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The Price of Life

My last blog post, “Birth Control,” triggered an interesting response from family and friends. From the friends: “So, Baby G no. 2 is on your mind, huh? That’s great!” From the family: “Oh Sarah, how are you going to handle another baby right now?” Then there was, “Thanks for using my kids as fodder for your blog, as reasons NOT to have more kids right now.” (That one was from my brother, who knows how much I love his kids. Hi, Michael!)

My mom, a.k.a. Granny Franny (you might see her comment here from time to time), was among the naysayers. Not that she doesn’t want more grandchildren, but she’s more of a realist than maybe I am, and she knows how hard it is to blend two children with a demanding career -- probably because she did it for 30 years. My brother and I are four years apart, and her career in broadcasting started when I was 5 and he was 9. So, sure, she knows a thing or two about the proverbial juggle.

But -- and not that I’m pregnant, people -- it’s not exactly what I wanted to hear after putting a post like that out there. I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again: I’m 36, not 26. Ideally I’d love to space my kids out three years -- although I never really considered that having two in diapers would be so difficult, like many of the commenters pointed out. Changing diapers isn’t one of those chores that bothers me, frankly, but I’m sure potty training one while diapering another would be quite challenging. I’ve just always thought that three years is a good space in between kids, because that means they’re close enough in age to go through school together, but far enough apart that when a new one enters the picture the older one would understand what’s going on, and might even serve as a good little buffer.

But at my age, spacing them out three years poses a few risks. 1) My age introduces all kinds of potential problems, from chromosomal abnormalities to the physical challenges. I hate to even talk about the negatives, but someone my age has to at least consider them. 2) If I have another boy, I know I will want to consider trying again for a girl. Jay and I have always said we both wanted three kids, but I think if I have a girl next I will feel satisfied enough to be done. I’m not sure I’ll feel that way with two boys. And 3) What if I can’t conceive as easily the second time as I did the first time?

So, you see, if I try to plan it so that we have a three-year age difference between kids -- that means we'd be having the second one when I'm 38 (Preston turns one this August) -- it leaves very little time to go for that third one, should we be so inclined, before I'm 40. And, honestly, I just don't see myself having babies in my forties.

Since my age is the key factor driving my decision about this, it’s a tough one to argue with. But there’s another aspect to this decision, probably the thing that’s giving me the most pause: The cost of kids. I’m of the school of thought that when it comes to children you just make it work. In fact, that’s pretty much how Jay and I have always lived our lives. But as I’ve gotten older and especially since becoming a mom -- a working mom who shares the financial responsibilities -- money plays a much more important role in the decisions we make. I wouldn’t say it rules our lives; but it certainly helps lead the way. I can’t live in the moment the way I used to, not when I’m responsible for more than just my own life. And I feel this is one decision where money has to be considered. The bottom line is, can we afford two kids right now? And I don’t mean just afford them, because I’m confident we can, but I mean raise them the way we want, the way we’ve been accustomed to?

Suze Orman, are you listening? This one’s for you.

What is the average cost of a first baby in its first year, versus the average cost of a second baby in its first year? I have to think a second child is considerably less. I can come up with a rough estimate of what we’ve spent on Preston so far, assuming the first year is among the more expensive in the early stages -- ya know, because of all the “stuff” babies require. And for Baby G no. 2, we would obviously have a head start, so presumably he or she would cost less out of the gate. I read something online that said the first year costs in the ballpark of $9-$11k -- which seems almost impossible for a baby who’s formula fed, wears disposable diapers, and has a penchant for Polo. In all seriousness, I’m not asking for ways we can cut costs; I’m aware of them even if I don’t practice them. I’m wondering if there’s a formula for figuring out whether or not you can technically afford kids, according to your own individual lifestyle, like how Suze Orman goes on Oprah to tell couples whether or not they can afford a particular college for their kid, by looking at the parents’ current expenses. I need a Suze Orman intervention!

How much did you worry about whether or not you could afford more kids, relative to your lifestyle, when considering growing your family? And who among you didn’t consider cost at all, because how can you really put a price on a new life? Perhaps I’m crazy to over-think it this much.

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