Monet Hambrick, a mother of two and creator of The Traveling Child blog, recently wrote about exploring the world with her kids in tow. She told mater mea that when she became pregnant with her first child, people repeatedly told her that her traveling days were over.
"Most of these people didn't even have kids themselves, and those that did I don't think ever even attempted to travel with them," she explained. "I didn't understand why there was this notion that your traveling life and life in general is over after having kids."
The idea that fun times are over after kids isn't new, and it's one that many people share. While some depictions of Baby-geddon are cultural, and unfair to both infants and parents, much of that concern often also has to do with finances. The fact is, kids are expensive. Even if you aren't a parent who buys every high-end item you think your child needs, your financial picture will likely change dramatically once they arrive — hence the "live-it-up!" pre-kid mentality.
A recent survey from Discover uncovers what millennials who want to be parents some day would like to accomplish before that day. Citing research from USDA.gov, Discover notes that raising a child costs an average of $233,610 — or $12,000 to $14,000 per year. Most of that money goes toward housing, food, and childcare.
Prior to facing those family obligations, the millennials surveyed said they wanted to hit a salary goal, feeling most prepared with an average of $87,000 per year for men and $84,000 per year for women. Most wanted to get married first (81% of men and 85% of women), have reached a savings target (on average, a goal of $80,000 for men and $78,000 for women), and buy a house (82% of men and 83% of women).
Rounding off their top goals, respondents said they also wanted to travel extensively and see at least four new countries before having kids, and visit eight new states.
While dreaming is important, being aware of reality is also crucial. Discover also analyzed how close millennials were to actually achieving those goals, and found a sizable distance between respondents' aims and abilities. Only 2% to 3% of women ages 19 to 36 hit the aforementioned salary goals. Men ages 28 to 36 came closer, with 8% hitting the $87,000 salary target — but in most other areas, women outpaced men in checking off the pre-baby boxes.
"Except for when it came to making a desired salary, men of the same age did not come as close to meeting their goals," Discover found.
Although only 10% of women ages 19 to 27 were married — a trend of delaying marriage that is widely reported, and firmly entrenched for the moment — women hit their marriage goals much sooner than men did, with 28% of women between 28 and 36 getting wed. (Changes in family structure, contraceptive availability, and a greater number of women in the workforce have meant that women have the means to put off marriage and kids for longer.)
Women in Discover's survey also became homebuyers before men did, with 28% of them owning between ages 28 to 36, and 20% of men in the same age range doing the same. Recent trends also bear that out. 2016 data from the National Association of Realtors revealed that single women "account for 17% of homebuyers in the U.S., compared with 7% of single men."
One way to approach these results is with despair. "When it came to being prepared for parenthood, many of our respondents felt they were not ready regardless of their age," Discover said. "In fact, 63% of millennial men between the ages of 19 and 27 said they were not at all ready to have kids, while 59% of millennial women of the same age felt the same." However, a few years made the difference: 71% of women and 64% of men ages 28 to 36 felt "ready or somewhat ready" for parenthood.
The number-one differentiator was feeling more financial stable after getting past the L word: loans. "Over two-thirds of both genders said the No. 1 thing they wanted to accomplish first was paying off their loans," Discover says.
Looking for a place to start? Check out this primer on beginning student loan repayment. Then take things one step at a time! The first might be to realize that achieving all the goals mentioned in the survey might be just a bit much. Things might not happen when, or the way, we envision them in our late-teens and early-20s, but they aren't impossible.
Welcome to Mothership: Parenting stories you actually want to read, whether you're thinking about kids right now or not, from egg-freezing to taking home baby and beyond. Because motherhood is a big if — not when — and it's time we talked about it that way.