Recently, the Washington Examiner published an article titled “Millennials say no to kids, population ‘replacement level’ turns negative“. This got me thinking, mostly because I’m a younger millennial and I have two kids. Why are my fellow millennials not having babies? I’ve mulled it over for a few days now and I think I know why.
There is so much to consider before even thinking about having a baby!
Some people make fun of #adulting but it’s no joke. Millennials were not taught many life skills that are necessary to function independently. Those life skills should be well practiced by the time you’re ready to think about a baby. Do you know how to cook? What about clean? Who should you call if you accidentally took twice the recommended medication dosage? (Answer: Poison Control 1-800-222-1222) Do you know how you would find a new PCP? Do you know what a PCP is? As a millennial myself, I’ve struggled with #adulting so I totally get it. But, you need to get a handle on your own life before you create another one.
Your Relationship with Your Partner
Before even thinking about getting pregnant, you need to evaluate your relationship with your partner. Are you both committed? Is your relationship stable? Is your partner trustworthy and reliable? Have you talked about it and agree that you both actually want kids? Kids take a major toll on a relationship and you need to be starting this journey on solid ground. You both need to be comfortable with the idea of having a baby. See also 5 Ways to Maintain Your Marriage When You’re Raising Kids.
This is something that we millennials are struggling with as a generation. Before considering pregnancy, you need to evaluate your living situation. Do you have safe, reliable, and adequate living arrangements? The idea of safe, reliable, and adequate will vary from family to family but there are some basic guidelines. Is your home in a safe neighborhood? Are you in good standing with the landlord or mortgage company? Do you have the space needed to add a bundle of joy? Even beyond that, you need to look at the bigger picture. Is this a starter home and you plan to move in a few years or is this your forever home? Are you living in a good school district? What is the economy like in your area? These are all things you need to be thinking about.
Jobs and Careers
Babies are incredibly demanding and they cost a LOT of money. You need to look at your job/career from two different angles.
Angle A (Job): Do you have a job? Does your job offer a steady income? Is that income enough to support the lifestyle you want as well as a family? Is your job secure? Do you anticipate a job change in the near or distant future?
Angle B (Career): Are you career focused? Is your current job where you want to be in your career? Do you feel fulfilled as a result of your career? Will your career require additional schooling and/or training? How demanding is your career? Will you still have time for a baby at the end of your work day? Everyone is different and your job and career are a major part of life. You will need to consider the answers to all of these questions and see how they fit with the idea of starting a family.
A pregnancy means a lot of doctor’s appointments. How will you get to your doctor’s office and the hospital? Do you have a reliable vehicle that can get you to and from those appointments? If not, is there a bus line that is easily accessible to you? Does that bus line run close to the doctor’s office? What about a taxi service? Then after the baby is born, there will be lots of visits to the pediatrician’s office. God forbid, you may need to get to the hospital quickly if your baby gets sick or hurt. You need to have some kind of transportation that you can rely on for all of these instances.
Speaking of all of those doctor’s appointments, how are you going to pay for your medical care and delivery of the baby? Do you have decent health insurance? If you do, are you still on your parents’ plan? Will that plan cover a grandchild? Having decent health insurance of your own usually comes with one of those decent jobs. If you don’t have health insurance, does your partner? Assuming they do, are you married? If you’re not married, you may qualify for his/her health coverage as a “domestic partner”. Explore all of your options with health care coverage and providers. You will need to get pretty intimate with your health plan. Read everything thoroughly, ask questions, and make sure that you understand what it is that your insurance will and will not cover.
Even if you do have health insurance, you will have to look at your copays, deductibles, and out of pocket maximums. Do you have money set aside to pay all of the medical bills you’ll get associated with your pregnancy, delivery, and your baby’s care? I have talked to people who are responsible for as little as $250 and others who have had to pay as much as $12,000 to have their children. Like I said, you’ll need to know the ins and outs of your plan then save accordingly.
After suggesting that you may have to save thousands and thousands of dollars just to have a baby, are you financially stable? Do you understand all of the bills you’re responsible for? The terms and conditions of those monthly payments? Can you currently pay all of your monthly bills and still eat dinner every night? Do you have a budget? Do you know how to create and manage said budget? What about an emergency savings? Do you have one? How long will you be ok if there is a job loss? Financial stability is key when you are considering a baby. How can you give your baby a fighting chance if you yourself are barely making it at your current financial status?
Maternity and Paternity Leave
Giving birth can cause some pretty significant physical harm to the mother. Your body needs ample time to heal properly. Not to mention the fact that both parents are going to want some time to bond with that beautiful baby. Does your job offer maternity leave? Is it paid leave? What kind of paperwork do you need to submit for your leave of absence? Is your employer willing to offer anything more than the FMLA protected 12 weeks? What kind of paperwork will you need to submit prior to your return? If your partner wants to take some time off, does his or her job offer paternity or familial leave? Is that paid? How long can you realistically stay home and remain financially stable? You’ll need to look at this in detail beforehand.
Child care is something that will need to be addressed almost immediately after the baby is born so you might as well talk about it before getting pregnant. Do you know what your child care options are? How much does each option cost? How much can you afford? Is there any option that you refuse to utilize? Are there wait lists at the local daycares? How soon do you need to enroll or make another kind of commitment? Will one of you be quitting your job? Can you even afford to care for your baby?
For the majority of millennials, the answers to these questions are more likely to be “no” than they are to be “yes”. We as millennials have been beat down over and over as adults for our “shortcomings”. Now we are being rebuked for our reproductive choices! It really is no wonder that millennials are not having children like previous generations did. We do not have the luxury of looking at our significant other and saying, “Let’s have a baby.” Personally, I think anyone who chooses to postpone or abandon the idea of parenthood because they are not prepared to support that child should be commended. That’s an incredibly mature decision and sometimes, even a sacrifice.
So please, for the love of all things holy, can we please just live our lives without being judged for our every move?