Why we chose to become parents when it doesn't make financial sense

March 22 | Guest post by Vivi
Just days before we knew we were expecting… photo by Yoan Soilen.
I am 27. My husband is 25. We both graduated a year and a half ago and between the two of us, have about $30,000 in student debt. We are a typical, just graduated, struggling, twenty-something couple.

Our jobs are not stable and we may have to move for work in a few months. We live a seven hour drive from our closest family and support system. We just got married. So… this seemed like the perfect time to try to have a baby.

For serious.

Many people who surround us are strong supporters of the "wait until…" theology of having children. Wait until you have a steady job. Wait until you own a house. Wait until you feel like you are older. While these are responsible ideals, our desire to "wait until" basically died when my dad landed in hospital.

I remember visiting my Dad, covered in tubing, in obvious pain, trying to make light of his extremely close call. My then-boyfriend, now husband, commented later "I do not want to be retired, in the hospital, with a son just finishing high school." My dad was in his 40's when my younger brother popped into the picture.

This conversation started another conversation — "How old do you want to be?" When my husband and I realized that we wanted to be young parents, we knew that time was a wastin'. Fast forward ten months: we got engaged, then married and have decided not to "try" to get pregnant but not use any protective counter measures. I was working a short term contract. Getting pregnant right away might make it difficult to get another job and my husband cannot support us both. Me getting pregnant could be a financially dangerous decision.

But when would we be in a position of wealth? How many years in the future would it be before we were both working and had settled somewhere permanent? What if we had trouble conceiving? There was no guarantee it wouldn't take us years to have a baby — and then would we be able to afford fertility treatments? No crystal ball answered our questions.

I decided to give my rational mind a rest and ask my spiritual self to take over. I am pagan. I trust that I can bring positive energy to myself, that the universe has a divine plan for me, my husband, and our future family. So we decided to let the universe tell us when the best time to have a baby was.

Realizing that I was pregnant was one of those really fabulous "oh shit" moments. As in "Holy man this is the most exciting thing that could happen" followed by "What are we going to do?"

Three weeks after the wedding, we conceived.

Realizing that I was pregnant was one of those really fabulous "oh shit" moments. As in "Holy man this is the most exciting thing that could happen" followed by "What are we going to do?" My contract was ending in 2 ½ months, my belly was showing early and I was throwing up all the time. Morning sickness does not help you consider new job opportunities. It basically helps you consider crawling into bed for eight weeks and not leaving until your nausea has passed.

Then we started seriously wondering what the hell we were thinking — this is not the right time to have a baby! Once again, my very rational, loves numbers, extreme planning and oh-so-organized brain went on worry overdrive. I had to tap that part of myself on the shoulder and ask it to step aside.

I started focusing on letting go of what I couldn't control, and letting our needs be known to the world. "Yes we are expecting!" "Yes this apartment does need some renovations to be suitable for a baby." "Yes I WILL need another job, and soon, I am pregnant!" "Yes we will need tons of free baby stuff — anyone have any?"

Just weeks after letting the cat out of the bag, I have landed a contract that will take me to maternity leave, my husband has new job prospects lined up, my landlord has agreed to help us renovate our apartment and support has come flowing out from family and friends. Almost all the baby paraphenalia needed for the first year has been gifted from those who don't need theirs any more.

I have allowed my organizational overdrive to start focusing on being able to afford a baby on the least amount of money. I have researched family tax incentives, baby bonuses, debt relief, maternity leave and every other possible financial resource that will be available to us once this baby is born. We have spent the extra time we have (since we are not working as much) sourcing and researching the cheapest options available for feeding, diapering and clothing a new child.

We trust that years from now, when the child is older and more expensive, we will be in a more financially secure place because we will have to be.

We have nested like crazy. We have downsized everything we own to free up space, traded labour for supplies with the landlord to renovate, used free or cheap resources to create a nursery/bedroom space — all while spending little to no money. We have our "worst case scenario" budget sorted out and discovered, to our surprise — we will still be able to eat, pay rent, afford our car and feed the cat. We trust that years from now, when the child is older and more expensive, we will be in a more financially secure place because we will have to be. We have started a savings fund for a house and one for this child's education. We have a solid plan (Excel file and all!) on how we are going to afford to live and pay off our student loans. We have our families' joy and support, even if it comes from a distance.

