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Good Enough Mother is trying her level best to relax this Sunday morning….

Unfortunately it’s practically impossible as Good Enough Father has taken it upon himself to repair every single broken door, tattered porch screen, warped floorboard and busted dishwasher in this house, all before his 11 am tee-time.  Seriously, it’s busier here than on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange during a Bear Rally.

But honestly, the other thing that steals my sleep is money. Money, money, money. How to make it, how much we spend, how to save for college, oh yeah and that little thing called retirement, which a few months ago seemed far off but is now barreling toward us at a dizzying pace.

But before we get there we gotta get these two kids out of the house. For those of you without kids who might have stumbled upon this blog by accident, heed this warning. Turn away. Now!

This is another of those occasions where I rip back the big velvet curtain and expose a key truth about motherhood. RAISING KIDS IS HELLA EXPENSIVE!

You know about college, obviously, but what about all the other, little things, that add up? Well, I’m going to help – by listing them out; you can thank me later. Or pay me (oh well it was worth a try!)


1.     THE DIAPER GENIE (OR CRAP YOU DON’T NEED): Those little babies, so cute and cuddly but with the ability to lay something so tiny and foul you are certain you have just experienced what the innermost level of hell smells like. Enter the Diaper Genie.  It purported to be way better than a plain old pale, where the odor would emanate each time you opened it. The Diaper Genie was superior because it sealed each baby bomb into a twisted plastic bag. Truth is, it was expensive and only marginally effective. But I mention it because it is really just an example of all the “you-have-to-have-this” items (along with baby wipes warmers and designer duds) that you really do not “have to have.” Do yourself a favor, skip it and pocket the cash. Or get used to living in poverty…

2.     BOBO THE BIRTHDAY CLOWN: Yeah when my kids were small, we did it; hired some person in costume and white face and a big red smile painted from ear to ear to come in and scare the living hell out of our two-year-old, thereby ensuring it would be years before she slept in her own bed or read a Stephen King novel.

Bobo is code for expensive birthday parties. Your kid does not need (especially at age 2) all the “stuff” that you think you are supposed to provide for them to have a great party. What they need is cake, some party hats, a few friends, a few gifts and parents who will make them feel special on their day. Even now, we don’t do the big, expensive birthday parties, yet my kids have a blast and are appreciative every time (for the most part).  But many of you do… why?

3.     BOBO THE ONE-EYED DOG: Sigh. Bobo the one-eyed dog represents every pet you will have and the ancillary expense that comes with them. Shots, food, vacations to doggie day camp, grooming, burial plot (at the end of their fulfilling life) it all adds up. Of course, your lives will be deeply enriched for them and personally I love the idea of a child growing up with a pet and learning how to love and care for something (after they stop pulling on Bobo’s tail).

4.     BRACES: WHOOOO-WEEE! Here we go. Tomorrow, Cole takes the first step at possibly ensuring his parents will spend their golden years asking the all-important question “Would you like to try our new McRib Sandwich? It’s for a limited time only.” That’s because orthodontia ain’t cheap and he is our second kid to have gone this route. If I were you, I’d start saving for now or convince your child bright, white and straight is overrated

5.     MUSIC OR SPORTS: Pick one, then be prepared to take it like a man. If it’s sports, they’re gonna need equipment and lots and lots of it. If it’s music, like my kids, that means, renting the instrument (don’t you dare buy it until you know they are committed to sticking with it), private lessons to augment what they get in school, a host of black pants and white shirts for recitals, recital fees, field trips to Julliard and the symphony, need I go on

6.     COLLEGE: The mother of all expenditures. You can go a couple of ways here. You can, from the time they pop out of the womb, fit them with teeny-tiny headphones and a tape of hooked on phonics, determined to make them the first 10-month-old baby to have mastered a foreign language.  Or place a pigskin in their palms (if you’re able to judge their athletic prowess by the strength of the in utero kicking). Point is, it’s probably wise to find a way to defray the cost of college, which on average in this county is $5,500 for public school and just over $21,000 for private.  Per Year! That is TUITION ONLY. Go ahead and tack on thousands more for books, room and board.

