Providing financially has been a key, almost unspoken law, for fathers through the ages. There are several other roles that come with fatherhood, but the financial aspect is what we’ll focus on.
Researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in a 2014 study on the influence of fathers on children found that the most effective fathers do not necessarily have the highest income. The level of income is not as important as a steady income that meets the family’s needs.
So, what does it cost to be a father in Cameroon in this day and age? Is there a number? What should one anticipate?
To get a clear picture, let’s assume that you are at that stage in your life when starting a family of your own is constantly making cameo appearances in the back of your mind.
At least 95% of your close friends are all dads and your special person is giving you that look – you know what I’m talking about. Any extended family gathering means mini-cross examinations from at least two aunts who want to know your plans for the family bloodline.
Well, if you identify with any of that or are just curious as to what the financial impact is when it comes to fatherhood, then this could be of help.
Let’s approach this in the form of a journey that goes as far back as initial conception.
a) The Cost of Birth
On average, a normal delivery can cost between 50,000FCFA and 100,000FCFA and a C-section can cost between 100,000FCFA and 250,000FCFA approximately, and that excludes regular anti natals and preparation for birth.
So, before you get to this point, there are several mandatory hospital visits (check ups) that need to be included in the budget. There could be an unexpected emergency visit as well which simply means that a father needs to be ready and on call at all times.
This is where medical cover comes in handy. Ask any parent around and they’ll probably tell you that having a sound medical cover in place when looking to start a family is a no-brainer.
In the 9 months leading up to birth, your significant other may wake you up in the middle of several nights demanding boiled maize or roasted rat mole, hihihi. All these little things amount to costs that need to be in your budget.
When thinking about the financial cost of fatherhood, you have to factor in the costs incurred before the baby is born and then the actual delivery.
b) Toddler Costs
Diapers will be a part of your life for the next 2-3 years, whether you like it or not, and even if you choose to go the napkin route, the costs will still add up. When you add wipes and formula to the mix, you get the picture. It’s all about value for money and buying bulk.
When a friend of mine learned that he was going to be a dad, he started buying a molfix pack diaper each time he went out on weekends. Every Friday and Saturday, before buying a drink or indulging in njangis, he’d secure a molfix pack.
In a month he’d have 8 packs, by the time his little bundle of joy was born, he had 72 assorted (in terms of age and size) diapers almost bursting through his wardrobe. Planning ahead is a must for any father.
For those with financial ability, the addition to the family means getting a bigger house to accommodate their kid in a spacious setting.
Moving from a studio apartment from one end of the city to let’s say a 2-bedroom apartment another end of the city is a huge financial undertaking. This could mean paying double the amount of rent, increased utilities expenses in case of sleepless nights etc.
New parents often have their sights set on a large new home to accommodate their growing family, but it's important to keep things in perspective. If an upgrade puts a strain on your budget, consider your options carefully and never sacrifice stability for space.
A newborn also needs his/her own possessions, from a crib, beddings, toys and clothes that will be outgrown in a matter of a few months or years. Not forgetting their own food that they finish a tin within 4 to 5 days. It is more challenging for mothers who are not able to do exclusive breastfeeding.
All these things need to be pre-planned if the dad is looking to have a relatively smooth transition into fatherhood.
When the baby comes, that 2-door corvette that screams midlife crisis will need to be traded in for a van or something spacious enough for a car seat.
The good thing about fatherhood in this day and age is technology. A car may be unaffordable, but hailing cabs is now a phone-app away. If you need to take the family to the hospital on any given day, such options are available, at a cost. These can be termed as convenience costs, and could include any of the following:
1. Daycare and a nanny - Both come with associated periodic costs.
2. Leisure – Weekend trips to the mall and kid’s park where enjoyment comes at a premium cost.
3. Childcare: Here, options include having one parent stay at home, using an in-home daycare, hiring a nanny, or looking into a daycare center.
Each has its own set of advantages and disadvantages, as well as a wide range of price points.
Before the baby arrives, fathers have to decide (via dialogue) what might or might not work for the family as well as research costs in their area to help review their budget.
e) Priority Costs
Life insurance (for both parents): Life insurance protects one’s family financially in the event of death. The proceeds of a life insurance policy can be used to help the partner replace lost income so that they can continue to pay things like a mortgage, a loan, and take care of the child.
You don’t want to get too hung up on whether you’re ready financially, because no one is ever really ready and it works out in the end, but you do want to think about how you see that first year with a new baby.
f) Education & Healthcare
This one needs an elaborate plan as schools are becoming expensive by the day. Some schools charge as much as 100k for a single term in Grade 1. It’s all about finding what fits one’s budget without compromising on the quality of education.
Calculating the total cost right up until your kid turns 18 may lead to a heart attack. Breaking it down into manageable trunks may be the way to go.
Of course, there's no rule that says you have to help your child with college expenses, but if you intend to do so, you should start planning ahead.
As for healthcare, this is pretty straightforward. It’s the one expense that fathers cannot afford to ‘wing it’ as the consequences will be dire if something unfortunate happens that requires treatment and admission.
Without medical cover, a father is just one serious condition away from poverty.
g) Other Costs
Your risk appetite may drop drastically as you now want stability. Channelling your money into new business venture that needs capital is not something you can now do off the cuff.
This can be a good thing in that it kinda means that fathers are monster researchers when it comes to where they funnel their money.
Hanging out with friends every other weekend will become harder and harder, especially during the child’s formative years. Sundays go from race or match day to family day and trips to some colourful theme parks.
Plan for the future - For example, if you want to pay your child’s way through college, you need to identify the savings vehicles that can help you hit this target. Review your insurance and bank accounts – Your life is not about you anymore so make necessary changes e.g. multiple beneficiaries on relevant accounts, should anything unexpected happen to you, your loved ones are sorted.
Expect the unexpected - A well-funded emergency fund is a must. Remember the boiled maize in the middle of the night scenario. Start thinking about childcare as soon as possible - Visit some nurseries before your baby is born to get a feel for the environment and remember to ask questions about waiting lists and enrolment, and most importantly, costs.
Invest in your kids’ future - Finding money to put aside for your children's future can be difficult, but it's well worth it if you can afford it. Investing small amounts of money each month can add up to a significant sum over time, especially if you begin investing early.
To wrap up, despite all the costs mentioned above, and how overwhelming it looks for a father, having a newborn doesn’t have to become a financial crisis.
It just needs a realistic grip on the expenses you’re likely to face, and advance planning.
From the moment you learn about the pregnancy, try building a financial cushion that will cover at least six months of your living expenses. This could be through an automatic savings or money market program with a bank or a brokerage or mutual-fund company. The name of the game is simple...plan, plan, plan.
Also, when you speak with involved fathers, you'll quickly learn that the benefits of becoming one aren't limited to the children. During the transition, fathers' own ideas of manhood expand, as do their abilities to form rewarding human connections. The costs may seem overwhelming but they can be easily broken down into small manageable bits.
By VictoryMarshal Ayafor Basang