The more we have focused ourselves on the joy of expecting a child, the less the money has been a problem. We have counted our blessings as more and more opportunities present themselves to provide us with a good life for this soon-to-be child. We no longer question choosing to have our baby now. This was the time to have our first child. Difficult economy or no — this is the perfect time for us to welcome a new baby.

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  1. You are amazing. Thank you, thank you, thank you for writing this. I have (relatively small) student debt, my husband and I make not a lot of money, and it is really hard to say "later" will be better because when is the right time, how much money is enough money? This has really given me something to chew on. Thank you again.

    2 agree
  2. Great article/post! My husband and I are also recent graduates, married last May, and I'm 7 months pregnant! We live in Montreal, Quebec. We, like you, realize it will be a challenge, but also like you, know that the universe knows best. We're already thinking about moving this summer, to Ontario, to find my husband better work. Good luck in your pregnancy! If you want to chat, just contact me!

    • Ha haha, We moved from Montreal to Northern Ontario for work! Nice to hear other canucks are eating up this blog!

      2 agree
      • also in Mtl. Not a mum or a mum-to-be yet, but that's (hopefully) going to change sometime relatively soon. I do have many parenting friends, so I'm pretty familiar with a lot of the resources in the area if you are looking for ideas.

        • My husband has tried job agencies and the like, but we haven't found anything for him yet. It seems like there isn't much of a job market here… ?

  3. My husband and I made the same decision. We figured there was never going to be a 'good' time, so we just went for it. And so far so good. And our son is awesome!

    1 agrees
  4. I recommend cloth diapers too, start them right away. The cheapest way is prefolds with covers, covers(no plastic pants) can even be reused if they dont get yucky. I started mine when he was almost 2, and we still use them, but I kick myself for being so nervous about it. It saves a couple thousand dollars!

    1 agrees
    • Freaking WORD on the cloth diapers. They are brilliant, especially as a money saver. I am not a fan of the prefolds simply because I find them tricksy. Those who are better co-ordinated than I will probably have great success. We went for the shaped nappies with separate covers. They're much more expensive if you buy new, so I recommend ebay or nearly new sales. We got our whole stash sorted for under £120. Brilliant.

      2 agree
    • I love me some cloth diapers, they are great money savers. However- if you're paying for coin laundry in an apartment they can end up not being a great money saver, especially if like me you're paying 3.25 to wash and dry.

      1 agrees
  5. Love this!! This is pretty much me and my husbands ideology. Everything that we have needed has come into place. As soon as I lost my job he got a full time promotion. Though it is hard and we have made it work. The goddess has truly guided us down the right path.

  6. I heartily agree. There is no "right" time to have a baby. There is no "wait until". There will always be a reason to wait if you let it. My older daughter was an accident. We needed a new car, a new apartment and a job for my husband to afford it. All 3 happened within a short time frame. The car and job on the same day! It all works itself out.

    1 agrees
  7. Yes this! Thank you! We also knew from early on that we wanted to be young-ish parents (we're 25 and 26), though we're perhaps a bit more stable financially since we have no student loans. We were sort of waiting a year or so until the lease on our current space (a warehouse we share with eight others) ran out, but then I got pregnant anyway. And it's great! (We're still moving to somewhere with less potential lead contamination though.)

    The idea that everything will get that much more complicated all of a sudden and that we'll have way less money is pretty daunting. But at the same time, I don't want to have my wild years followed by my family years. I want my kids to be around for all the crazy awesome stuff that we do! I want to be young enough to meet their kids!

    Basically I just have a lot of faith that we'll be able to figure it out. Maybe one of us will stop working and we'll go live somewhere cheaper, or move to be near family. We don't know yet how it'll all fall out. And honestly I think not being totally settled (and thus willing to relocate or rethink our lives to make things work better) is probably a good thing. We'll keep trying stuff until we find a lifestyle that works for us.

    What's interesting is that our parents (all of whom had kids in their mid-to-late 30s) think this is a GREAT PLAN. They all (especially our moms) feel like they waited too long, and that being older made it harder for them to re-enter the workforce after taking a break. Or possibly they're just glad to see grandchildren before they turn 70.

