Image courtesy of Jose Escobar
I have three children. They’ve brought me immeasurable joy and happiness and I can’t imagine my life without them. But that doesn’t mean I haven’t at least wondered what my life would be like if I hadn’t started a family.
How much does it cost to have a baby? And I’m not just talking about the hospital bill. What does a bundle of joy do to your career, social life, and your physical and mental health?
Whether you’re wondering if your costs fall in line with national averages or you’re trying to prepare before your delivery date, here’s some data and advice to keep in mind.
How much does it cost to have a baby?
There are several variables that come into play when determining how much it will cost to give birth. The state you live in, whether you have a healthcare plan, if you run into complications during delivery, and how you give birth (vaginally or through a c-section, in a hospital or at home) all play a role in your final bill.
In 2020, the average cost of a complication-free vaginal delivery in the United States is $10,808. When you factor in before and after prenatal care, the costs soar to an average of nearly $30,000.
(To get a better idea of what it costs to have a baby in your state, both with and without insurance, check out this detailed list from Business Insider.)
There are also the costs of raising a child. Education, extra curriculars, clothes, and all the small purchases in between certainly add up. According to a 2017 report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the average cost of raising a child from birth through age 17 is $233,610. Once you factor in inflation, the cost tops $284,000.
That’s a tough pill to swallow for some soon-to-be parents. But there are steps you can take before and after birth to lessen the financial strain kids inevitably bring.
Think of school registration years before you think you need to
Are you a homeowner or looking to buy? Do you know if you plan on taking the public school route or is homeschooling something you’ll consider? If so, you have more freedom in choosing a home in a location with lower taxes that may help you save thousands over the years.
Practice your cooking skills (and have your partner to do the same)
Feeding additional mouths can add up quickly. The average American household spends more than $7,700 on groceries and dining every year. A $20 pizza and a few extra snacks in the cart might not seem like much in the moment, but the costs certainly add up over time. Learning how to make homemade versions of your favorites can save money and improve everyone’s health.
Be thrifty: for as long as they’ll let you, embrace hand-me-down clothing and toys
Opt for a day at the park instead of the zoo and take advantage of free family-friendly activities. Take advantage of coupons and Groupon deals for special occasions. Buy in bulk when it makes sense to. Saving just $10 a week adds up to over $9,000 from birth to graduation.
Will a baby affect my career?
Seven out of every ten moms with kids ages 17 and under are in the labor force. In fact, mothers are the primary breadwinners in 40 percent of U.S. families. Working moms are no longer taboo.
There will be additional challenges to consider as a working mom, though. How much will daycare cost? What if you work less conventional hours or holidays when daycare isn’t always an option? Will you still feel as committed to your job? Will your job still feel as committed to you? How will you balance work, child-rearing, and everything else on your plate?
Read more: 8 Ways to Make Child Care More Affordable
Luckily, you have more control than ever before as a working mom in 2020. Here are a few tips to keep in mind.
Get help before your baby is born
Interview nannies and/or daycares while you’re still pregnant so you’re not scrambling at the end. Make arrangements with family members who will help with child care. Talk to your partner about how responsibilities will be split. Once you’ve secured care, always have at least one backup in your pocket. If family is an option, you’ll save money for sure. Just make sure they respect your rules.
Skip the office
If you’re hoping to avoid daycare, speak to your boss about adding flexibility to your schedule or work from home options, even if it’s just temporary. This can help fight the back-to-work-baby-blues.
Consider a career change. How happy were you with your career before having your baby or becoming pregnant?
If your career didn’t fulfill you before, you may come to hate it as time goes on. Even if you feel stuck, you may be able to explore options. Look for a company that offers in-office daycare, a growing perk many industries are adding. If you have a talent you can monetize, consider going into business for yourself. It’s not easy, but certainly not impossible.
Will I ever sleep again?
Parenting. Is. Exhausting. It will test your sanity in ways you didn’t think possible. In short, yes, you will sleep again. But probably not tonight.
If you sleep an average of seven hours a night now, that’s 2,555 hours you’re spending one-on-one with your pillow per year. Ask any new parent how much they slept the first year and you’ll get a variety of answers. But most newborns don’t sleep more than two to four hours at a time for the first few months.
Sleep deprivation can cause moodiness, irritability, depressed mood, forgetfulness, and difficulty learning new concepts. The true cost of sleep deprivation can creep into all aspects of your life.
Luckily, sleep isn’t the only way to recharge at the end of the day. If you can’t squeeze in a nap, try one of the following.
Women still do the majority of unpaid work in the United States, even when both parents do paid work full-time. If you have a partner, share your unpaid responsibilities.
Drink caffeine. If you’re nursing, a pot of coffee might not be the way to go. But according to Healthline, nursing moms can consume up to 300mg of caffeine a day without disrupting a baby’s sleep schedule.
Take care of yourself
You’ll have a lot less free time as a mom. But by making time to take care of yourself (exercise, drink enough water, healthy meals), you’ll be able to take better care of everyone else. This is a lesson most moms learn the hard way. Make yourself a priority before your health suffers.
You don’t have to volunteer for the PTO or help organize the neighborhood holiday party. If you’re unable to keep up with your basic needs, like sleep, take all the unnecessary activities off your plate until you’re up for the task.
Is it all worth it?
So, how much does it cost to have a baby? When we factor in all the sacrifices, probably more than we can ever monetarily or momentarily add up.
But if you ask this momma (who’s currently pregnant with her fourth baby), every type of currency I’ve paid has been more than worth it. Sure, I look forward to the day that I have a little more money and time to spend on me. But I’ll also miss my children being so dependent on me.
If your resources (and patience) are drying up, you’re not alone. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Lean on your family and fellow moms. It really does take a village and you’ve totally got this!