Analyzing the costs and benefits of having a kid: is it worth it?

Guest post by Lindsey Miller
run little hippie run!

As with all things you want, there is a cost, right? For example: I want to keep living in my house. The cost is having a job that I don’t love and that takes a lot of my time and energy away from me, my husband and my lil dandyLion biz. That is the cost I have to pay right now for various reasons — the benefit is living in a home I love with my husband.

Anyway, I’m not trying to get into that. I’m trying to determine in advance so as not to injure, harm or leave anyone unloved in my life, is the cost of having a child worth the benefit? Because to me, right now, it’s not. But I’m also aware that I cannot possibly determine costs or benefits fully in advance. For my whole life, I’ve been on the fence about kids… so I think about this a lot.

Costs to consider:

  • Financial: my husband just recently got a job after being unemployed for 2 years and 3 months. We have no savings and I am trying to launch a business. Is supporting another human a good idea? Doctor bills, clothing, food, medicine, gear, diapers and many other financial responsibilities will be large. Not to mention the child’s future, whatever that may bring. I’m assuming that my child is healthy and whole, but what if they’re not? More doctors, treatments, pain? Or personal health issues for myself or my spouse, like PCOS or other difficulty in conceiving that may require drugs, treatment, surgery, etc.?
  • Emotional: I rarely see my husband and my dogs as it is. I am happy to get six hours of sleep at night. I cannot work 24/7, I cannot be awake 24/7 and I cannot afford a night nurse/nanny at this time. Can I really be the best mom I can be under these circumstances? Post partum depression, craziness and other unhappiness to make me resentful, bitter? Tied down, too much responsibility and not enough fun? I realize I am not the most emotionally mature person, too. Another way to damage potential offspring.
  • Time: Like I said above, I have two full time jobs, three part time gigs, a husband who needs love and snuggles, dogs that need the same, a house that needs cleaning and laundry that needs doing. I struggle balancing all of this right now, much less a creature who needs my attention 24/7. It’s nothing personal, potential offspring. I’m trying to be realistic here.
  • Self: What if I lost all sense of myself? What if I lose my business? I’m not as worried about my body as I was before but what about all my dreams and plans? Will they even matter? What if I lost my spouse? Relationships are so hard and complicated. I am happy with my life as it is now, most of the time, and that has been a process. I am selfish and generally not sorry. I do whatever makes me fucking happy because it’s my life. And that’s all.

[Anticipated] Benefits

  • Endless love: The thought and concept of creating is overwhelming, powerful, very captivating and could be addictive. It could outweigh everything mentioned above. But it also could not work out that way.
  • Lots of fun: I grew up in a large rowdy household and my siblings are still some of my closest friends, as are my parents. We had an amazing time growing up and had lots of people to play with, imagine with, grow with, and learn with. Imagine being able to impart and share all of that with something so special!
  • Happy husband: My charming, smart hubby has wanted to be a dad his whole life. I have the ability to give him that, to bring him to that level of happiness and wholeness, completeness. Who wouldn’t do that for someone they love? (Again though: at what cost? Cost of all self?) This is a big issue right now — and one I don’t know if we’ll resolve.
  • Fuller, more complete life?: I’m on the fence about this as I know parents who wouldn’t be complete without their kids and parents that are the opposite. I don’t know which one I am, but I don’t want to find out I’m the resentful type after they’re here.

What factors did you consider before deciding whether or not to have a kid? Did the costs outweigh the benefits — or vice-versa?

Comments on Analyzing the costs and benefits of having a kid: is it worth it?

  1. This is wonderfully timed for me. My partner and I are seriously thinking about having a baby. I’m less worried about the cost of the baby once they are born and more concerned with the cost of getting pregnant. As a lesbian couple we will most likely go through a sperm bank which is $500-$700 a pop! And that assumes we do it at home, add in a doctors assisance and that price goes up even more. Plus I have to pay for maternity coverage on my own since I don’t have a company insurance policy. It is overwhelming.
    Did any of you have to do IVF or artificial insemanation? How did you cover the cost of getting pregnant?

      • Thanks! We have not rolled out the known donor but we live in a state where the law would afford more rights to the biological dad than to my partner and that scares us both.

