Kids Are Worth the Cost

The expense, emotional toll of worry, and loss of freedom notwithstanding, children are justifiable investments. Pro or con?

Pro: Intangible ROI

According to the latest Agriculture Dept. estimates, I will spend a total of about $290,000 raising my daughter to the age of 17. That, of course, doesn’t include college, another $150,000 or so if she goes to a private one. Is it worth the money?

I know the answer to that question through hard experience. My husband, Peter Sleeper, died at age 42 of a brain tumor, a mere two months after my mother died of an asthma attack. It was my year of emotional devastation. This was in the early 1990s, and we were living in London when Peter died. But we owned a house in recession-battered Boston that was so far under water it made the Titanic look seaworthy. With the loss of my husband’s income, and no life insurance, I had to sell that house at an enormous loss and was financially wiped out. Yet of all the things I lost that year, the money mattered the least.

Flash forward to my decision in 1998 to adopt a child. To do so, I had to deplete my savings and raid my retirement fund, not a wise financial move to say the least. And I haven’t saved much since she entered my life. Obviously, there are plenty of other ways I could invest the quarter of a million dollars-plus it will take to raise her that would ensure a life of luxury that I’m now unlikely to experience. Do I regret my choice? Not for a second.

At the time I was adopting my daughter, several acquaintances wondered why I would give up a life of great freedom and the financial means to enjoy it. I did it because, to me, Kris Kristofferson was right: Freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose. My daughter is now 9 years old. Every Friday night when we snuggle up to watch a movie together, or whenever she turns to me with laughing eyes and says, “Mom, you’re crazy, but I still love you,” I know I’ve spent my money wisely.

My life is so much richer with my child than it was without her. Once again, the money I’m losing matters least. If there is one thing I know for certain, it’s that she’s worth it.

Con: Thanks, But No Thanks

The idea of something being “worth the money” can be a strange one. The going price for being a space tourist is about $30 million. Meanwhile, if you want to buy your preteen a ticket for a Hannah Montana concert, you may be looking at $3,000. For some people, either of those things would be worth it. As a guy without kids and without an eight-figure bank account, neither would be worth it for me.

Likewise, having kids in general isn’t worth it for me. Society still operates on the idea of kids being “worth the money” for everyone. With the advent of reliable birth control, I think it’s time we changed that mindset.

The Agriculture Dept. estimates that for most people, raising a kid from birth to age 17 will run about $290,000. This doesn’t take into account things like private schools or higher education, which can raise the total significantly. Nor does it factor in things like lost wages or fewer promotions due to child-care needs.

My wife and I came to the decision years ago that we wanted to remain child-free, but financial concerns weren’t the only motivator. All the same, the lack of that strain on our budget is significant, and that means less overall stress for our relationship. The emotional costs of raising kids gets glossed over just as much as the financial ones.

Also, while most big-ticket investments, such as real estate, have expected returns when one sells, having kids doesn’t necessarily pay for itself. People may argue that kids will take care of parents as they get older, but that’s not always the case. Our nursing homes are proof of this.

I’m not saying children are categorically not worth the cost. It’s hard to put a price tag on a kid’s first words or seeing your child off to the high school prom. Having a child is supremely rewarding for many people, and worth any price.

But not for everyone.

Opinions and conclusions expressed in the BusinessWeek Debate Room do not necessarily reflect the views of BusinessWeek, BusinessWeek.com, or The McGraw-Hill Companies.

Reader Comments

sarah

What's sorely lacking in this debate is the fact that our planet now has more than 6 billion people, and it cannot support sustained population growth. In short, the Earth does not need more people--especially Americans, who suck up resources and generate trash and pollution at unconscionable and ever-increasing rates. Those of us who have consciously chosen to not have children are "Parents of the Future," because we are saying that we care about the future of this planet and the quality of life for those who will come later (not just ourselves and our direct progeny). Also, by not having kids, I have made more time for volunteer work to make the world a better place. Sadly, everything discussed in the debate above (both pro and con) is, in one word, selfish.

KIRUBAKARAN

Both the viewpoints are understandable. However, everyone will appreciate the fact that money cannot buy everything, especially happiness and satisfaction, and it is not possible to measure things by their monetary value alone.

vrbcik

Reading this from Eastern Europe (Prague).

I have been to the U.S., and I am writing this as an expectant father. I have always thought that the costs for raising a child are very high here, too.

But my wife is a very practical woman, and I see there are many ways to raise your child. I think the U.S. is a country where people take others' opinions too seriously. You can arrange your child's free time activities very cheaply. It's more necessary to have time for them. You can take your child out in nature--hiking, sports--and not necessarily to play football and ice hockey, but rather biking and swimming, which need no special trainers or special courses.

As for culture: I didn't go to any concerts as a I child, and I did not miss them at all. You can go to any small club for live music. You can buy "last minute" theater tickets for 25% the price. You do not have to arrange birthday parties for 20 children. My wife has arranged her birthday party for 40 people very cheaply--$180 (and we have food prices almost the same as in the U.S.).

I would like to know, how is it possible that middle class (or lower middle class) Hispanics can afford to have so many children? I think it's their more practical way of thinking. I think children should know that nothing is free, and money has some value. If they know this, they can surely understand that the parents cannot support them in further study. I was earning money for myself when studying for my bachelor's and master's--I didn't take any money from my parents.

For college and further education costs, I must tell you that I would not pay $150,000 a year for education. If you send your child to Prague, he or she can study at three universities with a master's and all costs covered. We have counted, and the monthly cost here is not more than $500.

I think the conclusion is that your child is not your master. You can raise your child to be modest in his or her thinking. You can raise a good man with the ability to go to college even without going to private schools. You do not always have to buy him or her the latest cloths. It's always your choice. You shouldn't take others' opinions as rules for your behavior and raising your children.

Mike

Frankly, I find the story and "debate" appalling. The underlying false premise of the story is that life is all about us, the adults. How we feel. What we want out of life. Our goals. Our dreams. Such is a self-absorbed mind set and represents, what I believe is a symptom of a greater problem in this country where narcissism has replaced God-fearing values.

If I based all decisions in life on the arguments used to frame the "kid's worth" debate; I would evaluate all opportunities on the merit of return on investment (ROI) and emotional credits as applied to my state of happiness. Happiness may involve some level of personal sacrifice to offset occasional feelings of guilt. Using this evaluation method, one is always focused on self rather than God-given responsibilities (i.e., what can I get out of this?).

Taken to its logical conclusion, the "economic ROI, kids not worth it" crowd would make the most money they can, have the most fun they can, attain the most possessions they can, be as happy as possible, and make a few sacrifices along the way to offset feelings of guilt. Many might remember Kurt Cobain or Marilyn Monroe, both rich and famous, happy by the world's standards. Yet both committed suicide.

The point is that the debate should be what is our responsibility and our values in life, and are we living according to those value with integrity and purpose? For me, that purpose comes from Psalm 127: 3-5, which states that children are a heritage (gift) from God. Deuteronomy 6:6-7 instructs me to teach my children to love the Lord my God with all thy heart, and all thy soul, and all thy might.

I have two adopted sons, and my wife and I are seeking to adopt another. After years of infertility and spending most every discretionary dollar we had to have children, we felt led to adopt. However, we were broke financially. We trusted God and He, through the selfless sacrifice of others, provided the funds (though we never asked) necessary for a combined $33,000 in adoption expenses.

Had we approached our adoption opportunity using the arguments posed in the article, we would have concluded that adopting was too expensive and not worth the sacrifices. We would have missed what has become a miraculous adoption story and exceeding blessings from our two sons, ages 2 and 3.

The irony is that when we are focused on what God wants for us, we find unparalleled contentment and peace even in uncertain and unpleasant circumstances. The challenges of parenthood have been no exception, and we continue to seek God's direction for us and our children, not our own selfish desires and happiness (by the grace of God).

aha

If your parents had thought that you were not "worth it," you couldn't read this comment.

Jan

A reply to Mike:
Your entire argument rests on your god. Specious at best, especially when you remember that two thirds of the world does not believe in your Christian god. Admittedly, if you include Muslims and Jews (both of whom worship the same god as the Christians, though getting any of the three to admit that would, of course, be problematical), the percentage of people who worship "God" (God, Allah, JHVH, whatever you want to call Him) passes 50%. Even so, there are still 46%-plus in the world who don't worship any variant of your god.

Where does that leave your argument?

Alexander

There is nothing more fulfilling, relaxing, and purpose-providing than having your kid fall asleep in your arms, nurturing its inquisitive nature, providing comfort when it is hurt, and seeing it grow up. All it takes is the right mind set.

Matthew Ortiz

I am a middle class man in my late twenties. I have been putting off having a child for some time now. My wife seems to greatly want one soon, but we face reality. We need to solidify out economic standing, or I look at it as buying a boat before we set out to sea.

We do not plan to follow either of these extremes stated above. It is not a question of child or money. It is a question of when and how to achieve both. I get the feeling that a lot of my peers feel the same.

