that.

I know that's really not what you asked, but I'm just sayin'... it's something to consider.
posted by crapples at 7:15 PM on May 14, 2009 [3 favorites]

It wasn't that hard. As it turns out, we do a lot less expensive adult stuff these days since we're home with the baby in the evenings and weekends. Fancy dinners out on the town are a lot less attractive or even possible with a baby in tow and truthfully, became a lot less interesting as a option. We rarely see movies out anymore and have found neighbors to be quite enchanted with our baby so much so that one pesters us every month or so to get out of the house so that she can babysit. That's not to say that having a child is cheap; it's not. It just seems that the things we're interested in now are very different than they were when we were child-free. Our priorities changed.
posted by otherwordlyglow at 7:38 PM on May 14, 2009 [2 favorites]

It's easier if you're living in a place where your neighbours have young children and you can meet friends to swap babysitting, funny kid stories, and go to for help/reassurance when you need it. Commuting can be a major problem as a traffic accident or bad weather can make you late for the nursery school or babysitter - a major no-no for which both the child, if old enough, and the nursery will make you pay, if not in money, then in guilt. The best arrangements I've seen are when both the mother and father take maternity leave, mother first, then father, so both bond with the child. The worst, the woman does everything, not just for fairness, but an exhausted woman does not make a happy or healthy person/mother/lover/employee.
posted by x46 at 7:52 PM on May 14, 2009

It's not easy, but having a child is the most joyous thing I've ever experienced so I wouldn't have it any other way. I work full time, as does my husband. Additionally, I'm working through a research PhD and driving kid to the country a four hour round trip twice a week. We have one son 18 mos. and I'm pregnant.

Husband takes care of son two days a week, one day in childcare, and two days with Grandma (hence the long drive), and I enjoy the entire weekend and evenings with him. It's full on, and sometimes I feel like I'm in one of those hamster wheels, but I can't get off, because there really is no break in the routine to just stop and rest.

Organisation, prioritisation and out-sourcing are our best friends. We know what we'll be doing pretty much every day of the week, we are on time and always prepared ahead for the next day. Needless to say, we don't get out a whole lot - mainly just weekend fun with the family. If that sounds like hell to you, I would be worried, because that's where the compromise bites for us - the ability to go out, see movies, hang with friends. As time goes by, most of our friends are in the same sitaution though, so we find there are fewer people just free to go out anyway. If it helps at all, I find that I just don't care about what I'm missing out on because spending time with my son is the best fun ever, but we do suffer from being cooped up at home at night with not much to do (my last question was about this).

We outsource everything we can - groceries are delivered, we have a cleaner. I'm trying to find people to deliver fruit and vegies, and I would LOVE a person to iron our clothes for me. I have lost the ability to care about paying for things I could do myself - I'm overstretched as it is, and I will do what it takes to remove any obstacles to spending quality time with my family.

For all this, you need to have a lot of energy and good health, so it's crucial to make sure you're getting enough rest, eating well and generally looking after yourself. When I'm sick, or my husband is sick, the wheels fall off our well oiled machine.. .

As for money, well, that's a very person to person consideration, but I would offer that having a young child isn't too expensive. They really don't NEED much to be happy.

Have you ever heard the expression which goes something like "If you want something done, ask a busy person", well I would say it's a lot like that. Some single free people I know moan about trying to fit a gym trip into their evening and I just think to myself "you have no idea". You learn to multitask, make the most of evenings, and to help each other.

Anyway, all the best with it - I refuse to look back. Our lives seemed so grey compared to the happiness we experience now. I was just talking with my husband about it the other day, and we were saying before baby you might be lucky to get a good belly laugh once every three days or more, now it's a daily thing. YMMV, of course, but for us... uh... we have so much freaking fun, and you get to see things in a whole new way. You just have to move mountains to make it happen.
posted by lottie at 7:54 PM on May 14, 2009 [4 favorites]

I'll second the changing priorities that otherwordlyglow mentions. I'll also say that kids aren't that expensive. I have one child and she--honestly!--doesn't generate that much of an increase in monthly expenses. I'd venture to say that the offset in us doing less jet-set-couple stuff more than covers the increase in cost of things like clothing and extra food for the child.

