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I’m pregnant and not sure what I want to do yet. What should I consider about teen parenting before I make a decision?

There are many, many pros and cons to think about. Here’s our list of things to take into consideration.

Possible Pros

  • Parenting—including loving a child and being loved in return, watching that child grow and develop—can be one of the most joyful experiences in life.
  • Most people, both teens and adults, find that becoming a parent pushes them to a new level of responsibility. A parent realizes that a child is completely dependent, so that parent may get and keep a job to support the child. Some teens or adults may really enjoy this responsibility. It can be rewarding, though difficult, work.

Possible Cons

  • Teen parents cannot live the life of a typical teenager. You will not be able to go out with friends as often. You will have to figure out how to finish school while caring for a baby who needs care 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Your life will revolve around another person who depends on you.
  • Teen parents need money because raising a child is expensive. Many teen parents are still in high school, so they don’t necessarily have the skills or experience to get a job that supports them as well as a baby. If they drop out of high school to work and therefore don’t have a high school diploma, teen parents may only qualify for lower-paying jobs. Those teen parents who go on to higher-paying careers may have to depend on the support of parents or others in their lives while they continue with high school, skill training or college.
  • Babies also change relationships between couples. Parenting can put a lot of stress—financial and other day-to-day stress—on even the most solid relationships. If the couple splits up, there can be bad feelings and conflict that may interfere with the support needed to raise a child. Despite this, children can benefit from the positive involvement of both parents. Being a parent may mean working hard to maintain good communication with someone you are no longer involved with.

Financial Costs

The average yearly cost of having a child under the age of two is between $9,500 (for a child raised in a single parent household) and $14,500 (for a child raised in a two-parent household), according to the Expenditures on Children by Families 2008 report. Annual costs for raising a child increase each year of the child’s life. This cost depends on a lot of factors.

  • Rent is typically the most expensive part of a household budget. So, you need to figure out where you’ll live and how much that will cost. Staying with your parent(s) or other relatives, either rent-free or with a low rent, may be an option you can consider.
  • Other major expenses are food, clothes, health care, day care, transportation and any future training you might need for a job (technical school, GED classes, college, etc.). Check out websites that offer “baby calculators” to get a personalized look at how much you would probably spend.

Another way to understand these costs is to do some basic research in your area. When you have collected the prices below, use them to create a realistic budget.

  • Spend some time in the grocery store checking out prices, including baby food. How much would three meals a day cost? For a month?
  • Look in the newspaper at the cost of one- or two-bedroom apartments and utilities.
  • Price at least one full outfit for a child.
  • Try to estimate childcare costs. Who will watch your child while you’re in school or working? Do you have a relative who can help for free or at a low cost? Or call a local day care facility and ask for yearly or monthly prices.
  • Try to estimate the cost of transportation. If you have a car, how much are your payments, insurance, gas, maintenance and repairs? If you use public transportation, what impact will having a baby have on the number of times you travel? How much will this cost each month?
  • Get a sense of how much health care will cost for you. Do you have health insurance? How much is a visit to the doctor or clinic?
  • Try to estimate costs for health care for a child. How much is it to add a child to your insurance policy? If you don’t have insurance, look into getting a policy just for your child. How much is one visit to the doctor or clinic? What about a trip to the emergency room?

If you can’t earn enough money to pay the bills, there are programs that can help, at least a little. You may be eligible for public assistance, which could potentially help with income, health insurance or food. You can also get help with food through the government WIC program. Most states now help single mothers pay for childcare while they attend school or work. If you need to, you should look at using these programs while you establish yourself. The long-term goal is to take care of yourself and your child. These programs can help get you there.

Under the law, all legal fathers must pay child support. However, if you are not married to your baby’s father, he may not be considered the legal father; the process for establishing paternity—proving that he is the legal father—varies from state to state.

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