I have bought a five-bedroom house in a neighborhood that I like. Once we have enough passive income that my wife can quit her job, we will pursue the kid thing. We could then do home schooling as we are both educated, and hope to have the child be able to start college a year or two early. We could thus have the child halfway through college before he or she goes out on his or her own, being more cost effective.

Ian Ransome

What more can you expect from a business magazine than an article questioning whether kids are worth the cost. Talk about knowing the price of everything but the value of nothing. It is the most worthwhile thing I have done with my life.

Having children taught me to put other people first in my own ego-centric world.

They have repaid the "cost" a thousand times over, and if there is such a thing as reincarnation, it's something I'd want to experience again.

joe

Sarah, you're an idiot. We're no longer the Earth's biggest consumers. China, India, and Europe have a larger population than we do. China and India are about seven times larger in terms of population. I work from home and spend 99% of my time helping my kids become good people. We're not materialistic and don't drive new cars or live in a 3,000-square-foot house. If you choose to let your ethnicity be replaced by someone else's, go ahead. I for one am proud of who I am and what I am, and I'm happy that my two kids and the other that's on the way will continue our traditions. Why should we cut our birth rate because other countries and peoples are overcrowded?

coolrepublica

The whole way this debate is framed is a bit weird. Are children an investment that needs to be justified?

I did not plan on having kids, but I'm glad I had them. Lack of freedom is not an issue for me. I take them where I like to go. I am not a drinker and never liked clubs, so I am not being "tied down."

Someone mentioned that there are 6 billion people on the planet, and she's doing her part for saving the planet by not having any kids. I think that is a nice way of seeing things. I think I'm helping the planet, too, by having kids. I am a raising a smart child who will be the counterbalance to all the not so smart children that are being raised. We all do our part for the planet in our special way.

As for the cost, I barely spend any money on my kids, and they don't seem to mind. Parents spend not for their children but for themselves. They want to get approval from their kids and their peers. I don't care if my kids approve of how much I spend on them; they just have to stay alive and do well until they're 18.

VK

Vincent C.,
When people consider the economic value of a child in deciding whether to start a family, they have missed what God intended children for. They are our opportunity to participate in the creation and nurturing of life. They add emotional and spiritual fullness to their parents' lives and assist us in transcending humanity's tendency to focus on self and material possessions.

Josh

Raising a child need not cost as much as the article suggest. It is also not where you sent or enrolled your child but rather how and what you teach your child.

Example: My daughter went to public school. If she were to attend a private school, I would have to pay about $12,000 a year conservatively, and that is from kindergarten. Now if we save all that money from kindergarten to high school, she would have $100,000 in the bank after high school (not calculating interest or returns). Now that is a great start for anybody. Forget about super grade school from kindergarten to high school. The most important thing at that young age is money management. Sit the child down and teach her the importance and show her the way.

After that, if she could manage that money well, she should be able to retire by her thirties. By that I meant she could choose what she wants to do and not need to do something that she does not like to do just to keep up her lifestyle.

Pennsylvania

As a childless adult who nonetheless loves kids, I have no doubt that having and bringing up children is a beautiful, fulfilling, and worthwhile experience regardless of the monetary cost.

What I find debatable is the notion that producing and then raising those children is somehow noble, admirable, and selfless. The world is overpopulated, rife with orphans and displaced kids. They are kids with physical disabilities, illnesses such as AIDS, or Down's Syndrome or other mental disabilities.

Yet most couples prefer to produce their own children. Those with infertility problems take drastic, exorbitantly expensive measures to create infants with their genes rather than adopt unfortunate babies and older kids who desperately need loving homes.

I have no right or desire to criticize people for choosing to have their own biological children. But they are not selfless. They want to hold an adorable baby, receive attention from friends and relatives who shower them with gifts and compliments about how "he has your eyes" or "she's graceful like her mother." Parents take photos of their children to place on their desks at work and silk-screen onto T-shirts and birthday cakes.

As the parents' own physical charms dissipate, they transfer their vanity to their children, taking pleasure in dressing them in crocheted hats, french-braiding their hair, and watching them score soccer goals. Parents use kids to distract themselves from their own mortality and perpetuate the family name and genealogy.

They take days off of work to tend to their children's needs as well as months-long parental leaves to which their childless coworkers aren't entitled.

Again, all perfectly reasonable actions and feelings. But please don't tell me I'm selfish because I've chosen not to have children.

random

When it comes to kids, the very mention of progeny is an emotional grenade that often nullifies a serious study of a question someone might find objectionable or absurd on grounds of personal values and religious belief.

This debate reminds me of basic biology. Every species can only expand so much before the population peaks and has to decline. It runs out of space and out of resources. Humans are the third most-numerous species on the planet and the planet's largest swarm. Only bacteria and insects outnumber us. To think that we can continue to expand indefinitely and not hit any limitations is rather odd. In our case, it's not the fact that we can have kids, but that we're no longer sure if they'll be independent adults after age 25, ready to have a family of their own and with stable income prospects.

It could be that just by having fewer kids, we're unwillingly adjusting our population to match the resources we actually have at our disposal. Sure, we can bring billions of children into the world, but odds are that such an influx of children wouldn't be able to survive, much less become independent adults, in our world. We know that, and this is why wealthy nations with mature, saturated economic and job markets are beginning to pare back to ensure that children get all the resources they can without stretching their families to the breaking point. The result would be a slow, steady decline in the global population through what amounts to attrition, until humans and the resources they need reach a happy equilibrium once again.

But what about developing nations with vast numbers of kids born all the time? Well, many developing countries have a much higher child mortality rate and thus more kids need to be born to sustain the population. As far as population growth, there are limits as well. For example, China and India must both maintain a 9% GDP growth per year in order for most of the populace to have jobs.

Finally, we can't rule out tradition and evolutionary instincts. We're programmed to reproduce no matter what, and many times, we do it regardless of what's going on around us. This is another part of the explanation as to why developing countries have a much higher birth rate. It's tradition and biological drive.

I'm not going to claim that this is any sort of definitive answer to the question poised by the debaters here, just thoughts that come to mind after a read through the articles.

kathy

Sarah's point is a good one. We as a society keep forgetting that the Earth is finite and holds a finite amount of resources. Earth's population has tripled in the last 50 years, and the curve is getting steeper with no relief in sight.

Those who insist that having children is worth the cost need to ask themselves: What kind of quality of life will my children's children have? Is it worth the emotional cost of making them live in a planet swimming in the poisons of 20 billion people--and making them decide the cost of having children in that sort of world?

Costs are more than just financial.

Andre

I may be more counter cultural than most. I am a Caucasian American father, and I currently have two children, with one on the way, and no plans to stop having more. I will be happy having six, seven, eight children.

How can this be? Well, I am fighting the cultural norm here in America, which is to be materialistic, self-centered, self-serving. This article clearly reinforces that norm. When I have a big loving family with countless family-life experiences and an opportunity to grow into a more giving person with real concern about society and what is happening in it, most Americans are going to grow old and be living on a huge pile of junk with no care for the deterioration of American culture. When my children are supporting your Social Security payments, you can thank me.

Interesting that an earlier commenter said that by not having kids, they could volunteer more. When my kids are grown, there is no doubt that the collective number of us will crush any number of volunteer hours that you could put in.

Also, is a man with no kids really the best person to be debating whether kids are worth it or not?

Melissa

Must be a slow news day, as the main article, in spite of all its "statistics" and "experts," had absolutely no point whatsoever.

Honestly, if the author (or any other parent) is bemoaning the fact that they would have had to spend large sums of money to have someone else potty-train their 2-year-old child to meet their preschool's deadline, then they probably deserve to pay. Why on earth are you having kids in the first place? Sending 2-year-olds to preschool? Last time I checked, I didn't see the questions "How old were you when you first spelled your name?" or "What was your age when you were potty trained?" on any Ivy League school application or any Fortune 500 company interview questionnaire.

What is wrong with letting kids be kids, and oh, perhaps getting to know your child and teaching him or her your values as opposed to letting someone else do it for you? And we wonder as a society why children seem to be growing up faster, all the while blaming outside forces and influences for the downfall of American education. Why not start looking inward for a change? Even better, start looking for solutions for improvement instead of constantly finding faults and continuing with the (ironically) childish finger-pointing between people who have kids and those that do not.

As a parent, I have no problem with those who choose not to have children. It's the ones who are parents and who look upon their child(ren) as inconveniences, symbols of social standing, or, in the case of this article, financial and economic liabilities that I take issue with. For those who have made the choice not to have kids and think that they are somehow financially superior to their income peers that who do have kids, you (and the type of parents I mentioned before) really missed the boat on what it truly means to be wealthy.

And last, to the first commenter Sarah: Go read something more productive, like Buckminster Fuller's Critical Path before you go off spouting your own selfish, superior global morality inanities.

johnd

I am in complete agreement with the gentleman from Prague. Expectations of what good parents should provide their children in the U.S. are completely out of whack.

I was raised by immigrant parents and actually did have to work. I also learned to cook when I was 6. And yes, my parents did provide me a lot of support, but very little extravagance.

Now, as I am raising my own son, along with my very practical wife, we are throwing "convention" out the window.

I make a decent salary, for example, but have no plans to buy a huge house. Our car is a compact. Clothes are secondhand, etc. So far our toddler seems to be quite healthy and happy.