    • The best way to start is with the Lesbian conception book by Brill. By following the advice to a T, my wife and I were both able to get pregnant pretty quickly. I’d also recommend looking around for a midwife who does IUIs. Most frozen sperm is processed for IUI use (intrauterine insemination) and so home inseminations are much less likely to work. We found someone who was willing to do inseminations on evenings and weekends for $250 a pop. I got pregnant Memorial Day weekend and my wife Christmas weekend. If you follow Brill’s recommendations and find a midwife to work with, you can hopefully avoid the expensive fertility treatments and medications.

    • I am going through this right now with a fertility clinic. I don’t ovulate on my own, so my situation is more complicated than the Brill book/a midwife can help me with. Although those are both great places to start, my heart really goes out to lesbos who have been trying to make a baby for a year (or years. or even months! it’s so hard) and have unaddressed medical issues. There is a great message board over here:
      The ladies there are super smart and have been around the pregnancy block (some of them multiple times!) so they are experienced and have a lot of advice for the lesbian moms trying to conceive.
      As far as affording it – we saved as much as we could, for as long as we could wait. We work overtime, cut the grocery budget, and flex the credit card. You should also look into getting your insurance or flexible spending plan to pay for it. Also, if you end up wracking up medical bills, there is a way to claim the health expenses on your taxes (including sperm, driving to the doctor, etc)

      Good luck!

  2. The thing about growing up and being responsible is that most of us grow into the role when needed. Some people don’t, obviously but if you’ve stepped up to the plate in the past, it’s likely you’ll do it again. How your life is now is not how it has to be, have you considered if your partner would be interested in being the main caretaker if you are so busy? Honestly it sounds like your happy with your life as it is now, if it happens or if you feel strongly that is what you want it sounds like you’ll have no trouble making it work.

  3. Yes this is something I was back and forth on. Suddenly I woke up wanting a baby and so did husband. The cost of daycare? We’ll figure it out. Should I work full time? I’ll get there when I get there. Kids don’t need much, just lots of love, attention and encouragement. Thinking about it, I had very little growing up – a couple dolls, a couple cars… my mom stayed at home and my dad barely made ends meet. I don’t really remember the lack of having things – I remember my parents, my friends and playing outside. We certainly aren’t made of money, but I think that the money part of the equation is less important than I once thought it was. Plus, I believe there are lots of tax write-offs with kids and if you have them in sports then you get more write offs – at least in Canada. But everyone has to make their own decision to have kids. I read many sites – to have kids and to not have kids – and it really just came down to one day waking up with this feeling.

  4. My partner and I are not really big planners. He is working 2 jobs with an OK salary and I work as a substitute pre-school teacher. But, we have some money saved from me working as a full-time leave replacement and from a small inheritance I got. What did it for us is that I have 2 more years left of school and can take out student loans. I am 28 and my partner is significantly older than me, so since he’s not getting any younger we decided to go for it. I think that, in reality, there is no “good time” to get pregnant and if you really are ready to have a baby you’ll figure it out. I’m now 9 weeks pregnant and neither of us are really worried.

  5. I think choosing to have a child takes a little temporary insanity. And this is coming from someone who has two. The costs are immense. The life change is painful and overwhelming. I’d do it again in a heartbeat.

  6. I am 42 years old and expecting my first child February 3, 2013. Having a child was never out of the question for my boyfriend and I. We knew our method of contraception was not 100%. So after some miss calculation and cockiness (I’m a smart woman, yet I believed the chances of me, at my age, conceiving was nearly impossible) here I am. As a decidedly pro-choice woman the first few weeks were emotionally distressing as I/we weighed our options to come to a decision. Finances were without a doubt one of the first issues. Although no one knows about this pregnancy yet, almost everyone I know who has children have ALL said there is no ABSOLUTE financial plan. Ever. And for the most part they all said if they got it into their heads that waiting until that pristine financial point to have kids… it would have NEVER happened. I realized that there are no guarantees in life, and while our financial situation is not perfect, it certainly isn’t dire. My boyfriend has an eleven year old from a previous marriage and even he said, you would be surprised how things (financially) work out. We already know we will have an amazing support system through family and friends, and have already witnessed generosity by how the ones we know who have kids, hand items down that they can no longer use (baby clothes, toys, etc.) to the new parents.
    As far as having a child so late in age? My doctors have reassured me that although there are certain higher risks, I should keep in mind that women that are 22 years old can have babies born with Downs as well. Stress is not good for pregnancy at ANY age, so I am taking the steps to remain stress free (not OBSSESSING about money) and healthy.

