Mark Zuckerberg is pledging to give away $45 billion – 99% of his fortune – an announcement made to coincide with the birth of his daughter. “Don’t think they’ve realised they might need it – babies don’t come cheap!” said one commenter on Facebook. Indeed, I thought, as I handed over €22 at my daughter’s school book fair this morning, and wondered if he’d really thought it through.
When my first baby was a tiny newborn in arms, I’d probably have given away 99% of my fortune too, but that was before I realised just how much these small people cost. Mark, if you’re reading (you are, aren’t you?) here are just a few of the expenses I didn’t anticipate:
- The baby equipment you don’t know you don’t need
The truth is, newborns need very little, but as a new parent, I was enthusiastic and paranoid in equal parts, and as such, a dream customer walking into my local baby shop.
So I bought an expensive changing table, which my husband spent six long hours putting together before our daughter was born. We used it twice, then realised that a changing mat laid out on the bed much easier to manage. Of course, rather than selling an almost-new changing table online, we kept it for years, ‘just in case’.
Then there was the cot mobile that never worked, the bottle warmer we never used, and the swing chair that never swung, at least not to the satisfaction of the crying baby who just wanted to be in my arms. You get the picture.
- The safety gadgets
The baby product makers thrive on making us worry about keeping our kids safe, and extract a small fortune from us in the process. At one point, I had three baby monitors in the house, despite the fact that we never turned the TV up louder than a whisper and were in no danger of not hearing a cry. I also bought plastic things to put in electric sockets, rubber things to put on corners of tables, and childproof locks for cupboards – an endless array of products to mis-use and lose, none of which I knew existed before I had kids, all of which cost money.
- The expensive urge to keep them warm
I bought a cute bedding set before my first child was born, including a duvet cover for the moses basket, which I didn’t realise couldn’t be used for small babies (thanks for that, shop assistant.) I bought four snowsuits which were far too hot for my newborn and impossible to manipulate on to her tiny arms and legs. Ditto the jackets – newborns and jackets don’t mix, but you can spend a fortune figuring that out.
- New clothes every five minutes
Babies and children grow like weeds – very nice weeds – and this is of course a good thing, But back when I was forking out for new clothes every few weeks, the novelty quickly wore off. As for buying new school shoes in May, let’s just say there may have been tears.
As my nights out dwindled, and I anticipated a silver lining of savings, I slowly realised that I was beating a track to my local wine shop on a more and more regular basis. Weekend nights in are made all the more palatable by a glass or two of red wine.
On days when there’s nowhere to go and no-one to meet, there’s always coffee. My local coffee shop became a lifeline when my babies were small, and I’ve spent a small fortune on takeaway cappuccinos over the years. To cut spending, I eventually bought a coffee machine, and promptly doubled by caffeine intake. But, you know, lifeline.
7. A car
I clearly remember the day we realised that we couldn’t fit three car seats across the back of our car, and we’d have to trade it in. Why was there no memo about this when we were discussing having a third child? But it’s OK. Seven-seaters are very cool and hip. Very.
8. A house
If your house is big enough to accommodate your family, great. If not, you need to factor in moving at some point. Or just do what we do – buy bunk beds and constantly remind your kids how lucky they are to share a room.
9. A travel system
Nobody just buys a pram anymore. If it doesn’t transform into seven alternative baby-transport options, you feel hard done by. Even if you never figure out how to use six of them.
So Mark, think twice before giving it all away. You’re going to need at least $40 billion for school book fairs.