Monday, August 31, 2009

Having a Child is SO Worth it!

Really? Is it worth $221,000? Because based on surveys with thousands of households, that's what it costs for a middle income family to raise a second child today. And that's only to age 17. That figure doesn't even take college or wedding costs into consideration. So let's say we add another $105,000 for college education (the average cost for a 4-year state school), plus $20,000 for a wedding. Now the figure is at $346,000. And that's only for one child. Since most people have at least 2 children, sometimes more, you are looking at a total expenditure of a half a million dollars or more for the privilege of having children. If you want to be a parent, you better start getting really good at playing the stock market (or really lucky playing the lottery). According to this MSN article, Raising Your $221,000 Baby:

Typical families, those making from $56,870 to $98,470 a year, will spend a whopping $221,190 to raise a second child born in 2008 through age 17, estimates the Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion (.pdf file), a division of the
U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Higher-income families will spend even more. Those earning more than $98,470 will spend $366,660 overall in the U.S. to raise a second child; that figure rises to $406,680 in urban areas of the Northeast.

Though not as steep, the figures for lower-income families are just as unsettling: $159,870 for families making less than $56,870 to raise a second child. That averages $8,882 a year for a lower-income family, $12,288 for the middle-income group and $20,370 for top earners.

Ah, but fear not! According to the author of this article there's no need to take a vow of celibacy because there are ways to trim costs. (Interesting, isn't it that the only choices presented here are having kids or taking a vow of celibacy - no mention of the obvious other option of using birth control and not having kids at all.)

I continue to be utterly fascinated by the undying devotion to parenthood and the never-ending claim that it is so worth it. So worth working yourself to the bone for? So worth giving up any chance of saving for retirement? So worth endlessly struggling to make ends meet? So worth ruining your marriage for? So worth losing your friends for? So worth giving up your hobbies for? Your personal privacy? Your sex life? Your sleep? Your mental health? Your energy? Your free time? Your attention span? Your career advancement? Your community involvement? Educational opportunities? Your sleep? Your health? and on and on and on and on.....?

Oh, that's right. Of course it's worth it. Having children is the most joyful, blissful, fulfilling experience in life. This is so evident when we look around at our friends and family with children, isn't it? Aren't they all just beaming with joy and happiness?

Here's my theory about the it's so worth it line. I think this line is nothing more than parents' rationalization to convince themselves they didn't majorly f*ck up by having kids. They realize they have gotten themselves into deep doo-doo, and they are coming to terms with the fact that they can't undo the doo-doo, (they can't take their kids back to the hospital and get a refund), so they delude themselves chanting the it's so worth it mantra, like glassy-eyed Stepford wives, because facing the truth head on is simply too horrifying.

To be clear, I do not claim that there are no joys involved in parenthood. There most certainly are joys. But to date there has not been a single person who has effectively convinced me - either through discussion or by example - that the joys of parenthood outweigh the costs. Yet somehow, despite the fact that the painful costs of parenthood are in everyone's face all the time, the having kids is so worth it mantra continues to wash over everyone like mind-numbing Muzak and we are all hoodwinked.

Well, not all of us.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

A Father in La-La Land

Browsing around, I came across an article called 10 Reasons Not to Have Kids Yet...or Ever which is not exactly the most comprehensive list in the world (at least compared to The Top 100 Reasons Not to Have Kids)...but nevertheless...

Because I posted a comment to the article, I get sent notifications when other posters post comments. Here is an interesting response from a father:

I am a happy parent of two, and here are my reasons to have kids:

1) Having a captive audience. Who better to listen to your cheesy renditions of bed-time stories than a wide-eyed child? Or your off-tune renditions of lullabies?

2) Best cure for loneliness or boredom. It takes a lot to sever your relationship with your child. Sure, it takes a lot of love, time and understanding, but tell me something worthwhile that doesn't require effort? Put some love and time into it, and it's probably your best bet for a lasting, close relationship with another person.

3) Relive your childhood. If there were things you loved about your childhood, you can recreate them. Things you hated? You have a chance to set them right.

4) Live comedic performances for free. If a 1-yr old baby playing fetch with your labrador or dancing in the buff to a Michael Jackson tune won't make you smile, nothing will.

5) A witness to your greatness and to your shortcomings. If you continue to screw up-- tell half truths-- your kid will know. If you are prone to tantrums, your kid will know. Likewise, if you love unconditionally, give your time generously, and are truthful, your kid will know. What better inspiration to become a bigger person than that little beloved witness in your house?

6) Getting old will be easier. This I'm speculating on, as I'm not yet old. But I dread to think what holidays without children would be like. Imagine being 75 and spending a lonely Christmas in a retirement home. Yuck! Or my wife, being a solitary widow when she outlives me. Thank God for my two boys. And if they give me grandkids, I'll have little babies to buy xmas gifts for.

7) Will bring your relationship with your partner to its true light. If you are unsure of how strong your relationship with your partner is, there is no better measuring stick than the challenge of bringing up children together.

Well, that's it for now. GTG.

