Kids Aren’t Expensive, But That Other Thing Sure Is

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My husband and I have always wanted a lot of kids. (Of course, “a lot” is a relative term, depending what your social circles look like, but for the purpose of this post, we’re going to call “a lot” more than 3. Ha.) Over the last 6 years, when we’ve made our feelings known, we’ve often been met with one particular phrase: Kids are so expensive!!

Well, on the one hand, I suppose they are. Depending on your particular situation – medical bills, dental care, school tuition, etc. all definitely add up. So I’m not trying to be flippant with what I’m about to say, but I do think it’s an important distinction to be made when one is saying how “expensive” children are.

Kids aren’t expensive. Greed is.

Kids don’t “need” designer clothes, Etsy outfits, brand new everything, more shoes than they can wear before they grow out of them, and 8 thousand of whatever the latest toy craze is. (I believe it’s currently Shopkins, but I might be a week behind the times. It’s so hard to keep up.) Kids don’t need a play room full of more toys than they know what to do with. (I’ll go one step further with this one. They don’t even want it. It’s stressful and overwhelming for them. But anyways.) Kids don’t “need” to be signed up for a different so-called enrichment class every night of the week. They need sunshine, fresh air, freedom to move, and space to create.

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As parents, as human beings, it is far too easy to get sucked into the vortex of materialism and greed that has so taken over our society.

Bigger is not always better and less is often more.

Are we accumulating “stuff” for our children or are we enriching and developing their lives and hearts?

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Don’t get me wrong – stuff is good!πŸ˜‰ Shopping is fabulous, and if it was a professional sport, I’d be a champion! #justaskhubby bwahaha But I think it’s particularly important as parents to teach and model the difference between enjoying material goods… and merely accumulating things. One is a positive –Β  an accessory, if you will, to our human life together, bringing a definite level of happiness and pleasure. The other is a slippery slope into stress, greed, bitterness and envy.

Our children have toys, they have clothes, they have (for better or worse) more than what they need. My husband and I are thoughtful about spending, but we also believe in the excitement and pleasure of new things – even if “new” sometimes means more like “new-to-me.”πŸ˜‰ We try as best we can to show our children gratitude, with our actions more than our words. Like with every other aspect of parenting, though, there is always that flicker of doubt. Are we getting this message through to them? Are they appreciative, are they grateful, are their hearts content, rather than greedy for more?

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Then, the other day my husband was talking to Mikey about his upcoming birthday (#5, you guys, how did THAT happen!!??), and asked Mikey what gifts he wanted. I’m not even going to lie, our son’s response made my eyes fill with tears and my heart fill with that mother pride that I know you’ve all felt one time or another.

“Oh, Daddy. I have my best toys, and books, and my doggie, and Ellie and Baby Lucas. I want Batman to come to my party. But he doesn’t need to bring anything. I have everything I need right now.”

I have everything I need.

Tonight, I’m walking endlessly with my sick baby boy, trying to ignore the laundry that’s piled up, and the dishes that never got washed. I enjoy my usual chuckle when I watch the couples on HGTV demanding granite counters, walk-in closets, and houses so big you could get lost in them. I wonder what those people would think if they saw our tiny house full of tiny people. Maybe they, too, would say, “Kids are so expensive.”

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But as I kiss my baby’s dimpled cheeks, I know the truth.

Our children, yours and mine, they need so very little and give so very much.

They need compassion, security, respect, Faith and morals to guide them; they need our love. They need our eyes on them as they show their latest skill, our ears open to hear their latest story, our minds and hearts fully present when we sit with them to play, to read, to be. In the end… that is everything they need.

What our children really need from us – it doesn’t cost a thing.❀

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Β xoxo, Anna

Β If you’re interested in reading my follow-up posts, you can find them here and here.

609 comments

  1. Your sentiments are beautiful. I wish everyone could have as many children as they wanted without regard to the financial considerations. Unfortunately, I live in a country where daycare and preschool are hideously expensive, and can cost more than college. And middle class earners by and large, earn too much for subsidies. So you see, you have to pay for it right away, not having 18 years to save. If one of us stayed at home rather than use preschool/daycare, there goes health insurance. It’s a delicate balance, to find a way to afford to work, afford to feed and clothe children, even without the rampant materialism that’s everywhere these days. I don’t have to take my kids to playplace X, enrichment Y, and classes Z and Q. They’re three. They don’t need any of that. They certainly don’t need *new* clothing, or seventeen pairs of shoes, or Patagonia down coats. There are many, many shades of gray to this discussion, even without significant health incidents, designer duds, and magazine-worth nurseries.

