Father Sez

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There was a time when wealth was measured by the number of children one had……

Friday January 16th, 2009 by fathersez

Times have changed. Now it seems people are concerned about the wealth draining effect of having children.  

The Simple Dollar recently asked his readers “Do children really cause financial burdens?” Trent’s question had been triggered by a comment he read on LifeHacker that said “Having kids is one of the most expensive poverty-inducing things you can do right now” Trent’s gave his reasoning and numbers and concluded that we should not be scared into not having children - or delaying having children for years – just by the huge costs bandied about. 

Steve also had a recent post telling us that we would be richer if we did not have kids. He did make it very clear though, just in case he was misunderstood, that all he wanted was for people to think ahead about the costs involved. So that people could make informed choices. As for him, he loved his son and daughter most dearly and did not mind the costs.  

Both the articles were very actively commented upon. Mainly pro and some others against. 

I have serious reservations about looking at the question about having children by looking at a list of expenses that would arise immediately and in the future once we had children.

Having children, like Mike, commented to Trent’s post) (#36) enriches our lives. Mike says that he was motivated as a new parent to further his career in ways he’d previously overlooked. Parenthood gave him the nudge to live up to his potential in his career. It’s been an enriching experience that made him a much better person.

I, too, started being more responsible, financially and in a number of other ways, after having children. I only started saving after the kids arrived. In fact, I say that I am “richer” in every sense of the word, after having our children.

Having children cements and makes for stronger family bonds. In our case at least, the petty quarrels and disagreements that almost all husbands and wives have, have not degenerated into break up situations because of our children. We have been forced to take a step back and reassess our disagreements because we want a happy household. 

And can any value be placed on the “no strings attached smiles, laughter and love” given us by our little ones? I don’t think any words can ever do justice to the feeling you get when the little ones smile and look adoringly at you. I must admit that I do feel sorry for those of us who have never experienced this feeling.  

Some people have likened having children as an investment and that we should work towards getting “a decent return”. I believe, as I have written before, that having children is not an investment, rather it’s an act of paying it forward. Even if our children do not pay us back, they’ll in turn pay it forward to their children.

Whether we should have a child or not is a lifestyle choice. Yes, costs may be one consideration, but it is only one. Don’t let ourselves be consumed by this one factor.

After all, wives, husband, girlfriends and boyfriends also cost money. In fact living costs money!!! And where would we be if our parents had done some financial modelling before deciding to have us?

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4 Comments for “There was a time when wealth was measured by the number of children one had……”

On January 16, 2009
At 11:19 pm

I certainly don’t think anyone should be scared away from having children if they want to by any cost/benefit calculation. Like marriage or any other big life decisions, having kids should be a matter of the heart and not the head. BUT there’s no denying that having kids without being adequately financially prepared is probably a ticket to marital and familial stress, too.

But I do agree that saying having children is poverty-inducing, like the Lifehacker commenter said, is probably a gross exagerration. I don’t think having children is a journey I would want to miss, even if it DID bankrupt me. :)

On January 18, 2009
At 4:35 pm

Hi, Steve,

I do agree with you. In our case, we went ahead and had our kids without any “thinking” of the financial projections. Yes, there were some tense times, but lots more pleasurable times.

I am only sad that people might miss your so important phrase “matter of the heart and not the head” and just dwell on the figures.

And I love your conclusion. My wife and I will cherish our kids even if it costs us our last dime.

On January 19, 2009
At 1:48 pm

I personally probably put way more thought into having children than my wife and saved more money than needed. In reality, our dogs have cost us more financially than our children have so far. They are still young, and will make up for that in college.

As for having many children, I often think back 3 generations where our great great grandparents had 5 or more children in order to help with farming duties. I wonder if they had children to help around the farm, or out of love for a big family. Probably a little of both.

On January 19, 2009
At 8:43 pm

Hi, Passive Dad.

Thanks for dropping by. You are right, during our grandparents’ times, the more children the better. Wealth was measured in the number of children one had. Like you said, it may have something to do with having more hands to tend to the fields etc. After all it was the agricultural age.

I also think that during those times, no one ever considered having lesser or no children.

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