Want to Have Kids? Better Plan on These Costs
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3. Parental Leave Pay Gaps

It’s no secret that the U.S. isn’t known for great parental leave policies: The Labor Department says it’s the only developed nation where paid maternity leave isn’t the norm. (Paternity leave is even more unusual.)

After delivery, mothers can usually expect six weeks off (eight weeks for a C-section). But that doesn’t mean it’s paid. A 2012 Labor Department study found less than a quarter of women who took maternity leave got pay. For men, it was only 13 percent. Where you live matters: California, Rhode Island and New Jersey actually offer paid family and medical leave, with New York joining them in 2018.

Most new fathers use their sick and vacation days to stay home. And while 90 percent of U.S. fathers do take some time off, the majority, a whopping 70 percent, don’t take more than 10 days.

In a nutshell, parental leave is all over the place. McCraw strongly advises contacting your HR department well in advance to find out what to expect. From there, the goal should be to save up enough money to cover any unpaid time.

4. Child Care

Child care is easily one of the biggest expenses of parenthood. According to a 2015 Economic Policy Institute study, the costs of infant care exceed the average price of in-state college tuition in 33 states and D.C. If you’re in a two-parent household with two kids, the numbers are more staggering: Child care for an infant plus a 4 year old will likely make up 19 to 28 percent of your family budget.

The numbers vary by state, but the Institute for Women’s Policy Research reports that in places like D.C., Massachusetts and Minnesota, the bill is comparable to one-third of women’s median earnings.

Because of the steep costs, some parents opt to step away from the workforce to care for little ones. Of course, this creates its own subset of problems, especially for women who then have to reenter their industries with a large gap in their resumes—and possibly in their paychecks, too, compared to those who never left.

For those who don’t want to or can’t afford to pause their careers, McCraw suggests looking into in-home alternatives. And work-from-home parents should factor in childcare costs too. When I transitioned to full-time freelancing, I was stoked to eliminate the hefty daycare bill for our then 2- and 3-year-old girls. But I soon realized that working from home while caring for two children is much easier said than done, and immediately wished I’d made room in my budget for a regular sitter.

Because my state offers free pre-kindergarten, my load lightened significantly when my little one turned 4. Check to see if your state offers something similar. You may be eligible for free half-day care, which can keep a considerable amount of cash in your pocket.

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