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Does the Cost of Raising Children Factor In?

Sarah Preston Gorenstein

This is something I think about a lot, and it has nothing to do with me going through infertility. I thought about it before we even started trying to conceive baby no. 2, and wrote about it for the Parenting Post back in July 2010: The Price of Life.

It came up on Saturday night during a dinner with our younger cousins: One couple’s expecting their first child—a girl!—this July, and the other is in their early 20s, married, and just starting out in their lives (he’s in med school; she’s about to graduate law school). The topic of children is always on our minds in our family, especially since we have our first baby girl cousin due this summer.

When I wrote about this topic in July 2010, research I did online indicated the first year of a baby’s life costs in the ballpark of $9-$11k. New research has that number more in the ballpark of $14,000. For the first year. According to this CNN Money article, published last year, you’ll spend $226,920 from birth to 18 years, for middle-income, two-parent households—for just the basics, like childcare, food and healthcare (this does not take into account your lifestyle choices).

Once Preston turned two, things got a lot more expensive—as I’m sure all you parents of toddlers know. He’s always enrolled in a class or two during the week (anywhere between $150-$300, per session). And now that he’s in preschool, those costs are mind-blowing: He’s in a private city preschool, which was our only convenient option. I have him enrolled two half-days a week right now ($133/week, which includes lunch), but if I go back to work full-time he’ll be moving to three full days a week, and we’ll have a nanny the other two days. It makes me sick to even say the number out loud, but we’re looking at about $2k a month for childcare—for one child!

The only reason I’m sharing this info is to give others a realistic picture. It’s eye-opening, isn't it?

This is why people who live in big cities move to the suburbs to raise their kids…which is starting to sound a lot more enticing as I’m breaking down the numbers. Two of my best friends have made the move, and in the coming year or two I have a feeling the rest of my friends will follow. I go back and forth about this all the time, but childcare costs alone make that a much more realistic option. The schools in our suburbs are great (and reasonably priced at the preschool level), plus real estate is much better, in that you get a lot more for what you pay for versus the city.

Or I suppose this is why some people decide to only have one child. Hard to imagine those costs doubling, or tripling.

Our younger cousins are thinking about this already—and I think it’s a responsible conversation to have, even before kids enter the picture. Do you go for the family you want, or do you go for the family you can afford? Or do you throw caution to the wind and not worry about the costs when it comes to kids? I used to think the latter, but now that Preston is 2 ½ and in preschool, I have a different outlook.

In this economy, and in this job market, how do you not consider all the costs involved with raising kids? We’re the generation that has to consider it.

Frankly, the cost of childcare is one of the factors driving our decision about implanting one embryo versus two. As my OB put it: Unless you want twins, you shouldn’t implant two. Period.

Obviously where you live and the lifestyle you lead factor into the costs of raising a child: I live in Chicago, in the city proper, and as of right now I can’t get Preston into the public school across the street, which is a lot more economical than the private preschool he’s currently enrolled in. And by a lot, I mean it costs $280/week for their tuition-based preschool program, for five full days. I’m hopeful he’ll get in within the next year or two (he’s on a waiting list; it’s a high-demand school), and when he’s in kindergarten it’s a guarantee he’ll get in (and then it’ll cost us nothing). But hopefully we’ll have another baby in the meantime, and then what? I’ll have two kids in school/daycare? Or one kid in preschool and another at home with a nanny? (By the way, daycares for infants around here are about the same price as a full-time nanny.)

When you break down the costs, it’s amazing that anyone can afford three, four or five kids these days. I actually know someone who’s pregnant with her fifth.

Has cost factored in to your decision to have more kids? Or is your attitude more on the side of, We’ll just make it work?

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