Many of the "costs" that are driving child-rearing upward are rooted in parents' unrelenting and unrealistic expectations. If you take a critical look at those expectations, you'll see it's amazing how much less costly raising a child can be.

random

Andre,
I'm wondering how you could be fighting the supposed cultural norm of "selfishness" by having lots of kids if the whole point of your post seems to be announcing how much a giant family like you would like to have, could do. You declare that your mega-family could "crush any amount of volunteer work any individual could put in." It's an oddly competitive choice of words for someone who's fighting a culture of selfishness and status, isn't it? And what do you think about adopting six orphans in need of a home rather then have six more kids of your own? Just curious...

Next, when your kids are going to grow up, it's a big question whether Social Security will still be around, in what form and how much it will pay out. It looks like 401k and investments are going to be the main source of income for the retired in the future. So your kids may very well end up not having to support anyone but you. And how come someone without children or with a small family is always doomed to die a lonely and destitute death? They won't have friends and other loved ones around? They won't have any money by some strange magic?

Finally, there have been plenty of people lamenting the "selfishness and materialism of today's Americans" since the Industrial Revolution in the 1870s. Somehow, American society has not collapsed in the last 137 years. It may be because these statements are an overblown way to make the commentator feel morally superior and enlightened when justifying his or her behavior or point of view.

Oh and one last thought to consider. How selfless is it to propagate your DNA solely for the goal of having lots of kids so you can feel loved and omnipotent in the size of your family? How giving are you if your giving takes place only within your own flesh and blood?

Pietro

At first glance, the phrase "Is a child worth the money?" is rather insulting. I say this because I picture my parents, (legal) immigrants from Italy who came to the U.S. in the early 1970s, having that very discussion. It's a scary thought, because I know they weren't rolling in the dough at the time. My father worked days in construction and nights at New York's JFK Airport for almost 20 years so that my older sister and I could go to school.

So, at first blush, I would say that it is not right to try and put a price tag on humanity.

On the other hand: We are, as a global community, running out of things like clean air and clean water. Our population is stretching the very boundaries of a sustainable planet, and I do believe that population density will be a huge problem in the coming centuries. Resources are going to become more and more scarce as we continue to consume not only more, but more quickly.

The solution, in my opinion, is not one side or the other but rather a synthesis of the two.

Yes, we are facing hard times, and we need to really think about how the act of having four or five or six or seven kids per family is going to affect sustainability, but we also should not take the other extreme and ask "Is it worth it?" to have a child. You cannot measure life in dollars.

We need to raise awareness that the repercussions of our collective actions are upon us, and really work at sustainability. We need to understand that having many many offspring may hurt us in the long run, but that there is anything wrong with having children. We need to encourage more adoption so that individuals who want to experience parenting can. We need to start to discourage the idea that you need to have multiple offspring. We need to do so much, yet I feel what we are doing is debating the two far ends of a balancing pole.

Lara

My father said something to me when I was young. He said, "We come into this world alone, and we die alone," and the special things we experience during that short time make up life. This is the truth, so I guess it's now for all people to decide whether they want to spend their time by themselves or with children. Everything is temporary, so we need to do what's best for us. It might sound selfish, but it's true.

Felix

Of course raising a child is worth every penny, but I think that another thing that is missing from this article is the fact that you don't have to spend $1,000 a week for pre-school, and you don't have to spend $3,000 or any money for that matter on concert tickets for your child. Sure, of course you want to provide them with the most diverse and gratifying experiences that you didn't have while growing up, but to the extent where it puts your finances in a bind is ridiculous. It boggles my mind that some parents feel as if it's "their" responsibility to provide their child with these excessive things: an expensive cell phone bill, a car, designer clothing, the list goes on. If a child desires something more than fundamental necessities, tell the child to get a job; that alone is good parenting. You'll be providing the child with experience high school, or even college, cannot provide. My parents did the very best they could while I was growing up. We were not poor but by no means rich. They provided what I needed and surprised me when I deserved it, but never when it was not warranted and never to the dismay of their financial situation.

I agree with vrbcik when he/she states that "your child is not your master." The type of parenting that occurs today baffles and confuses me, especially when there are so many people who complain about the attitude and discipline of children--let's think about this for a bit.

You can provide your child with the best possible experiences and provide invaluable growth and not break the bank. Anybody who says that raising a child in America is expensive is probably somewhat right. But don't forget that we live in America, and we Americans like to give away our money to people who will teach our child to say his or her name. Oh wait--isn't that the parents' job?

beedi

I'm just selfish. I'd rather give my hard-earned money to my wife, myself, and the charities we support. Every parent thinks they're bringing the best-educated and best provided-for kids into this world, including those parents in trailer parks and slums. I thank my parents for bringing me into this world, but I shall learn from their mistake.

Cosette

This debate is rather confusing. The authors here basically came to the conclusion that the psychic rewards may or may not make the costs of parenting worthwhile, depending on the person. Many posters here seem offended by the fact that the discussion took place, while themselves extolling the emotional rewards of parenting. They are weighing in on the very debate they despise, while missing the fact that the rewards calculus is not the same for us all.

We weigh the non-monetary rewards against the cost of many purchases--be they vacations, pets, or homes. Why is it that this consideration in the context of children is verboten? While there may be biological drives or philanthropic elements to the decision to parent, these are offset by the costs to society in terms of overpopulation and the costs to a child of having an ambivalent parent.

Babs

I too find it odd to consider children as an investment. There was a time when producing children meant producing more farm hands, soldiers, and the means to produce yet more (girls), and then it definitely was a wise investment. But there are other reasons to have children that are hard to explain. I have four, all planned, all mentally gifted and healthy. Is refraining from having children really saving the planet, or is it ceding our place in this world? There are places in this world where they go on bearing children when they don't even have enough for tomorrow's breakfast in the pantry. Places where they have to go out and kill animals you and I would not consider food, endangering many species. (This may be where AIDS came from). So, perhaps the lectures are misdirected. Before my oldest was 7 (and the youngest was 2), my husband walked out, and we experienced a decade of poverty that was grim and occasionally life-threatening (yes, that's possible in America). But we made it back into the middle class, and not too long ago my youngest turned and asked me, "Mom, if you had it all to do over again, would you still have us?" And I had trouble finding the words to explain to him how glad I was that he was alive.

Dante

If you want to perpetuate the species, and in particular, your own particular brand of genes, yes it's worth it. If you're an evolutionary dead end, nope, it's not worth it.

kp

The emotional cost of raising a child with my values, only to see them destroyed when that child begins school, is the deciding factor for me. Realism saves a lot of pain.

Vincent Ciaccio

A lot of good points have been brought up on both sides, and I just wanted to take a minute to respond to them.

I don't think anyone can doubt that having children incurs a financial cost. With constrictions on the topic, and a cap on length, only so much can be addressed. That said, I honestly don't think that most people make the choice as to whether or not to have children based solely, or even primarily, on financial concerns. It may have a larger influence on the number of children a person has, but not on choosing to be, or not to be, a first-time parent.

In the past, when contraception wasn't as readily available, people just had kids. There wasn't much of an option. Birth control is widely available now, which makes parenthood more or less a choice rather than an inevitability.

When looking at the list of reasons my wife and I don't want children, financial concerns are on the list, but they aren't very high. She's currently in law school; I'm applying for Ph.D. programs. In a few years, the money to raise a child would be there. What's lacking, first and foremost, is any desire on either of our parts to become parents. We've been together now for nearly 12 years (married for two), and our position on the matter hasn't changed.

I've also known people for years who knew they one day would want to be parents. And they've thought through how parenthood would affect their lives, the challenges and the benefits. They're going to make great parents, and I'm truly happy for them.

My biggest issue is that we, as a society, don't tell the whole truth about parenting. We should be telling people that having kids isn't cheap, that it will affect a marriage. That if you want kids, and you're choosing a spouse, your spouse-to-be should have qualities that would make a good parent. And, what should be obvious, you should discuss with your future partner if she or he wants to have kids in the first place. Our society does a great job of putting all the good points of parenting out there for all to see, and it's time the same thing happens with the challenges.

I have no doubt Ms. Arnst, as well as many of you, experience a joy in parenting that transcends any financial concerns. I fear that is not universal to all parents. Some of them were blind sided by the challenges, monetary and otherwise. And some of them may not have truly wanted to become parents in the first place.

At heart, this issue is less about the financial "return on investment" of parenting, and more about making public some of the details of that investment and acknowledging it's not an investment everyone desires to make.

PePx

We should be more balanced about the opinions of all people and the current facts.

1) The sustained population growth may be necessary--although it pushes the global resources, it may be corrected by environmentally friendly policies and education. Having a child could be a selfish thought, yet a necessity. After all, one child is a healthy figure (even two, to replace Mom and Dad).

2) The cost of raising a child may vary dramatically, depending on the choices and education the child receives--also in surroundings like the home, school, neighborhood, etc. A child's demands are heavily influenced by these factors and their parents' social class. That's why most of the households all around the world can manage the costs of raising a child.

