So," a random person will ask my wife and I, "when are you having another one?"
One being a child. Apparently you need at least two to be happy.
It's a question that makes us uncomfortable, although we seem to get it all the time. We usually mumble something about sticking with one, at which point we're given lots of advice on why two is better, easier, logical, the right way to do it. Usually that's when we feel compelled to offer some of the reasons for our decision, which was difficult to make — we both come from two-child families and two was the original plan.
We really shouldn't have to explain anything to anybody, as it's pretty clear that the world has changed a lot since we were children. Small families are more common — 1.6 kids per Canadian mom in the last census, which means there are a lot of single child families like ours are offsetting all the families with two or more kids. Statistically we may even be in the majority these days, though it still feels like we're the oddballs here.
So explain we must. Over and over. Where to start...
Well, there's the genetic reason. My wife's extended family is riddled with twins and given that and our ages our odds are far better than average that two kids could turn into three — a number we couldn't cope with in our current situation where we're already working opposite shifts to make ends meet. Call me selfish, but I don't want to be home alone four or five nights a week with twin babies and a four-year-old.
Then there's the whole sleep deprivation thing. Our first child didn't sleep well the first three years of her life, to the point where my wife and I were only getting four or five hours each night. We were exhausted. It was affecting our work, our relationship, our health, our happiness. People assure us that it probably won't happen twice, but there are no guarantees. If your own kids were easy, then you really can't understand what it was like.
To a lesser extent, there's a physical reason. My wife would require another C-section delivery. Although that's something other women are happy to go through two or even three times, she still has discomfort from the first one four years later. She would never use this as an excuse, but I will — I don't want her to have to go through that again.
There's an environmental rationale as well, which some might say is a cop-out but it's important to us. There are seven billion of us on the planet, and there will be 10 billion by 2050. You can blame policy, consumerism and capitalism, but it's a fact that all of the greatest threats we face — climate change, desertification, dead seas and overfishing, wars of desperation, famine and disease — have roots in overpopulation. We really do believe that smaller families are the answer to all of these problems.
It's a bit crass to put a dollar sign on children, but the money issue is unavoidable. You don't have to have a lot of money to have a lot of kids, but if you want to give your kids every opportunity then it comes in handy.
MoneySense.ca pegs the total cost of a child at just over $240,000 until that child is 18, or almost $13,000 a year. I believe it. We've been unable to build our long-term savings since our daughter was born, and aren't squirreling enough away for our retirement.
This year alone, with ski school, Kishindo, preschool, soccer, science class, art class, gymnastics, skating and other programs, we've already spent well over $2,000 on recreation.
Parents with children in daycare will tell you that's peanuts. Some are spending over $1,000 per month per child for care, going into debt now with the expectation that things will get a little easier once their children reach kindergarten.
We also put away the maximum ($2,500 a year) into Elly's education savings plan, guaranteeing we get the maximum grant. In our view, it's the right thing to do — projections suggest it will cost about $90,000 to get a four-year degree by the time she's old enough to go to University. It took me 10 years to pay off my own modest $24,000 in loans, and I wouldn't wish that hardship on anyone.
I have family in Ontario we visit every year or two, and we have plans to do some fun travelling in the future. We can just afford three plane tickets if we save up for them, but if we had to buy four tickets for every trip that would severely limit our options.
Add in the cost of food, clothing, gear, babysitting, entertainment and other regular expenses, and having children is a big expense. We want to live in Whistler and enjoy our lives — and we don't want to have to move somewhere else so we can afford a bigger house or be closer to a Costco.
These reasons are just the tip of the iceberg in a long conversation we've been having the last three years or so, and will probably continue to have as long as people keep asking us when we're having another child. The simple truth is that the world has changed, and we're changing with it. It's our own personal choice. One and done. Let's move on.
We would never tell other people that they should have fewer kids; why do people insist on telling us we should have more?
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