There are a couple of things I found very illuminating about this response:

First, the fact that a parent can state that he had children so that he can have a captive audience, cure loneliness and boredom, be entertained, make getting old easier to bear and have a witness to his greatness screams SELFISH to me, but who am I to judge? Oh, that's right - I am a selfish childfree person, so what would I know about selfishness? ;)

Second, in response to the items listed by the father above, I feel compelled to post a line-item response to this gentleman:

1. Do you really find performing before a long-suffering, captive audience fulfilling? Why not spare everyone the agony and sing into a mirror?

2. Make some friends. Be a devoted partner or husband. Take your wife on a date. Take a class. Develop some listening skills. Show interest in other people. Become a volunteer. Go to school. If having children is the only way you can prevent being lonely or bored, you aren't really living your life.

3. Want to relive the fun things of your childhood? Go ahead. You don't need kids to do it. Ride a rollercoaster, have a pajama party, write in your journal, play board games, play a game of touch football, have silly theme parties with your friends (and make silly videos), laugh until your sides hurt. I do, and you'd be surprised how many other adults, when given the opportunity, like to do these things too. Or if you really can't bear the idea of doing these things without children in tow, take your nieces, nephews or friends' kids out for a day. And then when you're all tired out, turn them back over to their parents and get on with your peaceful life.

4. Get pets. They are endlessly entertaining. I highly recommend having multiple cats and watching their wrestling matches. Boatloads of fun. Or marry a funny person like I did. Rent vintage Eddie Murphy stand-up routines. Your library probably rents them for free. Classic! Here's my favorite Eddie Murphy routine of all time. I laugh just thinking about it!

5. I have news for you. Your kids aren't the only witnesses to your greatness and shortcomings. Have a wife? She's a witness. Have friends? (maybe not, since you rely on your kids to cure your loneliness) - if so, they are witnesses. Have a job? Your boss is watching. If you only care about what children think of you (and not adults), you are selling yourself (and everyone else in your life) short.

6. Follow my advice in #2 above and make some friends. That way, when you get old, you won't have to rely on your adult children to keep you company out of obligation - you will actually have people who voluntarily hang out with you (and really, isn't that more rewarding?) - people to share your life with, to do fun things with, to talk with. Can't bear the thought of not having children around at Christmas time? Invite your friends and family over. Most of them probably have kids - make it a big party! Better yet, adopt a needy family and shop 'till your heart's delight. There is certainly no shortage of kids who would be thrilled to receive Christmas gifts.

7. Have an affair. Develop a drug or drinking problem. Max out all the credit cards. Develop a gambling problem. I mean, come on. If you have to add "challenge my marriage to see how strong it is" to a list of reasons having kids is so wonderful, you're really stretching. This is a minus, not a plus. I am very happy not knowing my marriage's stress threshold, thank you very much.

Edited to Add: I just remembered that my very first post on this blog was about holding onto your inner child. Very relevant to this post.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Even in the Animal Kingdom (Motherhood is a Pain in the Ass)

Hubby and I just got back from a week-long vacation camping at Assateague State Park in Maryland. For those of you who have never heard of Assateague, it's a state park that is located on a barrier island, so we were camping on the beach all week. Heaven!

There's plenty of beautiful wildlife at Assateague, the star attraction being the wild ponies that inhabit the island. Of course, it being the shore, there are also plenty of seagulls, and those of you who have had experiences with seagulls know that they are adorable, but they can sometimes be annoying.

Every morning, all morning long, there was this annoying, loud, relentless screeching like nails on a chalkboard coming from the dune behind our campsite. Upon closer inspection I observed that it was the sound of a baby seagull screeching for food from its mother. The baby was almost as big as the mother, and able to fly, but apparently he was still dependent on his mother for feedings. All morning long he would stand right next to her, pace in circles around her, while loudly screeching in her face, demanding food from his mother. The mother gull would try to ignore him, or occasionally (we observed) try to get away from him. We never did see her feed the baby, but she did seem to be annoyed by him (or maybe we were just projecting?)

Hubby and me just had to laugh. Even in the animal kingdom, motherhood is a royal pain-in-the-ass.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Childfree and Painting the World Green

Global warming sucks. Every time I turn on the news, it seems there is yet more bad news about the state of our planet: the melting of ice caps, the warming of our climate, the rising of sea levels, the predictions of entire shorelines being washed away in the not-too-distant future (there go my trips to the Maryland shore) - non-stop doom and gloom. It is so depressing, that I confess...when I come across news on this issue, I turn the page, or turn off the television. I feel anxious and helpless. I do what I can to save energy and to live as green as I can, but I am not kidding myself. How much difference can one person really make?

Well, according to a new study from statisticians at Oregon State University, apparently I make a big difference, simply because I am childfree.

The carbon legacy and greenhouse gas impact of an extra child is almost 20 times more important than some of the other environmentally sensitive practices people might employ their entire lives – things like driving a high mileage car, recycling, or using energy-efficient appliances and light bulbs.
In other words, a typical American who tries to live as green as possible - driving a fuel-efficient car, recycling, using efficient light bulbs, using energy-saving appliances, etc. - undoes the positive impact of his green efforts 40 times over by having 2 children - increasing his carbon footprint 40 times.

