Hello and welcome to a strange new world. You have traveled far through the desert, only to be met time and again by one empty oasis after another. You are lost and alone, wandering, wondering if someone, anyone, knows how you feel. And just when you think you can't go on, and no one could possibly understand your struggle, a hand reaches out to you, lifts you to your feet, and carries you to the promised land. He feeds you knowledge, shelters you from the self-righteous (and the ridiculous), and provides you with the tools you need to survive in this brave new world. You are a stranger in a strange land, but you are not alone. Let him be your guide. Follow closely as you travel together on this adventure of a lifetime. For now, you are a foreigner to "Fatherhood" but soon YOU will be the master of this realm.

"No Man is Expendable!"

This is Fodder 4 Fathers...

The Cost of Fatherhood: Can You Afford It?

How much does it cost to care for a baby? Well it depends on your perspective. Babies aren't cheap, but the old saying is true : "if everyone waited until they could afford to have children, no one would have them." Don't get me wrong, the money is there, it's just a question of what you're willing to give up on your end.

The monetary costs associated with caring for a baby creep up on you pretty quickly. Even if you collect your fair share of hand-me-downs- clothing, toys, and accessories- you still have a mountain to climb in terms of paying for all the stuff you're going to need. First there's feeding the baby, and if you're wife can't, or won't, breastfeed, there's the monthly cost of formula- roughly 140 a month. But that's only for the first few months. After awhile, your baby needs to be introduced to solids as well - roughly another 80 bucks a month. And then there's snacks for your baby - but they're only about ten dollars a months. Is it adding up yet?

Next, you might need to consider the fact that some of those hand-me-downs, specifically the clothing, may be for the wrong season. That's an excuse for your wife to buy baby clothing that better suits her taste - add another 50 to 100 dollars a month. And, diapers. We can't forget about diapers, and wipes. You can expect to pay anywhere from 50 to 100 bucks a month on diapers and wipes for a newborn; if you can find them on sale.

But, I'm getting ahead of myself. These are your day to day expenses. What about the up front costs of painting the nursery, furnishing it, and supplying it with creams, thermometers, humidifiers, night lights and sleep aids? What about baby buckets and strollers and swings? What about bedding, and blankets and a bassinet? What about bottles, and nipples and bottled water? What about special laundry detergent, and shampoo and dish soap? (What about a second mortgage on your house?) All these things cost money, and I'm not talking about a few hundred dollars. I'm talking about a few thousand. Feeling faint yet?

Most men cringe at the sound of a "baby shower," but if I were you I'd be standing at the door thanking every person that gives you a gift with a heartfelt hug and handshake because without them, and their generosity, you'd be screwed. But that still won't get you off the hook. Gifts are nice but your wife will certainly want to return many of them to get something "better," and, when the gift certificates run out, you'll be reaching into your own pocket for the difference.

Before you know it, your once lavish lifestyle of eating out or ordering in has turned into budgeting for groceries and clipping coupons for cans of tuna fish and generic white bread. The cost of a going out to see a movie quickly becomes astronomical and renting or setting your PVR becomes the norm. And clothes shopping is something you'll reserve for when the clothing you have becomes too caked in baby barf to wear outside the house (even though your wife in turn needs a brand new wardrobe because none of her clothes fit her anymore). It never ends. And just when you think it does, some new expense comes along.

You think it's crazy to hold a lavish birthday party for a one-year-old, and so did your wife until all her friends started throwing them for their kids. And since you have to buy gifts for all these parties, it becomes more of a necessity to throw a party of your own just to recoup your costs. That's about 300 to 500 bucks in itself with the food, the drinks, the balloons, cake, decorations and entertainment, if you go on the cheap side.

And we still haven't covered the loss of income incurred when your wife takes her maternity leave. Whether she's off for 3 months or a year, and however well her employer tops her earnings up, it's still less money than she was making before. And the second she goes back to work you always have to look forward to the cost of daycare - roughly 600 to 1200 dollars per month. Ouch!

So the question is, "can you afford to have a child?" Can you afford monthly government matched college contributions and classes for everything from swimming to baby salsa dancing? Can you afford the extra gas your wife needs to run around the city to get to these classes? Can you afford the little, weekly things your wife comes up with that the baby "must have" without having an argument about it, each and every time? Can you afford your baby and your bills- simultaneously? Yes! But it won't be easy (at first). When there's a will, there's a way. It all depends on your priorities, your needs, and the suppression of your wants, but if you decide to have a baby, you'll find a way to make the money that you have work, for the time being. You can always make more money. You won't always be able to have children- at least not without costly fertility treatments.

So, the better question is: is it worth it? Is it worth having children? You better believe it!

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