the price of parenting
a real dad tells his story of coping with the costs of bringing up a child
I still remember the phone call I made to my parents when I found out I was to enter fatherhood for the first time. My mum, too excited for words and crying tears of joy, passed the phone to my ever sensible dad.
"You could never have been financially prepared for a child" he said.
These words stick with me today - my first thoughts were not "will I be able to change a nappy", "or, "can I survive work on 3 hours sleep?". I knew I would learn and adjust to these things - but the money I had coming into my home would not adjust. In fact it would decrease, and the number of mouths to feed would go up.
When my partner fell pregnant, we were a young couple living in a high rise flat on the bank of the River Thames. In fact, she had not yet turned 21 and we were both in full time work. I enjoyed a reasonable salary in my sales role, and with my partner as a mortgage advisor, had expendable income for holidays, eating out and going to the cinema. In just over 8 months time, our incomes would go from two to one, and the mouths to feed go up, from two to three. I didn't like those odds. At the same time I knew that, whether now or five years time we had our first child, we would always have got used to spending the money we had coming in - so whatever the situation, things are going to change.
Now this is beginning to sound like a financial decision alone, like choosing to use a tumble dryer instead of drying clothes on a washing line, or having the heating on even in the summer. But it's that extra factor when planning for children, on top of what is already one of the biggest life changing decisions you will make.
My single biggest learning around my finances, was really beginning to see the value of money. No longer would I view my weekly budget as leaving enough money for a nice pair of jeans, or some new work shoes because I walked in some dog poo. Now every pound I make, every tax credit we get, I find myself saying "that could feed my family for a week". My perception of life as I knew it had changed.
This pressure of having a young family, this idea of having "kids to feed" altered the way I live my life. In a job I look for security, every direct debit for amenities has to be as low as it can be, every mobile phone bill means watching those minutes used.
This does not mean however you can't go without. I also have the attittude you also need nice things in life, and where your budget allows you to, prioritise. I don't pay a £60 subscription to Sky as I know the children are happy with CBeebies, or a £2 DVD off eBay. Nor do I got to the barber's every week, I have my haircut when I can't see clearly into the mirror. And my shoes last longer than toilet paper. The things I prioritise are the things we can do together. Trips to the zoo. Weekends away. A toy car in the supermarket. Because when I'm with my family, and the children are smiling and happy, money doesn't seem to matter as much.
How have you had to cope with the strains of fincancial pressures when bringing up a family? Is there a right time to have a child? We want to here your views below - please leave a comment.