I don't have a lot of money, but I do have a lot of love and time
January 16, 2011 7:46 AM   Subscribe

I'm 29 and my partner is 31. We want to start a family. We don't have a lot of money, but we're doing OK. Details inside.

I'm trying to work through all this, so bear with me! Basically, I'd love to hear thoughts on raising children without a lot of money. Here's my version:

My partner and I have been together since our early twenties and are still going strong. We're both community-minded, creative, fun, hard-working people. We both like kids. Neither of us have a steady career path yet.

We've talked about having kids for a few years and quite a few of our friends are youngish couples with children. This past year the urge to have a baby has grown steadily stronger.

Except, I always thought I'd go to graduate school or have the whole career thing figured out before I was ready to have a baby, but that hasn't happened. I actually did go to a fairly prestigious graduate program for a while when I was 25 and then left after realizing it wasn't a great fit for me. For the record, I'm glad I did, because that's not a line of work I want to be in at this point. (social work, mental health, therapy)

But back to the baby. I think we're ready even though neither one of us makes a lot of money. He's an assistant teacher at a private school and teaches guitar lessons, and I've been picking up freelance writing and marketing work for the past year. We're doing better than scraping by, but we don't have a lot of savings or anything. I probably could have saved more this year, but I did some traveling, spent money on home improvements, bought a car, etc (a used car, but new to me!) I'm frugal and pretty used to living on whatever I have at the time.

Both of us have college degrees and are resourceful people, but due to the area of the country we live, the recession, and our overall dispositions, neither or us have launched into full-blown careers yet. I think we both envision running a business, maybe together some day.

We built a house on my parents land a couple years ago and have a really amazing living situation. We're paying back a loan, but at the rate we're at, we could pay it off within 5 years.

I guess I'm looking for assurance.
A) Is it OK to have kids even your finances aren't completely 100% up to snuff?
B) What's up to snuff anyway?
C)If you had a child when you were still in the beginning stages of your career, how did it change the course?
D) If you were raised in a home without a lot of money but a lot of love and support, how was that?

I really do love working and making my own money, and have worked since I was 16. So I do think it's important to me to have some version of a career. (Whether that's continuing to freelance, running a business, or working a regular 9-5 job.)

I'm beginning to think we should go ahead and have a baby while we have flexibility in our lives, even if our careers and finances are still unfolding. Any feedback from people who have had kids while still figuring their finances and career would be great!
posted by Rocket26 to Work & Money (45 answers total) 17 users marked this as a favorite
There will never be a perfect time and it sounds like you're doing pretty well financially (your house could be paid off in 5 years? holy crap). If it's what you both want now, go for it.
posted by amro at 7:50 AM on January 16, 2011

If people waited to have kids "until they were ready" the human race would be extinct.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 7:59 AM on January 16, 2011 [20 favorites]

Response by poster: Yeah, the house and living situation is a bit unique/unusual because I basically inherited a small piece of land and we were able to build a small, lovely yet affordable home on it. Outside of that, we've been living on a shoe string forever.
posted by Rocket26 at 8:01 AM on January 16, 2011

Just have the kid. Unless you are a sociopath - which it does not sound like you are - you will find a way to accommodate that kid's needs. I promise. Waiting until everything is "ready" is a fallacy anyhow... that presumes that you will be somehow more prepared or "better" at parenting if you do everything right beforehand. It will STILL knock you on your ass and you will STILL feel utterly clueless... but you will still be absolutely enraptured by your kid. So go get knocked up! :-)
posted by julthumbscrew at 8:07 AM on January 16, 2011 [1 favorite]

I think the one thing to think about when having kids is the the first 5 years are hard financially (and other ways too but I won't get into that here) but once the child goes to school costs go down a lot- there are always things to spend money on but the things you *have* to spend money on go down as the child gets older. (This of course could be argued but for example day care is most expensive with a baby and then becomes less and less as the baby ages, diapers and strollers are things that are used for relatively short times. Of course there are braces(which are not always negotiable) and summer camps and extra curricula activities(that are negotiable in that your child doesn't have to do the most expensive)

I had my daughter at 23, I didn't have a career, and I stayed home with her (and her sister who is 3 years younger) until the youngest was 4. I then worked a variety of jobs and found one that I wanted to be my career and now at age 36 I am contemplating a return to college to finish my BA with the goal of getting a masters so I can move my career forward. It has been difficult at times- we don't ever go on vacations, my kids don't do anything extracurricular but do go to summer camp (and they actually got 50% scholarships for camp for next summer) I depend on my family to supplement christmas and birthday gifts.

I think that part of having children is not over thinking it- if you really try and rationalize having a child you might never have one!
posted by momochan at 8:08 AM on January 16, 2011

You will never be ready to be a parent. Nothing, and I do mean absolutely nothing, that you experience as a non-parent can really prepare you for parenthood. We all pretty much jump into the deep end on that one.
posted by COD at 8:13 AM on January 16, 2011 [3 favorites]

My folks had my brother while dad was still in grad school and me while dad was a struggling lecturer. Mom worried about money and adding the cost of kids a fair bit, but like you they were frugal and things shaped up just fine - even when careers changed, etc.