The researchers smartly point out that curbing population growth is rarely addressed in discussions about climate change:

In this debate, very little attention has been given to the overwhelming importance of reproductive choice...When an individual produces a child – and that child potentially produces more descendants in the future – the effect on the environment can be many times the impact produced by a person during their lifetime.

Under current conditions in the U.S., for instance, each child ultimately adds about 9,441 metric tons of carbon dioxide to the carbon legacy of an average parent –about 5.7 times the lifetime emissions for which, on average, a person is responsible.

While the researchers do not advocate for government regulation of reproduction, they do hope to educate people on the environmental consequences of reproducing.

Some people who are serious about wanting to reduce their 'carbon footprint' on the Earth have one choice available to them that may yield a large long-term benefit - have one less child.

I'll take it a step further. Consider not having any children at all and you'll really do the Earth a big favor.

(Thank you Amy and CFVixen for forwarding me this study).

Thursday, August 13, 2009

On the Radio!

Guess who was on the radio yesterday? Yours truly! Canadian radio host, Laurie Langcastor of CJOB-68 in Manitoba interviewed me yesterday on her live afternoon radio show. The interview was about the choice to be childfree and also about my Childfreedom blog.

The station is supposed to send me an MP3 soon so I can post it here. In the meantime, you can listen to it by following these instructions:

Go to:
CJOB's Audio Vault

August 12, 2009
3:00 p.m.

When the Windows Media screen comes up, slide the little blue bar right below the screen to 27:39. This will take you to the beginning of my interview.

Let me know what you think.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

The Selfish Assumption

CFVixen sent me an interesting article on entitled What's so Wrong with Being Selfish? The author of the article defends childfree folks against the accusations that we are selfish with this simple argument, "Yeah, we're selfish. So what?" She wants people to get over the fact that childfree folks are out having fun instead of suffering at home wiping runny noses and poopy asses. Live and let live.

I know the author means well and I generally like the article, however, I do have a bone to pick. She declares that childfree folks are selfish (a very tired stereotype), the underlying assumption being that parents are not. This is where I take issue with this article and if I have to keep arguing this point over and over like a broken record, I will. Parents are just as selfish as childfree folks. Can anyone see this besides me? Parents don't have children so they can toil, suffer and sacrifice. They choose to have kids for the joys they believe they will get out of it. Childfree folks choose to live a life sans children for the same desire to live a joyful life. We all want to be happy and joyful and we pursue the life that we believe will make us feel that way. Pursuing a happy life is not selfish, it's just the point of living. Why would someone want to pursue a life that didn't make them happy?

However, despite the fact that both childfree folks and parents live the way they do because they are in pursuit of a happy life, the two groups are judged very differently. Parents are ascribed positive traits - giving, caring and selfless, while the childfree are called selfish. And why? Because people who have kids have to trudge through a boatload of misery to obtain the joy and happiness they seek, whereas childfree folks sail effortlessly to their goals.

If pursuing a happy life is selfish, then parents are at least as selfish as childfree folks, if not more. What could be more selfish and narcissistic than bringing another child into an already overpopulated world when there are so many homeless orphans clamoring for loving homes? What could be more selfish than creating a little mini-me (instead of adopting) because you want a little replica of yourself? What could be more selfish than wanting someone who needs you, who depends on you, who looks up to you, who you can mold and shape into what you want so you can feel good about yourself? What could be more selfish than creating a human being so that you can add some meaning to your life? Or so you can live vicariously through her? What could be more selfish than bringing another consumer into a world whose resources are growing more scarce by the day?

Need I go on?

Childfree folks are always, automatically assumed to be selfish, even by people who should know better (like the childfree author of the article in question), while the parents are selfish angle almost never gets explored. Frankly, I am tired of it. So I am going to keep exploring it and exploring it even if I have to beat it like a dead horse. Yes, childfree folks live fun lives and everyone should get over it. But don't exclaim "yeah, I'm selfish - get over it" unless you also exclaim, "and you're selfish too". The truth is, we're happy living our fun childfree lives and we hope you're happy living your life of ass and nose wiping. To each his own.

And then, there's this final point: I may not be wiping noses and asses all day long, but that doesn't mean my life revolves only around myself or that it's all about me. I am a wife, a daughter, a sister, a niece, an aunt, a friend, a companion of house cats, and an employee. In each of these roles I am devoted, caring, committed and engaged and I give of myself every day. To label me selfish because I have declined to participate in one specific type of caring role - the parental role - is ludicrous. It is akin to calling someone a picky eater because they don't like Hamburger Helper, even though they eat everything else in the cupboard.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Childfree Couple on Tyra

Check out this clip from the Tyra Banks show. This was an episode which featured a childfree couple. Take note of how HORRIFIED Tyra is when they describe how they were seeking to be sterilized in their 20s. At the end of this clip when Tyra asks about their dogs and asks what the dogs' names are, she comments that "of course they have human names", implying that pets must be a substitute for kids (because, you know, deep down we all want kids).