Dear Dave

Wednesday 18 November 2009

The cost of parenthood

Dear Dave,

That sounds expensive. The cinema tickets alone must have cost over twenty quid and then there was the popcorn and drinks. Figure in the trip to Pizza Hut, the bus fare and the balloons and it must all add up to more than you want to think about. That's before you even take into consideration the essential supplies you'll have picked up seeing as you were in town anyway - I don't know about you, but if I go to the shopping centre, I always seem to come back with several packs of wipes, a handful of toothbrushes and at least one pack of school socks. The total cost of a Saturday out of the house can be eye-watering.

And you probably had to leave the film at the best bit to change Daisy's nappy...

There are cheaper alternatives, certainly, such as going to the museum or for a walk in the rain, but my kids tend to complain if I try them too often. Also, if I'm not careful, they can end up costing more than I was expecting. Museums have over-priced caf├ęs carefully placed to ensnare passing parents who really need cake after having spent half an hour extracting their offspring from the gift shop with only a bare minimum of souvenir pencil sharpeners and shiny stones highly-educational geological samples.

Walks in the rain always require snacks and extra laundry. Sometimes they require air-sea rescue.

Of course, you expect having children to be expensive, and there's an initial big hit to confirm things. The list of stuff to buy is almost endless. Expenditure does quieten down for a bit after that, though. Babies don't eat much. They don't need their own laptop. They don't care where they go on holiday. Day-to-day outlay on a toddler can be small (if you're looking after them yourself, that is... and blatantly ignore the lost income you could potentially be earning doing something else).

A second child is also relatively cheap. The cot is in place. There are clothes. It doesn't matter too much if not all the babygros are the right colour. Let's face it, most of them probably won't last an hour before needing soaked in a bucket anyway.

By Number 3, there's no longer a requirement to buy the best - any old tat will do. Sure, a few bits and bobs of equipment will need replaced and it's worth being picky about things like the height of buggy handles but worn bibs and battered toys are fine. It's all quite manageable.

Then they need shoes. Six weeks later they need more shoes. They start eating real food. They notice adverts. They grab stuff off store shelves. They begin to consume...

Before you know it, they're demanding to be dressed in a fashion that doesn't give the impression they've just been shot backwards from a cannon through the bargain rack at Oxfam.

Then they need MORE shoes - flashing ones with little toy cars hidden in the sole...

It's a costly slope which ends in university tuition fees and debtors' prison. It can be remarkably hard to notice the descent, though. When my parents came to stay the other week, I got them to buy a couple of loaves of bread while they were out for a walk one morning. I didn't think much about it but my mum was somewhat surprised that we were down to barely more than crusts by the next day. I shrugged it off. The kids are getting bigger and there were extra people in the house - bread was going to disappear quickly.

I may have been a bit complacent. Yesterday, I went to the shop at the end of the street with the kids. When we left the shop, I had an entire loaf of bread. By the time we got home, I had this:

The pathetic remains of a sliced loaf.

That's right. They ate half a loaf of bread on the way back from the shop. It was only a ten minute walk and quite a lot of that was down to stopping to get more bread out of the bag. Marie had three slices and she doesn't even like bread. (It apparently tasted better in the rain.)

We had lunch and then had to go to the shop to buy some bread. While we were there, I bought wipes, toothbrushes and socks, just to save another trip later and avoid wear and tear on their shoes.

Excuse me while I go eBay one of my kidneys...

Yours in a woman's world,



JenK said...

And that's why they invented Costco. or the UK equivalent of Costco. Whatever that is.

5lbs of bread, 36 pack rolls of toilet paper and pasta sauce by the bucket. It's the only way we make it a week without going back to the grocery.

DadsDinner said...

Yep, we're definitely opting for Super Huge Bumper Family Packs these days.

Of course, if I were to buy 10 loaves of bread all at once, the kids would immediately eat nothing but crackers for a week... ;-)