My husband and I are currently locked in the battle of the century. In one corner, you’ll find my husband, happy as a canary with his one son, his one daughter, and his one dog; in the opposite corner, you’ll find me, yearning with every fiber in my being to add a third child to our family. Yes, I’ve got baby fever (don’t stand too close, I fear it’s contagious). Ten years ago, when we were first married, my husband and I found ourselves in a similar position. Were we ready for a baby? How would we know when it was time to add to our family? And now – a decade (and two kids) later – it’s baby debate 3.0 in the Balke household.
Not Taking it Lightly
Having a baby is serious business – and I do mean “business.” Experts estimate that the average American family will spend just shy of a quarter-million dollars to raise a child from birth to age 18, a number that doesn’t even include college. The simple act of having a baby is full of potential fiscal landmines: prenatal vitamins, stocking up your child’s nursery, parenting & childbirth classes, maternity clothes… the list is infinite.
My husband and I – typical “Type A” personalities – wanted to go about having a baby the “right” way. To us, that meant 3 things:
- Being happy in our relationship (for us, that’s marriage, but I know that’s not the case for everyone)
- Being conscious of a child’s impact on our careers
- Being financially sound
Points 1 and 2 were fairly easy for us in those halcyon days of our mid-20s, but Point 3 was a bone of contention. What did it mean to be “Financially Sound”? Did it mean having our emergency fund fully loaded? Did it mean already paving the way to a smooth retirement? Did it mean owning our own home – and if so, did it have to be a starter home or our dream home? The questions were endless.
When we ultimately decided we were ready for a baby, we were both in fairly secure careers, owned a starter home, and had a nice emergency fund in the bank. We felt ready.
When we got pregnant with our second child a few years later, I had just quit my full-time job, we’d just paid off a huge construction loan, and our emergency fund was feeling the pain. We felt intimidated.
Now, as I fight for a third, I’m working full-time in a far more exciting (and lucrative) career, we’re living in that dream home, and our extra income goes to our retirement fund. We know we’re not ready.
And that’s the bottom line: being “ready” for a baby isn’t about checking off all the boxes. Parenting hood isn’t about whether you’re in the black, or in the red, or by how much. Becoming somebody’s mother or father is a far more emotional journey than that. It’s why even the most “prepared” couples will tell you that, in hindsight, they weren’t really ready for a baby. No one can predict the emotions they’ll feel the first time they hold that child in their arms – and that’s true whether it’s your 1st, 3rd, or 10th child.
As the commercials say… having a baby changes everything.