Data released by the ESRI, at the end of last year, showed that in 2011 we had the highest birth rate of any of the 27 EU countries — 16.2 per 1,000 population.
But for many expectant parents, wrestling with money woes, their joy about the arrival of a precious new life is likely to be muted. A recent survey by British comparison website, MoneySupermarket.com, found more than one in three expectant parents worried about how they’d afford the cost of a new baby — and the stress caused almost half of them to row with their partner.
It’s likely to be the same here, says Áine Carroll, of the National Consumer Agency (NCA).
“We know, from research, that people find any big events in their lives financially very stressful. Having a child wouldn’t be any different. The focus for so many, now, is on just keeping the basics going — something big coming along can be really challenging.”
Irish parents are feeling the pressure — contacted by Feelgood, parenting website, eumom.ie, asked members if financial stresses had dampened their joy at the prospect of having a new baby. Approximately 70% said ‘yes’, with mums describing the worry as “constant” and “overwhelming”. Responses included the following:
* “You start looking at what you need for a new baby and start freaking, and then you look at living on maternity benefit, which is now [going to be] taxed. Then, [there’s] childcare when you go back to work”
* “My partner’s out of work. He can’t contribute. I work part-time. We’re relying heavily on our family for the essentials we need for our newborn”
* “I’m being made redundant after maternity leave ends”
* “It was very much a financial decision to have this second [baby]. Would love four. Can’t afford, so won’t be having another”
* “My husband might have to give up his job to care for our baby, since he doesn’t earn much more than childcare costs. I’m worried about having to support us all”.
* “I feel sick and stressed when I think how we’re going to cope, but I refuse to let the bank decide if I can have a family”.
According to a recent NCA childcare price survey, full-time care for a baby aged six months is €191 a week countrywide; for three full days’ care, it averages at €132 weekly. For a 28-month-old toddler, it’s €181 for full-time care; €126 for three days.
Laura Haugh, from MummyPages.ie, says the average cost for first-time parents, of raising a new baby up to first birthday, ranges from €7,000 to €13,000 with childcare.
Mandy O’Rorke set up a second-hand baby classifieds website, as well as markets to help mums sell and purchase ‘pre-loved’ baby goods. A mum of three children aged seven, six and four, she says: “There are people who’d like to have more children, but can’t afford to because their financial circumstances have been so reduced. Personally, we find we now have to say ‘no’ to extra-curricular activities, like swimming or drama, that we could have afforded a few years ago. Some people are worse off — like those struggling to pay their mortgage.”
Research from nursery retailer, Mamas & Papas, found one in four new parents needed to borrow money from their families to cover costs, 40% used savings to buy daily essentials, and 20% took out a loan. Research by Aviva Insurance found parents are most likely to feel financial pressure when their children are aged under two.
Having a baby brings lots of pressures to bear on a couple’s finances, so it helps to look ahead and work out how much household costs will rise once baby arrives, says Áine Carroll.
“Some parents might be on top of the initial costs, but it’s unlikely they’ll have a sense of the ongoing costs — such as how much childcare’s going to cost.”
She recommends taking control of your finances and setting some financial goals, once you know you’re expecting.
* Visit www.nca.ie for baby budget planner.