3) Not everything about children is all about costs. Some teens work and spend that money--or show some entrepreneurial skills, thus making them much more financially independent than most of their peers, but this is not a blessing that reaches most of the homes.

seth

For me, there is only one reason to have a child. It is the way I feel when I make her laugh, see her smile, and watch her explore, hear her theorize and conceptualize the meaning, reason, and purpose of everything around her. I have experienced more moments of pure joy and total terror in her 30 months on this planet than in my previous 34 years. Parenting is the ultimate extreme sport, so if you don't love the adrenaline, please keep a safe distance from the athletes.

Gunther Mass

This debate is really stupid. Are you Americans aware of the kind of image you portray to the rest of the world by debating whether having kids is good business? Are you out of your mind? You are a shame, really.

Lorensen Francis

My kids are my favorite financial drain. I never expected them to be so expensive. I'm positive I will not get any ROI in the medium or long term with them. I do not care; they are the greatest thing I've ever had in my life. I'm sure I wasn't cheap to my parents either. They do not seem bothered about that You know why? Because they are not stupid, selfish, self-centered people, who pondered whether having a kid was good business or not--that's why.

Pinual

I can't understand why or how money comes into the "worth" of a child. I think it's funny that both sides will often have a "ha ha, I am better then you" outlook as well. My wife and I have one child and are about to adopt another. Money and its importance in this world are overrated.

Also in response to Sarah (the "parent of the future"), it does no good to work for the better of the world if the future generations are just as destructive and disrespectful of the earth as now. It's just as important to raise children and teach them the values of conservation, understanding, and peace. The best way to fight for the future is to teach your children and their children the value of this planet.

Mel

Dear Catherine Arnst,
It is certainly within your right to decide that your child is worth anything and everything to you and that you will spend every penny of your retirement for her. However, don't expect me to have to work harder and pay more of my earnings in taxes to shore up your Social Security, pay for health care for your child, and pay subsidies for your child's college that you can't afford.

random

"Are you Americans aware of the kind of image you portray to the rest of the world by debating whether having kids is good business?"

It's the image of a culture where no question is too taboo to bring to the forefront, and a free of exchange of ideas no matter how unpopular and despised on any grounds, is alive and well. America is a country where you can ask anything you want and debate it until every angle of the question is eventually covered. In the end, not having an irrefutable orthodoxy makes for an engaged and intellectually stimulated society.

It's easy to scream and shout about how saying something is a shame and whoever says it must be inane or psychotic. It's much more difficult to think about a view with which you disagree and play devil's advocate to understand why the "shameful person out of his mind" would come up with such an idea in the first place. I and many Americans choose to go the harder way. Just because I disagree doesn't make me right, and just because I ascribe to an orthodoxy on the subject doesn't make me more sane or more correct on the subject.

To me, the turbulent world events of the past decade and today speak volumes about what happens when emotions, personal beliefs, and passions replace logic, abstraction, and open debate. While I can't speak for anyone else, I'm not exactly ecstatic about the wars, turmoil, and political scream-fests with no other purpose than to declare one's beliefs to be the sole and absolute word of God to be a good way to manage the planet.

Kaitlin

As a working adult in my mid-twenties, this is a debate I've had with myself many times. I, a lot like many people in Generation Y, have decided that maybe children do not fit into my life plan. Even amidst the cooing of "You'll change your mind once you settle down" and "But you'd be a great parent," I can't help but wonder whether or not all the pros outweigh the cons, or if this isn't just a mind set we've come to believe as a culture.

Back when my parents were my age, certain things were expected of them. Getting married and having children was one of those expected things. The cost of living was drastically lower 20 to 30 years ago, and many people did not go to college at that time. You could still make an honest living without having a college degree--just ask my mother. This has become a completely different story over the years. I live in one of the most expensive counties in the United States and find myself barely able to afford my bills, much less take on those of another human being. Forget putting someone else through college. I'm in debt up to my ears from putting myself through college. I have watched my friends have children in their mid-twenties. I have also watched it completely break them and rip apart relationships between good people. We are struggling as a generation to even save for retirement, since Social Security will most likely not be available by the time we retire. Fiscally, I would find it incredibly irresponsible of myself, and quite a few other people, to have children.

It's not just the monetary issue though. I love to travel, as does my boyfriend. We dream of seeing the world together, and being able to take our families down to some tropical island for Christmas one year. Children just don't fit into that picture. Also, we are creatures of habit. We like to go out, spend time with our friends, play in sports leagues, and also have time for ourselves. Sure, this may be selfish, but much like many mothers out there, I don't think I could handle not having two minutes to myself. I only have one life to live, and if I can't live it to its fullest extent the way that I see fit, what was the point of living at all?

All in all, many people in their mid-twenties just aren't finding it necessary to have children anymore. We don't need to "pass down a legacy." I'd be happy knowing that my legacy was that I was as happy as I could have been while I was still alive. Also, financially, I'm not fiscally able to provide for anyone else except for myself much like many other people my age. So, thanks but no thanks. I think I'll pass this lifetime.

Kaitlin

And I think we also need to keep in mind that not all of us are "God fearing people" and that not all of us attend church. Why do children have to be a religious debate?

kelly

It just depends on whether you want a child or not. If you want a child, then the money doesn't matter. If you don't, then the money is just another added reason. That said, I do think parents should be somewhat financially stable before having a child. Things can be done cheaper, but parents should know what they want for their child, what their child might want and how much it will cost, and have a plan before having the child.

Austin

Good article, but maybe this would a better discussion if we got some other point of views besides these two.

A widow who adopted a child as a pro and a man who made the decision with his wife not to procreate as a con are good outlooks, but how about a con POV from a single woman or maybe a pro POV from a father of 4?

FatSean

Parents these days want the kids and the lifestyle, and when they can't have both, they get politicians to squeeze the child-free a little harder.

Perhaps I am a cynic, but it appears that laws and policies set in place to "protect" and "support" children just put a crimp on my wallet and my freedoms.

Eric

By reproducing, a person achieves a sort of immortality as with each child, 50% of your genes are passed on to the next generation. Since this discussion is based on the financial aspect of raising children, you need to decide how much immortality is worth. Until cloning actually works and drops in price, $300,000 is a pretty good deal.

Jerry Steinberg

I thank and congratulate Ms. Arnst for adopting a child. Adoption gives needy children a loving home, while not adding to our planet's overpopulation problem and all the problems it creates (air, water, land, noise, and light pollution, overcrowding, crime, war over land, depletion of natural resources, extinction of plant and animal species, etc.).

If I had wanted children, I would have adopted children (probably from a developing country) who desperately needed loving parents and a good home, and I would have worked very hard to help my children turn out just like my nieces and nephews, who are all gentle, athletic, kind, musical, thoughtful, funny, respectful, obedient, loving, and everything else good parents want their children to be.

Jerry Steinberg
Founding Non-Father of NO KIDDING!
The international social club for childless and childfree couples and singles
www.nokidding.net; info@nokidding.net

sunetra chavan

I have days when I want to donate my kids, and there are days when they make my day. But never is a day that I regret having them.

I guess not everybody is cut out to be a parent, and even the best parents are not cued to be parents; they acquire those skills.

I have friends who have had no kids by choice and friends who are trying desperately for kids and friends who have abandoned their kids.

Expensive as they are, and as big a pain as they are at times, that is the only true thing in life. They are our only true legacy, our only true gift to this world and to the cycle of life.

Ignacio Narvaez Melo

Everything in the States has to be valued or priced. Can't you see it is life you are talking about? I am a father of five kids and really don't give a damn what the cost was or will be. By the way, I am not Catholic.
Sincerely yours,
Nacho

mork

I can't imagine being married and not having kids. It's has to be the greatest experience in life. Better than any trip to any exotic locale, better than the nicest sports car I've ever owned, and I've owned a few. Better than the finest hotel I've stayed in. There is simply no comparison. Actually, we only have one kid and we probably won't have another for the reason mentioned in the article. I often think of my friends who are not married and who don't have kids and think, "God, what a lonely existence." People who don't have kids are seriously missing out.

Howard

Mike and Andre, awesome comments.

One thing that gets left out of such debates is the cost of not having children to society. Imagine a society in which few people had children. As the population ages and needs care in retirement years, the elderly will have to forgo their accumulated wealth to pay and compete for the services of the few young people in the workforce.

So kudos to those who are bearing the responsibility of raising children--children that will one day pay the taxes and work in a workforce that will care for both those who raised kids and those who didn't.

PJ

I am the mother of two little boys and still find time to work, raise my children, have a family, and donate a large portion of my time to charity. So it is possible to have it all. We do not waste our time on materialistic exploits, and enjoy finding new things to do with our boys that cost little to nothing. They have never once said they felt they are deprived, just as I never felt that way with my own parents. My thought is, why can't more people learn to live with less?

The fact is that for a long time now people have expected everything to just come easy. Balancing family, work, and finances is not easy, but I never expected it to be. Life is hard work.

I guess what I am saying is that there is never a financially right time to have kids. You are going to make more money, get happy with the extra, spend the extra, and always be left wanting more. It's nice to have a safety net and know you have the money in the bank, but if something goes wrong, you blow through it fast.

