My husband took down the last crib in our house yesterday. My 3-year-old daughter has been sleeping in a converted toddler bed and we felt it was time she got her own “Big Girl” bed. To be honest, we’ve had it for a while, just waiting to be put together. I’ve been promising her that we’d go shopping for new bedding, she’s even picked out the print of the comforter that she wants, but I haven’t been able to pull the trigger.
To me, taking down this last piece of baby furniture is the possible end of ever putting it back together. It’s the possible end of having babies. I look at my children every day and have so much love for them, how could I not want another? My son, who is the only boy child in all my family and local friends, is constantly asking for a brother. My daughter would be an amazing big sister, as she takes good care of me and her babies when we are playing.
Next, when my husband brought down the pieces of the chair that I spent so many nights nursing my babies to sleep and rocking them until I had almost put myself to sleep, my heart hurt. To make matters worse, he told me he was getting emotional himself that this would maybe be the last time this crib, that had been used by both of my children, was taken apart. And I just lost it.
The tears that were always on the verge of coming thinking of this moment began to fall. I turned away and just felt the sorrow in my heart. I have always wanted to have three children, but both my sanity and my bank account are keeping me from having that third child. Every day, those beautiful little balls of fire bring me to the edge and back again. Every day, they push and push me until I am telling them that if they want another sibling they better begin acting better because I couldn’t handle another.
And that, of course, is only partially true. The huge obstacle that stands in our way in regards to having another is knowing we have at least another 5 years of childcare. My son will go to kindergarten next fall, and my daughter will follow the next fall, so we’re in the home stretch of paying for childcare. Once they are both in school full time, it will be a huge rise in our disposable income.
Childcare we cost more than the mortgage including taxes and insurance on our first home. To be able to add those funds back into circulation means we could pay off the bills we accrued from building our house and surviving slow winters in both our jobs. It means actual vacations and not living paycheck to paycheck.
I find myself asking, “Do I really want to start at the beginning again, paying for care until they are school-age?” It’s not even starting all over with a newborn that scares me, as I would gladly struggle through sleepless nights and endless breastfeeding sessions to have my dream of three children come to life. Instead, it’s the potential to continue struggling financially for another 5 years.
We are definitely among the middle class, which seems to be struggling as a whole. I work in mortgages full time and am decently compensated for all the work I do. My husband owns a thriving photography business, which continues to increase in total revenue from year to year. On paper, it looks like we make decent money. But then you look at where it goes and how much is left after all the bills, and getting essentially a raise in income without the need for childcare anymore, seems to be the more logical reason not to have another.
I know I am not alone either. I know if it weren’t for financial constraints, many of my friends and family would have had more children. Their main concern always aligned with ours, childcare costs more than most of our mortgages and we cannot afford to have another child in full-time care.
We don’t live in cities where the cost of living always seems to be much higher and our kids don’t go to fancy daycares. We have a babysitter come to our home, at the same rate as we would if we were dropping two kids off in an outside daycare. I guess some would call her a nanny, but that makes me feel extravagant when we are definitely not. They go to preschool in the mornings 3 days a week which is insanely affordable. We are not lavish in any way but yet we still struggle with our finances.
And I’m not sure what the solution is for this country. I am well aware of how lucky I am to have the means to pay for the amazing care that my children have and that we have such incredible people to care for them. I cannot fathom how tough it is for others who have to make complicated choices in their lives just to pay for the care they need for their children so they can go to work and make money to pay for the care.
Both my husband and I have to work to afford what we have now. We live in a rural town in the middle of the woods, a town that we chose because at the time, it was the furthest west we wanted to go (away from major cities and employment opportunities) and also be able to afford the home we live in. If we were to buy a house in our town today, we wouldn’t be able to afford it. The further away from good employment options, the longer the commute, the more childcare we have to pay for.
There has been an increase in the workload employers are requiring their employees, which also requires more time working and less time with families. It also means paying someone else to care for your children. I spent late nights and early mornings squeezing in the extra work required but also juggling both mom responsibilities and the additional work when I need to do just one more thing after my childcare leaves for the day.
I work from home, so it has been easier for me to squeeze in the extra required time, but what about those employees who have to stay late in an office outside their home, that is 1 to 1.5 hours away from their homes? More time at work, less money in our pockets. It just doesn’t make sense.
With the decline in birth rates in this country, one could assume that it could be a direct result of women having fewer babies because they cannot afford it anymore. It makes me feel so discouraged to think that we have to put money that we need to raise our current families above actually growing our families. It is frustrating to think that an outside force can determine how big a family you can have.
And by no means am I saying that you need to be rich in order to raise a big family, I know many people who have more children than we do, who get along just fine financially. I just think it is time we reexamine the key struggles that an average family deals with. Between rising healthcare costs and extremely high cost of childcare, it’s hard to justify adding one more to the family. But that doesn’t mean I can’t still hope for one. My luck though, I would probably have twins.