  7. I’m only three months into this parenting thing, but in those three months I have come to absolutely respect anyone who chooses to remain child free. Adjusting to the “new normal” was extremely difficult for me mentally and emotionally. Finances weren’t a big issue for us, but just having this little person be so dependent on me 24/7 has been so emotionally exhausting and I was not at all prepared for it. I love my son now, but it wasn’t instantaneous like so many people say, so those first few weeks I felt like I was just giving, giving, giving to a baby that felt like a stranger (I may have had a bit of post-partum depression contributing to that.) It’s gotten easier, but I think if you’re on the fence, there could be a lot of resentment towards the baby as you adjust to parenthood and that’s important to consider.

    • I read this and it so resonated with me, because that was how I felt right after my daughter was born. It was like being hit by a truck. I just wanted to voice that the feelings of resentment do sometimes linger a bit, but I’ve found that they’re much much more tempered as the kids get older and you kind of “forget” how life used to be. Right now the old way is still so fresh in your mind, it’s really hard. I don’t say this to be patronizing at all, but at some point I found myself saying “what was it like before little X was here?” and that made things so much easier.

  8. I got pregnant accidentally, we live in a basement suite with my mother in law, I’m self employed and earn enough to buy groceries and gas, the husband was unemployed for months, now working part time for peanuts.

    But there’s no stress. I thought everyone would judge us, but they wondered what took us so long. I’m only 28, and I live in a city of super hippies where it’s common to wait until you’re 30 before getting marred.

    It helps that my sister runs a daycare, my mum is retiring and stoked about babysitting and we get free healthcare. (Yay, Canada! ) Plus, my husband is interviewing and has 5 months to get a real job. No big deal. : D
    I’m planning to go back to school a year after it’s born, and I can probably swing it. We’re pretty excited…

  9. I was eighteen when I got pregnant so I honestly don’t know the other side of the coin. Did we have some financial dificulties? Sure. Do I lack the freedom to go out on a whim? Absolutely. But I’ve been at it for five years now and I haven’t regretted it once.My best friend is currently childfree and may or may not change that in the future. She doesn’t feel the need to have children as she and her boyfriend are perfectly happy the way they are.

    Basically, if parenting is something you really want to do, you can find a way to make it work and be happy about it. If it isn’t, then don’t. You can be perfectly happy without kids. Each individual must answer that question for themselves. I’m sure you’ll eventually decide what rout you want to take.

    Just remember, there are other awesome ways to be involved in kids’ life even if you don’t have your own. Maybe you could become a child’s mentor.

  10. Its not a question of “if” you lose all self. You DO. Once you have a child, your life becomes it’s life. You live in 2-3 hour increments, you DON’T sleep. Man, sometimes its hard to figure out when to even shower, or use the toilet. You give up going out, you give up drinking, because you cant get all drunk and go home and pass out, because your baby needs you. You don’t get to buy new clothes, because your baby needs something to poop in. You dont get to eat, because it takes too much time. You cant just leave out of the house with a baby, you need at least 15 mins to gather the stuff up that you need.

    Yes, there is UNCONDITIONAL love between you and your child, but that is no valid reason to have a baby. And giving your spouse a child, is not a valid reason either.

    The valid reason is because you WANT TO. All those if’s and’s or but’s are not if’s. They are all facts of life. If you aren’t diggin them, then you wont dig a baby.

    Dont let people fluff having a baby up for you. Its ROUGH. It will be rough from the day they are born until they are well into their 20’s I STILL call my mom for stuff, and I have my own baby and am 25!!

    • I get what you are saying here and I appreciate your honesty. I can only imagine that it is hard to raise a child but your point seems to be that the only reason to have a child is that you WANT one. I don’t WANT to give up my life entirely but I do WANT a child and part of the reason I want a child is to experience the mother/child relationship and the love that comes with it.
      I understand that I will have to make choices and perhaps “give up” or sacrifice certain things and that my child will have needs that become more important to me than my own. However, at the end of the day you can’t take care of anyone unless you take care of yourself first. I understand that you are sharing your experience but it feels like fear mongering to me.

