When we told people we were having a baby, everyone wanted to share their experiences and insights with us. Talking about babies gets people genuinely excited and happy. The one thing that we really struggled with was hearing “that baby will change everything”. Our pre-baby life included frequent world travel and a life of seeking new and exciting adventures pursuing our hobbies such as rock climbing, mountaineering, skiing and exploring new and different cultures. We knew that we would not necessarily be able to (or even want to) do the exact same things as we had before. However, these activities were such a huge part of our lives we would find a way to continue them in some manner and we look forward to sharing them with our baby as she becomes old enough to enjoy and appreciate them.
The part that bothered and scared us was what most people didn’t know about us. We were quietly planning toward early retirement when we found out that my wife was pregnant. We had dreamed of cutting out of the “normal” American lifestyle of living your life around normal 40+ hour work weeks and living for weekends and vacations. We had a very loose plan, which is to say we basically had no plan but to wing it. We were going to move west (Colorado or Utah) and figure it out as we went. My wife actually landed what she considered a dream job doing exactly what she wanted for a company that manufactured ski and climbing gear, located at the foothills of the mountains in Utah. This would give us an opportunity to live in one of the two areas that met all of our wants, an instant support system where we would know people that shared our interests and a few years where my wife could support us with her income and benefits while I worked part time and figured out the transition to a new area and early retirement for us. Then as life works out, the same week she received her job offer, we also found out that she was pregnant. We decided to stay put in our current location and jobs. We began to accept other people’s reality as our own. We made a few dumb financial decisions such as buying new cars which we had never done before. We figured that since we’d be working for the rest of our lives anyway, we might as well just start spending our money.
We both were excited and happy to be having a baby, but also felt that this would end our dreams of living this new, different lifestyle. I honestly think that we each had a touch of depression with the thought of this. We assumed that we would never be able to afford all of the costs of raising a child without continuing to work full-time. We began to picture the costs of food for another mouth, diapers, clothes, daycare, college tuition, teen car insurance, prom dresses, and the list goes on all flashing before us. Then gradually, we began to open our eyes to reality. Having a baby did not change everything. It certainly didn’t change our values. It simply made us more of who we are. Before, we placed little value on material things. Seeing how happy a baby can be with just a little bit of attention reinforced this. We always placed a very high value on our time, and now having this new person in our lives that we want to spend as much time as possible with made our time even more valuable.
Sure, even if you avoid material trappings, having a baby does bring on some new unavoidable costs such as car seats, diapers and food. But life is full of changes and with each new expense a baby brings, there is a change in lifestyle that has canceled it out. Long trips and international travel have been replaced by long weekends to drivable distances. Fancy dinners out have been replaced by the simplicity of eating in. We have regained our love for more simple activities that we can do with her such as hiking and camping that cost next to nothing. Having a child has made us much more aware of how we are living our lives and we have become much more conscious of how and where we are spending our time and money. Our child has really reinforced what is important to us.
So I guess that in a way people were right in that having a baby did change things. However, it changed things in a way different than what I had anticipated. Instead of pushing us away from achieving financial independence and early retirement, it has pushed us much more strongly towards these goals. We no longer plan to just “wing it” into early retirement, putting our savings and for that matter our lifestyle and even our marriage in jeopardy. Instead, she has reinforced this desire to reject materialism and take control of our time and our lives. But we are doing it in a methodical way. We are developing a deeper understanding of our finances. We are taking much more effort to think about risk assessment. We are carefully planning a better life to move towards instead of using early retirement to escape from something that we were not happy with.