Honestly I'm not sure how to adequately answer your question about the time issue. You make time. Once you have a child you realize that a lot of the stuff that kept you busy before isn't important. You prioritize. You work harder so that you have more free time. I've never worked as hard as I do now, with a wife and child. When I was a single bachelor I had all the time in the world since my only goal was to make money and spend it. Now I manage my time a 1000% better to make the most of the time I'm working and have enough time left over to spend with my wife and child. Both my wife and I agree that we became so much more efficient with our time once the child came along. I can do more during her 2 hour nap than you can even imagine. If you weren't there watching me get it done you'd assume I'd had a team come in and help.
posted by JFitzpatrick at 7:56 PM on May 14, 2009

Our priorities changed dramatically. Much less going out (but staying in is loads of fun -- kids are incredibly entertaining). Much less eating out (but it feels so good to cook for our family from scratch, and going out is actually special now). Much less money trickling away to be spent on ridiculous American "needs". For the most part we live on one income, with my part-time writing money adding to our savings.

If you have kids, you may find that you have no interest in keeping up with the masses anymore. It all just seems... shallow. Ephemeral. A waste. Not that this is your current track -- but your perspective will change dramatically, even if you're like us and are living within your means already.

I don't regret leaving my (low six-figure) income behind to take care of our kids (we'll have 3 under 4 years old come September). My only regret? Not starting sooner and having more (this will be our last, I think). The love in our house has exploded exponentially with each kid, and seeing each other in a new light as parents has greatly enriched my husband's and my marriage. Having kids isn't for sissies, but I'm amazed at what it pulls out of both of us and how rewarding it is. It's the scariest thing I've ever done -- and the best.
posted by mdiskin at 8:02 PM on May 14, 2009 [2 favorites]

I'll also say that kids aren't that expensive.

An opposing view:
A middle income family with a child born in 2007, will pay a total of $204,060 to care for that child until its 18th birthday, according to a report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).
That's an average of $11,300 a year. And college expenses aren't included.
posted by exphysicist345 at 8:23 PM on May 14, 2009 [1 favorite]

Best answer: How do people afford kids and also have time for them?

That, my friend, is the one million dollar question in today's society, and everyone answers it differently.

In my family, my husband works full time, and I also work full time, plus I have a part-time job in the evenings. Our son will turn three in two months.

Our son is in full time daycare and has been since he's was 12 weeks old. I am the primary wage earner in our house, but my husband's job, though low paying, gives us amazing, nearly-free health insurance that we could not do without.

Before he was born, we were busy people. We are still busy people, but many of the things that used to be important to us now simply seem less important. So we prioritize differently.

Having E in full time daycare is an enormous emotional drain on me, and there are many days that I wish I could chuck it all and stay home with him, but its not realistic for either of us to do so. So, we found the best caregiver we could, and could afford, and we're very lucky that he loves her (and her family - he's cared for in her home, and she has a daughter slightly older than my son) but it would be a complete lie for me to say that a little part of me doesn't die each day knowing that he's spending most of his waking hours being, in essence, raised by another woman. Daycare is both a financial balance and an emotional one. And, I should add, we're not living a very luxurious life, but the reality of the math is that even if we sold our house, we would not be able to pay rent and utilities and meet our other obligations (like food and keeping my ever growing son in shoes) on one salary alone. A question you will have to ask yourself is if you can handle that part of it, and truthfully its not really something you'll know the answer to until after your (prospective) child is born. I know many women who are fine with having their child in care. I know others who basically sold out of their old lives and restarted in a new, simpler way because they couldn't handle handing their child off each morning.

There are a lot of things I used to do and enjoy that I simply don't have room for in my life any longer. At one time I was big on volunteering, but that's mostly fallen by the wayside. I used to sew quite a bit but there isn't time for that any longer either. We're lucky in that even though most of our friends are childless they enjoy hanging out at our house and spending time with our child, so we can still be social by having people over and feeding them large quantities of cheap pasta, then playing board games. Because the time we spend with our son is such a small percentage of the week (I estimate that he spends 11% of his week awake with both his parents present) what time we have available is very important to us, and it spurs us to try very hard to include him in whatever we do. (Even yard work and household chores)

In terms of budget, don't underestimate the cost of daycare. If you're both still going to work it will be your single biggest expense. You can find good care at a reasonable price (we did) but you have to really hunt for it.

I'm trying to wrap this up in some pithy way, but I can't. All I can say is that the time I spend with my son is the most amazing time in my day. Even on days when I see him for only a half hour in the morning (and there are certainly days like that) I know he knows that I'm his Mamma and that we belong to him and him alone. I wouldn't change our decision to have a baby for even one instant, but I would have worked harder to arrange our lives so that we could live on one income, if I had to change anything.
posted by anastasiav at 8:23 PM on May 14, 2009 [5 favorites]

1. know your stats.

