Children as Financial Paradox

Karen writes in:

I have a question I think it would be interesting for you to attempt to tackle. You approach so many decisions with a methodical and disciplined calculus that often leads you to great time and money savers…Can you address what I’ll call ” the children paradox” and maybe provide some insight that I am not seeing.

Children paradox: “Children cost lots of time and money, so maybe on an individual basis we have incentive not to have them. But in the aggregate, we need them (to sustain the species, economy, etc.)”

On a personal basis, I see having children as a money and time drain. At the very least, it will be an alteration in lifestyle. I question the return on investment in going down to one income (for at least some period, up to five years), incurring the cost of child care, inconveniences to lifestyle, increased living expenses, and paying for college. Where is the upside? I don’t see what my incentive is for having children. How is this in my personal best interest?

I have thought about it in terms of national duty, as in perhaps an educated person of means has a duty to help support the country’s population and pass those “striver” genes on to the next generation. I have even thought about it in vainer terms, as in some kind of personal legacy. I have even considered the need for a much older and senile future self to have someone (my offspring) check me into retirement home. I just can’t get on board with my wife, whom I believe just wants to have a child out of evolutionary instinct. She wants the experience of pregnancy and motherhood. I wouldn’t want to deny her anything, but having children seems such a weighty thing to do in order to “have the experience”. It is a huge commitment.

I know you have children that are clearly a priority for you…but how do you reconcile that investment/opportunity cost with others (being able to travel, own your home sooner, etc.)?

I think there are a mix of answers to the questions you’re asking.

For one, I think some number of parents simply fall into parenting. Being a parent isn’t really something they hold as a deep personal value, but when the child arrives, they feel a natural obligation to do the best that they can to care for that child. It’s a big responsibility and one that comes with quite a lot of emotional reward along the way, so it’s not surprising that when some people become parents, they try to do a good job. (Of course, as we all know, there are a good number of parents out there doing a poor job, too.)

Simply put, as long as there are males and females around in sufficient quantities, there will be children around in sufficient quantities. It’s just a natural outcome.

I think what you’re asking, though, is why would people choose to and plan to become parents? Obviously, parenthood is something Sarah and I thought a lot about and made a conscious choice to take on in our lives.

In many ways, it simply comes down to what’s personally important to you. For some, the process of being a parent is an important life goal. I believe that part of what I was put on this earth to do is to raise three productive and capable people who will have a positive impact on the world. The privilege to be a steward to these children as they grow into adults is a privilege I’m very proud to have and that I enjoy very deeply.

Other people have other things that are personally important to them. Some want to see the world. Others want to start a business empire. Still others work to make the lives of others better. Yet others seek to accumulate personal wealth. There are a lot of personal goals that others have that I frankly don’t understand (much as you seem to feel about parenting), but I see such goals as a positive (assuming the passions aren’t destructive to people who don’t choose to be involved in them).

I don’t think it’s a bad thing for some people to not want to be parents and to have other things that are important to them. The key thing is that you’ve found something in your life that is important to you, whatever that may be, and that you’re investing your resources into it because it fulfills you. Without that, life would be a pretty empty place, I would think.

Most of us spend our lives working for those things that are important to us, whether it’s parenting or something else entirely. It’s the motivation to get out of bed in the morning. It’s the motivation to push ourselves a little bit more.

Is choosing to be a parent an economically challenging choice? Of course it is. However, most of the things I listed above are economically challenging choices. If we hadn’t had children, for example, Sarah and I probably would have traveled a great deal more than we have, which would have eaten a lot of the money we “saved” by not having children. Instead of having our oldest son, for example, I might have memories of visiting the Temple Mount (a place Sarah and I have always wanted to visit).

Simply put, people invest their resources (time, money, energy, skills, and so on) into the things that are personally important to them. For me, one thing that’s very important is my children, so I invest my resources into caring for them. For others, children might be of little or no importance, so they choose to invest their resources elsewhere.

The purpose of The Simple Dollar is to look at ways to be more efficient in investing your resources, particularly in areas that are less important to you. For example, no one wants to have a high energy bill, so energy savings is something that all of us can use to reduce the resources we invest in our energy needs and thus raise the resources available for the other things in our lives.

Whenever I see someone doing something they obviously love, I usually think to myself that it’s a pretty awesome thing (I was actually just thinking this the other day when I watched a skilled person making sidewalk art). Most of the time, when you see a parent, you’re seeing someone doing something they love (even if it might be frustrating in the short term, which parenting can often be). Use it as inspiration. If they’re doing something they love, even when it’s challenging, why can’t I?

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  1. Baley says:

    Some decisions are not purely financial ones. For instance, purely financially you could choose to never turn on the heat in winter or the air conditioning in the summer because they cost money. Why would you want to spend money on heat and AC? For comfort, obviously. Children are not just an investment/opportunity cost; they are an opportunity to love something more than you love yourself, to teach and mold someone to be a good/smart/kind/productive person, and to reap joy and satisfaction from your tear-stained efforts. It is ignorant to treat children as purely a financial consideration. Yes, they are a lot of work. Yes, they are expensive (and that cost will probably NOT be recouped in any tangible way). I’d say the person writing the email above should not become a parent if that is his attitude toward children. He should also probably discuss this with his wife, whom he doesn’t seem to understand at all! Children are a huge commitment, and they make life harder, but they do bring joy.

  2. jackowick says:

    I absolutely despise the view that people who choose not to have children, as a couple, “must” be selfish, or immature, or infertile, or some other way “deficient” compared to everyone else.

    And I see too many couples where the mother has children and her personality changes; she becomes fixated on the children. She drops her hobbies and interests, the husband is merely a means to fund the activities, and you realize it’s an empty nest depression case 18 years in the making.

    I look at being childless as incentive to aggressively handle my finances, but if I had a child, it would still mean making “good” decisions, keeping debt as far away as possible, and saving as much and as often as I can.

    Most of my friends are WONDERFUL parents. I often enjoy making barbs about how “that new TV cost 3 credits at community college” or similar jokes about the costs of “needs” vs saving. I have a friend who has hit a financial windfall and I remind him constantly to never take it for granted, and he drives an economy car to commute and is paying off his mortgage to ensure equity for funding college (some agree, some disagree, but he’s not upgrading his car to a BMW vs putting his money to work).

    Parents, like Trent says, “it simply comes down to what’s personally important to you.” Being a parent is a choice with consequences, as is being childless (hey, I’m not going to have a teen to mow my lawn, or a 45 year old son/daughter to check me in a nursing home!). Don’t misinterpret the alternative of being childless as any kind of criticism of your choices, and please don’t be critical of ours.

    But like ANY choice in life, remember that you must plan and follow through and do what’s best for all.

  3. Johanna says:

    “I often enjoy making barbs about how “that new TV cost 3 credits at community college” or similar jokes about the costs of “needs” vs saving. I have a friend who has hit a financial windfall and I remind him constantly to never take it for granted,”

    Wow – with friends like you, who needs fingernails on a chalkboard?

  4. jackowick says:

    @Baley. Great observations on the emailer. One X factor, that “everyone” tells me, is the moment of birth when all those fears and doubts go out the window and you realize that this new life is the greatest person in the world. I hope that IF the emailer chooses to have a child, she has one of those moments.

  5. jackowick says:

    @Johanna Nothing wrong with making barbs at friends who can take a joke as well as honesty. That’s why they’re friends.

  6. sara says:

    Although this is NOT a good reason to have children, I would take for granted the reward (even financial) of having children and grandchildren to love, visit and care for you when you’re old. I’ve seen firsthand how my grandpa was on the verge of losing everything because of poor choices due to health and mental decline. Had my mom not stepped in on his behalf to lovingly pack him up, move him to proper care facilities, get him wonderful medical care, bring him to holidays, etc, he (literally) would have died on the side of the road, I’m sure of it. No one else would have looked after him in this way but his daughter.

    Good reason to have kids? of course not! good return on the time investment of a life spent building relationship with your kids? I’d say so. Don’t underestimate the needs (physical and emotional) of your 85 year old self!

  7. sara says:

    oh dear, what I meant was that I would *NOT* take for granted the reward…

  8. lurker carl says:

    People who do not want children shouldn’t partner with those who do. For me, this is one of the “pass-fail” questions couples need to work through before making commitments.

