I have a lot of friends having kids lately. A lot. Pregnant with their first babies, welcoming their second or third or even (gasp!) fourth little angel; virtually everyone I know is busy making and expanding their families. But what no-one really seems to realize is that these beautiful little babies are eventually going to grow into kids, and those kids are going to cost a fortune.
Oh, everyone knows that having a family costs money in a vague sort of sense - another mouth or two to feed, bodies to clothe and shelter - but that's why you bought the house with the big backyard and extra bedroom, right?
You're covered for baby stuff after all the showers and gifts. The crib with the adorable bedding set that will suffocate baby if you actually put it in with his mattress. The coordinated mobile, drapery and lamp that won't ever match anything else in that room once baby outgrows his bedding in fifteen minutes. The change table with its carefully sorted and organized baskets of diapers, wipes, cloths, creams, lotions, powders and bath supplies, which will continue to look just as carefully styled until the day you throw it out because you just change the child's diaper wherever you happen to be - your bed, the living room couch, the basement floor. The shelves and shelves of lovingly folded onesies and sleepers and coordinated outfits that make you squeal which will be soiled beyond salvation on the first wearing and outgrown before the second. The fancy diaper disposal system, the snazzy baby bathtub. The seventeen chairs and rockers and bouncers and swings and baby gyms strewn about the house. You're covered for baby.
Of course, you'll be on maternity leave after baby is born - for a full year, for most people in Canada - so even though most of the big purchases for your new little guy are already taken care of you'll still have to figure out how to live on a significantly reduced income. And although you've got your baby gear in advance, diapers and wipes and formula (if you can't breastfeed) will set you back a small fortune every week.
But that's only for a year; you can tighten your belts and learn to live on less until you're back to work and a full income, right?
Wrong. Do you have any idea how much child care costs? It's crippling. If you have more than one child who's preschool aged, it's almost not worth working at all - you'll be working just to pay those child care costs.
And the little darlings just keep growing. Like, every time you turn around. They won't have worn an outfit twice before their pants are dangling inches above their ankles and shirts end somewhere between elbow and wrist and their shoes are cramped and pinching. You will literally be buying your kids cloths and shoes constantly.
But then one day they'll be in school. No more all-day daycare, the growth spurts will start to slow - surely the expenses will ease up a little bit then, right?
Wrong. By the time they're school-age there will be all of the sports and recreational programs that will set you back thousands of dollars a year and involve feats of scheduling and coordination you'd need a degree in higher mathematics to understand.
And they will still be growing out of their clothes constantly, with the added bonus of torn knees and shredded toes and threadbare seams from bike ride falls and soccer dives and God-knows-what they do at recess, but by then there will be a very specific brand name and style of clothing and shoe they'll find acceptable to wear.
And they will, quite literally, eat you out of house and home. I have three sons, and we spend more on our grocery budget each month than we do on our mortgage. Our fairly large mortgage, since our tiny home is located in a very posh neighbourhood. We spend more on food - not because we're eating fancy, but because our children just don't stop eating. Ever.
And there will be this unstoppable trickle of unplanned, untraceable money dribbling out every single day - five dollars for this fundraising, five dollars for that fundraising; ten dollars for this guest speaker, twenty dollars for that field trip; ten dollars for an agenda, twenty for a yearbook; a twoonie to meet this goal, a twoonie to support that cause. It doesn't sound like much and doesn't feel like much - but added up over a month and multiplied by two or three kids it is.
Maybe it will ease up once they're teenagers, working a little part-time job perhaps, more independent, spending more time with their friends and less at home; right?
Wrong. Do you think those little bottomless pits are going to start eating less as they get older? Become less label-conscious as teenagers? I don't think so.
Oh, and while you're shelling out tens of thousands of dollars a year to keep them alive and cared for - while still taking care of your mortgage and car payments and usual household bills - you need to sock away a couple of hundred dollars a month per kid for RESP's if you want to be able to send them to university without crippling debt. From the day they're born. On top of your RRSP savings, of course - by the time the kids are off to university and you're finished taking care of them financially you won't have a lot of working years left to take care of yourselves.
Those kids are going to cost you a fortune, and they will continue to cost you a fortune, and it will only increase exponentially until they're grown. Every second and every cent of it is worth it - but you should know and understand that kids do cost money, and they cost an awful lot of it.
Originally published as "Newsflash: Kids Cost Money" on my weekly column at gailvazoxlade.com