Media Monday – How Much Does It Cost To Raise A Child?

You can’t put a price on the value of children….or can you?

The figures keep changing and the media reports keep coming and reminding us that children are expensive.

The latest research puts the cost of raising a child at $300,000.

Supposedly, you have to be rich (and crazy) to have a child these days so God help me, I have 4 of these expensive additions to my weekly budget.

I’m not sure what these articles in the media achieve. Are they designed put us off having children? Scare us in to having smaller families? Send us in to a panic attack or back to work as soon as we’ve given birth?

And why are children suddenly so expensive? And why are we so freaked out about the potential costs? We live in one of the richest nations in the world and yet we are constantly complaining we never have enough.

The latest research states that childcare is the no. 1 cost for parents. However, this is a cost that is only essential if a mother has to return to work while their child is young.

According to the same article toys, books and a one-week domestic holiday a year will cost $15,491.

15,000 dollar on toys? Really? We can provide adequately for our children without buying into kiddie consumerism and it could cost us half as much!

Holidays are great but do we have to go interstate every year?

Perhaps instead of questioning whether or not we should have a baby or choose a small family purely because of finances we should actually question the way we live our our modern lives.

Someone has even calculated that personal care items, such as shampoo, toothbrushes and hair cuts, add up to $6335.

Sorry honey, we can’t have children –  do you know how expensive shampoo is these days?

Financial stability is important of course and we all have to use common sense. But we need to ask some questions about what we prioritise in our modern lives. Doesn’t it seem crazy that there are more articles in the media about the monetary value of children rather than on the value of parenting and what it means to raise a family? Let’s remember that what is published in the mainstream media generally reflects the views of the mainstream.

Do kids really NEED everything we think they need?

Should we consider our use of childcare and premature returns to work given they are our no.1 cost?

Are we putting too much unnecessary pressure on ourselves to provide financially and materially for our families?

Are we forgetting that our role as parents is about so much more than financial provision?

What lesson are we teaching children about money, success and wealth by making the center of our lives about money?

Those are tough questions. When we found out we were expecting our first child the first question we asked ourselves was not, “How can we raise a good, kind human being?” but “How on earth will we afford it?’. Similarly the no. 1 thing people said to me when I was expecting my fourth child was “Wow! How will you afford it?” even before “Congratulations!”.  This is perhaps why I believe large families in Australia may be becoming extinct!

I’m not saying providing financially isn’t important, of course it is. But is it everything? Should it define us? Should it be the deciding factor on whether we have children, how many or whether we work instead of stay at home with them?

Things I have heard just this week….

“We’re too scared to have a baby – I can’t imagine living off one income!”

“I don’t think we could ever afford to have a baby.”

“I wouldn’t have kids if I couldn’t afford private school – it’s not fair to the child.”

“I want my kids to have everything so we will probably only have 1 or 2″

These are not uncommon. In fact, at one time or another I said each of them myself.

popular culture and wealthI’ve floated from both sides of this discussion. I’ve had times in my life where I’ve been convinced that me working is necessary to our survival and times when I’ve felt strongly that we need to make the sacrifice for me to spend most of my time at home.  Neither decision is an easy one.

This isn’t a judgement on individual choices but more so challenging the way we live our modern lives.

 Can we really count the financial loss against the immense gain that we receive by spending more time with our children and investing in them?

I know it’s not always that simple. But it can be be helpful to assess the way we live our modern lives and  realise how little value it places on children. Children seem to be portrayed particularly in the media, as a bothersome inconvenience to our modern lives. It seems that culturally speaking, we value our houses and holidays more than we value the little people that should matter most.

I think it’s time to stop over-thinking it and just embrace the journey knowing that it is full of sacrifice – personal, emotional AND financial but worth every challenge.  When we consider the bigger picture we realise that really, you can’t put a price on the value of a child.

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