  9. Evangeline says:

    Karen, having a baby or raising a family isn’t about the money. It is about one thing, one singular, deep and emotional thing: love. When I deliberately chose to have children it was simply because I wanted to love another person the way my parents loved me. I wanted to be responsible for their foundations in academics, faith and trust so I could see them go out in the world and make it all the more better. It is tremendously expensive, it’s hard beyond all reason and that is why it’s important: because you are willing to give all of your love to someone other than yourself. It’s being a tiny part of a larger picture. Just like you wake up one day knowing what your career path will be, you wake up knowing you were meant to be a parent.

  10. Roberta says:

    Baley, at #1 – the questioner was Karen, who mentions her wife, so unless Trent changed genders as well, this is a gay couple, so the husband you mention is irrelevant. Straight or gay doesn’t matter to me but some people on here may have differing opinions. Or some may see Karen’s comment about being educated, of means and being a striver as elitist or classist and disapprove as it may suggest some people shouldn’t have children if they aren’t those things.

    Trent – great can of worms you’ve opened here. Can’t wait for the comments today.

    I’ll stick my neck out and say that if you two didn’t come to an agreement on whether or not to have children before you were married, you’re on a really dangerous path. While some goals change throughout life, and circumstances may alter previously made plans, one partner who’s always wanted to be a parent and one partner who’s lukewarm at best is not a happy mix, no matter how much you care for each other. I’m not saying some lukewarm partners don’t change and become terrific parents after a child arrives because some do. Maybe I’m just too sensitive in this area but “why do you want kids when our life is so great without them now” was the final dealbreaker for me in my previous marriage. If he’d been honest with me from the beginning I would have made a better decision and spared both of us and our family and friends the pain of the divorce.

    The teaching point for me now as my husband and I raise our children is to openly discuss potential differences in values inside a marriage as they grow closer to the age of looking for partners, just as we discuss and demonstrate other things we value like honesty and responsibility and doing your best at things. Trent talks about stewardship of their children as something important to both him and Sarah – it’s very clear that parenting his children as well as he can is a fundamental part of him as a person, and part of the reason he and Sarah married each other. Not sharing that value with your life partner is devastating. It doesn’t mean you have to have biological children yourselves as families are made lots of ways, but a partner who wants to parent and one who doesn’t can be really difficult.

  11. As a parent of 1 & 3 year old girls, this was a very interesting post.
    My better half and I deliberately decided to be parents, but we also have financial goals. We resolved to take the time to be financially prepared for our children prior to having them.

    Being “financially prepared” means different things to different people. For us, it meant being able to pay our house of if we chose to (we invest in dividend apying stocks and rental Real Estate instead… for now). And, being in a place in our careers that would provide the opportunity for us to live on one of our incomes, if necessary, and still reach our retirement and college savings goals.

    As someone who never wanted to have children until I met my wife, I have enjoyed both points to this discussion and look forward to future comments on this post.

  12. jackowick says:

    @a couple of people

    Is it me or do we all know a few couples where one person decided to get married thinking they could “change” the mind of the other on kids??? I know it’s a big question, and people can and do change, but the NEXT set of financial consequences of a half-wanted child and a divorce are devastating.

    And in some cases, yes, it was the woman who didn’t want the kids vs the man. There are a lot of gender stereotypes about parents, but for every loving mom and apathetic dad, there are plenty of loving dads with apathetic moms.

    Know your partner, talk freely and honestly, and you will always make the right decisions.

  13. jackowick says:

    @tyler First off all, I like your site. Thumbs up.

    “As someone who never wanted to have children until I met my wife, I have enjoyed both points to this discussion and look forward to future comments on this post.”

    I’m 100% with you and on “the other side”. I met my mate and was shocked to hear her say she never wanted to have kids. I thought it was a ploy, but it’s true. I looked at the other side of the coin of not having children and saw our alternative opportunities. I have a niece and nephew who provide me with plenty of fufillment in teaching and mentoring, and my girlfriend has some “adopted” kids from friends which also give her an outlet for the same, but at the end of the day, it’s just not something we want to do.

  14. Matt says:

    “Where is the upside? I don’t see what my incentive is for having children. How is this in my personal best interest?”

    The upside is having a tiny person who looks at you every day with love in their eyes, believes you’re the best mommy/daddy in the whole world, and is almost always willing to spend time with you. Granted, they become teenagers eventually and some of these will probably be reversed – at least verbally – but generally the views come back around later :) The upside is also knowing that you’re raising someone who will continue to add value to others’ lives in a way that you alone cannot.

    If that still doesn’t sound good to you… then it’s probably not a good idea to have children. Parenting is one of those things that shouldn’t be measured economically. If all you can think of are the costs, that’s not going to bode well for the kid(s).

  15. D says:

    If you only see a kid as a financial and time drain, probably not a good idea to have a kid right now. It is hard to even imagine how much a kid changes your life until you have one (it a good way too).

    My only comment was to laugh at the comment that her wife only wants a child “of evolutionary instinct” as if that is not a valid reason to have and want a child. We want to drink, eat, sleep, protect ourselves out of our silly evolutionary instincts. Usually these instints are there for a reason…

  16. valleycat1 says:

    This discussion is a waste of time.

    If you don’t want to have kids, then be honest about it with your partner. Don’t try to rationalize your position by going hyper-intellectual and invoking some global cost/benefit ratio senseless exercise. There’s really no rational bottom-line that will satisfactorily prove to you the pros outweigh the cons.

  17. Tracy says:

    +1 valleycat1

  18. Johanna says:

    On the flip side of what valleycat said: If you *do* want to have kids, just say so, and don’t try to rationalize your position with arguments about “striver genes,” candles in the wind, Idiocracy, etc. Because that’s not going to convince anybody either.

  19. Jonathan says:

    I would like to point out that the questions posed in the OP are not exclusive to someone who doesn’t want kids. I don’t know that the OP doesn’t want kids, as that wasn’t covered.

    It is very possible to want kids while at the same time analyzing parenthood from a practical ROI perspective. Some people may determine that the return on investment is simply not there, but they still want to have kids. As long as the person is honest with his/her spouse and self about priorities then I see no problem. It does seem, however, that some parents have an issue admitting that having kids made no sense from a financial, time, etc perspective, but they had them simply because they wanted to. I’m not suggesting that having kids never makes sense from a financial or time perspective, just that for people in situations where that is true I notice a problem with them being willing to admit it.

  20. Jonathan says:

    @valleycat1 (#16) – “This discussion is a waste of time.”

    I have to disagree. I do not believe that an open and honest discussion about any topic is a waste of time. There is always something that each of us can learn, either about others or ourselves, through such a discussion, as long as we are open to considering viewpoints that differ from our own.

  21. Adam P says:

    Well…at least Trent didn’t call us all Candles in the Wind this time around.

    +1 Valleycat, this discussion is meritless to me. Fiances should only have influence on the timing of when to start a family, not if you should have a family at all. Having children is not a financial benefits/negatives decision, or at least, it shouldn’t be.

    That said, my mother uses me as an ATM often enough…

  22. Tracy says:

    @Jonathan

    “I don’t know that the OP doesn’t want kids, as that wasn’t covered.”

    Um, did you read the same post everybody else did? The OP was very clear that they don’t want kids because they can see absolutely zero upside to having kids. Nobody says that they see zero upsides to doing something that they want to do – because if nothing else, there’s the upside of personal enjoyment.

  23. Baley says:

    @Roberta: I noticed the name Karen after I had written my answer, but change “him” to “her” and the answer is still the same. I couldn’t quite figure out what was going on there. Possibly there is a man named Karen, but I’m likewise okay with the lesbian couple scenario. :) Anyway, Karen still does not understand her/his wife and should still have a discussion.

    @Matt: Good answer!

  24. butterandjelly213 says:

    First, thanks to all who are responding with thoughtful, non-judgmental comments. This is an emotional topic for a lot of people so I’m pleased to see the level responses.

    @jackowick
    I found myself in a similar situation when I met my boyfriend. I’d been on the fence about having kids but kind of assumed it would happen. He already has two (awesome) kids and doesn’t want anymore. After a lot of thinking, I realized what you did: that you don’t have to have your own child to experience a lot of the benefits described by other posters. I have young family members, am involved with friends’ kids and help out with youth group at church. Is it the same? Of course not. Is it enough for me? I think so.

    To support valleycat’s point (echoed by others), the key is for both partners to be open and honest with each other. My bf brought this up on our second date and while I was taken aback, it was also refreshing. And I’d also say that that applies to a lot of things, not just the question of having kids. If something really, really matters to you (e.g. career/life aspirations), your partner needs to know about it.

  25. David says:

    One advantage of not having children, of course, is that if everyone did it there would shortly be an end to pointless discussions about whether or not to have children.

