Saturday 25 November 2017

Parenting Costs: My €750,000 kids!

Katie Gunn on the hefty price tag attached to having children in the modern world

Katie Gunn with her children. Photo: Ronan Lang
Katie Gunn with her children. Photo: Ronan Lang

Katie Gunn

Had my husband known the figures he would never have agreed to one, let alone three. I mean, who in their right mind would choose to hand over €240,000 so that they could spend the next 21 years acting as servant to an autocratic and unreasonable master?

As it turns out, however, we have unwittingly signed ourselves up to a whopping €720,000 payout for the trade-off of having three little dictators to look after. For life.

With back-to-school costs burning holes in our poor worn-out pockets, the figures produced by the annual report of UK insurer LV= are downright depressing.

The report revealed that parents are typically shelling out £10,000 a year to feed, clothe and educate each new member of their family, and with Ireland's cost of living still soaring above the UK's, it makes me wonder why on earth we bother.

With a seven-year-old, five-year-old and two-year-old all living under our roof, our own total annual expenditure therefore supposedly amounts to about €34,500.

Yikes.

To make us feel better about handing over our hard-earned pennies, perhaps we should take a look at what we actually get for our money:

Years 0-2

We are allowed to choose what we dress our little bundles of joy in. We get to coo over how gorgeous our little girl looks in her new Baby Gap stripey dress; that is, before she spills milk all over it and sits in the mashed banana.

We also get to push that expensive pram up and down streets for hours trying to get her to stop crying and go to sleep. We get to buy a plush car seat so that we can drive up and down streets for hours trying to get her to stop crying and go to sleep.

Then there's the purchase of the cot, changing unit, baby bath and toys that take over every corner of our previously uncluttered home until you decide the only answer is to buy a new, larger home.

You may even get to pay out the price of an additional mortgage on childcare.

Oh and let's not forget all those lovely nappies that if added together would fill a small continent. Feeling better yet?

Years 3-10

We are now told by our children what they will and won't wear and when to buy it.

For girls, think of My Little Pony crossed with Beyoncé. For boys, think Messi football shirts (obviously only the authentic ones will do) and €100 trainers which they will leave on the local green because their feet were too hot after that game of football.

We also now get to start buying school books, making lunches that end up mashed into newly purchased uniforms and become the taxi driver for trips to costly after- school classes.

Birthday parties turn from inviting the neighbour's son to affairs where whole classes ask when the entertainment will be arriving. And of course the toys keep coming. This is when we turn from loving mothers into shouting machines.

Years 10 - 19

Yes, that's right -- I do think the teenage years start early. Peer pressure and pester power mean that constant upgrade of gadgets and clothes are required.

Remember -- this is your duty, they didn't ask to be born, did they? And you might as well hand over that remote control -- you no longer have any right to it. (By the way -- if you are my niece or nephew and are reading this, please don't be offended.)

Years 19-21

Be warned I use the number 21 here loosely. Please insert any number that you wish to. As a 38-year-old who still takes handouts from her mother I am speaking from experience here. These are the years of college fees, driving lessons, rent and house deposits and there is no end date in sight. Scary.

So with a recession in full swing, can we really be spending this much? And if so, how? And, indeed, why?

The 'How' is easy enough to answer -- Childcare and education remain the biggest expenditure, which, according to the LV= report, costs parents £67,430 (€77,320) and £55,660 (€63,800) respectively over a childhood. Often there is no choice but to come up with these funds by cutting down on other costs.

Which brings us to the 'Why?'

Frivolous as it may be, it has to be said that much of the rest is 'nice to haves'.

Helen Taylor from Dublin admits that she understands just how easy it is to feel the need to keep spending on young children.

"When I was pregnant first time around I felt I had to have the best of everything so I ended up spending a fortune on all the products you are told you 'must have'. Most of them were hardly even used".

She goes on to say: "You would think that I would have learned my lesson but for my next two children I found myself shelling out even more money for a better pram and brand new clothes because I felt that as my eldest had been spoilt it would be unfair not to do the same for the others." Helen says that she learned her lesson eventually but not before a huge amount of unnecessary purchases.

Debbie O'Neill in Wicklow agrees that it is all too easy to buy more than needed when kids are involved "Everything is just so cute," she says, "I walk into a clothes shop and walk straight past the adult section and into the children's department. I frequently end up buying €30 worth of clothes for my daughter Emily, when I would stop before spending the same amount on myself."

So should we just sit back and let this happen? Personally, I don't think so. Perhaps it's time to start thinking not what you can do for your darlings, but what your darlings can do for you.

I have decided that my little lot are going to have to start to work for that very expensive roof over their heads. Cleaner -- who needs one? Small people are surprisingly good at dusting under and behind heavy furniture. Car washing, leaf collecting and sock sorting are also now on the agenda. And I must say those piggy banks are getting mighty heavy after this year's birthdays.

Of course these are just the early years -- I'm sure there are plenty of other jobs they can be trained up for if we put our minds to it. And anyway -- is seven years old really too young to start babysitting? Because I'm quite sure a night out would help the husband to come to terms with it all.

Irish Independent

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