      • Agreed. I think there are certainly moments when parenting feels like you’ve given up parts of yourself that you wish you didn’t have to, but the experience Jacqueline describes didn’t really apply to me after the first few weeks of parenthood. I sleep pretty well even though I have a three month old (thanks to side-lying nursing and cosleeping.) I don’t get drunk, but I drink a beer or two at least once a week. I buy more clothes for myself than for baby (because we were gifted so many clothes that baby doesn’t need more stuff.) I shower every day and have no problem eating and toileting. Everyone has different experiences and while yes, you should be prepared to have trouble finding time to do things for yourself, that’s not always going to be the case for every parent.

  11. “Basically, if parenting is something you really want to do, you can find a way to make it work and be happy about it. If it isn’t, then don’t. You can be perfectly happy without kids. Each individual must answer that question for themselves. I’m sure you’ll eventually decide what route you want to take.”

    This. My husband and I are not planning on having children because we simply don’t feel that urge in our hearts. For me, that is the core of the issue. If we felt that urge, we would find a way to make it work. I enjoy being with my friends’ children and with my niece, but when I think about having my own children I don’t feel joy. That may change, and then we’ll maybe make a different decision. I thought a lot of about the cost/benefits as we discussed our decision and in the end it all came down to the fact that the cost of doing something I had no joy and no urge to do outweighed everything else. For most parents I know, it was the same decision making process, the only difference is that they concluded that the cost of not doing something they felt in their hearts was too great a price to pay.

  12. I wanted to add that I’ve been surprised by the whole “self” thing. That was a big part of being childfree for 20+ years. But I just haven’t had that experience of feeling like my selfness/selfhood/whatever is threatened by my kid. Might be because I didn’t get pregnant til age 40, by which time I’d had plenty of time to establish my identit(y)(ies), roam the world, make art, and take a lot of time to be selfy. I’m at the right age to enjoy the contemplative nature of parenting, taking extremely slow walks and playing with rocks and flowers.

    That said, I don’t get much time to write (other than money-writing) and some other things that matter to me. Posting this even feels like a luxury. I figure in a few years he’ll be in school. I’ll still be a writer.

    • the other, longer post i made apparently never made it to the site. basically, it’s this: having a child was a very illogical thing to do. we hadn’t structured our lives financially or emotionally for it, yet i desperately wanted to try. eventually we did.

      now my husband has been in hospital for 5 1/2 weeks after a bike accident and will be out of work for a minimum of 6 months. when we didn’t know if he would live, die, or become a vegetable, knowing that he and i had taken this huge risk together and co-created this beautiful little human … it was such a huge thing. an illogical, wonderful thing to think during such a horrible time. now he is doing quite a bit better. i see him and our toddler playing, and even though i know there’s no way i can simultaneously be caregiver for a mostly bed-bound partner, and a toddler, and somehow pay the bills, i’m so freaking happy we are all here together.

  13. i have a chronic illness, so the physical cost for me was a very serious consideration.
    i weighed that up against what i hoped to gain – the love that i could give and receive, the fun we’d have, the joy of seeing my partner become a parent and my mum a grandparent.
    i also weighed it up against the potential there was to regret not having the experience of being a parent.
    i’m 5 months into this whole parenting gig, and while i am more tired than i’ve ever been, i can categorically confirm that it’s been 100% worth it.

    • This is so reassuring to here, my partner also suffers from a chronic illness and she will be the primary caretaker in our house. I worry about her health but in a lot of ways I think it would be good for her to have a child to care for.

  14. You forgot an important benefit of having kids — they do chores!! I probably take out the trash less than once a year! OK it doesnt balance out the reciprocal messes they make and extra work they create, but it’s nice anyway!

  15. I am rather late to this thread. Just a few brief comments.

    First, before we got our dog, we did a sheet of “costs” and “benefits.” We found it a few years later and couldn’t stop laughing. The “costs” ended up so much greater than anything we ever could have imagined because of her allergies, but the benefits were just so profound that it amused us to even see this rational, logical little chart.

    Now having kids is obviously more complicated than having a dog…..

    For me, the biggest worries about having a child were a) would I love the child, and b) if something bad ever happens to the child and my heart is torn to shreds forever, would I wish I had never opened myself up to that pain? We waited a long time to have children — I was 34 with the first and 37 with the second — and so finances, our individual abilities to travel, explore, etc, were not such big issues for us at that point. It was these more existential worries that plagued me (along with worries about a special needs child).

    I can honestly say that my first fear, not loving my children, was just so so unfounded. I cannot even begin to put into words how strong my love is, and that even amidst the sleep deprivation, frustration, and sometimes boredom, I have always known that these are among the best, most precious moments of my life, and that I will miss them one day.