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  2. I love this article. I also would like to have many children. I don’t know how many but I suppose as many as the lord will allow; whether my own or adopted.
    But I am curious, how much do you spend on your children a year?

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  3. I’ll always remember my mom telling me if you wait until you are financially “ready” to have a kid, you might wait forever. She obviously doesn’t mean go for it and get knocked-up without a plan, but it was nice to hear support from my mom (and dad) who has quite the experience living paycheck to paycheck with 3 young girls to raise. It’s all about STATUS now adays, and what “Judy” thinks about “Maria’s” kids new iPad and designer jeans. You’re ultimately setting your childs standards too high and that, my friends, is what sucks about my generation! (90s baby). Sorry for my rambling… I guess I’m bored.

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  4. I am number five in a family of seven kids. My Dad was a school teacher and my Mom a stay-at-home Mom. I know financially my parents struggled, but we always had what we needed. I did piano lessons, learned to sew, was in 4-h, played every sport I could, and ultimately had an amazing childhood full of opportunity. It doesn’t take money to raise a child, it takes love and time. That being said, in order for your children to feel that way YOU have to love that lifestyle and be okay with only needs, not wants being met. I knew we were poor, but I also knew it didn’t bother my parents, and they were extremely grateful for what they had. I never once felt like being poor was our fault (meaning the children’s). If you can’t be grateful for only needs being met, if you would ever make the children feel like it was their fault you were poor, then that lifestyle is not for you. Personally, my husband and I are only having two children. Because of finances? Partially . . . My son has Cerebral Palsy and Hemianopsia due to a stroke right after birth. He is literally expensive and the accommodations he will need will only get more so. But ultimately it is the time factor. He needs more time, and I never want his sister to feel like we didn’t have time for her. Whether to have lots or little children should not only be based on the “price” of a child, but should be done carefully with time, money, emotional, and the physical well being of each family member in mind. It is a very personal matter that should never be taken lightly.

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  5. i live in a little community on a island, and here kids are expensive. especially for a working family. not alot of employers offer benifits. The cheapest formula is $32.99 a 640g can. if you need child care to return to work it takes up 90% of a mothers income.i was paying $50/day for child care. i buy pretty much “new to you” even as gifts. and trying to feed a family healthy on ends meat is difficult. i use coupons for everything. so to me and others kids are expensive.

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  6. hi I only have one child would have loved more but that’s not in the cards. Anyway as I do agree with you that kids do not need material things. Sometimes people can not afford the other things that are nessasary. Like school and medical. We have had to move to send our child to a good public school which was worth it for us. But not everyone can do that. I am on the side that you do not need as you talk about but I do see others worries as well. Just wanted to say that. Thank you for this beautiful post

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  7. If it’s not one thing, it’s another. If I wasn’t spending this money on my kids, then I’d be spending it on myself, probably something frivolous . So, I look at it as trading one thing for another. I don’t spend any more money on them than I would on myself if I were alone. But I am so glad that whenever I do need to spend money on them, for whatever reason, I am doing it better their lives.

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  8. You know, Anna, to a certain extent I used to feel somewhat like you do. I understand not getting into all the STUFF that a lot of parents think is necessary. I certainly didn’t think some of that stuff, the enrichment for preschoolers and the like, was necessary and still don’t.

    And then my oldest had a bout of the flu. Not so bad, tender motherly care and the like will get us through, right? Nope. He experienced debilitating secondary effects. We got to see whether he had brain cancer (thank goodness, no) or whether it was “just” a lifelong chronic condition where he’ll frequently have episodes requiring thousands of dollars of care at each go, one that will leave him permanently disabled in the long run. Compassion means that I’m going to work to prevent and ease his suffering. Security means that I do what I can to send him through the physical therapy that will enable him to safely participate in basic daily activities.

    And then we discovered that my youngest has a learning disability. Compassion means that I sought out testing when he was having difficulties and that I work to get him the tutoring needed to help him learn to the best of his abilities. Respect means I stand up for his intelligence and work ethic.

