How to Make the Most of that $221,000 Kid

When people ask us if we are going to go for kid number five, I wish I could say, “No way, we’re done!” I envy people with that sense of certainty. I love babies so much (and being pregnant and giving birth and nursing and changing diapers — everything), that I’m afraid I’m always going to look longingly upon those beautiful round bellies.

And since my husband recently described us as “old, tired and poor,” I’m thinking my baby-making days are over. SIGH.

Not that how much children cost has ever been a factor in our decisions about family size, but it’s true that people with fewer (or no) children generally have more money. The government predicts it takes about $221,000 to raise a child from birth to age 18. But of course we all know that some parents are still babying their 40-year-old children (embarrassing!), so that figure could easily be close to double.

Since I suspected that our fourth child would also be our last, I have felt a particular urgency about recording all the delicious moments. I really don’t want to be one of those ladies in the grocery store that stop women with young children and plead, “Enjoy it now because the next thing you know, they’re in college!”

Who am I kidding? I’m still going to be one of those ladies. But to distract myself from my fate, I’m focusing on what’s in front of me:  really cute kids.

Easy Ways to Remember Your Kid’s Childhood

Because giving birth has always been an earth-shaking experience for me (in a good way), I have done my best to write down my birth story for each of my children — from the first labor pains to the main event to those yummy days of pampering and bonding in the hospital.

This time around I’ve jotted down all the unique things that newborns do and say in what I call the Newborn Diaries.

With my older children, the most consistent thing I did was to record their first words and funny sayings on a piece of paper posted on the fridge.

Line-a-Day Journal

But I’m excited about a new idea that I think could appeal to a lot of people — with kids or not:   a sentence-a-day journal. Inspired by an interview by Meagan Francis with Gretchen Rubin, author of the Happiness Project, I decided to gift myself a ten-year line-a-day journal.

Being a terrible journal-keeper, I’m hoping that the miniscule scale of what I am asked to do will keep me on task.  (Typically my problem is that, faced with a blank page every night, all it takes is a bad mood or an aching back to make me fall off the journal-wagon.)

After doing some online research, I selected Journal 10+ and Mom’s One Line a Day as my favorites.  I ordered both and kept the big ugly ten-year diary for myself (I need elbow room!) and gave the compact, stylish five-year one to my friend, Cynthia, who just had her fifth baby.  Yay, Cynthia!

I am posting pictures of both of them inside, since I found it hard to find that information online.

Of course there are much more frugal ways to make a line-a-day diary, but considering the urgency of this task and the fact that I am a known journal-lapser, I wanted to get something that seemed fun and purposeful to me so that I would stick with it.

Have I?  It’s been a month, and I’m still faithful!

Last year I kept a line-a-day Twitter diary, called DiaryOfaMother, in which I had mixed success.  A web-based diary is a good solution for someone who has a smart phone, but I’m usually unplugged.  I did like how the accountability of a public diary helped keep me on track, and how it was easy to share with relatives.  However, a pen and paper journal is more intimate and I love that I can climb in bed with it at the end of a long crazy day.

In the end I think the single-most important question to ask yourself when choosing a parent’s journal should be:  which method am I most likely to stick with?

Do you record your life with children?  What ways work for you?

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  • Alex February 5, 2011, 7:38 pm

    Hi Amy, thanks for posting some good photos of the inside of these books. I’ve been thinking about getting the 10 Year Journal, and have been looking for some good images of the inside.
    Can you tell me what those circles and slashes on each day are for?

    Thanks, Alex

    • Amy February 5, 2011, 8:12 pm

      Hi Alex,

      I’m glad the images helped. The circles and slashes are for you to use the way you like. I just write over them, but some people might also use the book for recording progress, temps, or what have you.

      Best of luck in your journaling!


  • Sara Zimmer October 23, 2010, 9:45 pm

    Hi Amy!
    It has been a while since I last visited your blog — I can’t believe how much you have posted!! How do you manage to get so much done with 4 kids and settling into a new place? Love this last post! Wish I would have kept a daily diary for Drew and Canyon. I am one of those people who know they aren’t having anymore kids, so unfortunately, I won’t be able to use this great idea. Will be seeing you around town I am sure. Keep up the great writing! ~Sara

    • Amy October 25, 2010, 9:13 am

      Hi Sara,

      I’m so glad you wrote in! Yes, life has been crazy and now that I’ve jumped back into the blog, my baby has decided to wake up every hour and a half all night long. I just have to focus on how thankful I am to have my beautiful children, and a blog, and people like you that make me feel good on the bad days.

      I’m glad you brought up the issue of when to start a diary, because I meant to address that in the blog post. The most important thing is: it’s NEVER too late!

      Whatever age your kids are, you will cherish the tidbits you write about them now. Even if you didn’t catch all those cute first words, you can jot down funny things they say, what they’re learning at school, what you and your family did this weekend because for sure it will be different in 10 years), or what you as a mother are feeling. There are so many gems to write down — as soon as you start, you’ll see what I mean.

      The beauty of these 5- or 10-year diaries are that you can start them anytime: they don’t have to mark the beginning of anything — except for the beginning of you recording your life with children!

      Take care,

  • Amy October 21, 2010, 9:45 pm

    Hi Kara,
    I agree that the quantity of artwork is overwhelming. Yet it feels wrong to throw it away. Your plan sounds just right — and I love how you make your kids do a self-portrait. Those are priceless!

  • Kara October 21, 2010, 3:50 pm

    Since I am no good at keeping journals, I do something a little different.

    My kids bring home WAY TOO MUCH art work/papers/learning each day. We all know these, “works of art” are way to precious to see the inside of a garbage can so we put them all in a little rubbermaid basket. At the end of each month, we choose 1 or 2 favorite “projects” from the month and stick them in a shoe box. At the end of the school year (or just year for those who have kids under 5) we have a collection of things they did throughout the year.

    I also make my kids draw a picture of themselves at the beginning of the year. In this, they put anything that is important to them at the time. They then do this again at the end of the year.

    And of course, I always blog about it ;) I consider it an online scrapbook at times.