The Census Bureau has come out with their newest figure of how much it costs to raise one child to the age of 18 (so this number does NOT include college expenses). Ready for it? For middle income families it's $286,860 over the course of 18 years. Once again I'm forced to do some math. That averages out to $15,937 a year and $1328 per month. Hang on, hang on! I know most of you with larger families or those who are living on one income are feeling your blood pressure rise just thinking about how this doesn't fit with your reality. And I agree that it doesn't fit with mine, either. Plus, I was curious how they treated multiple children, so I looked at the report. They were figuring the cost of multiple children (and the multiple children went to 3) to be a simple cumulative exercise of multiplying that figure by number of children. It is wrongheaded thinking.
But believe it or not, that is not what I want to blog about. I found the link to the article on the facebook page of a national parenting magazine. (I keep tabs on it because every so often it offers me an opportunity to link to one of the articles I get paid for, and when my articles get hits my editors are happy as is my checking account. I have a definite mercenary streak.) Anyway, a side effect of doing this is that it makes me realize how much of a bubble I live in. Many of my friends share my worldview and none of us is what I would call flush with cash. Family and children are important to us and we make it work with what we have. We don't let finances be the sole reason for not adding to our families. I'm quite happy in my bubble and think others would be happier if they would join me.
Reading comments (which I can only bring myself to do once in a while) posted to this magazine's page is eye opening. I get so used to thinking that I am not unusual in my lifestyle that I am truly surprised when confronted with evidence that I am. I was so saddened when I read through the comments. More than a few people expressed surprised that the final number in the study was so low. Others expressed the opinion that this number was the reason they choose to have only one child. At least one or two (and these are the ones who made me the saddest) said that they had always dreamed of having a large family, but stopped at one because of the expense. I am so grieved at what these young mothers are going to miss out on by placing money at the top of what is important in life. Money is a tool. It is useful for paying bills and for helping others, but it should never be a means to an end.
Somewhere along the line, our society got it all backwards. There seems to be the general belief that to be blessed is to be comfortable money-wise. (With comfortable meaning able to buy what ever is desired, not having enough to eat and a roof over ones head.) That children are merely drains on the budget; an expense. (This opinion was expressed at least once in the comments; I'm not making it up.) But if anyone takes even a cursory glance through the Bible, God is very clear that children are blessings. Over and over it is how God blesses His people... through the gift of children. They are something to be desired above all else, not an accessory to an affluent lifestyle.