Should money worries and debt stop you from starting a family?

Following on from a live discussion on BBC Radio Kent, Jacqueline Cohen from ClearDebt talks about her personal experiences on starting a family when you can’t afford to

This morning I spoke with Julia George on BBC Radio Kent about the latest report released this week confirming women are now delaying having babies due to financial worries.

Asked to speak on the programme, I gave my views on this subject based on my experience from working at ClearDebt as well as being a parent myself.

Statistics on women and attitudes towards starting a family

Let’s look at the stats first: (provided Friends Life: Visions of Britain 2020 Survey)

  • More than four in ten women in their 20’s are now putting off having children because of financial worries.
  • 42% of working women under 30 are delaying having children due to financial worries.
  • 29% of working women over 30 are delaying having children or extending their family due to financial worries.
  • Around one in six mothers said they “delayed having children due to financial pressures” – this statistic rose to one if four in families where there is already a child under four.

What ClearDebt data shows about starting a family and debt

Our own data shows, families coming to us with money worries and debt, do so when their first child is around 3 years old – this indicates that although they struggle when the newborn arrives, they strive to cope financially…but in the end, the pressure gets too much and vital payments are missed. So – should we have children if it’s at the cost of our (and our children’s) financial wellbeing?

My own personal experiences

My view on the subject? It’s a hard one really and a very sensitive subject for many.
From our research, people don’t just get into debt because they overspend and have difficulty managing their budgets, but often because of a change to their personal and financial circumstance – such as loss of a job, divorce, death or pregnancy.

Before deciding to get pregnant with number one, two, three or more, based on finance, I would ask you, can you honestly afford the childcare costs of clothes, shoes, nappies, milk, food and nursery, if one of you loses your job, or if your mortgage or rent goes up? If the answer is no, then it’s time, in my opinion, to pause and take stock.

I’m 35 and the majority of my friends are already onto baby number two, or in some cases, three. The thing is though – I am honestly willing to hold my hands up and admit I can’t afford to pay for two children in full time nursery, and I can’t afford to stay off work for a year on maternity – making us completely reliant on one salary when we still have my eldest daughter (age 2.5) in full time nursery. So what am I doing? I’m waiting. I’m biting back my urge to have number two – savouring and embracing the time I have with number one, and will aim to have a number two arriving and starting nursery as number one starts school.

I know many people would say this approach is far too planned and calculated and that if you want children, or more children, you should just go ahead and have them. But times have changed. The old saying “you can’t plan for having children” is wrong – you can. The saying “If you wait until you’re ready, you’ll never have” is also wrong – lots of women are having babies later and later on in life. The economic climate we live in is unstable and can leave you and your financial security extremely vulnerable. Having a baby is meant to bring you joy and happiness – but if unprepared it can bring you stress, panic and debt.

Worries like this bring a heavy weight and with sleepless nights of a newborn, the effect on your relationship, wellbeing and home security can all come into question. Surely it’s better to wait or stick to the number of children you can afford to have – giving them the right home environment where everyone is happy and affording next month’s nursery bill, mortgage or tesco shop, is far from your mind.

There were a number of other strong opinions voiced on the radio show and I’d love to know your views and personal experiences with starting a family so please leave your comment below.

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