The cost of monetizing child-rearing

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The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) now estimates that new parents will spend $225,920 to raise a child. The USDA even provides a calculator so you can estimate your expected cost over 18 years.

I tried the calculator myself. Phew! That's a lot of money for food, clothes, childcare, education, activities, larger vehicles and larger houses.

The recent media attention to this expense has me pondering a few questions.

  • Do parents need to be spending this much on their children? Probably not.
  • But do parents feel pressure to spend this much on their kids? Apparently so.
  • How much do children really cost? Homeschoolers may be the first to point out that it doesn't have to be so much. It really is OK for kids to wear hand-me-downs, for siblings to share a bedroom, for one parent to stay home (and avoid childcare costs all together), to homeschool instead of paying for expensive private school. And then there's the fact that each successive child doesn't cost the same as the first—that's where hand-me-downs, sharing bedrooms and buying food in bulk come into play. I've seen homeschoolers point out that children really do seem to be "cheaper by the dozen."

But the bigger issue for me is the question of monetizing children. What does a society lose when it thinks of children in terms of a price tag? Do we risk thinking of children as commodities from which we expect a certain return? Do we begin to forget that children are a blessing from God? Do we scare prospective parents away from the joyful and noble (and difficult and stretching) call of having a family?

I wonder what the balance is here.

Yes, we should be wise financially. But we should foremost depend upon God.

And yes, there are significant costs (beyond the financial) to consider as well. But children are blessings that transcend costs.

What can we do together to share the beauty that children are indeed blessings?


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