As long as you can provide healthcare, shelter, and food, your kids sound like they'll be entering a good situation with parents that will care for and love them. That's the good stuff that more money wouldn't buy.
posted by ldthomps at 8:13 AM on January 16, 2011

You actually don't have to spend a whole lot of money on babies...if you're resourceful. They really only need food and love for the first few months. Do you have health insurance? That would be the biggest question. If you do--or if you can get on state insurance through your pregnancy, then have a baby!!

You're a freelance writer, which is great for a stay-at-home mom!

You might just find that having a little baby will motivate you to find a career that you're truly passionate about (or you might realize that being a mom is what you were looking for all along--I did!)

It really sounds like you and your partner are ready to have a baby. There really is no "perfect" time...honestly...my advice is to let things happen and see what develops!

Good luck!
posted by katypickle at 8:14 AM on January 16, 2011 [1 favorite]

you sound a little like Trevor and Carol from this scene at the beginning of the movie Idiocracy.
posted by any major dude at 8:15 AM on January 16, 2011

I don't have any kids. But I was born when my parents were broke-ass and really young, and things were fine. I had very few fancy toys, and sometimes the furniture was homemade or shabby. But I was fed and loved, and that's what matters. And having me made them realize that being broke-ass wasn't quite so much fun anymore, and they went back to school and got better jobs and became regular middle class grownups.

If you guys are doing without medical insurance, I would suggest making sure you knew how to enroll the baby in whatever public programs are available. Babies need routine care (eg vaccines) and sometimes get scary illnesses that require weekend trips to the ER, all of which is a lot less stressful with insurance.

So take your folic acid supplements and start humping!
posted by Forktine at 8:32 AM on January 16, 2011

There is no good time to have a child.

You can wait until your career stuff is more sorted out and then risk needing interventions to get pregnant.

You can have the money that you possibly put toward the above but have less energy to chase a five year old around.

There's also the issue as to whether you wish to have more children. If you want to have more than one child, how old do you want to be when the last one goes to college? 48? 55? 60? 65? Again, no wrong answer, but how much of your later life do you want to spend on yourself and how much on your children? Again, no wrong answer here. It's entirely personal, but worth thinking about.

Ultimately, there is no good time to have a child. There are not bad times to have a child, and what that is is different for every couple. A huge factor for me was grandparents. My parents and my husband parents are in their early to mid-fifties. God willing, they'll live to see their grandchildren have children. If we had waited another ten years, that would not be as likely.

As for career stuff --- I too was in a Masters program to become a mental health counselor, but I couldn't complete the last requirement of the program because it required me to leave my job in order to complete. And I couldn't do that if we expected to have good, reasonably costing health insurance and the funds to pay for full-time daycare (which I would have needed to complete the program). So I didn't. I don't have huge regrets about it, but I would like to get a Masters at some point. When? No idea. I just trust there will be a time when it will happen, and much like having a child, I'll know when it's time to go back to school.
posted by zizzle at 8:35 AM on January 16, 2011

Babies are cheap.

Medical bills for a hospital birth (which even a planned home birth might result in), on the other hand, are very expensive. As in, our health insurance plan shelled out more than $100K for our first child (a failed induction, a c/s, a few initial health concerns about the baby...it adds up!). Are you currently covered by a health insurance plan which provides maternity coverage (many individual policies do not)? Is the maternity coverage adequate for the worst case scenario? Can you afford your plan's deductible? If not, is your combined income low enough that you qualify for your state's maternity health benefits?
posted by Wavelet at 8:44 AM on January 16, 2011 [2 favorites]

You seem ready for it :-) My parents had only high school educations, mediocre jobs and raised two children just fine and dandy. I am sure if you're resourceful, you can really make do. If you separate the needs and wants, it will be easier to decide too. Sometimes when I shop for baby gifts it seems like there's a big scam to separate people from their money just because babies are involved. Is a $500 stroller necessary? Will the $180 one do the job just fine? That kind of thing. Good luck with whatever you decide :-)
posted by Calzephyr at 8:46 AM on January 16, 2011

Go for it! Having more money when have a kid just allows you to buy more stuff. Kids don't really need stuff, they need love and attention and stability. In fact it could be argued that stuff is too easily used as a replacement for love sometimes. Your living situation sounds awesome quite honestly. I know the grass is always greener, but I'm a mother of two who works full-time, and what I really wish I had was more time to spend with my little guys.
posted by Joh at 8:47 AM on January 16, 2011

Babies are generally not very expensive, but daycare is incredibly expensive.

Find out what your parent friends pay for daycare. There seems to be a going rate for crummy care, decent care, great care...

(And there end up being surprises. For example, right now we're doing a nanny share because other options didn't work out. It feels like the majority of my paycheck is going to pay for that, which in turn makes me wonder why the hell I am working (and then I remember that I'll be making a higher salary in the near future, that leaving the workforce for a period of time would be detrimental to my future career, etc...))

Also, I was fortunate to be in a very flexible position when my son was an infant (sounds like you would be too), that I got to be home with him quite a bit. Now that I'm in a more 9-5ish type work place, I realize that if I had another child, I'd be home with him/her for only a few months and then I'd be back fulltime. While I'm sure that I'd deal with it, it doesn't really jive with the way that I'd like to parent. Also, speaking to fulltime 9-5 work, I HATE the rush in the morning and rush in the evening.