7.     MOVING BACK HOME AFTER COLLEGE: Come on now, you didn’t REALLY think that with their newly minted degree they were going to go get a place of their own, now did you? Silly you. Why do that when they can come back to the place where it all began? There is a way to possibly keep this from happening. Make sure your kid knows when they get out of college they will a) not step into a CEO role right away, b) that they will not be making 75,000 dollars a year and c) will more than likely not be able to afford the penthouse apartment with leather walls and self cleaning bathtub. Get them to understand the joys of studio apartment living WITH a roommate. Otherwise, you can forget about turning their bedroom into the sewing room/den/project gallery for a while.

8.      WEDDING: Here comes the bride…. and her weeping father, pockets turned inside out and palms skyward, sort of like the sketch of the Monopoly man when he declares bankruptcy. Yeah because between the showers, the flowers, the ceremony, the matchbooks, the napkins, the D-R-E-S-S, the band, the minister, oh geez I’m dizzy already. Keep your fingers crossed and you may end up the mother of a boy or have a girl who runs off to the Bahamas to get hitched.

9.     MOVING BACK HOME AFTER THE WEDDING: I can barely even type this my hands are shaking so badly at the thought of this even remotely being a possibility. But if your newlyweds are not CEO’s, making 75-grand a year or living in the penthouse apartment with leather walls, they might be looking at you for a place to lay their weary heads. And have sex. Now take this piece of advice. The week that they are gone, turn your kid’s former bedroom into the sewing room/den/project gallery and FAST! Whatever you do, do not make it comfortable! That may keep them from staying too long, unless of course, the newlywed comes back unhitched in which case they may not mind sleeping amid the thread and thimbles. For a long, LONG time.

10.   I LEFT THIS ONE BLANK: This is for you. What have you found to be the hidden costs of raising a child that no one shared with you? Share with your fellow GEMs!


  1. Irene

    September 12, 2010 at 1:32 pm

    10. The Holla for the $20…I don’t care what it is…new moms and dads beware. Don’t even put a $20 bill in your 5 year old hanging by a strap Walmart Purse….I venture to guess it will cost at least 100- $20 bills from 5- to whatever age to raise a kid….(just speaking from experience. cough)

    10. The friends Oh, it seems like an innocent thing…Kids make friends, take care of their friends….Oh, that is a whole post in and of itself. But, please factor in the gas, the cell bills, the trips out in your nightgowns at Midnight cuz its your turn to drive, the extra food (I have witnessed a friend of my kids eating a half loaf bread while downing a half gallon of milk)

    This one is gonna be a fun one G.e.m.s….

  2. Donna Nash Williams

    September 12, 2010 at 1:37 pm

    OMG Rene we just finished the homecoming Dance…with a girl be prepared to spend at least $800 + at least hair dress, jewelry shoes……and incidentals….especially f she is a girly girly like mine….lucky grandma helped create the girly girl so she paid for most…..and then my son plays club soccer in Dallas…..Can you say $2600 per season….yep, they said best coaching and best oppoutunity….to play soccer in Texas…..and don’t mention the day to day and lunch money….how about 80 every two weeks for school (junk) lunch..nothing nutritious or healthly….I didn’t know….I needed to be independently wealthy to raise 2 children…I guess we could cut back..but where do we start….UGH!!!!

  3. Gay Wakefield

    September 12, 2010 at 1:52 pm

    #10. Driving: It’s not just the insurance, which we all know is astronomical for adolescents. It’s the gasoline. It’s the steam cleaning for removal of all the food and drinks their friends spill on your spotless interior. It’s the wrecks–and 80% have at least one before turning 18 (no wonder their insurance is so high). I shake my head when I see parents give adolescents their own cars; I watched my daughter’s classmates wreck one after another of those gift cars and then expect their parents to keep replacing them with another shiny new toy. My daughter was allowed to borrow one of my cars, but never was given one of her own … just one of the reasons I was named “meanest mother in the world” until she grew up. Now she says that’s one of the smartest things I never did.

  4. Erin

    September 12, 2010 at 2:09 pm

    HAHAHA…Oh Rene, this is why I love you! BUT, here are some other small ones you have forgotten…actually, that we all forget, until we realize its two weeks til pay day, and the little dickens have hands out asking for ‘some more please?!’ Really, with kids, its not the big things..its all the littelt hings that just add up! Its the $4.75 for a feild trip, and $45 for school pics, and $7 for milk tickets and $9 for a movie, and the $20 for a friends birthday and the new zipper when a winter coat blows out tha crappy vinyl zipper that doesnt belong in a kids coat anyways!!! I tell ya, its a good thing that my boys are cute, or I would have packed them up and sent them to an orphanage long ago!! these little buggers are expensive!! I suppose its good that the hugs they give are priceless!!