What it comes down to is making sacrifices and being OK with those and realizing you can live perfectly well if you don't always try to measure yourself up against everyone else.

Dave

The joys of having children outweigh any monetary consideration and should not be debated. I have five sons, all of them precious and wonderful in their own way. None of them will probably be president, find the cure for cancer, or bring world peace. But seeing them discover life and finding their own paths has truly been a humbling experience for me. I support my family on a single income, and my wife stays home to be there for our kids. We don't have new cars and such, because we know the impact of parents being involved in their kids lives makes a difference.

Those of you who haven't experienced a child hugging your leg when you get home, telling you about their day, and truly wanting to be a part of your life, have not lived. It's given me a respect for the value of life and love, and I truly would not trade those for anything. I'm glad those of you who are outspoken against having children have chosen not to. If you don't appreciate bringing a life into this world, then you would not make good parents. We have enough of those.

I'm going home now to take my third son to his band concert. I can't think of anything else I would rather do.

PJ

Also, we all need to keep in mind that if you want to be a parent, be one. If you don't, that is fine, too.

I applaud people who realize it is not for them and don't bring kids into the world and ignore or toss them away.

But also don't point fingers and blame those who do have kids. The ball bounces in both directions.

There are selfish and selfless people on both sides of the argument for having or not having kids.

Scott

To those of you who are Christians and say that the Scriptures tell you to have children: Are you prepared to stand before Jesus Christ one day, and ask him why he didn't?

henna

"I often think of my friends who are not married and who don't have kids and think, 'God, what a lonely existence.' People who don't have kids are seriously missing out."

But you must remember that it is only your personal opinion/perception and not the true existence for those people. Maybe they enjoy the quiet and the ability to pick up and go at a moment's notice, etc. Just because someone is single and/or childless does not mean that they never interact with other humans. What I don't like about your thinking is the implication that interaction with children is the only human interaction with value.

In fact, I have noticed that single and childless people are often more involved with their entire community than many married people with children are.

I am a middle-aged woman who decided at a very early age that I did not want to raise children. It had nothing to do with money. It was simply a lifestyle choice. To sit and debate back and forth about money as the deciding factor is ridiculous because, of course, we cannot put a price tag on children. But I agree with many here who said you don't need to give into the whole "gotta give my kids everything they want" mentality. That is more a parental problem than the child's problem.

But we can save that for another debate on how to raise children. Of course, I would be quickly shut out of that debate since I have no children. Amazing how because one doesn't have children, one can no longer have an opinion on them.

Henry

I have thought for many years about this question of children, and I will be the last one to tell people that they are for everyone. They certainly are not. They take commitment and tremendous sacrifice to even begin to try and raise them right. And even then you are going to make many mistakes.

After four years of having twins, I cannot possibly imagine life without them. But do I still think about the cost? You bet. As a father and sole provider, I cannot help but think about the costs every day. But for me, they have been worth every penny, because I inherently have never wanted much for myself. That does not make me more noble or better than anyone else. It is just who I am, and this is the best life for me.

In the end, it really is about what makes you the most consistently happy every day, and that in itself can be a selfish goal, but happiness is something that every one of us deserves. If you truly feel you are happier without children, do not have them and do not let anyone make you feel you are selfish for not doing so. Alternatively, those of us who have children (and who love and guide them properly) are not selfish for having them or wanting to have our own instead of adopting. We have every right to want to have them, provided we are taking proper care of them and have a happy family.

But I do advise this: Don't make decisions to have children based on money. If you are truly on the fence about having children and money is what is stopping you, think very carefully about parenthood. It might not be for you. If you give children the love they need, the money will be there. Not for everything you may want, but everything you truly need will be taken care of. That is a guarantee, and any happy parent would back me up on this.

If your desire for the things you want exceeds the sacrifices that will need to be made if you have children (and if that is what will make you truly happy), don't have children. It won't be fair to them, and it won't be fair to you.

David H

Offered for consideration:

It seems to me, having read through the preceding thread, that while it appears to have been overlooked by most of the participants, Vincent excepted, perhaps the most notable facet of this debate is the fact that it can legitimately take place at all.

Even a generation ago, societal pressures, to say nothing of contraceptive efficacy, rendered the very concept of "should we?" largely a moot point. You were either "blessed" with children (mixed, in disguise, or otherwise, depending on your outlook) or probably couldn't have them. Any further back, and the debate loses all grounds on which to be waged. For how much of history have kids simply been the often-unintended side effect of the pursuit of one of life's pleasures (regardless of how you dress it up in terms of God-given responsibility, societal obligation, or just plain good personhood)?

One of Vincent's most salient points is that we have now the option of not simply riding the current of the evolutionary rapids to their logical conclusion. This opens up heretofore unavailable options for many individuals for whom children (for a myriad of personal reasons) simply do not form a part of their life plans. The mere fact that we can sit back and consider, with a real option toward affecting the outcome, the "whether" aspect of parenting is a heartening sign of the progress we have made in the direction of personal freedom to pursue individual happiness. There is no freedom without choice. That the individual has this choice and can perform his or her own personal cost-benefit analysis on the topic, regardless of the choice each makes, should be considered a milestone.

Todd Grant

This debate has nothing to do with what a child is "worth." Nothing to do with the "value" of a human life. Those who have tried to claim it is are either deluding themselves or being deliberately disingenuous.

What this whole discussion has to do with is, "Are the expenses associated with having a child worth it to me?" "Would the experience of having a child be (non-financially) rewarding enough to me, in my opinion, to offset the financial expense of raising a child?" The "return" on the "investment" is obviously going to be spiritual, not financial. Is that spiritual reward sufficient to me?

All of us have to answer that question for ourselves.

Biju Jacob

I found this topic quite disturbing. Isn't it appalling that one should treat a human being as a commodity and assign a price tag to it?

pennsylvania

Have any of those who think I should have a child because "Jesus wants it so" considered that people are free to practice other religions--or the lack there of?

seth

Both sides of this argument are disgusting. In both, the child is nothing more than an object to the parent, to be considered only in as much as it affects the parent.

Argument one can be summed up in this sentence: "My life is so much richer with my child than it was without her."

(Note: The person writing the first argument adopted, and does not fall into this category, but her argument is the same as those who have their own).

The selfishness involved in this decision is loud and clear here. When it comes down to it, it seems that people who want kids want them for this reason, because it makes their lives better or "richer." Many will debate this and put forth the "gift of life" argument, but this always falls short of rational. Giving someone a "gift" of locking that person into a potential 70-plus years of struggle is hardly a philanthropic move. What's a gift to me may not be a gift to someone else; and who am I to make that decision? What it comes down to is that parents have kids for themselves. If the kid is happy, too, that's great. If it isn't, they can always pull the "life is hard" card.

The second argument is easier to see how disgusting it is. Return on investment? Worth the cost? Again, the child is a commodity, with a monetary value to be determined by how much it benefits the parent. This is ridiculously selfish and does a disservice to those of us with real arguments against child rearing.

Adoption, on the other hand, is likely one of the least selfish acts in the world, but I've already written enough here.

DC

People have unreasonable expectations nowadays. What about past generations of parents who raised their kids with nothing? Go read the article "They're Making Money From Your Kids," and then tell me why this debate is starting to sound stupid.

Rico

I can't believe you take that $290,000 to raise a child at face value. Are you nuts? There's no way it costs that much. I guarantee you, few people spend $1,400 a month on their children. That's more than my mortgage. If that is true, my daughter is really getting short-changed. And we pay for day care, too.

It just angers me that the media never challenge such ridiculous statements. It gives the author, in this case Catherine Arnst, no credibility.

George

All I can say is--and I believed this before I ever became a father--is that you really don't know what it's like to be a parent until you're a parent.

Being a parent is totally selfless, not selfish.

Of course, only a parent would understand that.

Commentor

This debate is ridiculous. Let me keep it short. Those of you who don't want kids (not those who can't) are just losers.

EddMan

This reminds me of Idiocracy, where the smart family doesn't want to have a kid because of various reasons, one being that the economy was bad (at the time). Then they never have kids, because the husband dies while all the idiots and their sons and daughters are having babies like crazy.

sue

As long as you can afford to feed and clothe them, there's no reason to let money keep you from having kids. They are as much an investment in your own life as they are in the future.

Chino Romero

It depends on the day you answer the question. If you answer the day they just gave you their first smile or the first time they call you Dad or Mom, you will definitely say they are worth the cost. But if you answer the day they wreck your car, well, your opinion might be a little different. Parenting is not for everyone. If you are the kind of person trying to decide every little thing in your life in terms of financial success, please, remain childless.

Calvin Martinez

Why is everyone so worried about not being tagged as a "selfish" person. We all are. It is also ridiculous to state that if you are childless, you are selfish, and if you are a parent, you are not. I have two children, who are the best thing that ever happened to me, and I'm positive that I'm a selfish person. My wife and I decided to have them, and we were not thinking about anyone else but us at that time. Parenting is expensive indeed, and is not for everyone. I have great friends who remained childless who are extremely happy. There are not rules. Why does everything have to be the same for all of us? It is silly.

billd

The real financial cost of raising a child is easily much more than $2 million. Why? Because most families have at least two kids, and then the mother quits her job to mitigate the stress of "doing it all." She never returns to work. She therefore easily forgoes $2 million in career wages.