    1 agrees
  8. We also wanted to be "young"ish parents and jumped into baby making when we knew that one important consideration would be covered- my partner, myself and kiddo would all have health insurance. Other than that we knew we could figure out the money, space and stuff issues. Being a lesbian couple and using frozen donor sperm we were mentally prepared for it to take us a while- not so prepared for it to take on the first try. As I write this my son is outside laughing as his Mommy pushes him in his swing- and although we have has some challenges with moving and jobs that may have been easier if we had waited to have him, I can't imagine life without this family.

  9. THIS. I am 6 months pregnant. I have a 6 year old son. My husband and I celebrate our first anniversary in 2 weeks. Both of our families are 6 hours away. We found out I was pregnant 4 days after the day I quit my job AND found out that my dad has cancer. I'm not working (I'm staying home to home school the son and have this baby), but my husband is working a full and a part time gig. We are living super cheap and trying to kick our 30k of debt.

    Lately I've been worrying pretty much ALL of the freaking time about how we are going to get baby stuff and how I'm going to get the house organized (after almost a year, we still don't have our stuff sorted and merged) and how we're going to not go nuts. I know we'll be able to feed ourselves and the cat, but lately the I-wanna-go-to-dinner-and-a-movie has kicked in. I've been fighting with myself all week, and this post most certainly has helped!

  10. Good for you for choosing to have a better when it "feels right" not when it "makes sense". Because honestly, when does it every really make sense?? lol

    But for saving money – cloth diapers and breastfeeding! Free food and diapers that will last you for subsequent children. Can't go wrong 🙂

  11. THIS THIS THIS. Thanks for reminding me why we decided to have our daughter despite the fact that I've only had temp work since graduating 2 years ago. My career can wait, buying a house can wait, having her is where my heart is at right now. I also think it's awesome that my daughter will be able to see us work hard and achieve all our financial and career goals. That's not something she would experience if we had waited to own a home and achieve more financial stability.

    And YES on cloth diapers and breastfeeding. Besides other obvious benefits it also makes the newborn months super cheap.

  12. When I first married at 19, the thought of having a baby terrified me. I wanted to finish college first, at least. 2 years later, I had an epiphany: There is no "good time" to have a baby. There will never be "enough money" (barring winning the lottery, I guess). And all of my concerns about being able to raise a child who won't need a therapist one day? I read once, "Raising a child is 15% parenting, 85% prayer." and I decided I had to see it that way or I'd never get up the nerve to do it.

    It took time, a miscarriage, a lot of tests, and 2 surgeries, but I'm now 24 and the mother of a gorgeous 6 month old daughter. I'm still in school and I work part-time, but I wouldn't give this up for all the money in the world.

    1 agrees
  13. if we had waited till we were any more stable, i wouldn't be a mother now. i was just over a year in an underpaying job at a small business, and my husband was just completing his first year at his startup when we got pregnant. he died seven months later, and i had our son a month after that. carpe diem. you never know if you'll get a second chance.

    2 agree
  14. Congratulations to your family! And I just need to say.. You're going to be so okay! My husband and I ended up conceiving immediately after we got married for health reasons but it was an incredibly similar situation. We had no money, straight out of college, and by most standards did not have nearly enough ducks in a row to have a baby. And yet we did! All of our stuff was hand me down and guess what.. It was super eye opening! Do you know how much crap you don't have to buy if you just rely on the fact that every mom has the crap you need and they desperately wish to get rid of it?

    We had friends say to us once to have kids young before we got used to having two nice incomes if one of us intended to stay home. We took that advice and we know no other way to live than the way we're living. And we're doing pretty alright! You're going to do great!

    Also a major plus of having a kid young? My husband and I will be 42 when our kid is 18. I could totally become an astronaut or something after my kid is grown. TOTALLY.

    3 agree
  15. This is fantastic. My husband (25) and I (22) are both first years in our programs (Mine's 3 years, his is 2) and we're planning on hopefully getting pregnant this fall, and giving birth next spring, and be able to at least be with the baby for a few months before having to go back and finish school. At least that's what we hope to happen.