If I were you guys, I'd work out the math to see if you two could swing daycare. With your husband probably having summers off, would you be able to have some sort of daycare that lets you have the child in-and-out, so to speak. (I'd also try to time having the child at the beginning of the calendar year so that you could take maternity leave and then he take the summer and then not put the baby in daycare until s/he is an older infant in the fall.)
posted by k8t at 8:57 AM on January 16, 2011 [1 favorite]

I had the first of my children a little younger than you. I was working in a low-paying job and continued working part-time over the next eight years as I had eight more. Working part-time gave me benefits (not as important here in Canada but nice to have) and gave me lots of time with the children. Now I am in my thirties and really engaging with my career the continuous part-time employment (all at the same employer) means there is no gap in my resume so my career will take off once I am finished my Masters in the spring (yeah, I am doing grad school, working two jobs and raising my children all at the same time - having children made me excellent at time management....).

My husband worked part-time too so we juggled the child care to avoid the big drain on expenses that is childcare. I found having and raising children to be cheap but now my eldest is ten I can see how children get more expensive in the teen years. i am sooo glad I had children relatively young, several of my friends waited until they had the money and have either never had the money, had children despite never getting a better footing or found they were unable to conceive without expensive medical attention. I think having children forced me to make wiser choices about money too.
posted by saucysault at 9:08 AM on January 16, 2011

Best answer: The world needs more children raised by loving, attentive parents who really wanted them more than the world needs more children brought into the world because their parents had scads of money and having kids was the next "step" in life.

If you have medical insurance, you've got the most expensive part of baby-rearing all set. You can get anything and everything you need for the kid second-hand or free, or maybe your respective parents would like to supply things like the crib, etc.

For what it's worth, I grew up in an upper-middle-class home that didn't have a lot of love. I would trade all the camps, all the clothes, all the toys/gadgets, all the trips, all of it, for the chance to have grown up with two parents who both clearly adored and wanted me.
posted by cooker girl at 9:09 AM on January 16, 2011 [6 favorites]

Best answer: Having a baby will change your financial life to some degree. You are probably worried about this because that is what most people without kids think will be amongst the biggest changes. Money is not going to be the biggest change in your life after having a child. If you are resourceful, money will continue to sort itself out in the same way it has always done for you.

Your life will change in much more significant ways, and those are the things you should be most ready for. Your life changes trajectory. You are no longer first in line for yourself. Your freedom to move about through your day physically and emotionally will be significantly hampered. You will have an instant and unavoidable priority.

Most worry about money because that is what they see as most out of their control because this is how one typically sees the world as a non-parent. Most importantly in my mind, you should be asking yourself if you are ready to be a parent, not "am I ready to have a baby". Being a parent is full of tough stuff. A lot of people see parenthood as becoming great "supportive friends" to their children. They think about love and holidays and wonderful moments of success for their children. These are the rare, widely scattered rewards for parenthood. Parenting is hard work in ways you don't see yet. The greatest rewards are very small things that you may not be considering.

The money will be fine. You are way ahead of most folks in that department. Just make sure you are ready to be a child's parent, not just their provider and friend. This can be an emotionally grueling time in your life. You often have to make hard, unpopular choices, both for yourself and your children. There is no real way to prepare for it other than going in armed with resolve and fortitude and grace. It will also probably be the best thing you have ever done.
posted by nickjadlowe at 9:14 AM on January 16, 2011 [7 favorites]

Both of us have college degrees and are resourceful people, but due to the area of the country we live, the recession, and our overall dispositions, neither or us have launched into full-blown careers yet. I think we both envision running a business, maybe together some day.

Given your ages this makes me think that you don't really have any clear idea what career paths you want to follow anyway. And once you do decide on a particular career most take a while to build. So waiting for you to 'sort' that may see you menopausal....sounds like your finances are a lot healthier than a lot of young parents' so if you want to have a baby and that's the main thing preventing you from jumping right in just go for it.
posted by koahiatamadl at 9:18 AM on January 16, 2011

Poor people have babies all the time, many of whom are loved and properly cared for. They can do it...so can you! Nthing cooker girl re: importance of love & attention: the most screwed up kids I taught came from homes of abuse & neglect (which doesn't correlate to $ in the home). As long as you love your kid & pay attention to him/her, they'll be fine.
posted by smirkette at 9:19 AM on January 16, 2011

You sound similar to my parents. Neither of them made a lot of money (occasionally below the poverty line, though usually significantly above). But they were always loving and supportive and home a lot since they were both underemployed/working part time. They were really resourceful about making up for the opportunities that me and my brother might have missed out on due to lack of funds-- lots of (used) books in the house, my dad was a carpenter and made us toys and got us involved in building our house, they took us to free arts events, my mom loves to write and would do creative writing exercises with us, etc.

I've talked to my mom about it recently, and I think my parents were able to keep me and my brother pretty clueless when things got really bad financially. Overall, I think growing up with supportive parents but not a ton of money was probably a good thing-- sure, I missed out on some opportunities, but I'm also, I think, more resourceful and flexible than a lot of the people I know who grew up middle class or wealthy.

Although, one more thought is that I was growing up in a mostly working class town, so I didn't feel poor in the way that I might have if I was living in a place where I could see that I didn't have the stuff that other kids did.

The negative thing that I would have to say about this is that money put a lot of stress on my parent's marriage. Obviously, there were tons of other more important factors, but I think the bad stuff was exacerbated by the daily stress of worrying about how to pay the bills and supporting two kids made that harder.
posted by geegollygosh at 10:13 AM on January 16, 2011

So, I'm a planner, I planned for this kid like you wouldn't believe. Bought the car perfect to have a kid with so it'd be paid off by the time she was born (4 years ago), bought a house we could raise a family in, engineered being put on our perfect health plan. Saved up money, went to birthing classes, read every book I could lay my hands on, changed the families diet, etc.

