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My daughter turned 9 years old this week and I have been feeling very reflective. She’s halfway to adulthood, and my son is right behind her. What would I tell my childless self about money and kids? I’ve learned many unexpected lessons along the way.
1. Childcare Is RIDICULOUSLY Expensive
The cost of quality childcare is crazy. I knew this before I had kids, but I don’t think I REALLY knew this. Full-time childcare frequently costs families more than their rent or mortgage. Until you find yourself faced with that cost, it’s hard to really comprehend it. I also was under the delusion that childcare costs ended once the kids were in elementary school. It’s slightly less expensive, but it’s still a considerable cost. I also thought I could easily work a part-time job during school hours to avoid that cost. Besides before and after school care, there are also a LOT of days off of school. A school year has 180 days in it. A calendar year has 260 weekdays. As expensive as childcare is, this is often an area where parents don’t want to try to cut costs, for good reason.
2. You Might Be Surprised by Your Feelings About Working
I always thought I wanted to be a stay-at-home mom, but I also imagined I’d work at least part-time after my children were a few years old. Of course, I didn’t realize how difficult that would be with the cost of childcare. I’ve also known friends who thought they’d want to be stay-at-home moms but found that they really missed the challenge of working. For all of its rewards, staying home with young children can be very lonely and monotonous. Whether you think you want to stay home or work, you may change your mind after the child arrives. It’s best to live as far below your means as possible. That gives you room to make the best choices for your family in terms of careers and childcare.
3. You Don’t Need 90% of the Things at Babies R Us
Don’t get me wrong… I enjoyed some of my baby gear. I’m so glad I had a bouncy seat so that I could put the baby down safely while I went to the bathroom alone! I got that bouncy seat at a garage sale for a few dollars, though. I seriously doubt the $80 version would have been that much better. My kids also loved their pacifiers, but somehow we survived without specific “pacifier wipes” to clean them off.
4. Go For Used Whenever Possible
Kids outgrow things so quickly that there are tons of used items in like-new condition. If you ask, friends will likely shower you with FREE used things that they are desperate to get out of their house. For the rest, save your wallet and the planet by shopping for used items first. Find some good thrift stores, kids resale shops, and kids’ consignment sales in your area for the items you don’t get as gifts or hand-me-downs.
5. Two kids Are Twice as Expensive as One
When my husband and I discussed the possibility of having a second child, I told him it would be cheap because we have all the stuff! There might be some truth to that if your children are the same gender and at least a few years apart in age. If they end up opposite gender and only a year apart in age like mine, almost nothing can be re-used. We had to get a 2nd crib and all new clothing. Even if you can re-use some items, childcare is still the largest cost and it’s almost doubled with two children.
6. Sometimes You Need to Spend Money to Save Your Sanity
I was very reluctant to spend money on childcare in the beginning. It was expensive, our budget was tight, and I was a stay-at-home mom. How could I be a stay-at-home mom and pay someone else to care for my child? Well, I needed to if I was going to stay sane! My husband worked long hours and caring for two young kids alone for 45-50 hours per week was wearing me down quickly. When the kids were 1 and 2, I enrolled them in a parents morning out program 1 day/week. For 4 hours per week, I could go shopping by myself, meet my husband for lunch, or just take a nap. It helped me to not lose my mind during one of the toughest times in my life.
7. Let Others Help You
When people offer to help with babysitting or by offering hand-me-downs, they mean it. Say yes! Let them help you! It’s OK to accept the help of others, even if you could survive without it. If you can find ways that you can help someone, you should do the same. Starting a babysitting co-op is one way you can get help by also helping others.
8. Don’t Assume You’ll Have a Healthy Child
No one goes into parenthood assuming their child will have health problems, but unfortunately, there will probably be some. During 8 out of my 9 years of parenthood, I’ve had at least one major child medical expense. That’s not counting the numerous trips to the doctor for ear infections, strep throat, or rashes. Health care for children is expensive, even for relatively healthy kids. For children with chronic conditions or developmental delays, the costs can be astronomical.
9. It’s Totally Worth It
While I was struggling with infertility and considering life without children, I actually Googled, “reasons to have kids” and ALL of the results were about reasons NOT to have kids. I’m sure that cost was one of the reasons NOT to have children. But you know what? I have zero regrets. Deciding to have children was the best decision I ever made in my life. What’s the point of money if you don’t spend it on the things that make you happy? While parenthood has pushed me to my limits more times than I can count, it has also filled my life with more joy than I ever thought possible.
What money lessons have you learned from parenthood? Comment below!