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Can We Even Afford a Second Child?

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I should expect to spend $2,500 out-of-pocket for a standard labor and delivery, according to my health insurance plan. Full-time childcare runs us around $18,000 a year in Seattle. Add the cost of diapers, wipes, goldfish crackers, and an occasional trip to the zoo—there’s another thousand at least, per year.

When we decided to have our first baby, we definitely didn’t factor in the cost or really grasp the financial consequences of having a child. I remember the first week of paying our nanny in Brooklyn and heading to the ATM to withdraw $400 in cash. I thought back to the last time I handed someone that much money in actual bills—it was when I paid my rent in shekalim to a man named Shimon, in Jerusalem, during my junior year abroad.

Now that my husband and I have started talking realistically about having another child, the sounds of adding up costs on my internal abacus are louder than the sounds of my biological clock ticking away. I crunch the numbers in my head and count backwards nine months on my fingers, thinking about when we should start trying for baby number two. If we time it so they are about 4 ½ years apart, the next child would be born about six months before Charlotte starts (free) public school kindergarten. I am hoarding my sick and vacation days, tallying them up so I can ideally take three months of paid leave when baby #2 comes around. We just can’t afford to have two children in full-time day care, even though we both work and according to worldwealthcalculator.org, we are “in the wealthiest 0.3% of people in the world.”

I could quit my job and be a stay-at-home mom, which would make more sense economically, if we want another one sooner. However, I really like my job, and I really like getting a paycheck every other week, so that’s not a solution for me.

People ask me constantly if and when I am going to have another baby. While my body is nobody’s business but my own, I don’t mind personal questions too much. I usually reply, “Children are really expensive and we can’t afford to have another right now, but hopefully next year.”

I’ve had friends suggest I just go for it and things will all work out. This might be true, but I am not a gambler. Now that we have a mortgage to pay, along with seemingly never-ending student loans, I am aware of every dollar in and out of our accounts. Once all the bills are paid, there isn’t much extra at the end of the month. And that is why I am calculating, planning ahead, and thinking really hard about any extra things we can cut from our budget. We don’t have a particularly extravagant lifestyle, so there isn’t a lot to trim.

A couple of weeks after Charlotte was born, we received a letter in the mail from an organization that raises money for Jewish couples to help with the cost of IVF. Would it be tacky to start my own Kickstarter campaign to help pay for a second baby? Is there a Jewish nonprofit that raises money for middle-class people to have more kids? The Jewish cost of living is expensive and we haven’t even begun to save up for summer camp, a bat mitzvah, or a trip to Israel, let alone braces or college.

I don’t want to be “one and done”—I really would like to have two kids. I am a little afraid though that if we wait too long to have another, we won’t ever get around to doing it. There is also a good chance that at my now-advanced maternal age, it won’t be easy or possible the second time around. We definitely can’t afford IVF or twins. So here I am, tying to squirrel some extra money away, saving up for a baby like I used to save my allowance for a new sweater at the Gap.


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