Had our daughter 3 months ago and you know what? None of that prep work really matters, because it's not about that. It's about being there for your partner, the 2 am wake ups, the birthing classes, the making sure they feel safe and warm and that your relationship with your partner survives the test. Because you really never are ready, and even if you're not the experience will turn you in to a different person so dramatically you'll wonder who that other person was.

Babies want to be loved, to be fed, to be warm, and to have people around them that will bend their entire lives to that effort. They don't need things, and they don't need money, and your priorities for funds allocation will change when they arrive anyway.
posted by iamabot at 10:14 AM on January 16, 2011 [3 favorites]

I would say do it but having a baby is extremely expensive. Also, your baby might be born with problems that would require a lot of money and treatment that even a decent health plan might not cover. If you don't have very good health insurance (and I don't mean some cheap health insurance plan that only covers catastrophes), then you definitely shouldn't have a kid. Love, on its own, is not enough.

You yourself might end up with problems that pregnancy can induce. You should really research more about complications and unexpected financial problems that having a family can bring about. If your partner were injured and could no longer bring in his half, would your or his parents support you guys? How do the prospective kids grandparents feel about your having a kid and possibly needing more financial support from them?

Babies, formula, diapers, and all that stuff is expensive. I'm not sure where you live, but I know in DC and several other cities, the public education system is total crap, and private schools are enormously expensive. Getting a good education at the primary and secondary levels is what sets kids up for life. Getting a solid education at those levels these days takes money.
posted by anniecat at 10:34 AM on January 16, 2011 [1 favorite]

Make sure you have good health insurance. Okay, done? Go make babies.

There will never be a perfect time, much like others have said. But all it takes is a walk around your local Wal-Mart to know that you have more than a lot of people who have kids. You will be fine.
posted by Mister Fabulous at 10:45 AM on January 16, 2011

The year I was born, my Dad had an incredibly good job and my mom was also working full time as an accountant. They had JUST bought a home, both were insured for the first time in forever and were making great money, so they decided to have me.

About 4 months after my conception my Dad got laid off, my mom was let go effective the end of her maternity leave and they had to sell their house and move in to a trailer with my grandmother.

Which is to say: you can't even really be prepared, situations change and your life might even be vastly different in a few years. It you have love and time you'll make the rest work.
posted by Saminal at 10:49 AM on January 16, 2011

Point D)

I think you can answer this yourself.
I'm sorry but this question sounds like coming from someone in the worst consumeristic of societies. What if I can't buy my kid a $2000 crib and shit? Will she be able to be happy?

Sorry but your question vexes me a bit.

Breastfeeding, cloth diapering, second hand stuff and hand-me-downs and you're good to go.
posted by uauage at 10:56 AM on January 16, 2011 [2 favorites]

D) If you were raised in a home without a lot of money but a lot of love and support, how was that?

It made me more frugal and careful with my finances as an adult. I learned to be careful with money as a child, and how to obtain financial assistance for things I really wanted (summer camp and college, in particular.) It also means I'm used to cooking cheaply and I still think it's a great treat to eat out or buy things for myself, now that I have more money. It gives you great resources. For instance, one of my friends signed up for all sorts of baby classes, while I took my baby to the free library programs, and the free play & learn at the Neighborhood house. I did choose to pay for some things, but I knew about and expected to use all of the free things, which filled much of our time nicely.

C)If you had a child when you were still in the beginning stages of your career, how did it change the course?

I got pregnant during my first year working in my profession, took 3 months maternity leave the next year, and worked part-time, both before and after. It's made me keep my part-time in a very particular way to suit my child and child-care situation, but that hasn't been a problem. That said, it would probably be even easier to have kids first, stay home with them, and seek a career when your kid/s are old enough to be in school. Grad school is pretty reasonable with kids in elementary school, and maybe you'll have a better idea what job you'll want then.

One thing that made all this work really well is grandparent involvement. Each year for childcare I've had a mix grandparents and my husband watching my daughter while I work. This year my mother-in-law took one day every week, my mother took one day most weeks, my step-mother and father took the days my mother couldn't do, and my husband watches her before and after a two hour preschool on my half day. If you have parents nearby, that's a great childcare option.

It sounds like you're pretty good with money already, but if you want really extreme ideas for how to save money while raising kids, I recommend The Complete Tightwad's Gazette. She talks about some of the ways she saved enough money while raising 4 kids on her husband's salary of $30,000 to buy a farmhouse. If you can borrow it from your library, you may be able soothe your worries about how much kids need to cost.
posted by Margalo Epps at 11:04 AM on January 16, 2011

Just go ahead and do it now. You're ~30, which isn't too old, but it becomes a bit more worrying when you realize that your wife has a blood clotting disorder that dramatically increases the risk of miscarriage. It becomes more difficult the longer you wait, and at 30, any problems you do have are a delay that pushes you farther and farther towards being in a place you really don't want to be.

I have plenty of money. I have a good job, with great benefits. I have fantastic health insurance. I would trade it for a healthy child and never having to rush my wife to the emergency room again, wondering if we've lost the baby.

