Our Story Begins:
The Cost of Parenting
There was a huge discussion online this week following a series of posts by The Atlantic.
The gist of the whole thing was asking the question: Is it Selfish to Go Childless? Let me be the first to say it so you don’t have to: it’s a ridiculous question to ask. Oh, it did what it was designed to do: get lots and lots of people screaming at each other in the comments section and on Twitter and Facebook. What it didn’t, in its very essence do is address the question that should be asked at the outset: whose business is that really?
I don’t quite understand the vitriol with which people spew comments about situations they don’t know, understand or live. By the same token, I don’t quite understand why there has to be a stance. I know a number of women who have no desire to have children and they don’t apologize for it. Nor do I criticize or look at them any differently for it. It goes back to a statement I’ve made time and again: we aren’t defined simply by our children. Sure, how we raise them, how we act around them, how we treat them, those are all indicators of the types of people we are. Still, my career, my musical talent, my essence and being aren’t only due to my children. If it were my life would fall apart when they leave.
The interesting thing this did bring up, though, was the cost of raising a child. This same week a Washington Post article posits how much more difficult it will be to raise kids for Millenials. The basis for the headline is strictly financial.
It came up because a person I know who has no children started to talk about the panic that having a kid induces for them. They want kids, they just worry about the cost. “What’s the old line, it’s hundreds of thousands of dollars you pay to raise a kid?! I don’t know if I can do that!”
It made me think, sure. But there is a simple secret you have to know before you dive down into the abyss of panic when it comes to having kids. You just can’t think about the overall cost. Once you do that you stop parenting and start bean counting. Kids never have costs that fit on a budget. You can never prepare for every eventuality. You just handle them.
I told my friend that I realized kids were expensive. When you buy bottles, diapers by the case, wipes, powder, sheets, bibs, clothes almost every other day and all the other items that go with caring for an infant it can be overwhelming. By the same token, though, I never noticed the change in money I spent nor did I take off each diaper and think “damn, this cost me 20 cents and I have to spend another 20 in about an hour!” You just never think that way. I never thought about the fact that I ate a little less or was running around more.
Related: Our Story Begins: The Two Way Street
The minute you think of kids as work or cost they are nothing but work and cost. You ignore the basic fundamental thing every parent knows: you put in more work than you might actually get out of them. But when you get those things: that first smile; the first word; the first kiss or hug…then you realize there really isn’t a price on this parenting thing.
So are the non-parents missing out? I can’t say they are or are not. I love that my kids share in my life and see me as Dad and much more. Sure, some people just aren’t wired to have kids. Is it really fair to call them selfish if they realize they either couldn’t or shouldn’t be parents?
Stop calling it work. Stop worrying about what other people are doing and look over at your kid, current parents. Then you’ll see the benefits of all that time, money and effort.
What about you? Do you criticize or worry about money all the time? What are your thoughts?