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We both work full-time, but simply can't afford to have more children

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Claire Garvey and her husband Mark have two children, but planning and paying for a third baby is beyond their means. Photo: Steve Humphreys.

Claire Garvey and her husband Mark have two children, but planning and paying for a third baby is beyond their means. Photo: Steve Humphreys.

Irina Milanovic, who hopes to one day to be in a postion to start a family.  Photo: El Keegan

Irina Milanovic, who hopes to one day to be in a postion to start a family. Photo: El Keegan

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Claire Garvey and her husband Mark have two children, but planning and paying for a third baby is beyond their means. Photo: Steve Humphreys.

This week, a poll for the Irish Independent and Today FM found that 32pc of women in their 30s had postponed having a family for financial reasons. Has the recent recession and subsequent economic downturn really made parenthood so difficult to consider for those in their prime child-rearing years? And what exactly is so financially daunting?

"Besides the cost of actually raising a child throughout their lifetime, the cost of childcare can be like a second mortgage," says personal finance expert Sinead Ryan. "Whether it's full-time creche or a minder, part-time or after-school, the problem is that there is no one alleviation measure that fits all."

Creche fees appear to be the main worry - the fact that they're so high means many potential mothers feel like they'd end up working just to pay the babysitting bills, and would be putting themselves under huge pressure regarding their work-life balance.

"As much as I would like to have a child, I don't think that's feasible at the moment," says Irina Milanovic, a 35-year-old pharmacist. "As I work in a community pharmacy, I'm not automatically entitled to paid maternity leave, so that would be a huge worry. Maternity benefit wouldn't even cover my mortgage.

"It's so sad that we have to look at financial aspects before we do something as important as having kids. During the economic crisis, my wages were cut twice.

"My husband was made redundant and when he found another job, he hurt his back and has been out of work for two years. Times have been very hard and all the money that was saved is gone. If I'm lucky enough to have a child one day I want to be able to give him or her everything that they desire.

"Many of my friends are in a similar position; even though we're in well-paid jobs, none of us think we can afford childcare."

Hazel Cassidy (33), and her husband have been married for four years, and she says childcare costs are exactly what is holding them back from having children. "I'm a pre-school teacher and my husband is a carpenter. We simply couldn't afford to pay for childcare if we had a baby - it would be more than half of my salary gone, and could even be all of it.

"I would love to have a baby and my husband is just as enthusiastic, but the fear that we wouldn't be able to afford anyone to take care of them while we work is just too much right now."

It's not just women without children who aren't in a position to expand their families.

Claire Garvey (35), from Rathfarnham, already has two children with her husband of seven years, Mark. But planning and paying for a third baby is beyond their means right now. "I always imagined myself with a family of three children, however, unfortunately for us, this is just not possible. Back in the day, people just had the children and worried about it afterwards, but I couldn't consciously make the decision to have another baby, knowing that we're already stretched with childcare costs as it is.

"Although we both work full-time, we simply can't afford to have more children."

For Claire, the expense of having children was shocking. "You love your kids and want them to be well looked after, but creche fees can be crippling. There really should be more incentives from the Government."

"I think for many families, three children is the tipping point, certainly when it comes to working outside the home," says personal finance expert Sinead Ryan.

"Having a child in school, another in Montessori and another infant is incredibly difficult to juggle, time-wise and financially. EU studies have shown that many women would prefer to work, but a full-time job during children's formative years can prove too much. 

"Governments should embrace and support part-timers - they are doing two jobs, paying taxes while raising the next generation of taxpayers!"

For Irina, thinking about the cost of raising children was something that she hadn't previously considered. "When I was in my 20s, I used to say I had plenty of time and kids were last thing on my mind. Now in my 30s, the sad reality is that I can't afford to even think about going down that road.

"On the other hand, as I'm getting nearer to 40, I have other things to worry about such as medical issues that might arise. When I decide the time is right, my window of opportunity could have come and gone. It pains me to say that I may never realise my dream of having kids as I'm constantly worried about finances."

Irina mentions something that many women putting off having children seem to fear - when things are good financially, their fertility might not be what it once was.

"All women's fertility deteriorates as they get older, particularly into their late 30s and 40s. This deterioration is caused by egg quality and to the fact that women are born with their whole lifetime supply of eggs already present - a woman's eggs are as old as she is," explains Dr John Waterstone, medical director of Cork Fertility Centre and Consultant Obstetrician at CUMH. "Age is probably the biggest factor causing reduced fertility in the couples who have come to our clinic to seek help."

A harsh reality to face, the pressure on women in their 30s is clearly enormous. Should they have children for fear of not being able to one day, and struggle with money, career and balance, or keep waiting for the time to be right?

There's no simple answer, and it's something every couple has to decide for themselves.

Irish Independent