    PS, just an FYI, once my kids are married, I plan on moving and not telling them to where…we’ll come stay with them instead;) Gotta have a plan man!!

  5. Rene Syler

    September 12, 2010 at 2:56 pm

    Erin, you are so right about the nickel and dime issues.. ugh! And all we want is a kiss and hug every once in a while (and yes, in front of their friends!)

  6. Rene Syler

    September 12, 2010 at 2:56 pm


  7. Rene Syler

    September 12, 2010 at 2:57 pm

    But she did look ADORABLE, LOL

  8. Lisa

    September 12, 2010 at 3:29 pm

    GEM, your perspective is always enlightening, entertaining, and spot-on! As you know, my one and only is now a married, career woman -with new baby of her own; your book is on her nightstand…knowing she’s too sleep-deprived to read these days, it is my hope that she’s absorbing its content by osmosis -or something.

    She was a great kid surrounded by a loving, supportive village; a trouble-free teenager (only discord was the thermostat -of course you’re cold; flannel boxers and a t-shirt don’t provide much warmth in November); and is an amazing adult…no bias, here. We survived #4, #5 (music), and #6; as for #9, I bolted bookshelves to the wall, installed a supply rack in the closet, furnished with desk, TV, futon, etc. -her former bedroom is now my office (“you’re welcome any time”). Irene’s #10 (“The Holla for $20”) reminded me of conversation, where a Parental Pavlovian response was put to rest:

    As a teenager she’d snuggle up to me, all sweetness and light, arm around my shoulder, batting eyelashes like Scarlett O’Hara, and ask (regardless of how obvious the answer), “Whatcha doo-win?” I went for the okey-doke more times than I care to admit (“She likes me, she REALLY likes me!!”); the next question, after recount of my activity, would invariably be: “How much money do you have?”, followed by exhaustive detail of her need for a little scrilla. She prevailed, if I had cash -so I stopped keeping folding money in my wallet 🙂

    My phone rang one Sunday night, when she was in college:

    “Hey, there! What’s goin’ on?”
    “Nothing special (classes, challenges, social and sorority stuff, etc.)…whatcha doo-win?
    (chuckle) “I don’t have any money.”
    “I didn’t ask for money, I asked what you’re doing; what’s happening in your world?”
    (laughing) “C’mon, we both know that ‘whatcha doo-
    win?’ always precedes a request for funds…the money
    tree is sparse at the moment.”
    “I called to see how you are; I don’t need money.”
    (aghast, first time hearing ‘I don’t need money’)
    “Really. I just called to catch up.”
    (dumbfounded and a bit ashamed about being
    presumptuous) “Umm…OK…let’s hang up, you call me
    back, and we’ll start all over again.”

    We laughed, and had a delightful chat.

    Moral of the story: “The 10 Hidden Costs” are part of every parent’s reality; the Return on Investment, when they become self-sufficient, however, is invaluable. It is our responsibility to do the best we can; it is our children’s responsibility to choose to absorb and use our investment wisely, on their path to becoming the people they will ultimately be.

  9. Rene Syler

    September 12, 2010 at 3:33 pm

    oh Lisa, that is lovely! Just lovely. And you’re right, the return on the investment will be well worth it. If it doesn’t put their father and I in an early grave. I love it!!

  10. Matthew Graybosch

    September 12, 2010 at 8:59 pm

    Here’s a hidden cost for you: Adderal. The public schools love to claim that kids who won’t sit still in class because they’re bored, didn’t get enough playtime, and just don’t want to be there have ADD/ADHD, and they will do whatever it takes to get parents to take their kid to the shrink and get him drugged up. Those doctor visits and drugs will add up.

  11. Shelly

    September 13, 2010 at 11:06 am

    I remember when my kids were babies and we were paying for part-time daycare, diapers, formula, etc. I was thinking “at least they’ll get less expensive as they get older”. What was I thinking?! As you said, braces, saxophone, scout camps, on and on and on. And I never would have believed how much food they’d consume. My boys are both tall and thin, but they put away food like I can’t believe.

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Combing the aisles at Target in search of the best deal on Cheerios, it hit Rene Syler like the stench of a dirty diaper on a hot summer’s day. Not only is perfection overrated its utterly impossible! Suddenly empowered, she figuratively donned her cape, scooped up another taco kit for dinner and Good Enough Mother was born.

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