  16. Great post! I totally agree with what you are saying. You could wait forever until the "right" time came along – but really something could go wrong at anytime, so why wait?

    Our situation isn't totally ideal either – but we think like you as well. I'm not working, only my husband is working. We own a house, have a dog and a cat, have 2 older cars. But we get by on one income and have a nice home. We have lots of support from family and friends – and we have a lot of love to give! That's the most important thing.

  17. Thank you for this post!

    I am 21 weeks with our unexpected baby. We were waiting for the "right" time – the time when we had higher incomes, less debt, maybe owned a house. Then we weren't very careful and here we are, living in the most expensive city in Canada, figuring it out as we go along! We realize more and more every week that there would NEVER have been a right time, and that this timing is a blessing in many ways. Many of our friends don't understand how we can be so happy about this babe when it wasn't our plan just yet… the stress doesn't reduce the joy, it just lives alongside it!

  18. I hate the attitude that people who want kids should always have to wait! My husband and I aren't in the best position financially, but we are getting by on our own and I still feel like people frowned upon us deciding to have a child. Well guess what, poor people deserve to have families too! It should not just be a privilege for wealthy people.

    1 agrees
  19. I think this is awesome. I really do want to finish my bachelor's degree before we have kids (partly because my parents are paying to put me through), but after that, there really is no perfect time, just the time that feels right, or the time that is. I don't get when people are always saying "wait til you are more secure." You'll never be "secure enough." You just have to go for it at some point.

  20. Thank you so much for this! We're not in exactly the same situation, but it's similar – my husband doesn't earn as much as we'd like and I'm on a temporary contract (which will end either in August or November, and I'm due at the end of September so really hoping for August!). We also bought our quite small flat right before the property market crashed, so are desperate to move for a bit more space but not sure we'll be able to afford to.

    It's really nice to hear someone say the things I'd been trying to tell myself – there is no right time, I'm 27 and it could have been another 5 years at least before we felt secure, by which time it could be more difficult to conceive.

    I'm sure that it'll work out – after maternity leave (which is 9 months statutory in the UK) I'll have to look for another job, but chances are I'll find something and if I have to take some bar shifts or something while I find a new job in my industry I will do. It's taken 3 months, but I'm starting to look forward to my baby!

    Congratulations to you, and good to know others are in the same boat!

  21. It is great that you have been able to not let money come in the way of happpiness. I wish more people I knew could live this way. Also I must say as Canadians we are a lucky bunch to be able to be off work for a whole year and have financial assistance and the promise of our jobs when we are done our year. It still is tough in many areas of Canada to land a job and cross country moves are intense and expensive considering the huge distance travelled.

    • We have been really lucky (I am the posts author 😉 ) Because due to my combined contracts, my maternity leave will be almost as much as I am making part time right now for 50 weeks. I don't know what we would have done without it. Vive la Canada!

      1 agrees
  22. My husband (then boyfriend) conceived our daughter accidentally the week we graduated from college. We were both 22. It was super scary at first, but we pulled it together, got jobs, and totally enjoy being young parents! She's two now and a feisty little girl. We like her so much, we just had a little boy!

  23. Thank you SO much for posting this. My husband and I have been dealing with this same question recently. We pulled the goalie in February, but we're both still very nervous about the financial stuff. I also made excel spreadsheets and researched everything I possibly could. It turns out that newborns are not THAT expensive. Of course they get more expensive as they get older, but I'm not as worried as I was. I'm glad to read that others are coming to the same decision as we are.

    It doesn't help though that my older siblings waited until they were in their mid 30s to have kids (I'm significantly younger than them). They are in the "wait until…" camp, and I worry that they will judge us and not be as happy for us as I would like when the time comes.

  24. This was our situation too, complete with sick father, although we are in our mid thirties. In our case we didn't want to wait because of our ages and we had the same concerns about what if we have trouble getting pregnant etc. It took my older sister over a year to get pregnant with her first child and she was only 30 at the time. Lo and behold I got pregnant at the end of May after only five months of being off the pill and not actively trying. Our financial situation is still rather depressing, but much better than it was at the time we got pregnant. My father is better, but it turns out that my father-in-law was diagnosed with having a malignant mass one week before our daughter was born. I am so happy that we didn't wait because we have no idea what will happen with my FIL's cancer and he gets the joy of seeing (and hopefully holding soon) his first granddaughter. There is no magical right time. Thank you for your article!