My wife and I minimized our financial obligations by paying off credit card balances, paying off her car, prepaying our auto insurances, cutting our cable down to basic basic + internet, and reducing our phone plans. We eliminated eating out, and moved away from bying any pre-processed foods and began cooking from scratch for everything. We bought a membership to BJs (Costco / Sam's Club) for food shopping, diapers and formula. (yes our food comes from factory farms, but until I can get organic pork tenderloin for under $1.50/lb., 2xwhole roaster chickens for uner $13, and/or ~14 beef steaks and 2 roasts for $70, I have to make the budget concession).

Child Care in MA (my state) is expensive - prohibitively enough that we made these concessions so my wife could stay home. We eat better (heck, she makes his baby food), have family time, and we like to think our son is tracking ahead in developmental things and not just his height.

I remember reading an article on the blue a few months back that posed the hypothesis that couples without kids were happier and I never liked their conclusions. But, as of late I can explain the effect. I am now not only accountable to myself (and my wife - but she shares that responsibility and has the ability to affect positive chane as well). However, I am now accountable to my son - and that means, when he succeeds when I didn't, I will reflect on my failures. When I am not the man I want to be, I not only have myself I am letting down, but I am letting him down as well... don't get me wrong - its the best feeling, but it is absolutely the case of self reflection.
posted by Nanukthedog at 8:58 PM on May 14, 2009

Response by poster: Thanks to all who have answered so far. Like I stated in my original question, going down to one income is not possible. Please keep your stories coming!
posted by rabbitrabbit at 10:28 PM on May 14, 2009

My wife and I both work full time. We also have supportive grandparents who watch our pollita twice a week. The other three days we split a nanny with another family in our neighborhod. My wife goes in later and drops her off with the nanny and I go in early and leave earlier and I pick her up so all told she is only with the nanny/grandma about 6 hours a day, the rest of the time she is with us.

We really think that pollita would do well in a pre-school so with pollita/o II on the way we are loking to put #1 in a half day program. This will also take the pressure off the nanny/grandma who will now have an extra diaper to change.
posted by Pollomacho at 4:55 AM on May 15, 2009

I'd be curious to know why going down to one income - or maybe to 1.5 incomes - is not possible. Can you scale down your overhead so you can be there? Can one of you work from home? Freelance?

We worked our situation out so that I could work from home. My wife works full time. 6 years ago, it was the other way 'round. I think it has been tremendously valuable for one of us to be there for the kid.

Now, a larger house or nicer car may not be this issue for you, but if those are the kinds of lifestyle issues at stake, perhaps it would be helpful to consider this question:

Given the choice of small house and not so fancy car, but more time with mom or dad; or living in a nicer house with a nicer car, but less time with mom or dad..... what do you think almost every kid would choose?

Having a kid involves changes and sarcifices, that, IMO are totally, totally, outweighed by the best thing ever... having a kid.
posted by ecorrocio at 7:57 AM on May 15, 2009

i'mn ot organised enought o break it all down like those above. my excuse is I'm too ragged with having a baby and a two year old. It's mental.

We emigrated not knowing my wife was pregnant. I'm glad we didn't know or else we might not have gone. Anyway, the upshot was that there was no maternity pay and very little benefit as my wife was not a citizen like me.... so one income and we are very stretched, but we manage and we would not have it any other way because the kids are an immeasurable reward in themselves. I suppose what I am saying is that there will always be an excuse for not doing it, but if you do, you will find a way to deal with it. LOL you have to! (we also have no family close by.. which can actually be a bit of a blessing)
posted by Frasermoo at 7:57 AM on May 15, 2009

Kids aren't expensive, lifestyles are expensive.
posted by symbollocks at 9:40 AM on May 15, 2009 [1 favorite]

My wife and I both work full time. My wife works for a very flexible non-profit (our UU congregation). For my son's first year, she took him to work with him. Co-workers loved having a baby there and my wife could work while the baby napped for most of the day. She works every day of the week (four services per weekend), so part of her day would be at work and part at home.

After a year, it was time for daycare. We found one that allows for part-time care (without paying full time prices). He's there in the mornings until noon while my wife works. I have a four 10-hour day schedule with every Wednesday off.

Without this flexibility, we'd be in a much tougher spot. Check with your respective employers to see what options you might have available. Good luck!
posted by Twicketface at 10:15 AM on May 15, 2009

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