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Can we afford kids? Talking about the steep pricetag of parenthood

A 4-day-old newborn baby

One of the biggest line items in a family budget is kids, so it's no surprise that many people are opting out of starting a family. America's birthrate is at 1.9 percent, its lowest level since 1920. There are a lot of reasons behind this, but many people feel they just can't afford children. The conversations leading up to that decision can be some of the toughest talks to have with loved ones.

Marketplace Money's Facebook friends Tyler and Jenni are in the midst of conversations about the decision to delay parenthood with their partners right now. Tyler lives in Minneapolis, Minn., with his partner Nicholas. Jenni, her husband Matt, and their 2-year-old daughter live in Murray, Ky. Jenni says she and Matt weren't really financially prepared for the birth of their daughter and although they'd like to have more children, they have decided not to. Matt is enrolled in school, using his GI Bill, while Jenni works at a nonprofit. "We're in our early 30s and we made the hard decision to actively have a child, which was a great decision and I'm so glad we have our little girl, but the way things are now, money is so tight and we just think it would be financially irresponsible to actively work to have our second child right now."

Jenni is familiar with the expenses of having a child, Tyler says he and his partner are also facing the upfront costs of their parenthood options -- adoption and surrogacy. "We recently started looking at the possibility of having kids and I was fortunate to be able to attend a workshop that talked about surrogacy and I was shocked to learn that it can be as little as $25,000-$30,000 to $100,000 or more per child," he says. "Even infant adoption costs between $15,000-$20,000. So, those were some numbers that were quite difficult to face."

Both Jenni and Tyler say they are the more financially savvy halves of their respective relationships and talking to their partners about having kids can be challenging. "I think my husband has continued to have baby fever, so he's anxious to have another child more than I am," says Jenni. "I'm the one who pays all of our bills and takes care of all of our financial side and so I'm always looking at those numbers every month and going 'aaah!' because I have student loan debt, he's about to have student loan debt when he graduates in December. I feel torn because my maternal instinct is strong, too and I love our child and I'd love to have another one, but someone has to kind of put their foot down and say, we just can't do that right now."

Click play on the audio player above to hear the entire conversation.

About the author

In more than 20 years in public radio, Barbara Bogaev has served as the longtime guest host of NPR’s flagship program Fresh Air with Terry Gross, as well as host of APM’s news and culture magazine, Weekend America and the weekly national documentary series, Soundprint.
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I have to agree with Tom P and go a step further into the Forbidden Zone. Not all kids are winners, cute, smart, talented, or going somewhere in life. I have to ask why so many people have kids without them giving token answers that avert the question.

Too many times I've overheard people compare getting a dog to caring for a baby. What happens next you ask? Why when the woman gets knocked up they have to get rid of the dog on craigslist because they have a baby on the way "and can't give the dog the attention it needs". I want to know if they'll get rid of the first baby if the mother gets pregnant on accident again. Why people think the next step in being an adult is just having a baby boggles my mind. There is no shame in not wanting to be a parent. If you're old enough to know better then there is no excuse to not care about the impact of your decisions.

I've met SINKS and DINKS who have a lot of fun because they chose not to be parents. They aren't missing anything because some parents are sick of dealing with a baby after one month. Just because you can doesn't mean you should. If people gave more thought to a lot of things the world would be better place to live in. Unfortunately we can't offend people for making horrible decisions and yet it's ok to insult others for making sensible and unselfish ones. What a crazy world we live in.

I was rudely asked "what is wrong" with me because I work full time, have never been married, and have no kids. Why is it considered wrong or weird for a woman in her twenties or thirties to NOT have children or to have been married more than once? Somehow I'm a horrible person or something is wrong with me for not trying to reproduce and marry the first man I find. People who think that way should not be allowed to be parents. I make no apologies for any of my statements and oddly enough, I have NO regrets!

I enjoy being child FREE and see no benefit to having a child. Why is it that news reporters always cater to those who mindlessly reproduce while ignoring any alternative? Why don't they ask hard questions people can't dodge.

It's always refreshing to hear potential parents think about the implications of having children. In my experience, most people either have kids by accident in the worst case, or they base their decision purely on some fleeting emotions in the best case. If we had more couples like Tyler and Nicholas and Jenni and Matt, the world would be better off.

I challenge you to actually turn this story around. I don't believe you will because you would be afraid of offending all the listeners who are parents.
The better story is the HUGE ECONOMIC BENEFITS OF NOT HAVING CHILDREN.
I am my mid-40s and I had my vasectomy 15 years. I am very pleased with the economic results of medical procedure. I have a regular paying job. I am saving well for my retirement. I don't need to worry about the costs of entertainment, travel and dining. I also sleep in late :-)

Its a great story that needs to be told: THERE HUGE ECONOMIC BENEFITS TO SKIPPING PARENTHOOD.
oh sure .... there are "downsides", but hey how many parents will ever tell you that they regret having children ? The answer is fewer than actually feel that way.

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