    This is before the other things like glasses (needed by both) and braces (will be needed by both).

    You never know what the future will be. Things happen. Yesterday I saw a six year old at my son’s doctor have a seizure and stop breathing. They managed to stabilize her before the emergency workers got there to take her to the hospital, and I’m hoping she’s still alive and able to recover. You can bet that episode was really expensive. Obviously I don’t expect everyone to plan for their kid to be disabled, but you need to plan a cushion because you really don’t know that everything’s going to go according to your plan.

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    1. I agree completely. I love the sentiment. Yes nothing compares to the love. But expenses are no joke. My husband just lost his job a little over 2 months ago very unexpectedly. He is still looking and having no luck finding a job that even comes close to what he was making before and what we need to sustain what little we have. And he wasn’t making that much… He also got cut from his insurance (and has epilepsy). We have 2 children. You never know what life will throw at you. I am so content with my 2 and although I would love more in an ideal world where nothing bad happens, I would rather give the 2 I have my everything.

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    2. I have four children. From their births to now (my oldest being 13), I can tell you that I have not for one second thought ( my kids are too expensive ). Why? Because I know that if I did not have children at this point in my life, I would either be loaded with debt trying to drive a nice care to impress, or using the money that I would have used to give my kids braces to go on a nice vacation of some sort. So, I look at it this way. I am trading one thing for another. And I am completely fine with that. Instead of using my money for many other things or to go to many other places, I am using it to nurture and care for these beautiful creations. Money is money….it’s replaceable. Each of my children are irreplaceable and if I need something as fleeting as money to care for them, then I will do that. But the word “expensive” does not fit into that category of words to describe my children. When I looked it up in the Webster dictionary, one of the definitions for “Expensive” is “commanding a high price and especially one that is not based on intrinsic worth or is beyond a prospective buyer’s means” (intrinsic means not belonging naturally)…..really? If anything, instead of saying they are expensive, I would say “They are worth it…” They are worth every minute of my time, every penny spent, every sleepless night. What more did it cost me to have my children? It cost me no more than I would be spending on myself if I were alone…so $0.

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  9. I am the oldest of 6 children and I love my large family and all of my siblings. That being said as we got older the financial strain from having 6 teens/young adults become much more apparent. Just feeding 6 teens/young adults was an enormous expense. People forget that their adult children may still need help financially. Everyone is not going to turn 18 and be self sufficient. I have 2 young girls and maybe I will have one more but that will probably be all for me. It seems like may people look at providing help with college, cars or homes as something that is unnecessary but to me, children will always need help and often times it will be financial. Obviously I don’t want my children to be entitled brats but I feel like am I’m being realistic about the long term costs. I would like to be able to help my kids when their car breaks down or they have medical bills. Maybe it’s because my parents were not able to help me in this way. I am not talking about giving my kids everything material item they want either. I am 34 years old and I will finally graduate from college this May. I would love it if I could help my girls though college when they are younger. Sure they probably won’t appreciate it as much as I did being an older student. But they also won’t have to struggle as much as I did. I know plenty of wonderful well adjusted people whose parents paid for them to go to college.

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    1. In my experience (I’m just 29. Not an expert by any means) adult children who have a financial safety net and parents who are willing to provide financial support (after age 18) never really become fully independent. I would like to be financially capable of rescuing my adult children (should an emergency arise). However, friends and family whom I’ve witness have such fortune, don’t develop their own determination to prevent these downfalls. I believe that life is a learning experience. When my children become adults, whether I am able to financially assist them or not, I won’t. During times of struggle is when I have learned the most and gained the most pride in my own ability to overcome life’s obstacles. Bailing my children out would rob them of such important and meaningful experiences. I’ll always be available to them for advice, love and guidance until my last breath at which time I will have confidence in their abilities to completely take care of themselves. I don’t think its “unnecessary” to financially help my adult children, I think its ridiculous and detrimental. How would your children gain strength to tred difficult water if they are constantly thrown a floatie? Just my thoughts!:-)

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    2. Exactly. Our kids didn’t get expensive until they hit around 13 or 14. We have 6 children from 6-16 and the older ones are much more expensive than the little ones. Food, clothes (which is more difficult to find used as they get bigger), driver’s ed ($450), classes, tutoring, outings,… Many things that are free or cheap for parents of little ones is cost prohibitive once they get older. Every try taking 6 kids to the movies? Skiing? Just buying skates or XC skis at Salvation Army for multiples is expensive. And there is no promise that once they graduate from high school and turn 18 that they will be independent.
      I love all our children, but even with a good income it is very stressful financially.

