Megan Pagel got married in 2020 and has two children.

Before Megan Pagel and her husband were parents, they spent their money on going out with friends.Now that they have two children, she said they prioritize what their kids need.Pagel said she doesn’t regret her choices, although she did experience some FOMO around DINKs.

This as-told-to essay is based on a transcribed conversation with Megan Pagel, 24, who lives in Tasmania, Australia, about having children in her early 20s. The following has been edited for length and clarity.

Before I met my husband, Michael, I was pretty adamant I didn’t want kids.

I was 19, and he was 20 when we met in 2019. We got engaged in September and were married in March 2020. He really wanted kids but said it was fine if I didn’t, as he loved me and just wanted to be with me.

Something about the way he was so understanding made me come around to the idea. I thought having a family with him would be amazing.

My mum had my older brother at 21. I really like the age gap between her and me, and I thought I’d prefer to be a younger parent.

We had our daughter in 2021 when I was 21 and our son in 2023.

Our DINK — double income, no kids — era was really fun. It was a nice time for us to bond and not take life too seriously — but we don’t miss it.

Pagel and her husband on their wedding day in March 2020.

Before having children, we spent money on our enjoyment. Now, we focus on buying our kids the things they need.

Before we had kids, my husband and I didn’t travel much but spent a lot of our money on enjoying our weekends like most 20-somethings would — partying with friends and going bowling or to minigolf.

I was an apprentice chef at a café when we met. In 2020, when Covid hit, I stopped doing my apprenticeship and eventually switched to barista work because the hours were a bit more friendly. I now work as a hospitality all-rounder at a different café, earning around 30 Australian dollars an hour.

I work casually, typically around three days a week, and my husband works full-time as a tree planter and firefighter.

Now that we have kids, we prioritize spending money on things they need. Groceries cost more now that both kids are eating solid food, and we try to make sure they’re eating healthily. I’d say we spend around $AU250 to $AU300, which is about $163 to $200, on groceries a week, which includes things like diapers and wipes, while we spent between $AU100 and $AU150 before having kids.

Pagel and her husband were together for around two years before having children.

The cost of living has gone up since Covid.

We do have to look a bit closer at our bank account than before, but it’s very doable, and I think we’re quite comfortable because we have backup savings.

We want to strive to make a little bit more than what we need, but it’s not an easy task. It takes a lot of budgeting and is constantly on our minds.

I don’t go out for many social outings, but we have made friends who are parents, and it’s nice to hang out with them while the kids run around with each other.

We’re really big on grocery vouchers. My Gen Z mum friends and I like thrifting to save money for ourselves and our kids. With the rising cost of everything, it’s just part of our lives now.

From March 2022 to September 2023, we rented a house that cost between AU$610 to AU$685 a week, but in October, we moved back in with my parents. We don’t pay them rent, which is a load off for us. My mom is also happy to babysit the kids when I need to work.

I felt FOMO when I saw DINKs trending on TikTok, but I realized I’m not really missing out

At the moment, I think it’s very trendy to have kids later. More people seem to be putting it off and prioritizing themselves, which I’m all for. It’s good to see people doing what they want.

Last year, I started to see the term DINK popping up on TikTok. People would be showing off all the traveling and splurging they were doing as DINKs, and it made me feel a bit of FOMO. I thought, “Maybe we should have waited. Maybe we could have made more money?”

Pagel had her daughter when she was 21 and her son when she was 23.

I think it is easy to look at things on social media and get caught up on what other people are doing, but at the end of the day, I look at my kids and realize I’m not really missing out.

When I was a teenager, I thought I’d spend my 20s traveling and having experiences, but our early 20s coincided with Covid. It stopped us from doing most of the things we wanted to do anyway, so we thought we might as well have a child.

The DINK lifestyle is presented on social media as a way to splurge on yourself and do things you wouldn’t be able to do with kids, like traveling, but I don’t think that’s necessarily true.

Last year, my husband and I traveled across Australia for four weeks with the kids. I don’t think we would have planned far ahead enough to do a trip like that before having kids.

I don’t regret having kids young

I really enjoy being a mom.

I feel like the advantage of having kids at a younger age is I’ve had the opportunity to stop and start work as much as I need to. I didn’t want to get to a point in my career where I was doing really well and then take a big break. I wouldn’t have been happy if I had been unable to go back straight to where I was.

I don’t regret that our DINK era was only around two years. We had more financial freedom, but it wasn’t super glamorous.

We’re enjoying the family era. We love spending our Sunday mornings making pancakes and dancing in the kitchen to kids’ music.

I think we had children at the right time and it’s worked out really well for us.

Read the original article on Business Insider

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