I paid $5 for a second account just so I could share this message (I don't want to make my wife's private health problems public), but I couldn't help but respond. Your health and your family are more important than anything. Money is only money.
posted by private at 11:06 AM on January 16, 2011 [2 favorites]

Money is only money.

Money can't buy a healthy child, but it goes a long way in ensuring that the child be born healthy and remain healthy and happy. It's over-romantic to pretend that love makes up for lack of money or that a complex situation boils down to either love or money. Love is essential but money is extremely important for best outcomes.

I was under the impression my colleagues and I had excellent health insurance until one of our senior people had a baby, and ended up paying $10,000 out of pocket because when she went into labor, the anesthesiologist on call was not in-network, even though he was the only one available. She's a very smart woman with years of experience in labor law and employment benefits, so some of us were a little surprised that she hadn't understood that.

You can always bank your eggs and your partner's sperm and wait if your parents and his parents are against the idea and won't help you guys financially when you need it.
posted by anniecat at 11:19 AM on January 16, 2011 [4 favorites]

Response by poster: @uauage, thanks for the reality check. Just so ya know, I've been living on second hand clothes and ten-year old cars for my entire adulthood, so I just want to be sure it's OK to bring a child into that without fear or guilt or constant financial worry. Knowing that other people have done this just puts it in perspective and gives confidence. No need for it to annoy you, but whatever.

@Private — your message made me tear up.

Too many answers to mark all as favorite! Keep them coming!
posted by Rocket26 at 11:23 AM on January 16, 2011

I have two adult children now who I brought up through poverty or hard times. They are compassionate and intelligent and frugal and very very dear. However, I watched their cousins being able to attend things like dance and art lessons and other classes that they (my kids) wanted and I couldn't afford, and it was heart wrenching. Formal dance (like the prom) was difficult, and she didn't do anything like the other girls (like going to a professional make up artist, hairdresser, nails).

So yeah, it's fine to bring kids up on second hand clothes and frugality, but if you can do it without guilt, you're a wiser person than me.

But (and there's always a but), I don't regret having the kids. They are my biggest achievement, and they did it themselves. They are my greatest blessing (and I'm an atheist). It has been a pleasure and a privilege to participate in the growing and developing of another human being.

After all, what's life without some downers to remind you just how high this roller coaster gets?
posted by b33j at 11:49 AM on January 16, 2011

@b33j, there are always some things that get given up, but I'll just say having my mom make my prom dress (and later my wedding dress), and having my step-mom do my make-up and hair all fancy, was the most special thing I could have asked for.
posted by Margalo Epps at 12:14 PM on January 16, 2011 [1 favorite]

In the short term, baby "stuff" isn't actually all that expensive. I'm eight months pregnant with our first, and we have everything we absolutely need (clothes, blankets, diapers) and a bunch of stuff we don't. 99% of that stuff we acquired secondhand. You don't *need* to buy a lot of things new for a baby -- car seat, breast pump, disposable stuff like wipes, and that's pretty much it. Some folks would even argue on that point.

When you get pregnant, put out the word in your community, especially with those people you know with kids, and secondhand stuff will flood into your life, for free or cheap. Case in point: just this morning, an acquaintance called saying, "Our kids are toddlers, and we're cleaning out. Do you want a nice, solid wood changing table for free?" And now we don't have to buy a changing table.

I can't speak much to the rest of it, but I know my parents struggled with finances a LOT when my brothers and I were little. I didn't know this as a kid, and it doesn't seem to have had much of an effect on me.
posted by linettasky at 12:19 PM on January 16, 2011

It sounds to me like you are in a pretty good place to bring a baby into the world. In fact, you are light years ahead of where I was when my daughter was born. I had a baby on my own at 21 when I was penniless, and both of us are doing just fine! I spent time on the dole, went back to school and got a degree and now have a stable well-paying job. For the first few years of her life, we lived on just under $1100 a month, and our rent alone was $700. However, we never went hungry, and never had to go without anything essential. It can be stressful to parent with very little money, but my daughter is a happy well-adjusted preteen now, and we have a great relationship.

Babies really don't cost a lot of money, and most everything needed was passed on to me secondhand. (Mind you, I am Canadian, so I never had to worry about medical costs (even my midwife care was completely covered!)). Your main costs in the first years will be diapers and formula if you don't breastfeed.

I say go for it!
posted by squid in a people suit at 12:39 PM on January 16, 2011

D) If you were raised in a home without a lot of money but a lot of love and support, how was that?

My parents were in their early 20s when they had me, fresh out of a hippie, wandering in the desert lifestyle. It's never been discussed with me, but I am 99% sure they weren't "ready," financially or otherwise, for a child. But they did what they could, and as I grew older and got a younger sister and 2 brothers, my parents worked their way up into a more comfortable existence. My youngest brother is 13 years younger than me, and I am amazed when I think about how different his upbringing has been from mine. Frankly, I feel like my parents not having the same money concerns has affected my brothers negatively. They are pretty spoiled and demanding and expect to receive money for movies, fast food, ski club, new ipod to replace the one they lost, etc., and haven't learned the value of a dollar at all. I was used to a more frugal life and never took for granted the things I received, and my sister and I regularly chose not to ask for certain things because we didn't want to put that pressure on my parents. The point is, I feel like it is to my great benefit that I didn't have every single thing I ever could have wanted when I was a child. I think it has made me a more thoughtful person that doesn't assume money grows on trees. I think if you want a child, go for it, and don't worry about not being able to spring for violin lessons right away.
posted by coupdefoudre at 12:51 PM on January 16, 2011 [1 favorite]

