“It is not the man who has too little, but the man who craves more, that is poor.” -Seneca
My wife and I have endured quite the financial evolution over the last few years since taking the plunge on having kids. I’d like to say that we forecasted and planned our way into fiscal responsibility, but that would assume that first, we had some clue as to what we were doing and second, that we actually have reached that responsibility level. That’s a negative in both regards.
Imagine your life, your time, and your money as a mason jar full of water sitting on the counter. The jar is perfectly situated and content until you drop a large stone into the glass and water splashes over the side. Huge splashes of your life, your time, and your money are forever displaced by this new entity. The stone, of course, is your child; the remaining water no longer flows freely but fills the space around the stone. This stone will sit at the bottom—the foundation—of your life from the very moment it enters. Whether it is portions of your life, your time, or your money, children will immediately begin to absorb these resources.
This is not to say that children aren’t worth it or you should proceed with caution; heck, my wife and I will be popping out girls all the way to the poor house with smiles on our faces. In our eyes, every struggle is worthwhile. However, it might have been beneficial for us to plan out our lives with children, from our careers to our finances. Instead, life moved quickly on until that stone was dropped into our mason jar like a toddler into a bath tub. Things got messy in a hurry.
Our biggest mistake was building a life for two, even though we both desperately wanted children. However, it is one thing to desire children but a whole other thing to plan for children. We were wrapping up our pre-kid lives by wandering aimlessly in our careers, buying a house on a whim, and dreaming of a new addition. Nowhere in that process did we take the time to think of things like ‘How much does a birth cost?’, ‘Are we both going to work after the baby is born?’, ‘What would 29,000 diapers run us for a year?’, or ‘At what age can she get a job and start contributing to the family budget?’ These (and many, many others) are questions that would have been beneficial for us to discuss prior to starting a family.
Again, I am writing to what we could and should have done, but an ounce of regret is impossible to exist within either my wife or myself given where we sit now. We could have been smart, yeah, but we ended up with 2 lovely girls regardless of our naïveté so we don’t beat ourselves up too much about it. Still, the stone that was our first daughter sent several resources over the edge of the glass while the remaining water continued to splash and wave. But the stone sank to the bottom. Our daughter became the foundation of our financial lives and every decision we made and currently make is predicated on and influenced by the now 2 stones we have sitting as our foundation. Nothing else works until their needs are meet.
So take a moment, young couples, and give some thought to what a child will really mean for your lives. What will it really cost? What sacrifices will be made? Time? Career tracks? Money? Have those discussions now before the rock comes tumbling and, like my wife and I were, you’re left scrambling to adjust on the fly. Wherever your discussions lead, do not let stress or panic enter into the conversation. The kid will always be worth it. I’d live in the cardboard box I described yesterday if that’s what it took to have Eliza and Everly. 🙂