No One Tells You Having a Middle-Class Child Cost a Lot of Money
May 19, 2016
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I am a middle - class mother. My husband and I have four degrees amongst us, and we have steady jobs in our preferred professions. We own a home, and have savings, retirement plans, etc. Some would call this living the American Dream. I prefer to call it cautiously adulting.

I am not blind to our privilege. I fully understand our daughter will have knowledge, resources, and experiences that many poor families are not able to have. In fact, she will experience life in a way I would have never imagined at her age.

The understanding that our daughter is privileged doesn't mean anything when the bills start coming. One thing that no one talks about is how expensive having a middle-class child is. Our daughter is only 8 months, and she has already "cost" the family's bottom line thousands of dollars. I'm not talking about costs that all parents must deal with. Baby essentials such as diapers, crib, clothes, etc., are income blind. Instead, my middle class-ness directly effected my insurance coverage, which is where the money drain begins and ends.


Insurance Matters

The main way middle-class children end up costing so much money is due to insurance. I have employer-provided insurance. Prior to my pregnancy, I met with the benefits department at my job to ensure I was signed up for the most mom-friendly options. I also spoke with HR, mom coworkers, and Googled every possible question I could. I wanted to be prepared for the road ahead: emotionally, physically, and financially. With the "best' insurance plan in place, my understanding of projected costs and experiences understood I embarked on the journey. What a financial journey it was.

Insurance Type: In Network, deductible

Deductible Amounts: $2,500 (in-network only), $5,500 (in network plus co-insurance)


Pregnancy

I was pregnant for a total of 40 weeks and 1 day. I had a smooth pregnancy for many of those 40 weeks. I use the term smooth loosely. Things turn a costly (pun intended) turn when our daughter's heartbeat was detected as abnormal. Cue the specialists, fancy fetal heart specialists, and the sound of the costs adding up. My last trimester, I had to spend many days and dollars monitoring our daughter's heart to ensure no new red flags came up. In the end, she was delivered happy, healthy, and with a fully functional heart. Here is the breakdown of costs.

Lab Work: $887.95

OBGYN: $380.88

Heart Specialist: $2372.09

Total: $3,640.92


Labor and Delivery
I delivered in the brand new Texas Children's Pavilion for Women. By hospital standards, it was spectacular. I felt welcomed and valued as a soon to be new mom the entire time. I would recommend the hospital to any expecting mothers in the future. However, just know that comfort has a cost. The best doctors and nurses and medical teams have a cost. And that cost was HIGH.

Things no one tells you about labor and delivery: They charge you for EVERYTHING. Unless it is written as FREE, you are paying for it. The doctors who come by to "check" on you, the sheets on your bed, the hospital socks you are given for traction - all cost you! It adds up. There are things that cost more than others - my epidural for example. But, after a quick cost-benefit analysis, I think that was worth the money (that's my story and I am sticking to it). After all the bills mailed to us, a home birth doesn't sound so far-fetched.

Hospital stay: $307.74

Delivery (OBGYN): $262.09

Daughter's bill (Addressed at BabyGirl Graham): $2,916.02

Tests at hospital: $218.54

Pediatrician at hospital: $530

Total: $4,234.39


Maternity Leave

Before I go on my rant about maternity leave I want to fully disclose that our family decided I would take 12 weeks off from work to be home with our daughter. Again - our privilege and socio-economic status gave us the ability to even make that choice. Many families do not have the option - mothers and fathers must return to work soon after a child is born.

However, we wanted to spend more time with our newborn child, so the decision was made. And that decision - which I wholeheartedly think was the best decision for our family - came at a steep financial price. There are two levels to how costly my maternity leave was - money lost in actual wages and personal time taken.

My employer policy on maternity leave uses FMLA only. There is no paid maternity leave at all. The only way you continue earning wages while on leave is to have personal (vacation/local/state) leave accrued to "cover" your leave. So if you want to take 12 weeks off, you can get paid the whole time if you have enough hours on record for that. Well, this is problematic because, in order to accrue that amount of time, I would have either work for many years before becoming pregnant or not take any leave time at all leading up to the leave. I was not fortunate to work either option. I was with my employer for only a year before my leave, so at best I could have only had a year's worth of accrued time.

And yet, ALL the time I had was taken during FMLA. So for about 7 weeks I continued to earn wages regularly. After my hours ran out - I still had 8 weeks left on OUR family's leave plan. So for two months I didn't earn wages. In our situation, that was the price paid to spend 12 weeks with our daughter. Eventually, I returned to work, and all was restored. Or what is? Now I am back at work, with a newborn, and have NO leave time. Let me repeat that. I have a newborn, who gets sick, has sleepless nights, is teething, etc., and I have no leave time.

Total Cost of Maternity Leave: 6K


How We Managed
So to review our family in both paid and lost wages has spent over $13,000 dollars to have and care for our ONE child. Again, this doesn't include diapers, clothes, shots, etc. So how did we manage to pull this off, and still live a "normal" life of trips, dining out, etc?

  • We had a financial plan long before our daughter came. I have a profound fear of being poor. I have been saving for EVERYTHING my entire life. When I turned 18 I didn't want a car - I wanted a credit card in my name to start building my credit. When I was in college I worked to pay my car off in three years instead of six, so I didn't have to pay interest. In order for our child to not cause a great financial liability, we had to put things in place well before her arrival.
  • We have NO car debt. Both our cars are paid for, and we have no plans in the near future to get new cars.
  • We bought a house 2 years ago and now our mortgage is actually lower than our previous rent.
  • I have a very profitable side hustle (real estate agent), and I used money earned from that job to "fund" our maternity leave. If you are in the market for a house let me know! Think of it as an investment in my family planning!
  • We prioritize our limited disposable income to what is important to us: travel. While on maternity leave I researched how to travel cheaper. I discovered several websites that post flight deals, hotel deals, and details how and when to travel on the cheap. It has CHANGED our traveling lives. Since the birth of our daughter - and learning how to game the system - we have traveled to Boston, Miami, New Orleans, and Italy. We have pending trips to Colombia and London this year alone. All for about the costs we would have paid for one or two trips using traditional travel methods.
  • We accept ALL help. I love hand me downs. I accept both boy and girls clothes, a onesie is a onesie. We accept used toys, bouncers, swings, etc. And when asked if we need anything we respond with what is really needed: diapers and wipes! Books and toys are great developmental tools - but diapers are not cheap.

Having a family is a blessing - but no one talks about how expensive the process CAN be. I can only provide one example, but I bet there are MANY more mothers and families who are frustrated with a system that doesn't value the extraordinary effort it takes to bring a child into this world. After almost a year of being pregnancy, and 20 hours of labor my thoughts about having a second child have nothing to do with the physical or emotional toll in takes. All my questions center around the money - and that is a sad reality to have.
Written By
Victoria Graham
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