  26. Jonathan says:

    @Tracy (#22) – Technically the OP said, “where is the upside?”, not that she saw zero upside to having kids. Having said that, I take your point. I was giving her the benefit of the doubt since it wasn’t explicitly said that she did not want kids. There is a difference between not wanting something and not seeing the benefit. I can easily see where one could assume the OP does not want kids, however.

  27. Kristina says:

    I’m on the fence, but married to a man that very much want’s to have children. I see how easy my life would be without children, easily financially secure, easily travelling the world, easily staying fit and having the career I love.

    I would love to have children, but I don’t want to be the mother who gives up everything about herself to be a great mother. I want a challenging career, and I love to be fit and healthy and both will take time away from parenting. If it was socially more acceptable for a mother to do what MANY father’s do, if I was only expected to be a fantastic father – I’d love to be a parent. I’m afraid that I’m not thick skinned enough to be a parent and parent in a way that will work for me, and that social pressure will eventually beat me down to the stay-at-home mom whom I don’t want to be. My life would definitely be easier without having kids.

  28. Honey says:

    My husband and I don’t want kids for a variety of reasons. I have just never been able to relate to any parents’ endorsement of parenthood. It sounds expensive, frustrating, and I know parents who regret having had their children. In addition, while I think that he makes a wonderful husband, I don’t think we’d have similar enough values to raise a child together. I think it would end our marriage, which I’m not willing to risk.

  29. Kristine says:

    @#27 Kristina

    “and that social pressure will eventually beat me down to the stay-at-home mom whom I don’t want to be.”

    I think you’re putting a lot of pressure on yourself about what you think are society’s expectations of motherhood. I know many excellent mothers who have careers, are fit and healthy, etc. You don’t have to be a stay at home Mom to be a good parent, you just have to figure out what is important in raising your children and what is important in being yourself. And find a way to live than provides for both. Part of that is through partnership with your significant other – and making sure your expectations and theirs match for what you will do and what they will do. Part of that is rejecting what others think you ‘have’ to do to be a good parent/person and listening to yourself, your partner, your children and determining your own values.

  30. Jamie says:

    I think it’s very ironic that not having children is perceived as selfish.

    If we were not so terribly over-populated and draining our resources, I would probably deeply consider having my own children. As it is, I feel that I must make a personal sacrifice by not birthing children in order to balance out the parents that have more than 2 children.

    I may adopt some time in the near future, and, Karen, since you were bringing up children in a purely financial context, this is something that you and your wife might consider as well– Where I live, many foster parents are give a monthly stipend to help financially with the child. Although your wife would not experience pregnancy and childbirth, perhaps this sort of adoption would be a good compromise?

  31. Carole says:

    I think if someone needs an explanation about what’s so great about having children, then that person should probably not have children.

  32. jackie says:

    There is no financial paradox in the original email. Kids cost time and money. That’s where the financials end. Just like anything else, some people really really really want them even though they cost lots of money. Most of those people do not fool them self into believing the kids will help their finances. Just like anything else, this is a trade off. Do you want the experience of having kids enough to sacrifice the time and money. And do you want it enough to bring another person into the world to contribute good and bad to society/scarcity.

    Also a national duty to reproduce is absurd. The nation is overcrowded as it is. And as an educated, presumably middle class person, aren’t anymore likely to have “striver” kids. It only means you’ll raise middle class kids, who consume more resources than poor kids.

    Simply put. Wanting kids is totally natural, and an incredibly strong desire for a lot of people. But it is not a moral responsibility or a good financial choice any more than buying a new car is a moral responsibility or financial choice. It’s just a choice. A popular choice, yes.

  33. Liz says:

    #27: my husband and I waffled about having children, as he already has 2 from a previous marriage. And we were approaching “not”, when our opinion became irrelevant, as we are now expecting a child. But my husband is going to be the stay at home Dad, mostly because his work schedule can be flexible (he works in security — 24/7/365 someone has to be on duty). So he’ll be very part time (maybe just weekends, maybe just a couple of days a month) to meet his financial obligations to his older children, and I’ll be the working Mom. And sentence two out of our mouths when we told our parents was “And he’ll be staying home to take care of the baby.” To us, it simply is what it’s going to be, and his very traditional parents (seriously, I’m not a “good wife” because I have a committee meeting one night a month? drop dead parents in law) are not blinking an eye.
    Well, at least not blinking an eye around us. Who knows what they’re telling the rest of the family. Also, who cares? We’re doing what works for our family, and that’s all that matters to us when we’re making decisions about our family. Not what the Joneses think of us…

  34. getagrip says:

    There is no paradox. If you have children they will cost you. Just like having a car with more than one seat, a house with more than one room, a yard when you don’t grow your own food, or even any of those “wants” in the first place. It’s a choice of where you’re going to spend your money and if it’s of value to you.

    When I see someone like the questioner in the article going all analytical, it just tells me they’re likely either scared about the thought of having a child or really don’t want one and are using paralysis by analysis to delay making the decision. I can understand trying to do a pro/con game with a decision, especially if you aren’t sure of your feelings and are concerned with negative consequences. But eventually you have to recognize it isn’t as much a financial decision so much as a life choice decision. I went through a similar process when my spouse wanted to have kids I spent time delaying answering yes or no by looking at the money, insurance, etc. In the end I came to two conclusions:

    1. I never “didn’t” want kids, and did picture children in my life though it had always been at some “future” time.
    2. A big part of my reluctance came from the pressured urgency of my spouse who suddenly was on me about it all the time (not actually the case, but it felt that way).

    Recognizing that helped in my decision and let me relax a bit and determine more of what I wanted when. Best of luck with the decision.

  35. Jonathan says:

    “When I see someone like the questioner in the article going all analytical, it just tells me they’re likely either scared about the thought of having a child or really don’t want one and are using paralysis by analysis to delay making the decision.”

    Analyzing a decision in this way isn’t always an excuse. Some people really are that analytical and use such a process to make all decisions. In fact, it can be difficult to make a decision based on emotion alone, rather than going through the exercise of analyzing all possible benefits/negatives.

  36. Kai says:

    The only reason to have kids is because you can’t possibly imagine your live without having kids. Then you organize your life to make it possible.

    Any other possible reason is secondary, and if you don’t feel that overwhelming need to raise kids, then you shouldn’t do it – we’re not short on kids.

  37. jim says:

    +1 Valleycat1

  38. kristine says:

    This is a discussion that could only happen in a developed country. The only paradox I see is that the population growth is highest in the poorest nations, among those who can least afford children. Rampant war-rape, lack of family planning, high infant mortality, and relying on a large brood to care for you in old age (as labor is the only currency), create the paradox of many children where they can least be afforded.

    In a developed country- want kids- have em. Don’t want kids, don’t have em. We have the luxury of options, and when we have kids, we expect to see them grow to adulthood. We are lucky.

  39. Rap says:

    I think it’s very ironic that not having children is perceived as selfish

    Ironic also that the hurtful “its about love, if can’t concieve of loving someone more than yourself then don’t be a parent”… the unspoken commentary added is “because you’re a hateful monster”.

    Thats why not having children is “selfish”. If you have children, you point blank love more and are more giving than a non parent because you’ve had a child. It’s an automatic. You can abuse the kid, treat the kid like an object to be fought over in a war with the other parent….you can be a *monster* but you’ve had a *child* so you aren’t as selfish as someone who didn’t have a kid.

    Honestly, I don’t have strong feelings on children. I don’t have them because I don’t want them, thats my choice. But the smug assigment that I am selfsish for not having children, particularly when it comes from parents who in the same breath bemoan their parental committments (non parents out there, raise of hands, it happens a LOT, doesn’t it?) Particularly when a lot of these unselfish sorts with kids also cheerfully admit the babies were beloved accidents of their own immaturity.

  40. krantcents says:

    Having children should be more than a financial decision. Certainly, finances come into the decision, but it takes much more than money to bring up children right. That for me is the important issue.

  41. Kerry D. says:

    My three kids are now teens, and while one of the posters mentioned that they’d be close til they’re teens, I wanted to post a “yay” in favor of parenting teens! Surprise!

    Mine are 15 (ok, he’s a little mouthy these days, but still ready for a game of cards, helping build something, or a big hug…) My 17 year old daughter helps me teach dance classes to teens/adults with special needs (not an easy task, but rewarding). And my 20 year old is often the calm voice on a chaotic day; last night he cooked a birthday dinner for my husband while I was out teaching.

    They’re really lovely people to interact with, and we often don’t realize that those cute needy babies are going to grow up into very engaging adults. (Of course there were about a zillion hours of loving and teaching manners and thoughtfulness, but it wouldn’t take it they weren’t receptive.)

