It’s said that a newborn baby will run its parents a $10,000+ tab in the first year alone.
What this exorbitant check consists of, I’ll never know. Looking at babies, I’d have guessed they were cheap to care for, somewhere in the price range of a small but fastidious dog. It’s not as if a baby has hobbies, or allegiances to one expensive brand or another, and my daughter’s inevitable coke problem is at least 14 years away. I’ll need to buy a baby clothes and diapers, yes, but outside of those, what could a baby possibly need? This may all sound obtuse to you and probably is, in the unintentionally intentional way people making selfish decisions do to avoid feeling guilty.
The stories of my wastrel are legion; I’ve blown rent money on ill-advised kanji tattoos, grocery money on booze (and subsequent cab when I wake at an obese woman’s house with no ride home) and, this summer in Europe, all my savings on four star hotels after finding a well preserved log of shit in the shower of a London hostel. I’m not proud of any of this but it is what it is. I treat money as though it is a burning ember on an ancestral quilt. I can’t be rid of it fast enough.
It’s not that I lack the ability to save money – although my privation of a sound fiscal management education does indeed play a large part – it’s just that I’m unable to deny myself anything I want. I’m lost trying to establish the monetary priorities every high functioning adult appears to have mastered years before. I’m a slave to my id. If I want something, I get it, with no thought as to what I’ve metaphorically set on fire in its pursuit.
I’m what would happen if you gave a toddler a crumpled wad of twenties, an intravenous feed of Captain Morgan’s and set him loose in a Toys R Us.
I was raised in house without a lot of money, with a mom adept at making it seem like we had a lot of money. She raised my brother and me alone during our most lavish epoch – junior high and high school, where a cool-kid-approved label on the back of ones shirt was more important than eating. I suppose it’s a testament to how well my mother took care of us that, although I was aware on a base, throbbing level that we were poor, I was neither hungry nor deprived of anything I, within reason, wanted. I shudder, now that I’ve been acquainted with the price of groceries and utilities, how desperate and unmoored she must have felt balancing the books at the end of the month, how each month must have felt like that month where the rent wouldn’t get paid. But – and this is a very tenuous complaint – her skill at hiding our destitution has made me unafraid of it.
My girlfriend is set to receive a paltry weekly sum from the Canadian government for maternity leave (I believe it is 55% of her earnings in the previous year, which, when in an industry powered mostly by tips, is next to nothing). This means the whole financial responsibility for this makeshift family falls almost solely on me – the man who is uniquely qualified to guide us all into financial ruin by Labour Day.
It goes without saying this does not bode well for my daughter, the tentatively named Aaliyah Lynn Rose, who is due in ten weeks. We’re in the stretch of the pregnancy where each person who can foresee my arrival on their step two months hence, with a moving van full of my foolishly acquired electronics, counsel me, quite urgently, to put away money from each pay check. They say (“they” being the parents, friends and strangers who believe having once raised a child themselves offers them a unique and singular ability to foresee and predict the best way to raise mine) there should be a shift in my thinking and priorities. Sure, it’s happened, to a degree, but not enough that I’ve started actively saving, despite knowing the financial torsion that lies ahead. Some may argue this is precisely the reason I should not be having a child, and I suppose they’d be half correct.
I don’t prepare for anything. It’s not in my nature. And I have no real intention of changing – admittedly, the words of a fool. Besides, I’ve been buying things for our new house – which by generous extension can be looked at as buying stuff for the baby. So in a way, if you’re willing to indulge me some gold medal rhetorical gymnastics, I am spending all this money for her and because of her.
Ok, I can admit even that flagrant stretch of logic cannot paint my prospective fatherhood with a brush of hope but in my defense (“in my defense” will become the Douglas family crest by the time I’m done) I don’t have a workable concept of what a baby would need. Are diapers expensive? Can she wear the same one for weeks at a time like I do my underwear? Can I save money by feeding her the table scraps I don’t eat?
There’s a notion that babies are unknowable, horrifically complex and needy things, where the only defense against emotional and financial ruin lies in preparation. Worse people than me have raised well-adjusted, healthy and happy children, with less money than I bring in. Sure, I’m unprepared and underestimating the heavy lifting involved in child rearing. But, what is parenting if not the headlong dive into a fucking terrifying vortex where we’re forced to feel around, fuck up, push forward and persevere. I don’t know how my new family and I are going to get there, whether I will be forced to pick up a second job washing dishes at a chain restaurant, shine loafers at the mall or provide lonely housewives with services they almost certainly will regret paying for, but come hell or high water, my child will want for nothing.
Isn’t that enough?