    For me, the second issue remains a bigger worry, because now it isn’t abstract anymore, but real children I could some day lose. But I do know that, whatever pain I could someday experience, I would ALWAYS be glad I gave these children life. The memories would be so so precious to me — but I also realize in a way after having children more so than before that it isn’t just about me anyway. What I mean is, my loss would be profound, but it isn’t just about my feelings, but also about THEIR LIVES. If one of them gets an illness or has an accident, I would still be glad I gave them the lives they did have for the years they had them.

    So, I guess in terms of costs and benefits, I come down on the side of benefits. In fact, if one looks at costs from a strictly financial perspective (and I know you are not), I think it is ALWAYS crazy to have children.

    But a lot of my worries were only eased once I became a parent and was already on the other side.

  16. This all assumes you have a healthy child. Be prepared for not.

    My husband and I have chosen to be childfree and are very happy with fostering or adopting should we change our minds.

  17. I feel like a terrible person because all of these pros to having a kid do not seem that great/ do not outweigh the cons for me, and never will most likely. On top of all the cons listed here, I am a worrier and stresser, I struggle with depression, anxiety, and disordered eating, and I feel like having children will tie me down even more to a life I’m not entirely sure I 100% want to begin with (I say this as a married woman and homeowner nearing her 30s, with an ok but uninspiring career). I don’t connect with other people’s kids at all. I usually just don’t care to interact with them and they don’t want anything to do with me. I’m fine with that. I’m only responding here to add the voice of “cons definitely outweigh pros” since these are the things everyone throws at you when they’re trying to talk you into procreating. It seems like if you take the time to really think it through like this, a lot of women end up deciding to go ahead and have kids – because who wants to be that person who rejects unconditional love, the joys of watching someone grow, etc? All I’m saying is that it IS ok to be that person. But these conversations always leave me feeling like people would think I’m horrible if they heard what I was really thinking when they ask me when I’m having kids.

    • You shouldn’t be made to feel terrible! I’m glad I had my children, but at your age I didn’t want them either. Obviously, eventually I changed my mind. Perhaps you will too, but if not, good for you for recognizing the difficulties involving parenthood. Just tell people it’s not their business. I’ve always thought that if someone didn’t like or want to have a child, they’d make a pretty lousy parent. Good luck.

  18. I’m considerably older than the author is, and my older daughter had her first child last year. The fact is, you’re NEVER prepared for parenthood. No matter how much you think you know now about getting no sleep, worrying about your child’s health, understanding that your best friends for the next few years will have names like Bert, Ernie, Elmo, and Cookie Monster, realizing that you may not get to see a movie in an actual theater for several years that isn’t animated… Yup, it’s all those aggravations and much, much more. One poster commented that you may or may not have a healthy child. She’s right: our younger is mentally challenged and autistic. One of my most heartbreaking memories is that of my older crying, “I don’t want an autistic sister!” And all I could say was, “I didn’t want an autistic daughter, but that’s what I got.”

    With that said, parenting is something I would never trade. It’s by far the most creative, fun, and rewarding thing I have ever experienced. I’m a better person for having them, and my younger in particular has made my husband and me far more compassionate, loving people.

    I’m firmly convinced that not every person should be a parent. Not all people want a child, and nobody should ever be forced or pressured into having a child (though I probably failed to suppress that belief before my older got pregnant!). I spent some time teaching emotionally disturbed teens some years back, and can tell you that even if a person thinks he or she wants a child, that doesn’t mean they’ll automatically be a good parent. The realities of a child’s needs can take a real toll on your energy and mood and aspirations. So my advice is, take your time to think about it, and understand that you will give up much if you have a child. You’ll also gain much if you do have one. May you come to love your decision, whatever it is.

  19. At almost 39 & only being married for a year, also having been unemployed for 2 years, we have no savings & are living in my mom’s house; yet my baby clock is chiming in deafening tones. My husband is 7 years older so our window for babies is at the most 3 years. I’ve never tried to have a baby before so I have no idea how hard it will be to conceive being a “geriatric” mother.
    My biological want to be a mommy overrides the logical brain saying that kids would be a financial nightmare.
    I’m primarily panicking over the thought of what do I do with all this mommy energy if I don’t get to have babies!!!
    I’m not sure my husband will feel about foster care & sadly in this country we’ll never be able to afford private adoption.

Read more comments

Join the Conversation