Debt first, kids later?
Last Saturday, Tim and I went to finally meet the newest addition to our friends' family. His name is Eli, he's 4 months old and absolutely adorable.
When we arrived, though, we were shocked to find that our friends' friends, who we'd met on several occasions, had their own little, 7-week old bundle of joy. Also seriously adorable.
Tim admired the kids, and we got to catch up with two other friends we hadn't seen in months. I spent a lot of time trying to squelch girly noises and hit snooze on my biological clock. (I actually remarked, as we were leaving, that it would have been nice if the boys had been a little fussier, so I could feel better about having decided to wait for kids.)
The thing is... Tim and I definitely want a kid. But not right now. First of all, we both agreed that we wanted some time as husband and wife before jumping in to parenthood. Also, we want to have gotten rid of our credit card debt.
At one point during the get-together, the father of the 7-week-old asked if my biological clock was ticking. I explained our philosophy about debt. Later, we ended up repeating it for his wife. The father laughed and said, "In other words, they'll never have a kid."
There was a pause, and I smiled graciously and explained that we were well on our way to paying off our debt. It was simply taking longer because Tim couldn't work and I can't earn a lot by working part-time.
It was all chuckled away and clearly he meant no harm by it, but I have to wonder about the age-old wisdom that you can never truly afford kids. I've had this argument with a few people, and frankly I find these attitudes terrifying.
Obviously, accidents happen. And if Tim and I were to find ourselves as impending parents, we'd figure it out somehow. But we also try to be careful so that we don't have to struggle any more than we already do.
So, by and large, I guess I am simply stumped as to why people are so laissez-faire about the idea that you should create a whole new large financial strain on your budget before you're out of the bulk of your debt. (Of course, children are far more than a financial burden -- or a tax write-off as we all like to joke -- but the fact remains that the lil buggers are expensive!)
Perhaps it's only because we're already low-income people, but Tim and I don't want to equate parenthood with severe financial distress. We don't want to add to existing credit card debt and then wonder how and when we'll ever be able to get that number down.
For me, the jury is still out on whether you can ever, truly, afford kids. My non-parent attitude is hell yes. People do it every day. I'm not saying you can live as lavishly as before, still I know that there are couples like Eli's parents who can even make the choice to go down to a single income. (To be fair, Eli's dad recently got an excellent position in a large, stable tech company; and that was after being given a large severance package by his old firm.)
I had this argument back at age 21, when a friend announced she and her new husband would be trying to have a kid within the next year. They both came from big families, both with parents who started young. So they both felt it would be "weird" to hit 23 or 24 without having a kid. I should mention that, at this point, she was working as a receptionist in a car dealership while her husband pursued his PhD.
Of course, she is and was a frugal gal, so they made it work. At least, as far as I know. We've fallen out of contact, by and large. I know that, a couple of years ago, he got his degree. At least initially, though, most non-teachers have to do a year or two of low-paying work to get any real credentials. I'm sure, too, that having a wife and child certainly helped his financial aid package. Still, I just don't understand the desire to start a family amid that much debt.
Perhaps it's just that I was raised very middle-class, with parents who were financially comfortable. Perhaps it's because so many people on my mom's side of the family have kids young, then spend the next 18 years (or more) struggling to pay for everything. Or perhaps I'm simply being practical. Whatever the reason, I can't picture having a kid while we owe thousands of dollars.
Obviously, Tim and I are a special case, since our earning potential is probably lower than most people's. In other words, being overly cautious will probably save us, financially.
But what about a sterotypical couple? Am I being too idealistic about finances and kids? Do you think anyone can ever truly afford a child? Has anyone made $10,000+ of debt and kids work, without a lot of strain and stress?
(And, on a completely different note, the cutest onesie ever? Eli's black, cotton number, with a iPod on it with the words "iPooped" on the screen.)