Is it worth it? If you have to ask, the answer is no. Parenting requires selflessness. If you are a selfish person, don't breed. The world will be better if you remain childless.

However, if you ask a cohort of 65 year olds what were the best and worst parts of life, you'll get the same answer; "family."

hhswrestler09

Ya'll are selfish. Kids are woth more than money.

Trevor

The comments are the true value of this article. Lots of good insight and some refreshingly bright minds.

One thing I've found is that having kids has kept me honest; I have to think beyond the 40-to-50-year time frame of my own existence, and realize that I'm now a role model for some highly impressionable people.

Vincent Ciaccio

In reference to "billd," who said, "However, if you ask a cohort of 65 year olds what were the best and worst parts of life, you'll get the same answer; 'family.'"

Even if taken at face value, your underlying assumption here is that what is true for the current cohort of 65 year olds will be true for the generations that have followed. Considering the incredible amount society (or at least American society) has changed in the past 40 years, I don't necessarily see the same scenario in 2042, when our current 30 year olds reach 65.

Even if we limit the differences to the options available to women (both career-wise and contraceptive-wise), you'd have enough to suspect different results.

J

11 Reasons for Having a Kid:

1. I've got nothing better to do.
2. I want my baby mama drama.
3. I need something to love.
4. I want to make a little me.
5. I'm giving back to society.
6. It's what my parents did.
7. I love my wife/husband, and she/he wants one.
8. I want to get 216 months of child support.
9. If I have a baby he/she can't leave me.
10. God told me to do it.
11. I don't know how to put a condom on or swallow a pill, and I believe abortion is wrong.

Which one are you? Or is their a reason I'm missing?

So If you think your reason outweighs the cost, then have as many kids as you want.

Lurid Squidboi

When people criticize and pick at those who have made life choices different from their own, it usually means that they are somehow insecure about their own choices.

This goes for people on both sides of the debate.

Live and let live. There have always been people with kids and without kids: At points in Medieval European history, almost one third of the male population consisted of celibate monks or clerics. The 19th century is full of fretting over "old maids" and eccentric bachelors who never had children, much to the consternation of their families. It is also full of stories about unwanted kids slaving in coal mines, factories, or worse.

Neither the decision to have kids nor the decision not to have kids is new. And it is my firm belief that happiness can be found with both choices, albeit different kinds of happiness. But those who pompously presume to know what is good for others often know very little about happiness, whatever decisions they may make.

Earlebruce

J,
A little bitter, aren't you? I'm sorry life isn't going better for you.

Pennsylvania

Lurid and Calvin,
Good points--thank you both.

Angie

"I would like to know, how is it possible that middle class (or lower middle class) Hispanics can afford to have so many children?"

Vrbcik, you must be kidding me. Do not generalize what you are not familiar with, because there are plenty of races that produce insane numbers of children besides Latinos--and for reasons that do not include ethnic matters, such as religious beliefs. As a Latina myself coming from a household with three children, I am a living proof that we are not "baby-making machines." Next time you want to contribute to a discussion, please think before you speak, or rather in this case write, to avoid appearing ignorant. For a person with a master's degree, you are a perfect example that a higher education, as much as I value it, does not attest for intelligence as many assume.

Chet Morrison

There are usually ways to cut costs--and I say this as a very happy father of a little girl who cost us roughly $25,000 in fertility treatment. But worth every penny. I mean, philosophically, what's the point of life if you don't leave someone or something behind? Especially if you are not religious and don't think that an eternity of kumbayah awaits you postmortem.

This may be sacrilege to write on the site of BusinessWeek, but money isn't everything, and also, you can't take it with you. Or in other words, when I was young and single, I was happy to have money and no children, but I think on my deathbed I'll be a lot happier to have children and no more money.

DC.

To Vincent Ciaccio:
I wish your parents would have made the same decision you have made. I feel sorry that my kids would be paying for your Social Security and you have no kids to pay for mine.

A progeny is priceless. People who don't have kids will never realize what they are missing.

There is an old saying: "The regret of inaction is always greater than the regret of action." It's pretty pathetic that the human race is having this debate. Seems like humans have started de-evolving.

DC

Sarah,
Your contribution to the benefit of the future of the human race will always be fondly remembered by the numerous generations to come. You certainly deserve a place above all humans, and maybe even above God.

AntiJ

J,
Did you think of these comments on your own? My god, you are intelligent. Now what's 2 + 2? Yes, you can go and get your calculator. Read the manual for instructions or ask the baby next door.

Don

henna,
"Of course, I would be quickly shut out of that debate since I have no children. Amazing how because one doesn't have children, one can no longer have an opinion on them."

It's as amazing as how, because one who hasn't had sex, one can no longer have an opinion on it.

I myself would have been OK if I didn't have kids. I have one now and regret I didn't have one earlier.

dheeraj

Vincent,
"Society still operates on the idea of kids' being 'worth the money' for everyone. With the advent of reliable birth control, I think it's time we changed that mind set."

Which society do you come from--Mars?

Some calculations and food for thought:

1. If all people start taking your advice, you would kill the entire human race in another half a century-plus. Assuming an average age of 60 years, that's almost destroying 6 billion people in 60 years = 100 million/year = 274,000/day = 200 per second.

2. It took nature 3.6 billion years of evolution to make the most advanced form of life. Your advice would take 60 years to destroy it--a fantastic rate of 60 million years of evolution destroyed per year.

dheeraj chitkara

Vincent,
Let's assume people listen to your advice and and no one ever has any kids and for some reason you outlive every other human alive today. You could become the richest man in the world one day and posses all the wealth in the world.

Dad of 3

Everyone's entitled to an opinion, and mine is that people are the most important thing in life. Not money, things, or saving the earth. What's the point of putting a dollar amount on something and making comparisons to intangible emotions? People need to be socially accountable in terms of responsible parenting, thus some shouldn't have any children while others may be in a position to have 10. It's unfortunate that by the time some people figure out what true happiness and the meaning of life is all about, it will be too late for them to have a family.

dheeru

To Vincent's comment: At heart, this issue is less about the financial return on investment of parenting and more about making public some of the details of that investment and acknowledging it's not an investment everyone desires to make.

Why is having a kid referred to as an investment? Have you ever heard new parents say "We are proud investors in a baby"? Do your parents refer to your birthday as "date of investment"? Do you ever say "I was invested in New York" instead of "I was born and brought up in New York"? Would you ever walk up to your friends or relatives who just had a baby and say, "Congratulations on your investment. What ROI do you expect from the baby?"

If having kids is an investment, is helping your parents a donation? Please, take money out of your mind, and you will realize that you are the wealthiest person in the world.

Mama Mia

Some days my kids are priceless. Other days I'd give them away gladly. They're cute and fun and wonderful until the teenage years, when they turn on you and make you and everyone else around them miserable. U.S. kids today are spoiled rotten. "Spare the rod and spoil the child" are among the truest words ever spoken. We spared the rod, and we have spoiled children to prove it. Kids today think the world owes them a living, because they have "rights."

My husband and I will not pay for our kids to go to college. No one paid for us; we worked hard and earned it ourselves. If they want to go, they will find a way to go. We asked our kids, "Would you rather us pay for college and you support us in our old age, or would you rather pay for your own college and we'll fund our own retirement?" Both replied without hesitation, "We'd rather pay for college." So, we'll let them. Where did this thought that parents are responsible for paying for their kids' higher education come from?

The greatest gift a parent can give a child is the gift of independence. So far, I don't see too many independent 20-somethings. Most are still mooching off Mom and Dad as they stroll down the street in their Ugg boots and drive late model cars, but they can't afford to pay for a catastrophic-only health insurance policy. Why? Because they know Mom and Dad will foot the bill should something happen.

If I had it to do over, I'm not sure I would have kids. But then polls have shown people who opt not to have children don't regret it until they are in their 60s.

Ask me again in 10 years.

dissent

It's a personal decision with wide ramifications.

If the middle class can't afford to reproduce, the whole society suffers. That is what is happening here. In France, they've upped the birth rate by supporting mothers, families, and the work of motherhood with an remarkable array of services. Here we have one-child middle-class families and ghettos.

Which policy makes sense?

My wife is getting Italian, and thereby EU, citizenship; she qualifies despite being born here. The USA is run for the rich now. The EU is better for the middle class, so we are expanding our options as a family.

sooz

There is no clearer eye than that of the non-native. Vrbcik's objectivity should be studied and utilized by American parents. Stop the competitive nonsense and move from befriending to parenting, and start raising people who can care for and entertain themselves. People aren't happy when they are always wanting more.

Curtiss

I believe the financial and emotional costs of raising children in today's society are far too great to make procreation an intelligent and rational choice.

As a 30 year old, I am very disturbed by all the hard data/statistics that unarguably illustrate how wages for the majority of Americans have largely been stagnant since the 1980s while the fixed costs of providing for children (housing, health care, transportation, child care, etc.) have skyrocketed to levels that make child rearing unaffordable.

