Not too long ago, when we had only Edie, I’d look at daycare parents of multiple kids and think, simply, “They must be rich”.
I wondered how we’d swing the cost of two little kids in childcare. We wanted kids somewhat close in age, so unless we received a winning magnet pre-k lottery number, we were gonna have to cough up the dough. We forged ahead and figured that people make it work, we would too. By some miracle, I received a job offer while on maternity leave with our second daughter, with a pay bump that would cover her tuition. Over the past few years, we haven’t bought a stick of furniture, one of our cars is a P.O.S., and I bought $9 hair dye the other day. But our expenses are covered and our girls are well cared for.
When people ask if we’ll have another kid, I have a hard time extracting the somewhat enticing idea of being a three-kid-family from the very real struggle of paying for quality childcare. Being a stay-at-home mom was not in the equation for us. As much as I love my kids, both Dave and I value my career and professional growth. Our kids’ grandparents either live far away or aren’t retirement ready, so another five years of paid childcare would be a given. I’ve continued to work knowing that I’m investing in our family’s future, although forking over a large sum of my take-home pay to daycare definitely sparks the “Is this worth it??” conundrum. Even though we both work full-time and live a fairly modest life, we keep an eye on finances at all times.
Both my husband and I are from two-kid families and growing up, we thought three-kid families seemed more….vivacious. When I was about nine, I (unsuccessfully) begged my parents for a baby brother. I reasoned that a little boy would be such a great sidekick to me and my sister! Sometimes as a parent, I imagine a third kid would be really fun. Sure, the early years are a ton of work, but that, too, shall pass. I can’t bring myself to cleanse our attic of baby gear and onesies. Other days, the idea is preposterous. We are strapped for time and money as is, and it’ll be so nice when we can travel easier and save money to remodel our kitchen or buy a newer car as our kids age out of daycare. I’m not even fathoming the expenses beyond the first five years.
I wish I didn’t automatically equate kids with money. But we are square in the middle class in 2015, and life in New England ain’t cheap. Gone are days of my parents’ youth: my dad was one of nine and my mom was one of six. Their childhoods were by no means privileged, but to think families of average or poor means supported 6-9 kids is fascinating. By today’s standard, a family of three of four kids seems large; the cost of living and social norms have changed immensely in a few short generations.
Edie will soon begin kindergarten. We’ll receive a “kindergarten raise”, a chunk of change in our pocket as our town taxes cover her education. While my peers discuss how sad it is that our big kids are going off to school, I do an inner high five considering the loosened expense. Today, I don’t think people with two kids in childcare are “rich”. But I recently encountered a family with three kids in full-time childcare, and thought, “Wow, they must be rollin’ in the dough”.