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  10. I completely agree! Don’t let the negative dim your light. You obviously have a passion for motherhood and I can see your fire burns bright:) I am 25 and have 2 kids (5 and almost 3) and I have seriously thought about having more kids. Some days I’m feeling discouraged as a mother and think I’m crazy to think I can handle more. Some days I feel my heart will always have room for 1 more child. In the end it is a personal decision that should involve no one but you and your husband. I don’t know you personally, but your way with words leads me to believe you are a strong, very capable, sweet woman. From one young mother to another, the way others see you means so little compared to how your kids see you. No one knows what goes on in your home, your mind or your heart. Your intention seems to be that of warmth and love. That is what matters most.
    Best wishes,
    Tiana Keith

    P.S. How do I follow your blog?

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    1. Ahhhh love this on so many levels. Thank you, thank you. And you are so right – nobody’s view matters in the end, other than my own family and self. Thanks for the encouragement, and best wishes to you! To follow the blog from a computer, there are a couple different buttons on the left side of the screen. You can follow via email or via Facebook. On your phone, I believe you just scroll all the way to the bottom after the comments, and there is a button to follow on Facebook and a place to follow via email.:)

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      1. It is no trouble at all. I love to read of other young mothers choosing the path of love and confidence. It inspires me. I am following your blog now. Thank for the warm wishes. I look forward to your next post:)

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  11. Sigh…we are learning this the hard way. My husband and I were raised without much (at certain times we were even homeless). When we met and saw how similar our lives were- not in a good way- we vowed that our children would never EVER live that life. We have gone so far in the opposite direction that half the time I don’t even know how to respond to my children and what they think they deserve. At this point, there are a lot of silent moments in our house now that we’ve removed every single electronic device, downgraded their cellphones (they can text and call us and their grandparents…only), and removed doors from their rooms (you slam it- it’s gone). I pray that when/ if they become parents they understand why we did what we did. I love them so much, but my husband and I were turning them into entitled and ugly-hearted children. It’s because we love them so much that we just had to rip off the band-aid of greed. Thank You so much for your article!

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  12. Dear Anna
    Your children are so very lucky to have such loving parents, gently steering them through the correct path in life. Really well done to you.
    Rosemary xxx

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  13. I’m kind of old school in the whole, “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all” mantra. So shame on the bemoaners and hurray for those who were constructive and/or supportive! By the way, I enjoyed the random post as I am a very random momma.πŸ˜‰

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  14. Saw your blog on the kids kloset page and had a moment of relief! I am sure I am not the only “young” mom going through this, but when did having a large family because such a nuisance for everyone else? My husband and I have 5 kids – four of which are under the age of 4 ( I will give you a moment to pick your jaw up off the floor) 😁

    I love having my big family. I love that my children have each other to play with, to interact with, and will one day have each other to depend on. They are each others best friends, they each look out for the other, and they manage to play games where the 7 year old can include a 1 year old.

    We have very similar ideas (although I have no idea how you are able to home school. I am singing your praises on that!☺ I know it’s not my business but are you home schooling in preparation to public school? I only ask because I was thinking of starting a “home school” type program for my son who’s 3 1/2 and my daughter who’s 2 1/2 now but when the time comes will both be attending public school for kindergarten and with all these common core issues I wasn’t sure how to go about it with out confusing them) and love the idea of less is more (although with 5 babies it never seems like less haha) 😁 but we do our best to keep it, what we call “open play” toys; dress up, cars, blocks, kitchen pieces, toys with no batteries and endless possibilities. It makes such a difference.

    I use to worry my kids would be missing out if they couldn’t have the “latest and great” , but then I catch a glimpse of my babies all playing together and realize that they have everything they will ever need. They have family, they have love, and they will always have each other.

    Thank you so much for reminding all of us moms and dads that we are doing our best jobs possible in raising the next generation.

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