As a nursing home administrator, I can assure you that the commonly held belief that "children care for their parents" is one of the greatest myths today. Unlike in my mother's generation, the majority of folks in my and younger generations live great distances from their parents, because today's careers necessitate this. This distance makes it nearly impossible for children to care for their parents even if they wanted to. In other words, parents make huge financial, emotional, and time sacrifices to raise wonderful children only so they can move far away, providing little companionship in return.

Increased life spans have made caring for many elderly so complex that it is impossible for children to care for their parents unless they are licensed Runs (hence the reason for the continued existence of nursing homes).

In addition, I personally observe more children neglect/abuse their parents in nursing homes (primarily to obtain financial resources) than "care" for their parents. For me, this solidified my decision to not have children.

Sadly, I believe the majority of Americans ignorantly refuse to acknowledge reality by fantasizing how parenthood will "complete" them, make their lives wonderful, and/or make them happier.

amy

I, a woman who wants a family of at least five, left a PhD program to open a Montessori school. Yup, it was the only way my PhD man and I could do it well.

Issy

As a European having lived in the States for the past seven years, and really happy to return to Europe, I think it is appalling to have such a debate. How can we possibly put a price tag on human beings? Why do we always have to speak about money and be judged according to money standards in this country? I am a highly educated individual, and one of the key reasons I'm returning to Europe is the lifestyle there. We simply have more time for social and human interactions (independently of having kids or not), and I sincerely think that it explains why people are more balanced (overall) there. Also, having more free time allows for more curiosity toward other cultures and diversity in general. Finally, overall in Europe (except the UK), education is by far much less expensive than in the U.S., and we have a better health-care system as well. Therefore, education is much more accessible to anybody, which I think is capital. Come and live in Europe--you'll be much happier.

NC Parent

My husband and I have adopted a child, raised his son because his biological mom couldn't, and (most recently) gave birth to a surprise baby of our own. Of course kids are expensive; anyone with an eighth-grade education can see that. And of course there are costs to the environment/quality of life on our planet due to overcrowding.

As someone else pointed out, it is truly wonderful that our society has evolved to the point where we can even have the debate. For myself, I can say that while parenting (especially step-parenting) has been and continues to be the biggest challenge of my life, it is also probably the most rewarding experience of my life. And to all my friends (and anyone else) who have/has decided not to have children after weighing all the options, I extend a heartfelt thanks. You have made the world a better place by choosing not to bring life into the world that isn't truly wanted. Thank goodness we live in a society where you can choose to abstain.

Carol

Once again we are shown that society today places the highest value on money--the almighty dollar. Everything else is second and forever measured by its price tag.

We no longer take the time to give our children the greatest gifts we can give, our time and love. Instead we fill up their days with endless activities and gadgets and elaborate vacations so we don't have to stop our busy schedules and actually do the things every parent should be doing. We are becoming brainwashed to believe that the only way we can show love is to buy bigger and better. And anyone who doesn't have a ticket for Hannah Montana is a--spell it--b-a-d parent.

The return is not measured by the dollar; it is measured by what type of people these children are becoming. It's your investment in quality time, not money. And I suppose if one cannot see past the dollar sign and can only measure human life by currency, then I agree heartily--one shouldn't have children.

This debate seems to be about making a choice between kids or money, and that if you want one, you can't have the other. Conversely, if you take a look at the state of currency today--skyrocketing foreclosures, out-of-control credit--well, that side of the coin ain't too pretty either.

Perhaps with a bit of moderation, we may stand a chance of having both.

NC

Few would debate that childless people have decided not to have children for financial reasons alone.

Luckily, as others have pointed out, we have the choice to propagate or not. Some people who have children without much thought may later release their resentment upon their children in numerous harmful ways. Far better had these people not had children.

My husband and I have elected to adopt from a developing country. We made this decision after being married for more than a decade, and not for infertility reasons. Although I somewhat understand the biological desire/craze to propagate your own genes, I wholeheartedly believe that adoption is an excellent choice for providing loving homes for children who truly need them, while not burdening the planet.

Too, I wish that many biological parents had to go through the thorough analysis/examination that we did to adopt a child. Perhaps such an exam (though neither practical nor enforceable) would prevent the many unwanted, uncared-for children in our society.

matt smith

If you are basing your decision about having children on the expectation of a return on investment, I truly feel sorry for you. This is a twisted line of logic that I hope that no one actually applies.

robo

The people who think having children is not worth it are self-centered. Then on the other hand, when these self-centered people finally die off, the only ones left on the Earth will be people who value children as a very positive “liability” of the culture of humanity. I say "liability" because that is the only term these self-centered people recognize.

eb

I have had 30 years of happy-hours, work, meetings, lunches, and business travel. But as a woman married to her man, there was nothing so exciting as those nights of sweet abandon, both of us knowing we could get pregnant. And we did have three beautiful daughters. I might have had one more if we had started earlier. Now they are beautiful teenagers, so sweet and loving (I'm serious). They each remind me of my three best girlfriends from my youth. I will miss our slumber parties when they fly the coop, but it is as it should be, hubby will have me to himself again. If we didn't spend the money raising them we would have just lost it in some hairbrain scheme I'm sure. They are the best miracles on earth.

Sabrina

I wouldn't trade my daughter in for all the money in the world. No, I couldn't "afford" her as a divorced parent, but there are some family experiences money simply cannot buy. Call me biased, but I think childless families are totally missing out--regardless of their income.

Bob

Sarah's argument may sound like it's made by a fifth grader, but look deeper and you'll find the unhappiness that is disturbingly adult. It's sad that mature people can't make a statement that goes beyond the fact that everyone who lives a life unlike their own are selfish.

koondog

Not an issue. I love having little people around. God provides generously in all areas of child rearing.

Shae

To beedi:
I can't believe you consider yourself your parents' mistake. Anyway, I don't know why some people talk about having kids as though your life will be over when you have them. It's just the beginning.

Michelle

You don't understand selflessness and true love until you've had a who that requires all your energy and attention. My four little girls have made me a better person, less complicated, much less focused on myself. Yes, I do feel sorry for those of you who decided not to have children; you will never know how a child can make you feel so alive again.

DF in Ft Lauderdale

Children are a decision, whether a conscious decision or accidental. Once they come, your responsibility as a parent reigns. Period. If you do not want that responsibility, do not act in ways that create the possibility. This is a silly question. America needs to grow up and become a responsible adult like our forefathers were.

SM in Cincinnati

I always say that explaining having children to those without children is similar to explaining the concept of color to someone who has been blind since birth. Can you put a price on it?

FDMOM

What a creepy debate.

I can't and won't put a price on my beautiful kids. One was born with a life-threatening condition. Each day she's with us is truly a wonderful one. It's not the "cost" of having kids--it's what we, as parents, do with them and what they become as they enter adulthood. I can only hope that my husband and I do well. We won't know for awhile yet.

Landon

Vrbcik is right on. I just finished my bachelor's degree at a public university, and it was about $5,000 a year for tuition. I hate how they make a big deal about the cost of college. You don't have to go to a $30,000-a-year private college. You do not get any better of an education there; they use the same books. My wife went to a private college, and we shared some books.

Jenny

I am the mother of three teenage boys. When they were young and cute, the expense was minimal. Their expectations were low, as were the price of toys. Now that they are teenagers, the expense is astronomical. From Lacrosse to soccer to music lessons, everything is costly times three. I make an effort not to buy them every cool thing on the market; however, I still find pleasure in being able to buy them something special at Christmas. Gone are the days of Fisher Price and Legos, and we have now entered the stage of iPods and cell phones. I have managed to find ways of keeping costs down, by finding used or discounted items or waiting in stupid long lines on black Friday, but it is still very expensive trying to keep my kids "cool." Some people might not find this important, but to me, making sure my kids fit in is important to their mental well being. I may not have felt this way when my children were young, but I do now, and I get angry at people with toddlers telling me how they are going to do things with their children when they are teens. You cannot know what you will do until you have entered that particular stage of their growth. There are so many things I swore I would not do or buy, and ended up doing for various reasons. Our parental thinking changes as our children grow and change.

When my boys were toddlers, I had absolutely no idea how inexpensive they were compared to teenagers. Is it worth it? Yes, of course it is, but now that I have these three not-so-cute mouthy teenagers, I can see that their behavior must be nature's way of making it easier on the parents when they move out.

I see it this way. You will be hard pressed to find a person with kids who will tell you they regret having them or that the expense isn't worth it. It's just the way it is. Once you have them, you don't regret it. However, I think you are much more likely to find a childless person who later in life says, "I should have had children," and I would say that the decision to have or not to have children is rarely a financially based decision but rather a personal one.

Tom from PA

Carol said it best--keep your life simple. Your kids will thank you. My wife stayed home to raise our children, and we didn't have new cars or a summer home or lavish vacations. Our four kids still look forward to having Sunday dinner with the family and grandparents.
--No regrets in Pa.

