Planning to have a family is no easy feat. Regardless of whether you got pregnant unexpectedly, waited until your career was secure, or have been trying for years to conceive, choosing to become responsible for another living, breathing person is a huge decision. And more and more, women and couples are opting to postpone parenthood — or even forego it altogether. But why?
One of the reasons countless couples and women in their prime baby-making years have chosen to not have a family is because they say they just “can’t afford” it. When you consider the hard numbers behind raising one kid these days — an estimated $235,000 until the age of 18 (Source: Investment News) — choosing not to have children can seem like a financially responsible decision.
But when you hear of the struggles so many families face, when you listen to First Lady Michelle Obama’s speech about how her and her husband’s parents sacrificed for their children, when you think of what generations before us have endured in the name of parenthood — for the sake of raising a family — I have to wonder: Is saying you can’t afford to have children a viable and respectable reason, or is it just a cop-out for not stepping up to the plate and doing what needs to be done for your family?
The Huffington Post published an article yesterday that asks if raising kids is just too expensive for the middle class. The article brings up some pretty strong points: Young people are drowning in college debt, the cost of living is ever-climbing, many can’t find good-paying, secure jobs, and others are underemployed — to say nothing of amassed credit card debt. How could these young couples — let alone a single woman with a single income — possible pay for the cost of having and raising a child?
My logical mind can very easily say, “That’s a smart decision. And good for you for knowing this before you have a baby.” I can crunch the numbers for my own family and wonder how in the world we’re going to make it work. And as you get older, like me, starting a family becomes even harder on multiple levels. Fertility is down, you’re accustomed to your way of life — for years, you slept when you wanted to, grabbed your things and gone, and lived with the luxury of spontaneity — you’ve witnessed how parenthood has changed others around you, and how much it has cost them. So as the years go by, it becomes easier and easier to make the case for not having children, because you don’t know how you could make it work otherwise.
But the point is: You just do.
After listening to the First Lady’s speech and then reading the Huffington Post article, I couldn’t help but think of one of my favorite inspirational quotes, “Leap, and the net will appear.”
When you commit to starting a family, alone or with your spouse or partner, you do just that. Commit. Commit to sacrifice. Commit to compromise. And somehow, it all just works.
Family after family will share their story of sacrifice. Family after family will tell you what they had to give up, what they had to wait to do, and what they never got to do, so that they could do one of the most important and precious things in the world: have and be part of a family. Sacrificing for another is at the very core of what a family is. And while the financial aspects of having children can be daunting, what a terrible thing it is to miss out on one of the greatest joys in life simply because you’re unwilling to sacrifice or can’t imagine how it could work for you. Because that’s just it. It doesn’t work for you. You make it work.
Read more of Aela’s writing at Two Moms Make A Right