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Three Honest Lessons for New Parents That I Wished People Taught Me

I'm taking another break from complaining about movies today since Lulabelle turned one year old yesterday and that has kinda taken top priority for my attention lately.  This means I've (successfully?) been a parent for one year and I have at least some justification to pretend that my opinions have merit.

More importantly, the last year has given me plenty of time to adapt to my new life as a father and reflect on the lessons I've learned in that time.  Some of these were pretty harsh and I wish somebody could have broken them to me more gently rather than letting me stumble blindly into them face first.  (Especially since most of the "advice" that was given to me could have come off the inside of a greeting card, and that's hardly a way to prepare somebody for parenthood.)

Lulabelle's advice: Get some blocks.
With that in mind, here's a quick Internet List for any prospective parents who may be feeling a little bit lost:

3. Everybody has the best opinion on how to raise your kid, but nobody wants to do it.

The rarest breed of human is the type of person who, at some point after finding out that Stephanie was pregnant or that we had a kid, did not say something to me to the effect of, "The problem with kids these days is [insert mildly political tangent here].  Make sure you [insert well-intended but possibly irrelevant advice here]."

People love to tell you how to raise your kid.  It's on the top ten list of things people like to do, right after taking pictures of their food and explaining their theories about why exactly the Star Wars prequels failed.  And most of the time, people are well-meaning and just want to find a way to help, so the polite thing to do is smile and nod.

But when the rubber meets the road and it comes time to actually be a parent, guess how many volunteers you'll have to give you an assist?

Whether it's offering gifts or food or babysitting or anything practical, the chance that somebody will actually step up and do something useful for you is inversely proportionate to the chance that they've got some advice for you.  You can almost cleanly divide the world into Helpers and Know-It-Alls.  (And I'm ashamed to admit I've usually been in that second camp for most of my life.)  At the end of the day, I think the Know-It-Alls realize they aren't much direct help, so the best they can offer is an opinion.

This doesn't make them bad people.  It just means that you, as the person trying to manage your kid and deal with all their (literal) crap, have to gloss over most of the advice.  Try not to take it personally when the Know-It-Alls are suddenly busy and can't spare thirty minutes to watch your kid while you take a shower.  Try not to feel obliged to pay respect to their opinions.  If they say something that makes sense, keep it in mind, and if not - just smile and nod.  They'll stop talking soon, and then you can get some actual work done.

2. If you're an American, the biggest expense you'll have, by far, other than possibly daycare costs, is healthcare.

Of all the shocks I had, this is the one that got me the hardest and makes me the angriest.  Everything else was kinda like being poked in the arm unexpectedly, and then I went, "Oh, it's just a baby."  But the healthcare costs kicked me square in the balls with a steel-toed boot.

Longtime readers are aware that we had some complications at delivery that resulted in Lulabelle staying in the NICU for a couple of weeks, and that definitely incurred a severe cost for us.  But that's not what I'm referring to when I bitch about healthcare.  No, I'm talking about the normal costs.  The stuff that a totally healthy, uncomplicated pregnancy, delivery, and first year of life will incur.

Yes, dad. I am very interested in hearing your opinions on healthcare. Will those come with pie?
Lulabelle and Stephanie were on two different insurance plans during the past year and the pregnancy that preceded it. Lulabelle's costs went like this:

Plan 1 - $207 a month for the insurance. Well-baby visits had a $30 copay.  Virtually everything else was subject to a $2500 individual deductible, then 20% coinsurance.

Plan 2 (Current) - $164 a month for the insurance.  Well-baby visits are totally covered, with no copay. Everything else is subject to a $4000 family deductible, then either no other payments or a $15 / $30 copay for primary care / specialist visits.

Stephanie's costs went like this:

Plan 1 - $207 a month for the insurance.  All prenatal care and maternity services were subject to a $2500 individual deductible, then 20% coinsurance.

Plan 2 (Current) - $293 a month for the insurance.  All prenatal care is subject to a $4000 family deductible, after which preventive / prenatal screenings are covered, but subject to a $30 copay. Maternity services are subject to the deductible, then a flat rate of $500 for delivery, and then no coinsurance after that.

So, assuming there were no complications whatsoever and our baby would not have to go to the doctor for any reason other than to receive scheduled preventive care services, and assuming I excluded the monthly costs of Stephanie's insurance premiums (since she'd have to pay that regardless of whether we had a kid) and I just wanted to factor in the costs of prenatal care, delivery, and the first year of our baby's life, this is what the actual costs would look like for healthcare to get us from "no kid" to "healthy one-year old":

Plan 1 - $6,484

($2500 for Stephanie's deductible, about $1500 coinsurance on the other $7500 that would have been charged between the prenatal screenings and delivery - which is based on an estimate of $10,000 total, which is low compared to what our provider actually charged - and $2484 for the premiums for the baby's first year of life.)

Plan 2 - $6,468

($4000 for the family deductible, $500 for the delivery, and $1968 for the premiums for the baby's first year of life.)

Note that neither of these totals includes copays, and more importantly, neither one addresses unexpected doctors' visits for complications, illness, or anything else that might go wrong.  This is literally the best case scenario.

And these are the good plans.  The one we were on before Obamacare kicked in and we could switch to Plan 1 was actually worse by several thousand dollars.  It's hard to imagine.

By contrast, you know how much we spent on diapers, wipes, and formula?  About $150 / month.  The actual "operating costs" of a baby were $1,800 for the whole year.  Even if you factor in another $1,500 for a car seat, stroller, crib, clothes, toys, and books - many of which were gifted to us because we have a pretty awesome circle of family and friends - that's only $3,300 - about half of the healthcare costs.  And again, that doesn't even factor in the bills we got from the complications.  We're talking $6,500 just as a baseline.

With her million dollar smile, we're looking at a 1:153 return on our investment.
What I'm saying is, healthcare costs in America want to eat your intestines out through your asshole and laugh at your pain.  Forget diapers.  Forget wipes.  Forget organic baby food and cruelty-free bedsheets.  The single biggest stab in your wallet is medical.  If you aren't ready to set aside 10% of your salary or more to pay for it, then you're in for a shock you won't soon forget.

Unless you're one of those lucky bastards with a job that pays for your entire family's coverage.  In which case, I'm both happy for you and I hate you.

1. The best onesies are the ones that open from head to toe in the front and have snaps, and buttons on baby clothes are the devil's toenails.

Seriously, why does anybody put buttons on kid clothes?  That's stupid.  I don't care how pretty it looks - they're terrible.

Don't put buttons on baby clothes, guys.  Don't ruin my day.

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