Bye-bye, Baby Boomers. Hello, Baby Bust-ers. What's to blame for the considerable drop in national birth rates?
There was a time when I didn’t know for sure if my family would grow to a family of four. Once we got over the shock of adjusting to being new parents, my husband and I quickly realized that financially, we weren’t sure if we could afford to have two kids, and I wonder how much of this weighs heavily on the minds of other parents.
Probably a lot. The U.S. birth rate hit an all-time low in 2012. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there were only 63 births per 1000 women as compared to 127 births per 1000 women in 1909, when the government started tracking the fertility rate. This trend has also been linked, for some, to a struggling economy. As parent-hopefuls begin family planning, finances continue to play a huge role in the decision-making process as to how many children they can afford.
I’ve always had people tell me to not wait until we could afford to have a child to do so, but my husband and I were steadfast in our ways. Both of us grew up with financially struggling single moms, moms who were born in the Baby Boom era, and we knew that we wanted to provide a certain lifestyle for our child(ren).
We are both working parents, and do so in order to have all that we didn’t have growing up, including a house–a real house not attached to other living spaces. And this house? Well, it comes with a mortgage, our largest monthly bill. Because we both had to work, placing our oldest daughter in childcare was a necessity. Luckily, we can afford both the mortgage and the childcare while still living comfortably. Not everyone can.
Childcare affordability played a big factor in our family planning. For the fifth time since my older daughter was born, I’m currently anxiously awaiting our year-end tax report telling us how much money we spent on childcare this year. And I gasp at the amount every time. We may have enough money to afford childcare every month, but with a second child, doubling this amount would put too much of a financial burden on us. We like the comfortable, albeit sometimes modest, lifestyle we’ve created for our family. We don’t want to feel like one of our whole paychecks would go to childcare for two children. So we desperately want to figure out how to add a second child without financially stressing us out.
The decision to start trying for baby number two was a group effort, and it didn’t just include me and my husband. We conferred with my mother, who was close to retirement. The plan was for her to move from Florida to retire in Washington State and help us with childcare, with however many children we had. The conversation I had with her went something like this:
Me: When are you planning on retiring?
Mom: When are you planning on having another baby?
Me: That depends. When are you planning on retiring?
Mom: When you have another baby, I’ll retire.
We went on like this for five minutes. Yep, it was pretty comical.
Once the decision was made for us to start trying, my mom marked her calendar for retirement. She moved out here about a month before my due date, and I’m so very grateful for her decision to help our family out in this way.
So for now, Olive will be at home with my mom full time once I return to work. Abby will go back to Pre-K, but only part-time. She’ll be in Kindergarten in another year and a half, and at that time, we’ll most likely have Olive go to preschool part-time.
If it weren’t for my mom’s support, this wouldn’t be possible. It makes me think about all those parents out there who are deciding not to grow their families because of the financial burden. I hated the thought that growing our brood would have to be centered on money. It gave me heartache because I knew we wanted to have another child, and I know I’m not alone.
There is hope, though, that as our economy starts to get better and unemployment continues to decline, that the United States will begin to see the birthing trend go up. It seems my OB is hopeful of this as well. Just two days ago he talked to me about planning for baby number three. Nope. Not going to happen. Maybe if I win the lottery and finances didn’t play such a big role in my family planning decisions, then yes! But for now, we are good with our two-kid contribution to the population “growth.”
YOU MIGHT BE INTERESTED IN