Five bloggers share their experiences raising children. We asked them these questions:
1.) Did finances factor into your decision to have children or influence how many children you would have?
2.) What’s the largest expense you regularly encounter in raising your children?
3.) What has been the largest surprise expense you’ve encountered as a parent?
4.) Do you believe your children have a better or worse quality of life than you did as a child?
5.) Do you believe your children will face better or worse employment prospects than your generation?
Married, one son, 24, and one daughter, 23.
Finances: Finances were not part of our decision regarding when to have children nor how many children we would have. Such is the joy of being young and ridiculously optimistic.
Biggest expense: Fortunately, the biggest expenses were experiences that we wanted them to have — college, studying abroad, private lessons.
Biggest surprise: Medical bills — deductibles and copays and the cost of everything not covered by insurance.
Quality of life: Our children have a far greater quality of life, not because of how much money we had or didn’t have but because of how we spent time and how we gave love. My children’s experiences were diverse. They were part of a working class poor family, they were part of a go-to-college later in life (both parents, one at a time) family, and then they became part of an upper middle-class family. Their perspective is largely a product of blurring socioeconomic status and learning to value all people independent of prevailing social values.
Employment prospects: My children’s generation faces countless challenges but employment will be neither better nor worse — it will be different. There will be a far greater need for skilled labor and an even greater need for empathic professionals.
Not married, two daughters, ages 10 and 16, the latter with profound autism.
Finances: Finances did not factor into my decision to have kids. I was afraid that if I waited until I was “ready,” it would never happen. I was 28 when Hallee was born and 33 when Madeline was born.
Biggest expense: Our largest expense is far and away health care for a special needs child, as well as trying to provide her with a quality life. While she has MaineCare like most children in Maine with a severe disability, many of her treatments were/are considered experimental and not covered by insurance.
Biggest surprise: Really, knock on wood, no big surprise expenses yet.
Quality of life: My children have a better quality of life (now) than I did at their ages. They are in a home with two loving, committed adults who would lay down on railroad tracks for them and for each other. They will have a secure future.
Employment prospects: I think because of her improved financial framework, my typically developing daughter will have better employment prospects than I had. I was unable to finish a four-year degree and know that my employment suffered because of it. Between us and her father, she will be able to go to the school of her choice and that will open so many more doors for her than were available to me.
Married, three children, ages 5, 3 and 1.
Finances: Yes and no. We’ve always been financially stable, so we didn’t wait for a certain financial goal to start having kids. However, if we had been in a different situation, we probably would have. We want to be responsible (financially and otherwise) for the children we do have, so we wouldn’t have more than we felt we could care for without assistance.
Biggest expense: I think food is the biggest regular expense we encounter. Our kids don’t eat a lot yet since they’re young, but we want to have nutritious options for them, which is pricy. Plus the cost of food has gone way up since we got married seven and a half years ago.
Biggest surprise: I suppose the largest surprise expense was the “specialized” formula we had to put two of our three kiddos on. Both of them had allergy/food intolerance issues that made it almost impossible for me to breastfeed. I nursed as long as I could and then we switched them to the only formula they could tolerate, which was very expensive. At one point I was spending more each week on one child’s formula than I was on the rest of our groceries combined. Thankfully that is an expense that we no longer have!
Quality of life: I think our kids’ quality of life is on par with the quality of life that I had growing up.
Employment prospects: That’s a tough one. I think it really depends on what they decide to do for work. Clearly some professions will be in higher demand than others, but that’s the way it has always been. I hope my kids can find something that they both love and are able to be successful in.
Married, two boys, ages 4 and 6
Finances: Yes. We probably would have already had the third if it wasn’t for finances.
Biggest expense: Child care.
Biggest surprise: We have been very lucky in that we haven’t had any surprise expenses yet. Even when our youngest had a brief medical concern, our insurance covered almost all of it.
Quality of life: Better.
Employment prospects: Better.
Four grown children between the ages of 21 and 29.
Finances: No, but I wish I had thought about it more. I had my first child when I was 19, and then three more in the next eight years. I have often told my children that while I would never want to have not had any of them, I do wish I had waited until I was older, for many reasons, but being financially stable is a major one. While you are never really, truly “ready” to have children, waiting until you have finished college and have a reasonably secure job is always the best plan.
Biggest expense: I can’t believe how stressed out I used to get over the price of diapers. Bigger kids mean bigger bills. Believe me, the price of diapers is nothing compared to the cost of size 11 sneakers for a 6-foot-tall boy, or car insurance for new drivers, or college. I would have to say the largest, regularly occurring expenses were medical and dental bills. They always seemed to pop up at the wrong time and even deductibles for a large family can really add up. Good health insurance is essential.
Biggest surprise: College! I had too many kids to be able to save for them and it just seemed so far away. The best advice I can give is to encourage your children to think creatively about how to pay for college and to not get into huge debt. My oldest daughter has over $120,000 in student loan debt after grad school and the high-paying jobs are just not out there, especially if they want to stay in Maine. Since then, I have encouraged all of my other children to find different ways to pay for school in order to avoid that debt. Two of my girls were in AmeriCorps, where they earned a stipend for college. Several kids started out at community college, which is much cheaper, and then transferred those credits to the university. My son joined the military for the education benefits. They have also taken semesters off to work full time and pay down debt before returning (but they have always returned). The bottom line is that the cost of college, as ridiculous as it is nowadays, should not prohibit you from getting an education. However, attending full time for four years, directly out of high school, and living on campus, may be beyond your budget. So plan ahead, and help them come up with creative solutions.
Quality of life: I think my children had fewer material possessions than I had as a child, but an overall better quality of life. I would not trade the time I took off from my career to be with them for anything. Children have no idea what your mortgage payment is, or if the bills are paid on time, and they don’t care. They never missed the things they didn’t have, but we all would have truly missed those years together.
Job prospects: Worse! There is no denying it. When I was younger, I never worried about finding a job, any job. Today, I know people with excellent educations who have been unemployed or underemployed for months on end. No job or career path is ever really secure anymore. Most of us live with the fear that our jobs could end at any time (funding, layoffs, etc.). The only way to some type of financial security is to stay clear of debt.