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I’ve been toying with writing this for a while. Not that long ago, journalist Daisy Buchanan said she was economically infertile, or, as she puts it, ‘too poor to push.’
At 31, she says that she and her husband cannot afford kids. She writes in detail about living in London, where, as she says, the average rent is £1,500. She spent most of her twenties struggling with a lower wage and student loan repayments and doesn’t own a home.
I read the entire article up to this point feeling sorry for Daisy. I’m 32 and I’ve had the same worries, especially given that a few of my friends who have had children have definitely found it a serious financial struggle.
But then I got to this line: ‘Now that I’m finally doing OK, I’d really like to just enjoy life with my husband a bit longer.’
I understand. Children horrify me also. All that sleep lost, all those exotic holidays to be replaced with staycations in Wales – staring at the rain, huddling in our macs, clutching our egg mayonnaise sandwiches. (Actually, sounds quite a bit like when I was growing up.)
And here’s the other thing, most people, who get married, now and in the not-too-distant past took years and years to have babies because they were having loads and loads of fun just being married and spending their dosh on parties. Didn’t they?
Did they fuck. I’m all for enjoying being married without babies, but don’t decide not to have babies if you want them just because you’re enjoying the fun you have not having them. Not sure how that makes sense, it hurt to write it.
I don’t subscribe to the nihilistic view that £40 a month is not worth saving.
I then went on to read the following and my eyes watered.
‘Even if I doubled my income I couldn’t afford to buy my flat, so I satisfy dreams of domesticity with £40 Diptyque candles.’
What the heck are you talking about, Daisy? You can’t read a candle a bedtime story, you can’t nurse it back to health when it has the flu, you can’t take it to school and weep tears of joy over its egg and spoon race ability at sports day. A candle is not a child, Daisy! In seriousness, there’s never an excuse to spend that much on candles. I also don’t subscribe to the nihilistic view that £40 a month is not worth saving (or indeed, investing).
I should state as an aside that I’ve always found it irritating that having children is still the status quo. I’ve every sympathy with those who decide not to procreate, and I don’t find them selfish at all. My problem is with those people who use not having oodles of money as an excuse to not have children. Frankly, I just don’t buy it.
Don’t use lack of homeownership as an excuse not to have kids. It’s a rubbish excuse!
Lack of homeownership makes up a large part of Daisy’s argument not to procreate. Is it such a terrible thing to bring up a child in rented accommodation? I know a lot of parents who do this already and ‘the kids are alright.’
If buying a home is completely out of reach (as it is for many), I suggest Daisy lets go of that pipe dream and makes her other dream – of having a family – a reality. Because it is patently far more achievable. If you have to choose one or the other, choose the latter I say. You can afford to have children, Daisy, you just want to buy a house more.
I am sympathetic, but I also think you should call a spade a spade. Why not have the kids first and buy a home later – and here’s an idea, why not – when that time comes – buy a home outside of London.
Daisy also says: ‘It breaks my heart to think about how badly a child of mine might struggle, and how I doubt I’d have the resources to be of any practical use.’
This is another facet of her argument I find a bit stupid. Our children will not, with all probability, be able to buy their own homes, in London or otherwise. Most people who have kids now do so knowing they won’t be able to stump up £20K, or however much it will be then, for them to buy a home. I’ve a well-paid job, as does my partner, and we own our home (full disclosure). I don’t however, have a pension or any plans soon to start saving for one, and know, realistically, any disposable income I have now and in the future will be spent either on our mortgage, my student loan, and, hopefully, a family. A pension is the last thing in a very long line of things clamouring for my hard-earned wages. I’m certain there won’t be enough cash to go round for my future kids to have a deposit for a house too. There will be barely enough to get me through retirement. Most of my mates say the same.
Instead my hopes for my children will be that they are in control of their own finances. By then, university might not be the be all and end all it was when I was a teenager. Similarly, the UK’s housing crisis might have been levelled enough that renting doesn’t cost a quarter of your wages or more. Laws might be in place to stop horrific landlords putting up rent every year with little notice or justification. I hope my generation sorts that much out.
I’m not saying balancing kids with loans and housing isn’t hard. But I call bullshit on economic infertility. Our kids might not own their own homes, but they are going to grow up in a far more liberated and free world than our parents and grandparents ever did. That brief period of time where university was free, housing was dirt cheap and the economy was booming? That was an anomaly, a blip of sunshine in what has been a millennium and more of life being a ‘bit hard’ – so it’s time to get over it. To clarify, I like and sympathise with Daisy – but I don’t think you should let home ownership and Diptyque candles come between you and a future family.