    The toughest thing I’ve ever done is parent, and the most rewarding experience I’ve ever had is being a parent.

  42. Kerry D. says:

    Oh, and I don’t think anyone is selfish who decides not to be a parent. It’s way too big an undertaking to do unless you really want to. I’d hope they use that zillion hours in some pursuit that is meaningful to them, as a number of my dear friends have been able to.

  43. elyn says:

    Karen says:
    “Children paradox: “Children cost lots of time and money, so maybe on an individual basis we have incentive not to have them. But in the aggregate, we need them (to sustain the species, economy, etc.)”

    I agree with others- how is this a paradox? All worthwhile investments cost lots of time and money. I wanted to become a therapist, so I went to grad school: lots of time, lots of money. I wanted my therapy practice to be successful: lots of time, lots of money went into that. I want my two children to have healthy, happy and satisfying lives: lots of time, lots of money goes into it. The thing all three of these things have in common are that they stem from my passion to invest time and money into them. If the passion isn’t there, it ain’t worth the investment, and that’s pretty much it. No paradox.

  44. Vanessa says:

    Many people don’t think that finances should be a factor in having children…unless that person is on welfare or otherwise poor. Then the claws come out.

  45. EngineerMom says:

    I think having kids isn’t just a monetary decision. I always wanted to have a family, including kids, whereas my sister is perfectly happy being a doting aunt only. Our financial decisions have therefore also been different, but only in the sense that our obligations are a bit different.

    I was surprised that Karen mentioned not understanding her wife’s desire for children. To me, the decision of whether or not to have children is something that should come up very early on in a couple’s dating relationship. It’s not something where you can “compromise” – either you have kids or you don’t.

  46. Julia says:

    Finances are definitely a factor in having children, but you can’t look at it like an investment the way the original writer did.

    It’s a factor in that, before having kids, one should make sure they are able to support those kids and give them a good life without spending more than they earn.

    If you look at it as “is my net worth more with kids or without”, the scenario without kids will always win.

    But if you run the numbers and find that your net worth will likely go negative after having kids or that you’ll be living month-to-month, or worse, after having kids than you should consider not have kids NOW. At that point, making financial improvements should be done before having kids.

    With or without kids, you have to able to spend less than you earn or earn more than you spend. That’s where finances are most definitely a factor.

  47. Rap says:

    Many people don’t think that finances should be a factor in having children…unless that person is on welfare or otherwise poor. Then the claws come out.

    Which is another point of irritation. Is it so unreasonable to expect people who want children to not ask for handouts to support their children?

    Oh right, the children are MY future too… but I am a *non-parent* so I best hesh my mouth and open my wallet. After all, the *parents* need something for their children and if I don’t cough up the cash, I’m yet again a monster. “It takes a village!” and all that.

    But let your rude little monster scream in my ear at a resteraunt? oh bless us, I’m no a PARENT, and I need to conform to the *parent’s* views because I am well, as a non parent, completely and utterly ignorant in all ways on any child related issue and must be silent, lest the *parents* be offended on behalf of their kids….

    But I better darn well help subsidize their kids… if someone has a child and can’t afford it, well, its a *child* so we certainly can’t judge a parent’s poor choices or ask where the money is going… see the point above on how non parents never have any valid opinions on children ever.

    Am I bitter? Yes, because I actually like kids, and I do believe they’re our future, and I do believe parents consistently expect me to condone their poor choices and assist them and I get the thankless task of being the one supporting the lifestyle they can’t afford. So yes, people who can’t afford children shouldn’t have them.

  48. jim says:

    Rap, You seem to be getting upset about stuff that nobody is actually saying.

  49. Kate says:

    My brother passed away at the age of 38 from cancer and even though he had a great career, LOTS of money in the bank and no debt, he would have given it all away just to have a few more months with his children.

    Witnessing his death made me realize that money is great but for me relationships are everything.

    That said, I wish more people would take the time to think IF and WHEN they want to become parents. It’s a life long job and once you head down that path you have to give it your all.

  50. Rap says:

    Jim, just venting. There are reasons why people mention things like “why do they have kids if they can’t afford them?”

    Its not always just a dig at the poor, its sometimes an honest question. This website is about frugality, in part anyway, and since we’ve apparently established that yes, children technically ony pay off in love to their parents, then what’s in it for me, a non parent, to have increased taxes so some couple who can’t actually afford children get subsidized by my tax dollars? Food stamps, welfare, Head Start…. I pay taxes, my tax money go to people who make bad financial choices all the time. But, while my dollars are certainly accepted (and expected), my input is not. Only *parents* can raise children or voice opinions… a couple on welfare with five kids living off my taxes has every right, in this society, to spurn any and all child rearing advice from a non parent because well… they birthed kids. They cant afford the kids, they expect handouts because they have kids… but no one can say a word to them.

  51. prodgod says:

    Then there are those of us who carefully, willfully and gleefully became parents with the best of intentions “to teach and mold someone to be a good/smart/kind/productive person,” only to later discover we had made a terrible mistake. It’s frustrating to think you’re doing all the right things and leading by good example, only to have them grow into selfish, unhappy, ungrateful people, while other parents around us (who are indifferent at best to their accidental offspring) wind up having gifted and engaged children (despite their upbringing). Not to say we don’t love our children deeply; we’d just rather be their aunt/uncle. I must admit, the first 10 years were pretty wonderful and we couldn’t imagine our lives without our kids around. Now, we OFTEN imagine our lives without our kids around (which, in this economy, probably won’t happen any time soon). And of course, since children are the products of their parents, we accept full responsibility for how they turned out; obviously, we’re at fault somewhere along the line. We raised them with manners, regardless of the fact they don’t use them (society points the finger squarely at parents for the bad behavior of children, whether justly or not).

    I want to emphasize that we love our kids as much as any parent, but children aren’t always as rewarding as they’re made out to be.

  52. Julia says:

    @prodgod,
    I greatly appreciate your honesty.

  53. kristine says:

    prodgod- you’ve got guts, and the rare gift of honest self-evaluation. Hopefully it can rub off!

    Rap-
    “So yes, people who can’t afford children shouldn’t have them.” Unless you live in Miss, then you’d better live an entirely celibate life, and forgo the one free form of joy and connection any human being can enjoy, the cement of marriage, for fear of not having any say in the matter whatsoever. If things get very constrained, then the question will be- people who can’t afford to have a child should never have sex. Completely unrealistic, delusional thinking. But it seems to be going that way.

    I agree that if you hands down have no way to support a child, you should not plan to have one, or be reproductively reckless. But accidents happen, and I was raised to believe that we are all our brother’s keeper, especially where helpless children are concerned. They did not ask to be born, and I cannot look the other way if they go hungry. And stigmatizing an impoverished mother, one the child is born, does not help the child.

  54. Wes says:

    Prodgod makes good points, but I don’t think that outcome necessarily means you’ve made “a terrible mistake” by having children. The fact of the matter is that children are not lumps of clay. Parents will certainly have a great deal of influence, but children, especially by the time the become teens/adults, are the products of their own free will. If you feel like you did everything right, then you have nothing to regret because there is no way you could have known before the fact how your children would choose to turn out.

    Again, though, I want to emphasize that upbringing has a big influence on a kid. It’s just not the determinative factor of who they become. “You can lead a horse to water…”

  55. m says:

    Interesting post and comments.

  56. Tom says:

    I pay taxes, my tax money go to people who make bad financial choices all the time.
    Hey who said anything about Congress?

    When my wife and I started talking about having children, it never dawned on me that the financial equation would always tip in favor of no kids and I thought we’d never afford it. I distinctly remember a co-worker saying “you can’t worry about the money,” and I thought “That is a dangerous over-simplification,” but it is kind of true in this way: If you want to have kids, you should choose to have them when you believe you can reasonably afford the added expenses, with the understanding that it’s likely never going to be “profitable” compared to not having children. That’s where the intangible factors come in.

  57. Geoff Hart says:

    Children are not “an experience”, and they’re not something you should consider purely with cold “calculus”. Having a child is also not a 6-year commitment until you get them into the school system and can then abandon them. Children are for life — yours and theirs — and if you’re not willing to make that commitment, don’t even think of having them.

    The only reason to have children is because you believe with all your heart and soul that you will cherish every moment you spend with them for as long as you both shall live. If you’re not willing to try to honor that commitment, to do it with all of your heart, and to try your darnedest to love every moment of the long and difficult journey, don’t even think about having children. The number of children who are unloved, neglected, resented, and abused because some idjit thought that it would be a fun lark or some kind of social responsibility defies imagination. It’s possibly the greates tragedy of our time. Ask any teacher or social worker; you’ll get an earful.

