The Real Reason I Won’t Be Having Another Child
I’m going to preface this post by sharing something personal to me. Some people may think this is not important to the story, but I think that it is. I also wanted to make sure you knew that I’m very grateful that I was able to have kids, for the two amazing boys I have, and to have a job. And finally, as with anything, it’s important to say never say never.
Before having kids, I dreamt about having a daughter; the relationship I would have with her, the special bond between us, and the things we would do together. But even before Micah and I got married, we agreed that we would only have two kids. Micah always lightly put it that there should be one parent for each child, and in return, I would joke that if I had two boys, I would keep having kids until I had a girl. (It’s only slightly funny that Micah is the youngest of three boys!)
When I found out that our first child Jack was a boy, my instinct is to say that I was disappointed, but disappointed isn’t the right word. I wasn’t sad that he was a boy, but I was sad that I only had 1 chance left to have a daughter.
Then during my second pregnancy, after the tech performing the 12-week ultrasound said she was fairly confident that Henry was a boy, I held it together until I got home and then…I cried. Like before, I wasn’t sad that Henry was a boy, in fact, I was really happy that Jack would get to have a brother, a special bond in and of itself. But I cried because the hopes and dreams I had for my imaginary daughter were gone.
For months after Henry was born, I had several conversations with Micah about having another child. It wasn’t that I had definitively made up my mind that I needed to try one more time for a daughter, but I wanted to keep my dream alive. Only recently have I come to the conclusion that my family is (most likely) complete, a phrase that’s actually hard for me to write, because it seems so final. But every time I toy with the idea of another child, I come to the conclusion that our family simply cannot.
So, let’s talk about the elephant in the room, the real reason we won’t be having another child. It all boils down to one word, money. More specifically, the cost of childcare. I’m sure everyone has heard the phrase that you shouldn’t wait until you feel ready to have kids because the time will never come. The word “ready” in this sentence can be in regards to so many things; emotionally, socially, financially. When it comes to financial things though, before you have kids, it’s hard to truly grasp the cost of a child.
Jack was born in January of 2015. When he turned 4 months old, I went back to work and Jack started going to daycare full time. The center we selected was the cheapest in our area, but we didn’t choose his daycare based solely on cost. This center truly was and still is the best fit for our family and an amazing place! For children under 2 years old, the cost of daycare is $300 a week. Based on what part of the country you live in though, this number might sound high or low.
This center allows us to take one unpaid week of vacation time per year, which means that your child must be absent for 5 consecutive days. Other than that though, you have to pay $300 a week. It doesn’t matter if your child is sick or your family takes a long weekend, you still have to pay $300 a week. This is common practice at daycare centers and I totally get the reasons why; after all, it is a business.
After you multiply $300 a week times 51 weeks, you find that the annual cost to have a child under 2 years old in daycare, full time is $15,300. This is essentially money I had to pay so I could go to work.
In May of 2016, Henry was born. Throughout my maternity leave, Jack continued to go to daycare for several reasons. One is that we thought it would disrupt his routine. Jack had been going to daycare 5 days a week since he was 4 months old. To pull a 1.5 year old out of daycare for 3 months and then try to re-enroll him would most likely be traumatic. And second and perhaps most importantly, if I pulled him out of daycare during my maternity leave, there was no guarantee that the daycare would have an open spot for him when I returned to work. So, I continued to pay $300 a week through the summer and he continued to go.
In September, Henry joined Jack at daycare, which meant that my cost doubled. Having two children under 2 at daycare meant I was paying $600 a week. Can you believe that, $600 A WEEK?!?! Just so I could go to work. When Jack turned two, his fee dropped to $220 a week, but I’m still paying $520 a week to have 2 kids at daycare.
When I filed taxes last year, I saw that I had paid over $20,000 to daycare and Henry was only enrolled from September through December. This year I will spend over $26,500 for daycare.
But this is only half the story, because the $26,500 a year I pay for daycare doesn’t include all the other things my kids need: doctors appointments, diapers, clothing, car seats, or food. It doesn’t cover the other things that aren’t necessary but come as part of the territory of having kids, like the cost of birthday parties, zoo and children museum memberships, or Christmas presents. Don’t get me wrong, I am so grateful to have my kids, but they are really expensive.
Just to give you some perspective, in 2014, the U.S. Census reported that the average household income in the United States was just above $51,000 a year. After you take out taxes, the mortgage or rent, utilities and childcare, there’s hardly anything left.
On top of all that, when Jack was born, a friend of ours who is a financial adviser told us another scary number. She said that if we wanted to start a college fund that would be able to cover Jack’s education at a place like Washington University (since we live in St. Louis), we would have to start saving $400 a month immediately following his birth. I could barely keep up with the current expenses, let alone think about contributing to a savings plan for college.
So, to answer the question that so many people ask, “Will you have another child?” or perhaps more specifically “Aren’t you going to try for a girl?” To be honest, I still dream of having a daughter and I will never say never. But with the exception of a surprise, the short answer is no. To have 3 children in daycare, our family simply will not be able to make ends meet.