It sounds like you explicitly know you want kids right now. On the other hand, you only vaguely know that you want some sort of a career but not specifically what. One way to look at it is that maybe having kids first will help you figure out what you want in a career, how much time away from the office you really need, what work-life balance means to you, etc. That's incredibly important information.
posted by joan_holloway at 1:15 PM on January 16, 2011 [1 favorite]

@anniecat (sort of, but mostly just to everyone reading):

My first comment was an emotional reaction, not so much a logical one. I think that's fair, though, because having children is an emotional decision, not really a financial one. I've also been through a fairly emotional time in the recent past, and I've spent a lot more time than I'd like legitimately wondering if my wife and/or unborn child might not survive.

Sure, it's helpful to have more money, but that's pretty much true of anything. It's not the most important consideration when having children, and it's a lot easier problem to resolve than health problems are. You bring up your co-worker and her $10k medical bill for having a child. Big deal, that's like buying a used car. I don't get the impression that Rocket26 is so destitute that that's beyond the realm of possibility (in fact, she seems to have purchased one recently), and what she's getting in return is a lot more significant than a used car. On the other hand, many medical issues can be absolutely devastating to your chances of having a child, and while people often talk about the impact on relationships from financial trouble, I feel like that's the sort of thing I can at least manage. There's nothing worse than watching your wife go though life-threatening events and knowing that there's absolutely nothing you can do to help.

My wife was diagnosed with a condition that often manifests itself in miscarriages, as it causes blood clots that, if they make it into the placenta and the developing fetus, often kill the child. Many women figure out that they have this condition only after having 3, 4, 5 or more miscarriages in a row. If you're 30 when you start this process, you're putting yourself in a difficult position because of other increased risks that older women have associated with pregnancy, and it may take you several years just to figure out what's wrong.

There is treatment for this problem. I give my wife injections nightly of an anti-coagulant medication that is both painful (my wife basically just lays in bed and waits 10 minutes for the pain to subside after each injection) and very expensive (~$2000/month). My excellent insurance comes in handy here, and I'm very thankful that I only end up paying ~$15/month for the medication, and this is one example of where more money is clearly better.

My wife was "lucky" that she didn't find out about her condition through a long string of miscarriages. Instead, she found out by having a pulmonary embolism, and she was also lucky she didn't die from it.

And so, right now my wife is hopefully still pregnant with what will be our first child. I say hopefully, because we had to rush her to the doctor on Friday night after she suddenly started profusely bleeding while in bed. She thought she was miscarrying. The doctor seemed hopeful that it wasn't a miscarriage, rather what would have been a fairly normal bleeding episode that many pregnant women have, except exacerbated by her anticoagulants. We don't really know for sure, and wont until we can have her see her obstetrician and have an ultrasound.

Part of this is probably just venting my own stress over what's been happening in my life lately, but part of it just goes to show that money is not the biggest concern you need to have when you're trying to start a family. I'm absolutely grateful that I have a job that allows me to take time off to be with my wife when she's spent nights in the hospital, and that pays for my excellent health care that makes it possible that we might actually be able to have a child.

I feel like financial problems are really the easiest ones to fix in this situation. You'll figure out a way to pay off debts if you need to, and most people are at least able to keep their families fed and clothed. If you end up with a gigantic medical bill due to a complicated pregnancy, you can even declare bankruptcy if you have to. You're not going to die from that sort of problem.

But with medical problems, you're better off starting earlier rather than later. Women are more likely to have problems with pregnancies as they age, and if you, like my wife, find out you have some other issue, the earlier you start the more time you have to try and deal with it and find a solution. Heck, even if that solution is, "we'll need better health insurance or we'll never be able to have kids, so one of us needs to get a better job," you'll have some time to deal with that. It can take a while to find that sort of job, and in certain fields they tend to have waiting periods before health benefits take effect.

Rocket26 is probably perfectly healthy, and probably wont have to deal with any of this. In which case, she could get away with waiting a couple more years. What would that really buy her, though? Would she be in a better position then? If so, would she be in that same position even if she had a kid now? When all is said and done, your child's not going to remember if it spent the first year of it's life sleeping in a new crib or a hand-me-down. And 10 years out, when your kid is old enough to remember what's going on, it there really going to be much of a difference if you'd waited three years? Where do you see yourself financially in ten years? How about thirteen? Are they really that different? Is the kid better off in one future or the other?

On the other hand, waiting just seems to increase your risk and reduce your options. Besides, the sooner you have kids, the more time you get to spend with them, and later with your grandkids.

This turned fairly long and maybe a bit rambling, but it's the view of someone who's on the other side of the fence from you, who is "financially up to snuff" for having children, and for whom that turned out to not be the biggest issue after all. I hope my story is helpful.

Oh, and for context. I am 29, my wife just turned 31.
posted by private at 1:26 PM on January 16, 2011 [1 favorite]

Get good health insurance, and you'll be fine. Diapers aren't THAT expensive; at CostCo, a ~1 month supply is $20, and if you do cloth diapers, you can get enough diapers to last you through potty training for about $150, if you choose your cheapest options. Breastfeeding is free, modulo the extra calories Mom needs to take in. IKEA will sell you a perfectly good crib for $70. A baby doesn't care if its clothes are carefully coordinated designer whatnots; it will just as cheerfully poop all over a onesie bought for a quarter at a garage sale.