  25. word on the hand me downs/generous gifts. i'm 36 weeks pregnant and we have literally everything we need except for the car seat (which we'll pick up for ~ $100 at target) until our kiddo is going to be 18 months old. i even started giving things for a 9-12 month old baby to friends that actually have a kid that age and we'll get them back when we need them. i haven't stepped foot into a babies r us or anything like it and don't plan to.

  26. *waves to fellow canadians* I think people waaay overanalyze and plan kids. You are right, there will never be a perfect time. Just the time that feels right for you. At first we wanted to wait until my husband finished university but heck, we just dove in a year after the wedding (it did motivate us a tad that I was 37 haha), pretty did everything at the same time, house, bump etc.

    I find things just fall in place as they need to and since babies grow us so crazily fast, you just need to ask around and there are always tons of people willing to just give baby stuff away. Or you can find great deals on want ads of people just wanting to get rid of it. And yes cloth diapering, clothes swaps with other parents etc. all really help.

    It does worry me that I`ll be in my 60s when my son leaves the home (meep) but I really enjoyed the 20s and 30s and am actually glad I 'settled down' later. Though I could have seen myself doing the opposite, getting it 'out of the way' in my early 20s. Thank you for sharing this with us!

  27. Thanks for posting this! My husband and I waited and planned for years and then finally decided it was the "right time" to have a baby- only to find out when I was 8 weeks pregnant that I would be loosing my job in May (baby's due at the beginning of September). Clearly there is no perfect time- you just have to go for it and then make the best of it!

  28. Great article, we decided to get pregnant soon after getting married despite living on my museum curator income (not large; it's the kind of career you do because you love it, not to get rich) and having a similar amount of student debt. We also didn't know when we WOULD be "well off", and didn't want to keep putting off having a baby until we were ancient.

  29. So true. When my husband recently ended up on disability for a serious illness, we decided that was the time to have a baby. Financially it seemed a little crazy, but he won't be on disability forever and when else could we both be home nearly full-time with our kid? That made up for any kinks in the money department.

    My mom had my brother in her 40's, and my husband was adopted when his parents were in their late 30's/early 40's as well. Seeing how old they are now as grandparents – and with my brother just now graduating high school with a mom in her 60's – made me really want to do the kid thing now. Honestly, I barely have the energy at 25 – I have no idea how older couples manage! When our kids are grown, we fantasize about lavish cruises and overseas vacations in our golden (but not too golden!) years. 🙂

  30. My husband and I are in a situation similar to yours. I am 29 and he is 27. His job is permanent but he has only worked there for a year and a half so his salary is still small. As for me, after a decade of minimum-wage jobs, I finally got hired at a government office (my lifelong dream), but currently jumping from one 6-month illness replacement to another, without any job security when the permanent employee comes back. We live in a 3rd floor walk-up. Many people have told us to wait until we own a house and until my job is permanent. But this can take years. How old would I be? My mother had me at 29, and I remember how tired she was when it was time to deal with my teenage-crisis years. So I decided to stop my birth control pill, partly because after 12 years of use it was taking a toll on my health, but also because my husband and I realized that there is no "right time". We in North America have been conditioned, by the media and by our surroundings, that it absolutely takes certain things to be able to have a family: a certain type of house, car, job, etc. I don't think growing up in a 2-bedroom apartment in the city instead of a suburban house will wreck my children's future. And if my government job doesn't re-hire me after my maternity leave because I was still a temp., well, I'll be a stay-at-home-mom and we'll live as frugally as we did when my husband was a student and I was working minimum-wage. We are not actively trying just yet, but we are aware that condoms can and do break. I just recently started the babycrack, and I would welcome this child into the world, "right time" or not.

  31. I love this post.

    My almost-husband wants to have kids soon because he's thirty and doesn't want to be old when the kids are growing up. I want kids soon because I'm broody as all get out.

