“As long as you can afford them”.
This comment can be frustrating. Afford them according to whom? The latest figures on the cost of raising a child is a whopping quarter of a million per child by the time they are 17! (And that figure doesn’t even include College tuition, which parents are expected to pay for considering the many times I’ve been asked “how will you pay for college?”)
If you are interested in a more realistic view of these stats, check out this article by a mother of 8.
I’m sure each persons idea of supporting children financially looks somewhat different. But most people would say that you should be able to provide food, shelter, clothing and education to your children. If you cannot provide those things for your child, than no matter how much you love them, you are not providing a healthy environment for your children.
But I find that opinions vary widely on what you as a parent are “supposed” to provide for your child. Does feeding your children mean that you must buy the expensive little individual overly-processed prettily packaged foods? Or maybe the opposite extreme, your child can only have the (insanely expensive) organic, free-range foods. I grew up in a large family, and I never missed any of those foods. We ate lots of healthy plain old meat, potatoes and veggies. We didn’t go out to eat that often, but I have fond memories of picnics at the park (or spread out on the living room floor).
Does providing shelter mean that you have to have a specific amount of square footage per person? Or at least a bedroom for each child? Like I said, I grew up in a large family and I have never had my own room. I haven’t found myself (or any of my siblings) to be forever scarred by this. In fact we all have great memories of telling stories and goofing off when we were supposed to be sleeping, and of course fighting over who left the clothes on the floor.
And how much clothing does a child need? I’ve found that my children tend to want to wear their 5 or 6 favorite outfits over and over, and ignore all other clothing. And who says it has to be new? The only clothing I buy new is underwear and maybe socks. I was forever cured one time when I bought 2 little 18 months outfits off of the clearance rack at the department store for $25 dollars. They were so cute, it was a really great deal (I was saving so much money!) and Ms. Action really needed clothes. The next day I drove by a garage sale and got out to see if they had any baby clothes. I got 9 outfits a coat and 2 pairs of shoes for $20. The clothing was beautiful, barely worn. 2 outfits or a whole wardrobe? The answer was pretty clear for me, and I never went back. I only shop at garage sales and thrift stores (why is thrift store shopping sometimes treated as a shameful secret?) , I never pay more than $2 per clothing item ($3 if its extra special) and I only buy it if they really need it and will actually like wearing it. My kids have about 10 play outfits, 2 dressy ones, a pair of sneakers and a pair of boots. They don’t need anything more. I’m sure that wardrobe needs will grow and change a bit with my children, but I can provide a wardrobe at a pretty low cost. And if my children want something special when they get older, they can learn to save for it themselves.
Education is a touchy topic. Private schools can be very very expensive. Some give discounts on subsequent children, some don’t. Some offer scholarships, some don’t. But Public School is already paid for by your taxes, and while maybe not the best choice, it is an option. And Homeschooling is very low cost or even free. For extra-curricular activities, does every child want one? And should any child get more than one?
And why are parents obligated to pay for college? I realize that as parents we want to give everything to our children, but whatever happened to working your way through college. Or you can cut your costs drastically by doing your first 2 years at Junior College. There are even ways to get some of your college credit by testing out of courses through CLEPS. I married young and never actually went to college. But all of my siblings that are old enough (so far) have been actively involved in furthering their education through college. None of them were sent off for 4 years of fully paid. It takes perseverance and ingenuity, but aren’t those quality’s we want in our children? I want to know that even if I am unable to contribute one cent to my child’s college education, that they will be able to work hard for what they want and accomplish what is important to them with their own two hands.
We are constantly told by many around us that we need to enroll our child into tiny tots ballet and T-ball and karate. Our children will feel left out if they don’t have the latest video or computer game. Well, I can tell you that I never did. My parents never apologized or told us we couldn’t afford something. We either could do it or we couldn’t. Instead of going to the movies, we borrowing video’s from the library, instead of going to an amusement park we went to the Zoo. My memories of special times were when my Dad played with us in the backyard, or we got that jumbo pack of sidewalk chalk and covered the whole driveway with our artwork, or my mom letting us cook in the kitchen, or when my grandparents bought a 1/2 gallon carton of vanilla ice cream and we went to the park and made huge ice cream cones.
I didn’t get a car for my 16th birthday, and even if I had money for it, I don’t think I would buy one for my child. I want my children to graduate into Adulthood with an awareness of how money works and what aspects of life are actually important.
Living on less in a world with more can be a blessing.