This past week, Baby MoneyPenny was 5 months old. In some ways, those weeks and months have passed in an eye blink. In others, it may well have been years. It's hard to remember what life was like without our daughter - it seems like she's always been here.
The first few weeks were pricey - she came a bit early, so we weren't totally ready (although at 38 weeks along, probably should have been). It felt like every day my husband made a new run to Babies R Us. Starting to burn through our savings - even for it's intended purpose - was tough. For the first few weeks we burned through diapers at an alarming rate - we held off on the cloth diapers until we got adjusted and I healed from my surgery, and now we use a mix of cloth and paper.
We didn't buy a lot of baby gear up front. Since every baby likes different things, we waited until we knew what we would use. The baby swing and bumbo seat were both great spends. The swing buys me 20 minute stretches of free hands, which is miraculous for a new parent.
Since she loved the swing at my sister's house, we ended up getting the same one for home. You don't mess with what works when you are trying to get some downtime.
I had also refrained from buying a lot of clothes before she was born. Hand me downs and gifts made up her wardrobe for the first weeks of life, and after that I started shopping. I've bought both retail and second-hand, and will probably continue to do both. But as I find more secondhand sources of clothes, and yard sale season continues, I hope that retail purchases will be to supplement gaps, rather than to be her primary source of outfits. But buying her cute outfits is fun, and I suspect we will sometimes succumb to temptation. Sale stuff though.
I went back to work part-time early, and began supplementing with formula. She ended up requiring an expensive formula because of some food sensitivities - and eventually I had to wean her. Formula runs about $280 a month. Insurance now reimburses us for it, but it's a pretty big outlay every month while we wait for the money back.
Severe reflux and a milk protein allergy sent us to the doctor and ER , and eventually a pediatric GI specialist multiple times. Copays and prescriptions have cost a couple hundred dollars thus far. This was far more than we bargained for.
But other than the surprises of some small medical costs, and some gear we hadn't bought up front, like the baby monitor, swing, pack n' play, and so on, the biggest cost (and one we planned for) is child care. It's worth it though - our child is loved and well cared for at my sister's home. That and the fact that we're finally probably going to indulge in a housekeeper 2x a month, since working has made it near-impossible to keep up. I've managed to keep the house relatively clean, but that means that all attempts at organization and other projects have fallen by the wayside. Which means our dining room now looks like the local dead letter office, with piles of paper breeding in the corners. I can't manage it all, and my husband's chores focus around yard work and the projects we need done, like finishing the shelves in my daughter's closet.
So working parenthood is pricey, I'll admit. I'm happy to be back to work, and I do like my job, despite missing my daughter. I am lucky, she was almost 5 months when I finally went back full-time, and I get a day a week to work from home. Every expense has been worth it.
Still, I'd recommend to new parents to get as much second-hand as you can. The $7 fill-a-bag sale clothes from The Children's Orchard (a used clothing chain) and bulk clothing I've gotten off craigslist are just as cute as my Gymboree indulgences. I may not give up on Gymboree entirely, especially buying larger sizes at their end of season sales. My daughter already has some great clothes for next summer at fire sale prices, both used and new.
And while I'm not a fan of used stuffed animals, any toy that can be washed clean is fair game at yard sales. New toys are often not worth the price. And our local 'used book superstore' has been a great source of children's books cheap.
When you can't buy, borrow. Our high chair is being borrowed from my sister, and I've gotten other loaner items as well. Kids go through gear pretty fast, so it's worth not spending too much. That said, a notable exception is a pack n play - that's worth owning. We used it when she was an infant in our room, and since we travel a fair bit, it's already earned it's keep.
Kids can be expensive...but they are also worth every penny.