manufactured to destroy

Yes, I’ve been reading, and no, I haven’t been posting, so yes, you have the right to be miffed that what I am about to post has nothing whatsoever to do with the 3 books that I have finished and everything to do with what I shall call pop-news stories.

Everybody has heard of this mother of octuplets who doesn’t have a job and has, what, six other kids back home?

I know, I know, we’re all paying for their upkeep, blah blah blah. (Has it not occurred to anyone else that we’re also supporting thousands of other single moms without jobs? Just because this one happens to have 14 with no dad rather than 4 or 5 with 4 or 5 different dads, we’re going to raise a stink? So it’s the numerical difference that gets us? I’m confused.) I can understand how this frustrates people, really I do. But it’s a little late to get all upset about it – it’s the way our system works. On a similar note, I recently found out that an ex-coworker of mine got pregnant and immediately quit her low-paying retail position, because she could make more money on welfare as a single mom than she could working retail. Man, did I go into the wrong line of business. After all, I too love babies. Um. Wait, no. But I’m off-topic.

Let’s leave the discussions of how we the American people are getting our pocketbooks stepped on for a second and discuss the hefty price of raising children. I HATE it when the media estimates how much it will cost you to raise a child to age 18. These little charts about how much you’ll spend on housing/food/entertainment…what, are we attempting to get our population to dive? I was talking to my parents and my super-pregnant (and very married, for the record) sister about this the other day, and mentioned that I thought we’d had a lot of money growing up, especially during my teen years. My parents laughed. “Coral, who bought you clothes once you turned fourteen and had a part-time job?” Um…I did. “And who paid for movies or fast-food with friends?” I did. “And who put gas in the car when you used it?” I did. “And who paid your car insurance?” I did.

This is not to say that I spent all my hard-earned money supporting myself. My parents fed me, kept a roof over my head, and paid for big ticket items like new sneakers. But in reality, the transition to paying for my own stuff when I went to college wasn’t horribly dramatic, because I’d been doing it for a while. We lived on a single income, had my mom home with us and we weren’t rich, but you know what? We didn’t really know that. Growing up, we went to the library more than the movie store, and our main form of entertainment outside of reading was playing games with each other and playing outside. I don’t feel like it hurt me that we never had a gaming system for our little-used TV or that I couldn’t afford to go to a movie every week.

I’m sure my parents spent their fair share of money on us. Braces for my sister, surgery when I broke my shoulder, a third car when all four of us were teenagers (which I think one of us later went on to buy…) and pets and activities. But you know what? I don’t feel like they begrudge me every penny. I don’t feel like my dad has sat down and calculated my net cost and is secretly thinking that it would have been great to put that into a retirement fund (it wouldn’t have been – have you seen the stocks lately?) 

Why do we have to think of children as costly possessions, when in reality they are a priceless investment?


One thought on “manufactured to destroy

  1. Coral, great post.

    I thought the Popular/Big-media opinion about the octo mom was reacting to the NUMBER of children involved — not the state’s paying for them. (Any family with more than 2.5 kids is generally considered odd — after two, you start getting questions like “How many more are you guys planning on having?”)

    Agree that quantifying the cost of raising children in the way mentioned misses the entire point. No one can tally the cost for a given family in any meaningful way; there are way too many variables.

    Besides, whatever the cost, the benefits are far greater — and those won’t fit on ANY chart.

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