    We *need* to wait a couple of years in order to make certain things possible for my career and so on, but this is a great reminder that things will never be exactly perfect, so when the time feels right just go for it! I like that a lot 🙂

    1 agrees
  32. oh how everything that you said resonates with me!
    my husband and I got married 13 months ago. initially we thought we'd enjoy married life together or 3-5 yrs before we started trying to have kids. however, at the same time we weren't trying NOT to get pregnant (i don't use birth control, and i'm allergic to latex and can't imagine using lamb skin condoms. eek). 6 months after getting married I found out I was pregnant. although it was a little bit of a surprise, and after I had a brief moment of panic (we're not ready, we're just now going back to school, we live in a one bedroom apt, we have 12k in debt, we just adopted a puppy, we JUST got married…etc) we found this to be the perfect time to have kids. i'm 24 and my husband is 29. we both agree that we don't want to be in our 50's still raising kids much like my parents (mom's 58, dad's 54, and my sister just went off to college this year). we're so glad that by the time our kid is grown and ready for college we'll still be under the age of 50. we'll try for one more before my husband turns 32, and if it doesn't happen, we'll turn off the plumbing (his idea, not mine).
    we moved into a two bedroom apt, we've paid down debt some, we're looking into buy a home at the end of the year, my husband is continuing his education so get can move on to a better job, bought most baby items used, or gotten them for free from friends and i've gotten my puppy used to being around kids. you just make things work, and like you said, hopefully in 5-6 yrs we too will be in a more stable place for when things really start getting expensive.
    of course some people don't understand how you can want to have a kid in "troubling times", but we'll do everything we can to provide our kid with what they need and of course, love is free.
    good luck to you and your husband. you sound like you'll do just great!!!

  33. A couple years ago my husband and I were financially stable and then the rug was pulled out from under us literally weeks after conceiving our daughter. We managed and now things are good again, but living in Ontario and not having to worry about paying doctors bills was a big plus. I gained a much needed sense of appreciation for OHIP.

  34. This could not have come at a better time! I have a stable, but part-time job, and my husband has a good job, but we aren't wealthy by any means. We have a fair amount of debt and live in a one-bedroom apartment. We got married in Sept 2008. We always wanted to be younger parents (I'm turning 26, hubby is 27) but weren't sure when the right time was. Two years ago, my Poppy-who I was very close to-passed away suddenly. It was a huge shock. I realized that there never would be a "perfect time" and that life was so, so short. My husband and I started trying right away. After infertility treatments and two miscarriages I'm now 13 weeks pregnant. It was not easy for me to get (or stay) pregnant, and I'm SO thankful we didn't put off trying to have a baby any longer. I know we have a difficult, but extremely rewarding path ahead of us, and I can't wait to experience the joy of being a parent.

  35. Oh thank you so much for writing this! Hubby and I are in a very similar situation but we both have stable jobs – however the cost of living where we are is astronomical. I am always getting in my own way so hearing that getting out of the way is possible makes me happy!

  36. Thank you for writing this. My partner and I are using the last of our savings account to afford fertility treatments. I've been worried from day 1 about our decision. Would people think we were being irresponsible? Would they think we didn't want our baby, because NO ONE could possibly try for a baby on our income? Seeing other people make the same decision, and having it turn out exactly the way we are hoping it will, makes me feel so much better. Good luck with your new little family, Vivi!

  37. I am grateful for this post. My husband and I are 35 and (almost) 34 respectively and we have been married 8 months. He is about to start a PhD and I am in a part-time Rabbinical School program that "takes as long as it takes". We are loving the work we are doing and will be doing and we know we are not set to make much money for at least a number of years yet. And still, it feels like it's time to start trying. We are studying abroad this year for our "studymoon" and our plan is to come home to Toronto, get an apartment, confirm the income that we expect from his PhD (Goddess-willing he will get in) and my part-time job and then stop using birth control. I am anxious about my age and afraid of what the "responsible" people in our lives will say about our choice but I trust that our community of friends (so many of whom are having babies or have young kids) will want to give us their stuff and that we will make it work.

    This post is so affirming. Thank you!

  38. YES. Women shouldn't be forced by anyone to miss their window of fertility because "wait until". Thank GOD you're in Canada…real maternity leave, universal healthcare,subsidised childcare..I'm super jealous

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