Stop Saying Kids Aren’t Expensive!

Stop Saying Kids Aren’t Expensive! March 10, 2015

Ladies Against Feminism recently posted a piece titled Kids Aren’t Expensive But Greed Is. When I saw the title, I was reminded of my parents’ constant insistence that children aren’t expensive. I honestly do not understand why people make this argument. They could argue that while it costs money to raise kids, kids are worth every cent. They could argue that raising children creates memories, moments, and relationships that more than compensate for the financial drain they represent. But no, instead they’re arguing that kids aren’t expensive.

But when I read the article itself, written by a mommy blogger named Anna, I found that she understand that raising children does cost money. Let me quote a relevant excerpt from her article and then respond to her main points.

My husband and I have always wanted a lot of kids. (Of course, “a lot” is a relative term, depending what your social circles look like, but for the purpose of this post, we’re going to call “a lot” more than 3. Ha.) Over the last 6 years, when we’ve made our feelings known, we’ve often been met with one particular phrase: Kids are so expensive!!

Well, on the one hand, I suppose they are. Depending on your particular situation – medical bills, dental care, school tuition, etc. all definitely add up. So I’m not trying to be flippant with what I’m about to say, but I do think it’s an important distinction to be made when one is saying how “expensive” children are.

Kids aren’t expensive. Greed is.

Kids don’t “need” designer clothes, Etsy outfits, brand new everything, more shoes than they can wear before they grow out of them, and 8 thousand of whatever the latest toy craze is. (I believe it’s currently Shopkins, but I might be a week behind the times. It’s so hard to keep up.) Kids don’t need a play room full of more toys than they know what to do with. (I’ll go one step further with this one. They don’t even want it. It’s stressful and overwhelming for them. But anyways.) Kids don’t “need” to be signed up for a different so-called enrichment class every night of the week. They need sunshine, fresh air, freedom to move, and space to create.

While Anna titled her article “Kids Aren’t Expensive But Greed Is,” she states here that there are legitimate costs that add up and claims she’s not trying to be flippant. Sorry, Anna, but if you understand that for many many many families children really legitimately are expensive, titling your article “Kids Aren’t Expensive But Greed Is” is incredibly flippant. Your title suggests that people who decide not to have more children for actual for real financial reasons (which you admit are a thing) are just being greedy. Nope. Sorry. They’re not.

When people say kids are expensive they say this because it is true. They’re not saying it to be mean. Look, I have two kids. This year, I will pay a total $10,000 in daycare costs—and that’s only for my son. Before my daughter started kindergarten, when they were both in daycare, it was nearly twice that. Now yes, I could be a stay-at-home mom, but to do so I would have to sacrifice my income. Even once a child is in school, there’s before or after school care depending on the parents’ work schedule, and there’s summer care as well. In other words, childcare costs don’t disappear once a kid starts school. And then there is healthcare and dental care.

While we can talk about what material things a kid actually needs or should have, deciding not to buy Etsy outfits or Shopkins will not change the fact that children are expensive. While we haven’t decided for sure yet, there’s some chance my husband and I will have a third child at some point. Having a third child would involve paying for five years of childcare, to a collected total of about $50,000. If we do have a third child, it will because we believe adding to our family is worth that price—but don’t tell me that I don’t have to buy my kid Etsy clothes as though that’s what makes kids expensive. It’s not.

Look, kids are expensive. They are always always always expensive. Even if you just look at childcare and medical and dental care, they are expensive. And frankly, those things are the biggest expenses! It’s not the Etsy outfit or the enrichment class that’s going to cost you $200 per child per week, it’s childcare.

Once we admit that yes, kids are expensive, we can talk about all the other stuff—the Etsy outfit and the enrichment classes and all the rest. It’s true that these things are optional. It’s true that we often buy children more stuff than they need, and that what children need most (beyond the basic necessities of course) is love, attention, and room to exercise their imaginations. I agree that we as parents can sometimes try to buy our children’s love when what they really need is our time.

But.

I reject the idea that the desire to buy cute outfits or enroll your child in a dance class is of necessity motivated by greed. I reject the idea that it is greed that leads people to limit their family size to ensure that their children can have piano lessons and go to science camp and visit art museums. This is baloney. The desire to give our children nice things and a fulfilling childhood—the desire to equip our children with tools for their future—these things need not be motivated by greed.

I also really really really dislike this argument that it is greedy or selfish to decide to say you can’t afford more children if you could afford more children if you cut back on things like piano lessons or ballet. It’s true that children can be more or less expensive depending on your lifestyle. Kids will be a lot more expensive if you send them to private school, for instance. But I also think it’s up to the individual to decide what sort of life they want to give their children, and to factor that into how many children they have.

When considering whether to have a third child, I have to factor in both the costs and the benefits. And yes, if I have a third child, I want that child to be able to take piano lessons and gymnastic classes, and so forth. It’s not that I want my child in every activity—I don’t!—but I do want my children to have some of these experiences. So when I factor in the costs, that includes these things as well. I have to decide whether having a third child is worth what it would cost to raise that child the way I would want it to be raised. And of course, it’s childcare, medical, and dental that are by far the greatest expense.

I suspect that Anna feels judged by the people who who balk when they find out that she wants more children than average. “Children are so expensive!” they tell her. I wish that, instead of responding with “children aren’t expensive but greed is,” she would respond by saying “yes, but for me they’re more than worth it.” Children are expensive, and wanting your children to have opportunities is not greed. It should be possible to admit both of these things while at the same time deciding, for yourself, to have a larger than average family.

Will we ever stop judging each other for how many children we choose (or choose not to) have? Why do so many parents (and non-parents!) feel so strongly the need to judge other parents’ decisions on family size?


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