Some people love putting a ‘dollars and cents’ cost on having kids. The media especially, likes to annually tally up what our kids’ most basic needs are costing us and then shock us with it in graphs and charts. It’s almost as if they’re hoping we’ll all front up to Mother Nature for a refund.
The fact is, the money is a moot point. No one begrudges spending money on their kids: We clothe them, feed them and educate them because we love them.
Which is why, the cost of having children should never be measured in dollars and cents. However, there are a few things having children will cost you that you should be prepared for.
The sleep debt is real, people. It’s not a deal-breaker but you should be mentally prepared for the fact that your ‘personal wellbeing economy’ will be running a significant sleep debt for about 5 to 10 years. If you are a left-leaning socialist sort of voter you will be able to accept the deficit for the overall goodness that is being spread around. However, if you are a right-winger, you may find it hard to reconcile this profit versus loss ratio.
If you are having kids, leave your sense of dignity at the door. It starts with the first internal pelvic examination and doesn’t really ever end. Your kids will poo in places that shouldn’t be pooed in, they will hide up your dress in public and they will give away your darkest family secrets in preschool drawings. On the upside, all these things make for excellent dinner party anecdotes once the shame has subsided.
An ability to arrive on time
If you are the sort of person who prides themselves on being punctual, you might want to think of something else to pride yourself on, going forward. No matter how you play it, no matter how many systems you put in place, no matter how many times you shout, ‘We are leaving in five minutes please put your shoes on!’ your kids will find ways to foil your punctuality every, single, time.
An ability to attend work meetings or appointments before 10am
If you are a working mum, say goodbye to early morning meetings. The logistics of daycare and school drop-offs just make meetings before 10am a total impossibility. 10am – can do. Anything before then? Not. Going. To. Happen.
(And yes, I did not say, ‘if you are a working mum or dad.’ I’m not even going to qualify or justify that. It’s just a fact and it never changes. Amiright, ladies?)
An ability to stay late at work
Just like the early morning meetings thing, this is a blessing in disguise. Daycare and after school pickups are not negotiable. You have to be there by 6pm, there’s no wiggle room so Barry from accounts will have to wait until tomorrow. The upside of this is, working mums are efficient as f***. We get it done within the eight hour working day, BECAUSE WE HAVE TO.
10 years in your career trajectory
It’s only when you start thinking about going back to work and you send out your first CV that you realise there is a 10 year gap in it. According to Brittany at Premium Recruits, you did nothing in those 10 years. The first time I noticed this, I was shocked. Then I realised that the 10 year black hole in my CV was time spent with my kids. I felt pretty good about that. Screw you, Brittany, I was raising humans.
Pack-light spontaneous holidays
Holidays and weekend getaways can no longer be done on a ‘get up and go’ basis. From now on, anytime you need to leave your home base for more than 24 hours, it will be like mobilising an army. There will be supplies to pack, contingencies to plan for and a veritable mess hall of portable food and rations to take with you for the journey. Even then, when you have planned it down to the last nappy and wipe, you will be two hours down the road and realise you left the portacot behind.
(We once did the block six time, SIX TIMES, to go back for things we forgot when we were setting out on a family holiday to Queensland. Six times. I’m not even exaggerating.)
So after all that, what’s in the profit column?
A greater perspective on life’s ups and downs
There’s no time to sweat the small stuff when you have kids because each day is a tiny universe of achievements.
After the hedonism of your early 20s, the simple basic pleasures of raising children will be a salve to your jaded soul: the first sparkly-eyed smile, those tentative wobbly footsteps that seemed improbable only days before, the bubbles of joy when a baby giggles, spooning food into an eager baby’s mouth, clean-smelling toddlers in fresh pyjamas after a bath, the warmth of a child on your lap in winter and small people who can’t wait to see you every morning.
Above all, having kids keeps the existential crises of modern life at bay. What’s the meaning of life? Kisses at bedtime and peacefully sleeping children.