The Price Is Right?

11.16.12 I had no idea how having a baby would affect my bottom line.


Last week, I got an email from the director of my son’s preschool letting me know that the tuition for the 2013-14 year would be going up. Both my husband and I work full time, so our son is in school five days a week and, with the rate increase, our costs will go up $250 a month beginning in July. A quick calculation—that’s $3,000 more over the course of a year. We’re already pushing the boundaries of what we can afford for preschool and after-school care, so I’m not sure how we’ll accommodate that uptick. I wasn’t exactly sure how we would pay for day care when I returned to work after my maternity leave, but we did — so I guess we’ll make it work just as we’ve done for the past three years. (Although, I’m really not sure how we’re going to pay for college. Luckily, we have some time to figure that out.)

The topic of how much it costs to have a baby was the focus of this New York Times story. The author, Nadia Taha, writes about how the cost of having a baby may affect her decision to have children. She calculates that from birth to when her child would have children of his or her own (and Taha would be a doting grandmother) that the total figure would be $1.8 million. Whoa. That’s a lot. I didn’t think too much about money when we decided to have our son. I knew that I would need to pay for day care, but I had an established career (and a steady paycheck) so I assumed I would make it work—just like my friends who had had babies before me seemed to be doing. But, I didn’t consider that part of the costs of having a baby would mean twice-a-month doctor visits for my son’s first year for chronic ear infections and, ultimately, surgery for ear tubes. I also didn’t factor in the $250 fee for a Saturday morning music class, or the Target gift certificates I gave to each of my son’s day-care teachers for the holidays. And I really didn’t think about how much money I would spend on diapers for three (yes, three!) years.

But, I can say that part of our decision not to have a second child is based on money. Knowing full well now how much I spend on one small person, I know we don’t have the resources for a second. The thought of two preschool payments and, eventually, two college payments is overwhelming. Of course, there are other factors that go into that decision—I’m not sure I could handle the newborn phase again as a working mom; my husband is now working full time and couldn’t contribute as much to child care as he did with my son; and, both my husband and I feel very much like we have a full life with just one. So, one it will be.

With that being said, I still don’t think too much about how much my son “costs.” Of course, when there is a tuition hike at preschool, I think about how we’re going to cover that—or make a change so we don’t have to. But, in the end, I would spend just about whatever it takes to keep my son happy, healthy and well. Including umpteenth number of $5 train tickets to satisfy my son’s love of locomotives. Necessary? No. But worth every single cent.