    Needless to say, you also have to be logical, particularly about the finances. Kids bring all the burdens Karen describes, and many more. On the whole, it’s worth it — I’m a much better and wiser man than I would have been without my two kids — but let me tell you, I’ve earned my grey hairs honestly. Would I do it again? Depends on the day of the week. *G*

  58. Johanna says:

    Rap, how do you know that the children whose behavior you’re criticizing are the same ones you’re supporting with your tax money?

  59. Rap says:

    Johanna – sad to say, I have family members and friends who choose to have children that they can’t afford. A cousin, who is unemployed and his wife, who is on disability, decided that it wasn’t “fair” to raise their young son as an only child and intentionally chose to get pregnant with a second, and then had what they refer to as a cheerful accident for the third child. They get food stamps, wic, head start programs, and complain incessently if the programs are tweaked not in their favor. They have a whole circle of idiot friends who have done the same thing or better, think walking away from mortgages etc, and continue to have childrren. And yes, the kids are badly behaved and if I am at a function with them, I am not allowed to correct them or discipline because I am not a parent so I don’t understand how kids are in the slightest, and I have no rights. Heck, I was in the grocery line this saturday, the mom ahead of me was paying with food stamps, and her four or five year old pointed at me and said “you’re a fat slob hee hee hee”. Because I have NO RIGHTS, I waited for the mom to say something, and she didn’t, so I said “don’t they teach you not to namecall in school, son?” (Ie I didn’t grab the kid and put him over my knee, I might be a non parent but I can still not believe in spanking) and the mom tore me a new one for speaking to her child and attempting to discipline her child, so yeah, some of the rude brats in this world being supported by my tax dollars.

    *and some children are utterly delightful, and some parents do discipline, please don’t get me wrong, but the reality is that if I can’t afford a mercedes, people would tell me to lie in the bed I made if I went into debt for one, complete with Trent’s “Rap was just trying to impress neighbors with items!” spiel… but if I have a few kids, despite knowing I can’t afford to feed and clothe them, no one would say boo because well, children are different and I have a right to have as many as I please complete with an expectation that someone will take care of them.

  60. Katie says:

    Heck, I was in the grocery line this saturday, the mom ahead of me was paying with food stamps, and her four or five year old pointed at me and said “you’re a fat slob hee hee hee”. Because I have NO RIGHTS, I waited for the mom to say something, and she didn’t, so I said “don’t they teach you not to namecall in school, son?” (Ie I didn’t grab the kid and put him over my knee, I might be a non parent but I can still not believe in spanking) and the mom tore me a new one for speaking to her child and attempting to discipline her child, so yeah, some of the rude brats in this world being supported by my tax dollars.

    Yes, this sounds like something that has actually happened in the world, completely.

  61. Johanna says:

    “Ie I didn’t grab the kid and put him over my knee, I might be a non parent but I can still not believe in spanking”

    You mean you didn’t physically assault a stranger’s child in public? What a model of restraint you are! What do you want, a cookie?

  62. Rap says:

    I know, I know, because parents never over react, right? I mean, her kid said something rude about my size (and Katie, its my own fault for being fat I know, but yes, small children can and do say rude things to fat people) and I corrected the kid verbally, and got yelled at because well, verbal correction of a child in a public place is wrong, and when I point out I did nothing excessive, Johanna, you feel free to deride me for it. I suppose the correct answer here is to do nothibng since yup, not a parent and I have no right to expect a parent to force their kid to be polite in public.

    PS – I believe you *asked* for examples, Johanna, so now expain why you needed to know if I actually knew anyone recieving benefits for their kids they can’t afford.

  63. Johanna says:

    I agree that it’s inappropriate for anyone of any age to make rude comments about someone else’s body. But the fact that you didn’t hit a child who made a rude comment doesn’t get you any brownie points, and I’m kind of horrified and perplexed that you think it does.

    And please quit it with the over-the-top rhetoric about “rights.” You have the right to express your opinion about anyone else’s parenting. And they have the right to tell you to get bent. That’s how freedom of speech works – it goes both ways.

  64. Wes says:

    I hate to step in, but I think it’s pretty obvious that Rap wasn’t trying to get “brownie points” or “cookies” by pointing out that he didn’t spank a child. It was to emphasize the point that the mother overreacted to his attempt to introduce the child to the concept that you can’t say whatever you want in polite society (that is, her reaction would have been more appropriate if he had spanked the child). Further, perhaps he is suggesting that her reaction says more about the state of parenthood than it does about his super-human, baked-goods warranting ability not to hit a child.

    Speaking of polite society, let’s try to keep the discussions civil. There’s no need for caustic language or twisting someone else’s words. Perhaps all of our parents could have done better at teaching us how to debate like ladies and gentlemen.

  65. Baley says:

    +1 to Wes. Exactly.

  66. Katie says:

    I don’t know, I always find it odd that there’s this huge amount of judgment surrounding civility in tone, but actual human compassion to people who may be in an intolerable economic situation for any one of a zillion reasons is totally disfavored.

  67. Johanna says:

    “that is, her reaction would have been more appropriate if he had spanked the child”

    I don’t know. If a stranger were to physically assault your child, wouldn’t the appropriate reaction be to call the police?

  68. Wes says:

    Technically, yes, the best reaction would be to call the police. But that doesn’t mean that her actual reaction, as told by Rap, would not have been more appropriate if he had spanked the child.

    But more to the point of what I was saying, Johanna, your response to Rap’s and mine comments do not really address what we’re saying. You are bringing up red herrings beside the point. If you want to constructively engage us in debate, then respond to the substance of our arguments rather than technicalities or semantic twists of the specific words we use.

  69. Johanna says:

    Wes, we don’t really know how the mother reacted. All Rap says is that she “tore [him] a new one,” but that could mean just about anything – especially since Rap seems to think that he should be able to say whatever he wants about other people’s parenting, but if *they* say anything back to *him*, they’re taking away his “rights.” It doesn’t work like that. That’s the point.

  70. kristine says:

    Heres’ the thing, plenty of people have kids, then go broke. I am sure that of the families that went bankrupt, they did not all start out on welfare. It is the same optimism that lead people to buy houses they now cannot afford: assuming increasing incomes as the decades go by, as was standard assumption since WW2 until lately, and it did not pan out. Not every couple could read the future headlines of rampant unemployment and skyrocketing medical costs, and thought it reasonable that they could assume the costs.

    As to poorly behaved children- I teach the 1%, and find behavior to be independent of economic status. The top tier has more resources to outsource any parenting shortfalls- but paying one’s own way does not automatically make one a better parent. But it can compensate nicely.

  71. Johanna says:

    (To be clear: The mother in Rap’s story may have been out of line. Whether she was or wasn’t, it doesn’t change the fact that I think Rap’s attitude is problematic.)

  72. Wes says:

    If that’s the point, then say that. Don’t twist someone’s words to suggest that they believe not hitting a child makes them special, and then go on to say you are “horrified” and “perplexed” that they believe this, in some kind of attempt to vilify someone you don’t agree with.

    And we don’t need to know exactly how the mother reacted. The point is that she overreacted (by behaving as if he had spanked the child), and that overreaction is an anecdotal illustration of Rap’s argument: society wants his money to take care of other people’s children, but society will not allow him to suggest how children should be raised. In short, we say “give us your money so we can raise children, but keep your child-rearing opinions to yourself.” If you’re on the taxpaying side of the equation, it’s kind of a sour deal, and I can see why Rap would be frustrated. While the specific rights he speaks of may not be enshrined in the Constitution, I think we can all agree that people have a justified sense of entitlement to have their money be spent in a way they see fit. And I know we have a political process for that, but that doesn’t make it any less frustrating when things don’t work out as you would have wanted them to.

  73. Katie says:

    Society allows him to say how children will be raised; society doesn’t require random people in the grocery store to take his advice. I’m sorry that paying taxes doesn’t entitle you to dictate every facet of how strangers live their lives, but that’s just the way it goes.

    Other people who won’t do exactly what you tell them just because your status as a taxpayer means you’re in some sense funding them: police officers, judges, school teacher, soldiers, and people who drive on publicly funded highways. It’s a hardship, I know, but by paying taxes you are not actually buying the right to run the lives of other human beings.

