Have you made the decision not to have children? Now that I’m a parent myself, I get it.
People are often shocked to hear that, but it’s the truth. Having children is an enormous responsibility and it’s entirely understandable why some people don’t want to take it on. Indeed, a recent US census found that 47.6% of women between 15-44 had never had children, the highest percentage since the bureau started tracking data in 1976.
While an increasing number of women appear to be making the choice not to have children at all, UK stats have also shown that for the first time ever, more women are having children over the age of 35 than those under 25 years old. Significantly, the proportion of women choosing to have children in their thirties has doubled within one generation.
Aside from abstaining altogether, many women are delaying parenthood well into their thirties – but is it because we make the choice to put our careers and lifestyles first? Or is it because particular financial restrictions now dictate it?
No more 2.4
Numerous factors make parenthood a significant financial pressure on women these days. Starting with the recession in 2008, the gender pay gap which is still very present, the demands put on a woman both professionally and domestically, and the surging cost of childcare and education, it’s not surprising that many women simply don’t want the stress or burden of raising a child.
The trend for smaller families is also emerging as the size of the average European family continues to decrease, with the exception of the UK and Finland. The rise in numbers in the UK is attributed to immigration and the trend for the wealthy to have large families. Think The Beckhams, The Olivers and The Ramsays. However, it still remains that the average British woman on reaching 45 has had 1.7 children in contrast to 1986, when it was 2.35 children.
Kids can’t be that expensive though, can they?
In 2016, The Centre for Economic and Business Research reported that the average cost of raising a child in the UK is £231,843, a startling increase of 65% since 2003. The most expensive years are between 0-5 and 18-21. Fortunately for many in Gibraltar, some of these expenses are offset with childcare support from grandparents or close family members, and we are fortunate enough to get significant financial assistance from the government with university expenses.
For families in the UK, the average expense of 18 – 21 is an eye watering £18k, but even more alarmingly, the average cost of raising a child for their first year is £11.5k, and almost £16k between 1-4. I’d postpone those holidays to Disney World to 5 – 17 years old where it dips down to £8.5k (Make that 9.5k if you throw in a holiday to Disney!) Yes, you read that right, for a family of 4, it’s almost £4k for a trip to Disneyland Florida – and that’s on a budget! It’s no surprise families are taking schools to court for the right to take children on holiday during term time.
We don’t need no education
English university students are graduating with an average of £44k debt and staggeringly, The Financial Times reported that two thirds of students won’t ever be able to pay off their debts. Unsurprisingly, the rate of university applications is dropping.
With the increase of living expenses, colossal student debt, home ownership at the lowest level in thirty years (the biggest drop has been among the millennial generation), it’s not surprising that people are postponing starting a family, if they decide to have one at all. The gap between earnings and property prices has created a property crisis in the UK, and there also are problems over here.
Property prices in Gibraltar are high and force many to live across the border. At tumultuous times like now, this can be a large pressure on families. While there are assisted housing schemes in Gibraltar, there is still a large demand for more. However, for those fortunate enough to benefit from it, it relieves significant financial burden.
Is it worth the investment?
Biology is a miraculous and mysterious thing. Yes, children might drain our finances, but many of us take the plunge regardless. Our personal decision was to have two children. We live in uncertain times, if I were to base too many decisions on “what if” then we wouldn’t achieve much.
Family mean more to me than anything material and I wouldn’t swap them for anything. However, financial factors did play a role in regards to our family size, it would be a big financial leap going from two to three children as everything from groceries to holidays and days out are geared at and cater for families of four.
There is no wrong or right decision. Health and happiness is paramount, and if inviting children into your life is also going to invite crippling stress, it’s simply not worth it. Often one finds a way to make it work, but if you are uncertain whether you’d like to have children, you don’t need to justify yourself to anyone.