According to www.practicalmoneyskills.com, THAT is how much it will take the average family to raise a child until he’s 17 years old, not including college costs. For some reason, when I read that number, it didn’t shock me too terribly. I know in reality it’s about a quarter of a million bucks, but there’s something about that fact that it’s under $200,000 that makes it seem more, well, less.
Still, on days like today, when I feel like I’m never going to catch up financially, looking at a number like that makes me want to poke my eyes out with the sharp corners of my bank statement. Days like today, I feel like I’m going to surpass that amount before that child is even BORN! And, I know everyone has money stress. “Financial disagreements” didn’t earn its title of #1 cause of divorce in this fine, product-loving society of overspending consumers by simple luck or chance. Nope, it earned its place on the charts – that blue ribbon is well-deserved and a long time coming. Nothing can cause upheaval as stealthily fast as money (and all the pain and agony that comes with it), especially in those life-altering stages when you are preparing for all planned (or unplanned) upcoming changes. Enter: BABY
I found out on Saturday that my car is in the shop with $1,200 worth of damage. Result of phone call: Tears. Today, I got another pleasant report from the shop. Turns out $1,200 was the optimist’s version of the realistic pocketbook damage. Result of phone call: More Tears. That, on top of the constant need to afford wedding gifts, vet visits, groceries, and gas, I started to feel like I was giving an awful lot, and not getting much in return. Thus is life, I suppose. In search of a little sympathy, I called my dad. His best advice to make his hormonal daughter stop crying was “Everyone gets sh*t on from time-to-time. Now is your time.” Hmm. Didn’t help. My question for him was “WHY NOW!?” Really? I’m supposed to believe that life just sat on this rear axel until it knew I was juuuust stressed enough about daycare costs and diaper coupons, until POOF, it breaks, taking my sense of control right down with it? I appreciate that, life. Great timing. Remind me to write you a thank you note for this one when I’m gone and bored in heaven.
In the words of John Mayer, “Bad news never has good timing.” And, when I put it in perspective, things could be a LOT worse (insert cancer. insert housefire. insert tsunami. insert death.) I get it. I do. But, don’t we all know the feeling when nothing and no one else exists, and this is your SOLE problem and YOU’RE the only one that matters and that’s just how it is…? Just for today? Yup. That was me today. Oops. My bad.
The worst part about it all is that one simple economic crisis can lead to so many other thoughts, irrational as they may be. Should we cancel cable? Yes. Should I prepare for a garage sale? No. Should we sell the motorcycle? Yes. Should I sell my body? No. Should we just stay in for three weeks and do nothing? Yes. Is there any foliage left on our money trees in the backyard? Barely.
Thing is, I know I feel stressed about it because I want to bring my baby up in a world of comfort and care, where he needn’t want for the basics, but takes pride in earning his own rewards. I want to be able to take him to Disneyworld before he’s 40. I want to help him get his first job, open his first savings account, and purchase his first crappy car. I would love to be able to afford four years of his college education when he gets there. All very far into the future, sure, but I also want to make sure diapers cover his butt, formula gets in his belly, and daycare isn’t a week-to-week worry.
Sometimes I wonder how people do it. Lately I’ve been looking at the people around me and wondering how they would react in my current situation. My parents raised three kids who grew up with fantastic memories of camping trips, bike rides, railroad track balance beams, ice cream stops, ginormous leaf piles, scavenger hunts, and living room dances. My in-laws raised two sets of twin girls AND my husband in a tiny house strictly on minimal incomes and giant hearts. So, I guess that’s the key: giant hearts and fruitful memories. And, the best part is, those are FREE! Basically, if I interviewed those people now, they would say:
“Look around at all you have. Look at this beautiful house, perfect for a family of three + puppy. Look at these vehicles that get you to and from where you need to go every day. Look at your jobs that supply you with a paycheck each month (in today’s society, THIS one is doubly important). Look at your circle of friends and your army of family members. Look at your health. Look at yourselves. Look at your belly – don’t take that for granted. And, look at the love that fills your home – to be married to your best friend.”
Then, if I were them, I would spit on my palm and slap me square across the face because no one, NO ONE, should be as ungrateful and self-involved as I was today. Money come and go, and there will be days when it “go” faster than it “come,” but eventually it will all balance itself out. Yes, money is important in raising a child – approximately $190,000 important, in fact.
But, after giving myself time to reflect on the whole situation, I could’ve done without yelling at the sweet girl at the auto shop, crying to my dad, and sulking on the couch while watching American Idol. I just needed to readjust my goals – $190,000 is not in our realm of reality under the age of 30 on our salaries in this economy. Um, duh.
But, I can start filling my heart with a surplus of love and joy. I can start budgeting my time to make room for wonderful memories. And, come June, I certainly will make a generous and beautiful donation to the world. A small, yet important little man-of-a donation…and he’ll be ours to assess, advance, bail out, and save for the rest of our lives.