You CAN spend a lot of money on a baby, but you don't have to. I mean, they aren't free, but you can probably get through the first year without spending any more than you would on one or two months of car payments, with judicious use of Craigslist and consignment stores.
posted by KathrynT at 2:07 PM on January 16, 2011

d) was me. My parents didn't have very much money when they had my siblings and me. Our house was perpetually in "fixer-upper" state and I knew how to jump start a car by the time I was in, oh, probably 2nd grade. Generally I think I had a pretty good childhood, and we all turned out to be pretty well-adjusted. However, here are a few things I would suggest (based solely on my personal experience, YMMV):

1) Don't live in an area where the average wealth is substantially higher than yours. I get that you probably don't have much control over that given your house, but if you have a choice where you send your kids to school, keep in mind that growing up with a bunch of kids who wear designer clothes and go skiing in Europe over vacation can be rough on them. My parents chose to live in a wealthy area because the schools were good, but they kind of forgot how mean other kids can be to the kids wearing hand-me-downs, and who don't have the latest toys, etc. As a teenager it took a long time for me to get over my resentment when I got into Ivy League schools and my parents told me there was no way they could afford to send me, when all my friends' parents just wrote a check.

2) Kind of a corollary to #1, don't *tell* your kids you don't have a lot of money. I heard that a lot growing up. When I would ask, for example, "can we do [insert expensive thing that kids do for birthday parties these days]?" the answer would be "no, we don't have enough money for that." Looking back, I'm pretty sure if my parents had said something like "well, we were going to have your friends sleep over, and you can stay up late/eat pizza/raid Mommy's closet and have a fashion show" I probably would have been content. Instead, it instilled some weird have-not self-esteem issues that took awhile to get through.

3) I guess I'd boil this one down to "stay positive." Raising kids the right way is laborious and trying under even the most ideal circumstances. As I'm sure you know, when money is tight it can really amplify stress. I don't think my folks were prepared for that, and my brother and sister and I could definitely tell. Before I understood the facts of life, I used to feel bad for my parents, and guilty: like, poor Mom and Dad, kids are so burdensome and they've been saddled with three! But once I learned that having children was a choice? It was more like, screw you guys, you can't voluntarily assume a burden that you create, and then complain because it's burdensome. Again, the source of some issues I could have done without.

To sum up, I'd say it takes some creativity and a really good attitude, but there's no reason your kids can't have a good childhood and turn out fine.

One last point: as has been pointed out upthread, please do make sure you can provide at least the basic necessities and decent health care for your kids. That is one thing I would consider a dealbreaker. If you're going to bring someone into the world, make sure you're not stacking the odds against them.

Happy breeding!
posted by AV at 4:48 PM on January 16, 2011 [3 favorites]

It sounds like you are not sure whether you might still want to go back to grad school, or perhaps change careers. Since babies and toddlers require a lot of your attention, and daycare for them is more costly than for a preschooler, there are a few considerations:

- During grad school, you've got little time, not much money, and not every school has provisions for maternity leave.

- During the first few years of a career (if you change careers or have just finished a graduate degree), you've got a little more money to purchase day care, probably have maternity leave, but you don't have loads of free time because you're trying to gain traction in your career.

My observations of colleagues during grad school and the first few years of a career was that it was easier on those who had had their children already, and were raising with school-aged kids instead of having babies. However, that's not how I did it, since I didn't even meet my husband until later.

My point is, don't assume that if you have a baby now, you can never go back to school, because you can. You just might not do it right away. Also, having kids can really change your priorities. I love my job but the track I am on right now is not the same track I would be on if I was not a parent. For instance, I will no longer move just anywhere for a job, since I think about things like public school quality and how easily family can fly in to visit us.

Go for it!
posted by Knowyournuts at 5:44 PM on January 16, 2011

I also just wanted to say to "private" that I'm sorry you are going through such a difficult time. I currently have a pregnancy complication that can sometimes be caused by your wife's condition, although I have not been tested for that condition, because I have no other symptoms right now. After reading your post, I'm going to follow up at my next appointment with some more questions. Thank you for sharing your story, and I'm sending good thoughts for your wife's and baby's health. I think it's a good point that women sometimes have or develop health conditions that they don't know about until they get pregnant. This is in no way meant to tell the OP "must have babies young!" but speaks to the idea of giving yourself the maximum number of years to deal with any complications should they exist.
posted by Knowyournuts at 5:55 PM on January 16, 2011 [1 favorite]

Please don't listen to those who say love is enough. Love is not enough.

I am also question d.

My parents sent me to a private school because they thought it was the best thing for me. In the long-run, it was. But at the time it meant no money for new clothing, activities, or a lunch not paid for by the government. Second hand clothes may be a cool as a hipster adult, but not in certain environments as a child. The teasing was intense and that coupled with my feelings of difference and isolation wrecked my self esteem for years.

The experience of being poor itself was profound. Think of those older people who lived through the Depression who save twist ties from bread bags. It's like that. On the one hand, I learned the value of money and hard work and appreciated things more, but on the other, I suffered with feelings of shame and worthlessness and a perpetual fear that there would once again be a day when I needed to go to the grocery store and there would just be no money.

