It was a special moment three years ago, the evening my wife informed me that we were about to become parents -- at least, I'm assuming that somewhere in the world, somebody was having a special moment. In our house, I had a chance to create a magical memory, and I blew it.
My wife, Susan, did her part. When I came home late in the evening after a long day, clutching a sack of sandwiches from Arby's, I was ambushed by candles aglow, soft music, and a congratulatory card. But instead of doing a dance of joy upon being told of the blessed event, I just stared at my wife, slack-jawed, looking like someone who just learned his million-dollar lotto ticket had been accidentally mixed into the Alpo and served to the dog. I hate to admit it, but my first thought was: How can we possibly afford a baby?
Two children later, I realize that nobody is truly financially prepared to have a child, save for Bill Gates, Julia Roberts, and a few lucky others. What surprises me is that it isn't just a matter of how much money you have (or don't have, in our case); it's also a matter of how you spend it. I wouldn't be surprised if even Gates, who's so rich he could afford to send 226,777 kids to Harvard, has heated debates with his wife on how to spend money on their children.
From the moment we learned of our impending parenthood, Susan went on daily shopping trips, returning each time with Santa-like bags filled with toys, gadgets, and diapering gear. I tried to point out that getting all this gear was what baby showers are for, which is why I helpfully compiled a list of 400 guests, including our postal carrier and some nice folks I met in an elevator. But in the end, my ambitions were thwarted with a more modest affair. Thankfully, my parents sprang for a crib; my in-laws bought us a dresser and rocker. But for the most part, like many parents, we were on our own. Susan tried to ease my nerves by promising, "I'm going to breastfeed. Think of all the money we'll save on formula!" But my relief was premature. Nursing was tough for her, and I'm guessing that ever since Isabelle and, later, Lorelei arrived, we've averaged $13,726.92 on formula a month. (Of course, my wife would say -- as she has a billion times -- that I'm exaggerating.)