  74. Wes says:

    Ok Katie, but now we’re just making the same argument from different angles. Rap is frustrated because he gets a bad deal. I’ve acknowledged that sometimes that’s just how it is, and so have you. The point is that Rap, and others like him, do not owe it to the recipients of welfare to adjust their attitudes about the arrangement. And who knows, maybe by voicing his opinion enough, he and some like-minded voters can actually change the way it works.

  75. Riki says:

    Katie – AMEN! But so many people have that attitude.

    Funny how it’s correlated to people who also associate paying tax with having their “hard-earned money stolen” to pay for, oh, lazy fat people who refuse to work and would rather pump out fatherless children at every opportunity.

  76. Katie says:

    Nobody has said he’s not entitled to voice his opinion, Wes. What we’ve said is that, if he thinks his “rights” have been violated, he’s incorrect.

    In addition, we are entitled to disagree with his opinion.

  77. Johanna says:

    “he and some like-minded voters can actually change the way it works.”

    In what way? In order to qualify for food stamps, you should have to prove that your children have never insulted any strangers in the grocery store?

  78. Katie says:

    Johanna, I imagine they’d settle for just requiring anyone on food stamps to kneel and grovel Game of Thrones-style if anyone ever corrects them or expresses an opinion on their life. That seems totally reasonable.

    You’d have to set up some sort of system to make sure that the level of grovelling corresponded with the amount of taxes the corrector pays, but I’m sure a carefully-constructed set of sumptuary laws would take care of that problem.

  79. Wes says:

    Katie and Johana, there you go again with missing the substance of the argument.

    Katie: I did not say you thought he was not entitled to voice his opinion (but notice how you chose to frame my argument as such). My point is that you disagree with his attitude, but I think it’s a fair one to take. And of course you are entitled to disagree. But the point of the discussion isn’t necessarily to establish who has what rights and entitlements, but to try to understand each others’ points of view, and maybe persuade someone that your position is a good one to take.

    Johana: now you’re just swinging blind. There are any number of ways to change welfare. Some oversight on how parents raise their children could be one of them.

  80. Riki says:

    Here’s what I don’t get — tax money pays for a LOT of things. Roads. Hospitals. Public transport. Schools. Pollution control. Arts programs. Police and fire departments. More! Things that you, and I , and everybody else take advantage of every single day. No one person could make these things on their own, so we pay for it together through taxes. That’s one of the reasons we (humans) evolved to live in communities — the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

    So why the focus on the portion of our tax dollars that go towards supporting the less fortunate through social programs? Sure, some of my tax dollars pay for health care for homeless people or towards welfare for single mothers (I’m Canadian). But those tax dollars also pay for MY health care when I need it. And my own Employment Insurance if I were to lose my job. And the roads that I drive on and the fire department if I need it and a million other examples too numerous to list.

    But nope, there are lots of people who forget about that side of paying taxes. They just want to keep money out of the hands of the undeserving.

  81. Katie says:

    Wes, when you start out saying you don’t have any rights because people aren’t taking your unsolicited advice you are, in fact, bringing the question of “rights” into it. Granted, it is an uncontroversial fact that you don’t have the right to have someone else take your unsolicited opinion, but the phrasing implies that you (general you) believe you should have that right.

  82. Johanna says:

    “Funny how it’s correlated to people who also associate paying tax with having their “hard-earned money stolen” to pay for, oh, lazy fat people who refuse to work and would rather pump out fatherless children at every opportunity.”

    It’s also correlated, it seems to me, with the view that we should have “small government” that doesn’t meddle in “our” lives – as long as “we” aren’t poor, Black or Hispanic, fat, or female.

  83. Tracy says:

    @Rap

    You do have the right to voice an opinion. What you DON’T have the right is for your opinion to override somebody else’s opinion, which is what you seem to want.

    You don’t want a position of equality, you want a position of superiority and no, you don’t have that right. You don’t get to be BETTER than somebody just because they happen to be on welfare or food stamps or be a parent whose decisions you don’t approve of.

    In your grocery store example you DID voice your opinion and you weren’t arrested. You just didn’t have the right to change somebody else’s behavior.

    Now, based on your account, I think the kid’s behavior sounded bad and the parent’s reaction worse. I wasn’t there, so I don’t know – for all I know, her ‘tore you a new one’ was a cold ‘Please don’t speak to my child, I don’t appreciate it.’

    But their behavior wasn’t bad *because* they were using food stamps and the whole rhetoric of ‘my taxes pay for your lifestyle, so I should get to choose your behaviors’ is just ugly.

    Your taxes also pay for roads and you also don’t have the right to tell other people when and where they can’t drive, or if they aren’t allowed to drive one mile below the speed limit, or do anything else on the road that’s not illegal. But nobody seems to call for policing those rights with the same vehemence and negativity.

    And I’ll tell you something, because you asked in comment #39. -I’m a non-parent and I have never, ever, once been told I’m selfish for not being a parent. Not by relatives with children, friends with children or coworkers with children. It doesn’t only not happen “a lot” as you suggest, it has never, ever once happened to me.

  84. Riki says:

    Tracy, I love it when you come along and say exactly what I’m thinking but can’t express.

    Bing.

  85. Johanna says:

    “There are any number of ways to change welfare. Some oversight on how parents raise their children could be one of them.”

    It could be, I guess, but why in the world should it? There are good parents and bad parents who are on welfare (we were actually talking about food stamps, but you seem to want to make it about welfare, so I’ll go with that). And there are good parents and bad parents who aren’t on welfare. Why should only the ones on welfare – good parents and bad parents alike – be subject to “oversight” on how they raise their children?

  86. Tracy says:

    @74 Wes

    Wait, what exactly IS the “bad deal” that Rap is getting?

    I mean, you say “While the specific rights he speaks of may not be enshrined in the Constitution, I think we can all agree that people have a justified sense of entitlement to have their money be spent in a way they see fit.”

    Well, Rap can spend his/her money as s/he feels fit.

    But once that money has been collected as taxes, it is NO LONGER Rap’s money.

    Which doesn’t mean that Rap isn’t allowed a voice in how it is spent (both in vote format and in community or political involvement) but no, s/he is not *entitled* to say how it is spent. That’s why when you fill out your taxes at the end of the year, there isn’t the option to designate how much goes to what part of government.

  87. Wes says:

    Tracey: Straw man.

    Look back at what I posted. I clearly state that there is no hard and fast right to determine how your tax dollars are spent. I did say that people feel they have a justifiable entitlement to do so, but note how I prefaced that word “entitlement” with “sense of.” I completely agree with your last paragraph, but this is another case of making the same argument from different angles. I don’t see why when I say “X, not Y,” you feel the need to respond with “nope, it’s not Y, but X.”

    In short: choosing how your tax money is spent is not a literal right in the legal or democratic sense. It is a right in the common sense sense, in that “I earned the money and I should have a say.” But this second characterization of the right is only “enforceable” via the democratic process or community involvement. But you still might not get what you want. But the fact that you don’t get what you want doesn’t mean you are wrong to want it, wrong to voice that opinion, wrong to be frustrated about the arrangement, or are in some need of an attitude adjustment. And I thought it was pretty obvious, but Rap’s sour deal is that he is unfortunately in the catagory of people whose opinion of the way things should be is not what society has adopted, but that society believes he should fund the contrary arrangement anyway.

    Since we’re all arguing in circles, I will graciously bow out. While there still seems to be some confusion about why we shouldn’t be upset with people who don’t like how welfare for parents works, I am at least glad to see that we were able to tone down the vitriol.

  88. Rap says:

    The mother told me to mind my own damn business and that her kid had every right to call a spade a spade and a fat tub o’lard a fat tub o’lard.

    Because I told the kid “didn’t they teach you not to name call in school”.

    Why is it ok to have children you can’t afford and accept government aid for them… but someone who buys too much car, is an idiot who can’t manage money? That’s what I am asking. Johanna asked me to provide real life examples (suggesting, in my opinion that I was lying) and when provided with examples – my cousin who intentionally had children he knew he couldn’t support who accepts aid, and the nice woman in the check out line using food stamps and telling me off for correcting her kid, now its all about how my attitude towards the poor needs to be adjusted….

    Does anyone want to answer why we are not to judge parents for having children they can’t afford.. but any other purchase is fair game?

  89. Rap says:

    Wes, and yes, I mentioned not spanking the child because in discussions about children, the first accusation that comes up is that the person dealing with the child *may have struck/inappropriately touched/physically disciplined* the child.

  90. Johanna says:

    “Why is it ok to have children you can’t afford and accept government aid for them… but someone who buys too much car, is an idiot who can’t manage money?”