There are so many small things that people who grew up middle class don't think about that poor people do. For example, braces. I needed braces. Three thousand dollars was simply impossible. It did not just "sort itself out." What happened is that I wasn't able to get them. Consequently, I've had dental problems into my 20s.

Your kid doesn't need European vacations or an IPhone. If they have to work a summer job or make small sacrifices it will probably be good for them. But money buys access to health, education, career success, and overall happiness in ways that many middle-class people don't even think about. (I recommend the essay Tired of Playing Monopoly? to get your head around thinking in terms of money versus class.) It's hard to judge from your question where you are on the income scale. One big point in your favor is that you are both college educated, so it seems that you have resources even if you don't have money. You should think about whether your financial situation now crosses that line from building character to handicapping your children and if not, how close you are to crossing it. For example, if your husband lost his job, what would happen?

I wouldn't say my upbringing as a poor kid was bad. But it was complicated, sometimes intensely painful, and had ramifications that lasted for years.
posted by unannihilated at 8:05 PM on January 16, 2011 [5 favorites]

When I was born my parents, fresh out of university, lived in apartments that I would have sneered at as a student, even. Basement apartment, silverfish in the tub...

But I had no idea for years that there might've been less cash on hand than was ideal. I never went without any basics; we were never short on food, my clothes were fine, our car ran, etc. I remember being angry every year about wearing last year's snowsuit until the new ones went on sale, but it seemed a not unreasonable indignity, something I assumed all children went through. It never occurred to me in my early years that we were anything less than middle class, perhaps a little above even given the standing of relatives. I had a blissfully happy early childhood in blah rental housing.

Later on finances were much better for my family, but there were more kids, and I harboured a lot of resentment over not being able to keep up with friends as far as clothing &c went. (This would have been seriously abrogated by better parenting, which would have given me the ability to get and keep a p/t job doing something I enjoyed.)

I am on the older side for it but I am "still figuring out career and finances" in many ways. We are pretty comfortable but there are plenty of holes in the budget. Last month I blew $250 on third-row ballet tickets for us in lieu of getting the dishwasher repaired, because my small daughter enjoys doing the dishes with her father and enjoys the ballet. This seemed an easy, easy call, but I know it's not one my parents would have made; it would've been the dishwasher, absolutely no chance of even 'nosebleed' ballet tickets. You mention "while we have flexibility in our lives" -- this is great; take advantage of it, buy the ballet tickets.

It sounds like you have, along with love and time, a great wealth of cultural capital -- and that goes a long way in the parenting sphere when the money isn't there. With cultural capital you can do everything from making delicious Ethiopian food from scratch because it is extremely cheap and nutritious to inviting diplomats over to dine with you and your child to scoring free music instruction off a friend who's a professional musician, and so on and on. You will send your kid to school (or start homeschooling) with a kid leaps and bounds past his peers because he lives in a home where literacy and art are important.

And, having a kid I stay home with has made me aware of a world I was previously quite unaware of. Cities have an endless supply of interesting things to do with small children that are free or quite cheap. We have been to a huge number of festivals, free concerts, pay-what-you-can Shakespeare in the park, and so on and on. Quite wonderful for all concerned. The cultural capital really helps here, too.

Very tired here; apologies for rambling and inchoate post. tl;dr: go for it, you've more than you know to offer your kids.
posted by kmennie at 8:28 PM on January 16, 2011 [5 favorites]

FWIW, you are both older and financially better off than my parents when they had me and my sisters. The same would be true of many people of my generation, and we all grew up just fine in loving and stimulating homes, and went on to be as happy, successful, worthwhile people as anyone born into wealthier circumstances.

There is also a plus in having kids sooner rather than later, you'll be healthy and vigorous for them while they're growing up and hopefully into into their young adulthood too. When you're under 30 it can be hard to imagine that aging and losing physical capabilities will ever happen to you, but over 40 it can happen surprisingly fast.

Overall to me it sounds like you're in a great place to have kids if that's what you want, and you will make excellent parents.
posted by philipy at 8:12 AM on January 17, 2011

One more vote for making sure you have good health insurance.

My second son was born ten weeks early. It can happen even if you are in good health. In my case, the premature labor was caused by a ruptured appendix. I had been in and out of the hospital for a few days, in a great deal of abdominal pain. Clearly something was the matter, but appendicitis can sometimes be difficult to diagnose, and it is even harder when the patient is pregnant. My doctors thought I might have food poisoning. But after the emergency c-section, the emergency exploratory operation -- which the surgeon stepped up to perform as soon as the obstetrician got my baby was out -- revealed a ruptured appendix. No wonder I had been in the worst pain in my entire life!

Anyway, I was in the hospital for two weeks, on IV antibiotics 24/7. My baby was in the NICU for four weeks and a day. I don't know if I ever saw the charges for the operations and my hospital stay, but I do remember that the NICU and pedicatrician charges totalled about $50,000. Luckily, our health insurance covered all of that.

Another poster said that even in such extreme circumstances, you could always declare bankruptcy. I suppose that is true, but trust me, having a baby born prematurely is stressful enough without having to declare bankruptcy on top of that!

Fyi, that premature baby is now a healthy and happy 18-year-old. He and his brother are the best things that happened to me husband and me, so as long as you have good health insurance, I say "Go for it!"
posted by merejane at 5:48 PM on January 17, 2011

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