Chima* (36) has two children under five years old, and compared to the average income of most Nigerians, he’s a high earner. But when I asked how parenting has affected his budget and cost of living, he simply responded: “I’m now poor”.

This is Chima’s story, as told to Boluwatife

Image designed by Freepik

I didn’t go into parenting blind. I knew having children would stretch my finances. But I wasn’t prepared for how much.

It was a full house growing up — six children and just as many cousins and extended family members dropping in at one point or the other. It was chaotic, but I loved it. When I started thinking about marriage and having my own family, I decided I wanted six children too.

Of course, my girlfriend (now wife) was horrified when I first mentioned it during one of our “planning the future” talks. Coming from a much smaller family with only one sibling, she couldn’t fathom having six children. The conversation went something like this:

Me: I’ve always wanted to have six children like my parents. Don’t you think it’d be an adventure?

Girlfriend: Six, as how? Who will “born” all of them?  

We eventually reached a compromise — four children. That was the plan when we got married in 2018, but I can confidently say the plan has changed now.

I was earning ₦400k/month at the time, and it was more than enough in the beginning. My wife’s salary was ₦100k/month, but it was mostly for her needs or when she took me out for a treat. I took care of everything else. The major expenses were the ₦800k annual rent, feeding, clothing and transportation, and of course, romance bills. My wife and I made it a duty to go on weekly dates. We also regularly had staycations. We were comfortably middle-class.

We had our first baby in 2019, and the financial implications began to dawn on us right from the birth. My wife delivered by caesarean section, which tripled our hospital bills. We spent roughly ₦800k on that, which was a huge chunk of my savings. Then there was the cost of other essentials, like the baby’s bed, car seat, bath, carrier and others.

My wife also had problems with lactation, so we had to lean on formula. I can’t recall how much each tin cost, but we typically went through two tins in a week. 

Then there were the clothes. It was as if the baby grew an inch per day. We had to buy new clothes every three weeks. We thought we wouldn’t have to buy diapers for a long time because we got quite a lot as gifts, but most of them were the smallest size. As baby grew, diaper size increased, so we ended up giving out most of the gifted diapers.

By then, my wife had stopped working temporarily to care for the baby, and my salary was our only income source. ₦400k that made us ballers before struggled to take us through an entire month. I was almost always broke by month’s end. Weekly dates and staycations? Those became a thing of the past.

We had another baby in 2021. I blame the pandemic for this. We’d originally planned to space our kids by three years, at least, but what’s there to do when you’re locked up together in the name of global safety?

I got another job around the same time, and my salary increased to ₦500k/month, but it hardly made a difference. We had to move to a bigger apartment (₦1m yearly) and take an additional ₦1m loan to cover the agent fees, renovation and furnishing. 

Remember all those expenses I mentioned when we had our first baby? Multiply it by three. We now had two babies, while struggling with inflation and removing ₦100k out of my salary each month for one year to pay back the loan. My wife had to suspend all plans of returning to work because daycare and a nanny were additional expenses we couldn’t afford.

I love my children, but my wife and I jokingly call them “money-sucking creatures”. They eat like the world is about to end and grow out of clothes like someone is pursuing them. If they’re not eating, they’re spoiling something. 

I was complaining to a friend about having to change their game tablets because they’d spoilt them, and the friend was wondering why they couldn’t do without the tablets. I just laughed. When you have kids, don’t give them something to entertain themselves so they can expend the unused energy on your walls and home appliances.

It’s starting to look like we’ll stop at two children, so we can continue to afford food. I still earn ₦500k/month, and 60% of that goes into child care. I try to stretch the remaining 40% to save for rent and other household expenses. But the truth is, every expense is still related to child care. 

For example, the new fuel prices mean I spend at least ₦20k weekly to fuel the generator so my kids can sleep at night. I pay ₦1m for rent because I need more room for them. Our feeding bill is almost ₦160k monthly because of the extra mouths to feed. I can’t spend ₦10k without thinking too much about it. I feel poor.

My eldest will be old enough to start school next year, and the thought of school fees is already giving me heart palpitations. My friend is paying ₦400k per term for nursery school, and the school’s planning to increase fees because of the economy. I don’t even want to think about it. My wife and I are considering homeschooling till primary school. We can’t starve because we gave birth na, abi?

Again, I love my children and consider them a blessing. But my quality of life has drastically reduced because of them. I lived better when I was earning less than my current income. If you aren’t stupidly rich, and you plan to have children in Nigeria, just accept that you will see pepper.

*Name has been changed for anonymity.

NEXT READ: Rainbow Babies: “I Was Supposed to Be Happy, but All I Felt Was Fear”



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