    Because children, unlike cars, are human beings whose thoughts, feelings, and futures matter. They didn’t choose to be born to people who, in your words, can’t afford them, and they deserve to be guaranteed some minimum standard of living, no matter what situation their parents find themselves in.

  91. Tracy says:

    It’ wasn’t a straw man. You said “justified sense of entitlement” – IE, that they have a legitimate reason to feel entitled.

    Now, perhaps you mistyped and didn’t mean to include the word justified (which is superior to sense of,) which I’ll accept.

    I don’t agree that it’s a sour deal to have a small percentage of your taxes spent on something you don’t fully support, as long as you continue to have a voice in changing it – it’d only be a sour deal if you don’t have a voice. The critical thing *is* the voice, not necessarily ‘getting your way.’

    And you are right in what you said earlier that by exercising that voice, s/he may be able to change things (although in this case of welfare benefits being tied to ‘acceptable’ kid behavior – I’d obviously work to counteract that with my own voice.)

  92. Steve says:

    I agree with those commenters who said that having a child is not a financial decision. Having kids costs money. How much it costs is debated, but nobody argues that it’s free. It’s similar to any other purchase above the bare minimum to sustain life: you are exchanging money for some form of happiness. Kids provide a lot of happiness and/or fulfillment to many of us. But some people don’t feel that way. There’s nothing wrong with that and they should listen to their own hearts. Don’t let anyone tell you differently – it’s a fundamentally personal decision. There’s no way to return a child if you decide it’s not for you.

  93. Tracy says:

    “Why is it ok to have children you can’t afford and accept government aid for them… but someone who buys too much car, is an idiot who can’t manage money? That’s what I am asking.”

    You’re actually allowed to judge them all you want! You’re judging them right now! Judging, however, doesn’t mean that you have the right to:

    1) demand that they parent in the way that you, personally, see fit
    2) pretend the situation isn’t far more complicated than ‘why is it ok to have children you can’t afford and accept government aid’* and
    3) express that judgement in any circumstances *without being called on it or disagreed with*

    Second, what Johanna said about the fact that the actual *children* deserve a enough food to eat, a safe place to live, and the stability to get an education.

    Plus, you have framed the conversation in terms of how it’s not fair that you have to pay for kids whose behavior you don’t approve of – people are disagreeing that with the ‘fairness’ aspect of it, just like they would disagree if you said it’s fair that you tell somebody who is driving a too-much car on a highway that you have to pay for. Even if the fact that they drive just for fun, because they love their over-priced, ill-afforded car was causing you to have to pay more money in road upkeep.

    I will say it again. You are entitled to have an opinion. You are not entitled to have that opinion be considered sacrosanct.

    You want us to sympathize with the fact that some kid was rude and the mom was a jerk. Fine. Nobody is saying you are lying about that! YOU STILL DON’T HAVE THE RIGHT TO TELL HER WHAT TO DO JUST BECAUSE SHE IS ON FOOD STAMPS.

  94. Tracy says:

    I want to clarify in my #92 that I’m *only* speaking of taxes – not about actual rights that may be infringed up.

  95. HW says:

    Children cost money, time, and effort. But, the immense rewards/dividends are things money cannot buy. Deciding to become a parent is a decision to think and care about someone else ahead of yourself, to live for others. It’s not something you can think about or do from a purely financial standpoint.

  96. Rap says:

    Because children, unlike cars, are human beings whose thoughts, feelings, and futures matter. They didn’t choose to be born to people who, in your words, can’t afford them, and they deserve to be guaranteed some minimum standard of living, no matter what situation their parents find themselves in.

    But that in no way answers my question – why is someone who chooses to buy something they can’t afford judged as a spendthrift, but someone who chooses to have children they can’t afford not subject to the same?

    Children ARE different, because its a much bigger responsibility than buying a car. Parents who bring children into the world knowing they can’t afford all the responsibilities – the food, the education, the shelter, are inherently more irresponsible with their money than some idiot who buys a Mercedes to impress his neighbors because the Mercedes ultimately can’t starve… and kids can. In my opinion, thats much worse.

    But because its not the kids fault, and because we can’t stop the parents from making this particular bad financial choice, those of us who are responsible have to help out. Its that whole “it takes a village” thing. Except that, the people who need the help aren’t required to change the behavior that got them there. Even tho, as parents, if they’re accepting government aid, they’re proving by that action that they as parents are not supporting their children, they’re “hands off” because they’re parents. As a member of society, it takes a village and my money is welcome, but thats all I am – a wallet.

  97. valleycat1 says:

    Rap – According to cleveland dot com, 1/4 of one cent of each dollar you pay IRS goes toward WIC, as of early April 2011. From an online search for where your tax dollar goes.

  98. Johanna says:

    Rap, as Tracy said, you’re welcome to judge people in whatever way you want. But if you’re asking why we, as a society, have decided that people are entitled to financial help in raising their children but not in paying for their cars, the answer is that children are human beings and cars aren’t. If somebody buys a car that it turns out he can’t afford, he can sell it. Or it can be repossessed. Or if he can’t afford the maintenance, he can put it in his back yard and let it rust. You really can’t do the same things with children. You can take them away from their parents and put them in foster care, but (1) that doesn’t save the taxpayers any money, and (2) if the parents’ home is otherwise stable and loving, just financially strapped, it doesn’t do the children any good, and just causes everyone involved a lot of grief.

  99. Tracy says:

    ” Except that, the people who need the help aren’t required to change the behavior that got them there. Even tho, as parents, if they’re accepting government aid, they’re proving by that action that they as parents are not supporting their children, they’re “hands off” because they’re parents”

    This doesn’t even make any sense. Being ‘a parent’ is NOT some sort of protected class like you keep claiming it is. It’s not due to their status as ‘a parent’ that they’re ‘not required’ to ‘change their ways’ – that’s just flat out wrong.

    Also, the ‘it takes a village’ thing you keep saying isn’t meant to be taken the way you keep saying it. It’s not about financial support – it’s about emotional support, relationships, etc. It’s pretty much the exact opposite of what you’re saying, which is a cold, hands-off, financial support only.

    Lastly, a parent is laid-off from work due to extreme downsizing. What behavior(s) do you expect him/her to change in order to qualify for food stamps?

  100. Johanna says:

    And as for being “just a wallet” – what would you like to be, instead? If you want to contribute something other than money toward raising the next generation, there are ways you can do that. If you don’t want to (or can’t) have your own children, maybe you can be an adoptive or foster parent. Or volunteer for a program like Big Brothers Big Sisters, or lead a scout troop or other youth organization, or whatever.

    If you just want to berate parents you don’t think are doing a good job, you’re welcome to do that too, but it’s not actually very productive, as far as helping the kids is concerned.

  101. Rap says:

    It’s not about financial support – it’s about emotional support, relationships, etc. It’s pretty much the exact opposite of what you’re saying, which is a cold, hands-off, financial support only.

    You’re making my point. If I want to participate or have a say, or hey, correct a child in a public place, that is me reaching out to help. But time and again, parents get *irrate* over a non parent assuming any sort of teaching role is pushed aside. Back in the day, a parent used to thank someone for correcting their child’s misbehavior…. I honestly thought the mom in my incident was too busy dealing with the cashier to notice and would appreciate having it brought to her attention that her kid was being rude. I’m generally not one to overreact to “you’re fat!” from a kid, I only said something because if it isn’t corrected, kids keep doing it, and not everyone controls their temper as well I do. And I got yelled at for abrogating parental rights.

    Tracy – being a parent IS a protected class as you define it. IF someone has a kid, if they fail to provide for that kid, our society will provide and the *parent* is not to be in any way judged or chastised for their failure. Lastly, the one expectation I have of parents who are reduced to using feed stamps to feed their children is for the parents to make the decision to not to continue to have MORE children.

    The Mercedes doesn’t get hurt if it ends up repo’d. A child born into a family that knew going into a pregnancy that they couldn’t afford the child does get hurt and grows up with multiple strikes against him or her.

    Johanna – if I am not just a wallet, then I expect my input at school board meetings to not be sniffed at with derision because “people without kids can’t understand”. I’m putting money into the system. Btw why did you need to know if I personally knew anyone who chose to have kids they coudn’t afford? What do you think about my cousin who had a second kid, with no money coming in, because it was important for the first kid to not be an only child, and to heck with the bills?

  102. Tracy says:

    I’m not making your point. I’m correcting your misuse of the phrase, because you keep using ‘it takes a village’ to be the reason why society expects you to contribute financially as ‘just a wallet’.

