Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Can We AFFORD a Second Child?

As exemplified in previous posts, much of my “down time” is spent thinking about whether my husband and I should try to have a second child. Lately I’ve been wondering if, as parents, we invest all of our financial, physical, and emotional resources into raising Emmy as best as we can as an only child, rather than spreading ourselves thin by giving her a sibling.

It’s a tough call. There are so many “pros” to having a second child. Em would have a playmate for life. She and her sibling would be able to learn, laugh, and grow together. Oh, I know that it wouldn’t be all roses and rainbows, and that as sure as the sun rises in the east, my two children would also bicker, pinch each other, steal each other’s toys and try to get Mama and Dada to take sides. But they would also be able to share secrets, build imaginary worlds together, and turn to one another in moments of distress.

Not to mention how much I would like to just experience pregnancy again. I know it’s crazy, but I really DO MISS the first trimester morning sickness. I miss having to eat crackers all day long. I miss chocolate tasting like tinfoil and having an aversion to broccoli. I miss the magic of watching a little spot inside my body grow slowly into full sized baby with two hands and two feet. I miss the feeling of “wow. I’m actually doing this. I’m actually making a baby.”

But then there are the “cons”, of course. And these days, with the economy being so horrible and showing few signs of improvement, the “cons” seem to sometimes speak louder than the “pros.” I mean, seriously, let’s put aside the conversation about the emotional and physical energy required in raising two children. Can we really AFFORD to have a second child?

As is, having just bought our first home, we’ve got a mortgage to pay off, as well as my student loans, and all the usual bills: gas (ugh - $100 to fill my tank? i need to invest in a great bicycle), food (yikes), utilities (blech). And then there’s Emmy’s daycare. I’ve told my husband that for the money we spend on Emmy’s two days a week of care (ONLY TWO DAYS!!), we could rent Emmy a small apartment, baby-proof it, fill it with toys, and just drop her off there FIVE DAYS A WEEK. C’mon, she’d be fiiine! She’s a resourceful 17 month old!

We’re not struggling, per se, but we’re not exactly enormously comfortable with our money situation these days either. We look around at other families who are in much worse shape than we are, but are still managing to raise more than one kid. My husband and I talk often about how the “squeeze” we are experiencing is only a temporary situation; in four years, Em will be entering Kindergarten (free!), one of my student loans should be paid off (woo hoo!), a miracle may occur and one of us may get a significant raise or promotion (let me dream, please), and we may actually finally be able to afford to go on a really nice family vacation.

That is, unless we have a second child. If we have a second child, we will be spending more money on daycare for at least another five years. If we have a second child, we will have a second mouth to feed, a second child’s medical bills, and a second child to eventually send to college (hopefully). Plans for family vacays to the Galapagos Islands may have to morph into more realistic and affordable family camping trips (don’t get me wrong, I love camping, but its not the same as visiting the Galapagos). Money will be tight not just for a few years, but maybe for our whole lifetime.

I’ve heard other moms say that once you have one child, you might as well have another. It makes no difference. Are they talking about the financial impact of having two children, or just the emotional and physical aspects, I wonder?

I’m not even sure that I will be able to get pregnant again, but on the off-chance my body cooperates and is able to play greenhouse to another little human being, I’ve got a serious question for all the mommies out there with more than one child: Did you experience a huge shift in your family’s financial “comfort” with the birth of your second (or third, or fourth) child? Would you recommend to others that they have a second child, even if it means their family’s budget would be tight?

I look forward to hearing from you!

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