    Also, no, you’re not allowed to FORCE yourself into the roll of disciplinarian, teacher, etc. If that’s something you desire, it’s your responsibility to negotiate that relationship and it’s boundaries with the parents (or the organization you’re participating in.) You don’t just go in and start doing it without making sure the parents are comfortable.

    “Tracy – being a parent IS a protected class as you define it. IF someone has a kid, if they fail to provide for that kid, our society will provide and the *parent* is not to be in any way judged or chastised for their failure.”

    Um, that’s not true. Parents ARE judged and chastised. In some states, they have the children taken away from them if they have trouble paying utilities, for example. CPC is FAR more likely to take away the child of someone of a lower socio-economic status than they are of a higher one – even if the child of the wealthy family is being abused and the child of the poor family is not.

    If that is not being judged or chastised, I don’t know what it is.

    “Lastly, the one expectation I have of parents who are reduced to using feed stamps to feed their children is for the parents to make the decision to not to continue to have MORE children.”

    That’s totally your right to wish that. It doesn’t make sense to make it an expectation, though, since it’s not a requirement of the food stamp.

    And imo, it shouldn’t be, because we are already dealing with systemic poverty and exploitation of the poor and denying somebody family because of their economic status (even while our country is built on their exploitation) is pretty wretched.

  103. Tracy says:

    Also, “then I expect my input at school board meetings to not be sniffed at with derision because “people without kids can’t understand”.”

    Well, have you considered that they could be correct in that instance? That they’re not saying it to dismiss you because you’re a non-parent but because you are legitimately wrong on the issue because of your lack of experience with parenting and refusing to listen?

  104. Tracy says:

    Oh, related to that – if you really DO want to make a difference (in pretty much anything) and be involved as more than ‘just a wallet’ in things like a school board meeting, you don’t go in and start by giving your input.

    You start by going in and saying ‘how can I help?’ and listening and helping *in the way they request*. You start with building a relationship and trust – once you have good will and faith, your input will be more likely to be respected and listened to – even though you’ll probably still get some things wrong, because that’s the nature of the world.

  105. Rap says:

    Tracy – If I am incorrect in a school board meeting, I expect that the reason that I am incorrect is explained with more than “but Rap doesn’t have kids so he doesn’t get it”. If I am legitametely wrong on something, I expect to hear why, and not a lecture on how I can’t understand because I am not a parent.

    The very fact that I have to first make sure that the parents are comfortable is why “it takes a village” is nonsense in this modern time. If it really takes a village, *really*, then it shouldn’t matter. Now obviously we don’t live in a utopia, but you’re making a very firm line in the sand here – a PARENT comes first, no matter how well they provide and the village needs to first appease the parent and make the parent is comfortable… the village may be supporting the parent and child but the parent – who may or may not be fulfilling their obligations as parent – can at all times cut the village out of the loop but still get special priveledges from the village by dint of having a child.

    Frankly I am well aware that parents who continue to breed after making it clear that they can’t support the children that they have, and I can’t stop them from continuing to have more children they can’t afford and whose lives they blight… but you’ll forgive me if I don’t applaud them for their irresponsibility. And if you don’t forgive me, then I encourage you to explain how you reach out and do more to help those extra kids whose parents can’t afford them… I have a good feeling you’re not throwing every extra dime to people with children they can’t afford.

  106. Tracy says:

    If they said “Rap isn’t a parent, he doesn’t get it” you didn’t receive a ‘lecture on how you can’t understand’ – you received a dismissal of your input. Which is well within their rights because the job of the school board is NOT to explain to you why you’re wrong, but it’s to conduct the business of the school board. Their job isn’t to educate you, it’s to educate the children.

    “you’re making a very firm line in the sand here – a PARENT comes first, no matter how well they provide and the village needs to first appease the parent and make the parent is comfortable”

    When it comes to *parenting their own children* yes, they come first. I have no idea why you think you should have some sort of special rights to teach/discipline somebody else’s child. Newsflash: their rights also supersede the rights of parents of other children. That has NOTHING to do with ‘it takes a village’! Again, you are misusing the phrase.

    “arent – who may or may not be fulfilling their obligations as parent – can at all times cut the village out of the loop but still get special priveledges from the village”

    *sigh*

    1) Food stamps? NOT a special privilege
    2) Welfare? NOT a special privilege
    3) The ability to tell you when/where/how you can interact with their child? NOT a privilege but in fact a *responsiblity* of the parent, because it’s part of their job to protect their child.

    Or maybe I should say it like this – YOU are not he village. Cutting you out of the child’s life is not cutting the village out of the child’s life – it’s cutting YOU out. You, the individual.

    And I really don’t care if you applaud them for their actions or not. But I have no clue why you included ” then I encourage you to explain how you reach out and do more to help those extra kids whose parents can’t afford them… I have a good feeling you’re not throwing every extra dime to people with children they can’t afford.”

    You don’t have a ‘good feeling’ – you have absolutely no idea how I spend my time, energy or money. You have no idea because I haven’t mentioned them. I haven’t mentioned them because they are 100% *irrelevant* to this discussion, which is not about charity in the slightest.

    If that’s the kind of input you give at a school board I’m honestly not surprised your input is dismissed as not germane to the discussion.

  107. Johanna says:

    Tracy, you have so much more patience than I do.

  108. Tracy says:

    Haha, I have said the exact same thing to myself about you on different discussions!

  109. Riki says:

    I’m prety sure you both deserve some sort of award.

  110. Rap says:

    Ah, its so amusing to see the two of you high five each other.

    Tracy – Food stamps and welfare are indeed special priveledges. In a world where people get what they earn, people who don’t earn don’t get handouts. In our society, we’ve decided to help those who may be down on their luck or yes, who make bad choices. They are raised up to a minimal standard of living that they have not earned, and they are not required to pay the funds invested in their upkeep back.

    Yes, thats a priveledge. Ask anyone who lives in a country where the government doesn’t provide for the poor.

    As for assumptions, Tracy – I notice when Johanna was *making the assumption* that “You mean you didn’t physically assault a stranger’s child in public? What a model of restraint you are! What do you want, a cookie?” – that you sat silent on Johanna making public assumptions about my behavior. Clearly you’re not bothered by assumptions when you or your buddies are scoring the points and congradulating each other. I noticed the *assumption* that I was straight up lying (that would be why Johanna was demanding examples) and your assumptions on what my behavior is like makes your ire all the more amusing.

    But yes, if it makes you feel better, I now understand that people who have children they can’t afford are *not* to be told they made bad choices. People who have children are hands off, got it.

  111. Tracy says:

    Rap,

    They are not privileges for two reasons. One they are not *parental* privileges because you do not qualify for them on the basis of becoming a parent. There are millions of parents out there who do not receive them. Thus, you’re wrong when you say they are parental privileges.

    Even beyond the fact that you are CLEARLY wrong that they are a form of parental privilege, you are also wrong that because the definition of a privilege is NOT “a minimal standard of living that they have not earned” It’s not a special right. It’s part of a contract that our government has with its citizens.

    Also, um, Johanna didn’t make the assumption that you didn’t assault a child in public. You STATED that you didn’t assault a child in public. Johanna didn’t assume you were lying at any point, nor did she accuse you of lying. Johanna asked if you wanted *praise* for not assaulting a child in public.

    And again, if your takeaway from this is ‘people who have children are hands off’ then you really – you don’t understand anything at all. Try rereading it again.

  112. Johanna says:

    Glad you’re amused, Rap. That makes two of us.

  113. Bonnie says:

    Setting aside the fact that we’re talking about a gay couple, I would have to say that they never should’ve gotten married. If one member of a couple really feels a strong need to procreate and the other really doesn’t, then they’re simply not a match. Biologically, the genes of people who don’t have a desire to procreate are supposed to die out while the genes of those who do have the desire continue on. This woman should’ve found someone who has the same desire to live a life w/o children. Before marrying, a couple really needs to sit down and discuss the life they envision in the future. If one of them sees 3 kids running around, PTA meetings, dance recitals, and the whole shebang, while the other sees board meetings, world travel, and quiet weekends with their spouse, that’s a huge RED FLAG. Now, if Karen actually does have the desire to have the family, but simply has such an analytical mind that she can’t see how they could make it work financially, then that’s another situation. Children are much more of a lifestyle issue rather than a purely financial issue. A financial issue might be which bank to use for CDs. Other issues that involve finances but are also lifestyle issues would be which house to purchase, whether to send your kids to private school, where to go on vacation, and whether/when to have kids. If Karen is trying to view this as purely a financial issue, I would say that she’s not ready to have children.

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