DAP

The cost of having children framed in dollars is not as meaningful as the cost/benefit to humanity and the World - which should be viewed as a living organism of which we are a part.
The considerations are:
1. The Earth can renewably sustain about 1.5 billion humans--we have about 6.6 billion.
2. It is best for the gene pool if the most people make a contribution. Natural selection is at work, and restricting your contribution by celibacy may benefit you in the short run but is bad for civilization.
3. Unfortunately, in poor societies, the birth rate is high--for economics and/or ignorance of effective birth control. Then war, famine, and pestilence become the limiting factors, and the children suffer.

So we need birth control in most of the world, but everyone should try to contribute one or two children to the gene pool until the Earth's population is 1.5 billion. Then the average should be 2.4 children --or whatever the actual number to keep a steady population to correctly run the Earth.

Those who push lots of children usually have a secondary agenda, which includes materialism, political power, or warfare.
Those who push celibacy are cheating mankind out of their (or more often, of others for whom the prescribe celibacy) gene pool contribution.

At 60-plus, I love my three children--all wonderful and successful college graduates with advanced degrees and business and professional success--but might have chosen to have one or two had I thought this way 35 years ago, although I suspect we will end up with eight to 12 grandchildren, which is about as it should be.

Lori Gomez

My answer is no-no-no, and it is not for financial reasons. They are from the beginning, and I suspect to the end, a royal pain in the ass.

Helen

Children are priceless if you know love. They are expensive, but I do my best to raise two girls with my husband. I want to give them all, yet devoid of materialism. I think love and a spiritual connection are priceless.

Carole

In 1979 my son was murdered by a drug-crazed man he'd never seen. Though I respect and admire those people who know themselves well enough to admit that they don't want children, I think that you can easily see that I would give any amount of money to be able to raise that son of mine, and see him go through life. Yes, children are worth the money.

D.S.

Thankfully, we all have a choice in the matter of rearing children or not. There is a balancing point on the issue, and that is asking what our purpose in life is. I firmly believe (despite those posing atheistic/agnostic statements) that our higher calling is in response to whom we think is most important, and I believe we are all part of God's creation. Therefore, I believe that I must submit myself and my family in accordance to what His desires are. There are a myriad of factors that come into play, but our highest is to answer, "Does having children give honor to God?" Everyone worships something--if our focus and worship is on self, money, vacations, education, or even children, we're missing the boat. There is a plan for each of our lives, and we must all be seeking our highest good to attain it as we seek to glorify God and to, second of all, treat others properly. For some, God's plan will include children; for others it will not.

Mandie

This is a reply to Matthew Ortiz, I can tell you don't have any kids yet, because you have this whole thing planned out so perfectly. I just want to let you know the only thing you can really plan on is plans changing. If you try to make such specific plans for something that is completely out of your control, you will end up thinking things went all wrong and be disappointed with yourself for not being able to work it the way you planned. I'm not saying to not make plans, but you need to make room for fate, and change to achieve happiness. The most important thing. Blessed be.

mo~mo

I'm a 16 year old, and my parents love me. They say that I am worth anything in this world. All parents care about their children, and people who do not have kids also care about children. Most parents want their children to live somewhere safe, where their children won't be get exposed to some of these horrible things like drugs, shootings, and alcohol. There are many other reasons why parents will do anything for their kids.

Charlotte Minich

Hi, this is crude and right off the cuff, but everyone has gone way off the deep end. We have children because it happens out of love. Then we love them and, we hope, deprive them of as much as we can, so they can grow up to be givers and responsible adults.

I think my kids are close to that with their kids....no nannies and no specials.

Aly

If we only look at this debate in terms of whether or not children are "worth the cost" to the individual, we will never answer the question, because only an individual can decide what is or is not worth money to himself or herself. However, if we look at the bigger picture--whether or not the cost of children is "worth it" to society--we come closer to an answer. The quarter of a million dollars it takes to raise a single child could go a long way toward solving many issues both locally and globally.

michele

Well, although many the comments and viewpoints discussed thus far are valid (most especially for the people who wrote them), I think that the largest concern related to this debate is who is having all these children who supposedly cost so much to raise. In the original article that Tom discussed, there was mention of the number of children Americans have in relation to the rest of industrial countries and how our difficulties with immigration are affecting, in part, the number of children per woman Americans are producing. I live in southern California, went to school in upstate New York, and am originally from a small town in Pennsylvania. I am 28 years old, hold a master's degree, am not married, and do not have children. I have witnessed, first hand that no matter where you live, people (in general) who are less educated have more children earlier in life. I know there are exceptions to this rule; however, I have seen this happen with "white trash" in Pennsylvania and upstate New York and the black and Hispanic populations here in Southern California. So if people who are uneducated and therefore, probably make less money, and are less equipped to raise children properly (both financially and in other ways I won't mention here), where are we headed in terms of the future of this country? If educated and financially sound people are having fewer and fewer children, and ignorant and poor people are having more and more children who everyone else are supporting and raising (i.e. state and federal government funding and federally funded programs), then maybe more people should be taking Tom's advise and use a condom for God's sake. Especially those idiots who call in and can't formulate a sentence and then "fold like a house of cards" when confronted by Tom or questioned in the least bit. Stop having children you can't afford, for God's sake. Stop it.

Devynn

It's simple. You want the kids, have them. You don't, then don't. But remember that no matter what you do, the world still turns, and if you want to help it along, you gotta do your part. So what happens after you're gone? Are there gonna be enough people around to help like you want? It has been proven time and time again that the poor and uneducated among us have the most kids. There are various reasons as to why, but just note that they do. They also tend to be the most draining on our resources. I believe that this is because they are ignorant of the fact that things will be here just the same way as they were today, tomorrow. Of course, the rich have a tendency to do this, too. But those types of rich folks are few and far between. It's the poor looking for handouts who are our worst consumers. So I implore the rich in money and education to help us. The planet is being destroyed by stupid people. If you have just two kids, and raise them up to counterbalance/stop the destruction, then I think we'll be OK. But if you don't, you only have yourself to blame on Doomsday.

Alos

There is a reason the family is and will always be the basic social unit. Life is not mere dollars and cents. As our federally mandated social system fails, my children will still love me. I know certain powers that be want to place the state over the the family, but that is not a sustainable reality. Please thank your Mom and Dad and hug your children, if you can.

marly

Sarah, I agree. Having kids not only contributes to the Earth's destruction but also it's unfair to subject these innocents to the devastating effects of global warming, from which they'll likely suffer cancers, resource wars, and early death. I remember polar bears and snow, but they won't--frankly, I feel that a world without these things is not enjoyable. So, adopt if you must have children, but please cut the breeding--we won't be needing more of you. Give some of that college money you save to an environmental cause so that humans survive.

Frank

We don't need any assistance in creating more financial trouble (make people lazy) for kids being raised by single parents. I'm so tired of the current laws that leave one parent pinned in a bitter custody battle costing thousands of dollars. In the end, both parents loose, and the kid suffers. The lawyers win. We should get rid of the misandrist laws that are leading men to stop getting married and having families. The current system is a deterrent to families.

Mike

In my opinion, the government should not reward people in any way for having children. There should not be any kind of incentive, because overpopulation is creating the vast majority of problems in this country and the world.

Global warming, food shortages, pollution, endangered species, diseases, wars over resources, traffic congestion, overcrowded schools, etc., are all created or greatly enhanced by overpopulation.

There seems to be a direct correlation to women's rights and population growth. In countries that have equal treatment of women, the political environment and the population growth are stable.

Should governments or religious organizations strive for more people on this planet?

I have two children and can afford them, and they usually are cause for a lot of joy for my wife and me. However, we did not want to contribute to what we observed as a growing problem.

Alex

Vrbcik, you are absolutely right. I never went to any stinking summer camp as a kid, I never had the most popular toys, and our family took simple vacations that involved camping or fishing or we had neighborhood football/baseball games. I never went to a private school. I attended graduate school by living in my parents' house and paying all school expenses myself by working. It doesn't cost that much to raise a child. Like Vrbcik says, kids do not need expensive things; they need and want you.

If you want to know the real disincentive to having kids, it is that the woman can just leave, take the kids, and you are stuck paying enormously inflated "child" support costs. We don't need government-run stinking incentives, we need government to get the hell out of our lives, and enforce reasonable child support correlated to the real costs of giving a child a reasonable upbringing, and certainly people will choose to have more children.

Sam Jones

I, for one, am sick of hearing only one side of the story with having and raising children. I am sick of hearing all the schmaltzy talk of how wonderful they are. Why doesn't the lady in the grocery store with the screaming kid--looking overwhelmed at the task of constraining him--express her "joy" over having a child? I think there is more stress with raising children than parents ever admit.

People have selfish desires, whether they have children or don't have children. It's prideful to want children so you can pass on your glory, and it's prideful to not want children so you can still do what you want, when you want.

It comes down to the basics--a sperm and and egg get together and form a child. People who become parents aren't just people "qualified" to become parents. What about all the unwanted children who happen by accident? Just because your sperm fertilized an egg doesn't make you suitable to be a good father.

I'm just sick of hearing about how wonderful children are all the time, and the dismissal of the stresses of having them.

Garfield

Amazing and sad, the extent of fear and hopelessness expressed on this blog. Such uncritical acceptance of media-driven apocalyptic visions of overpopulation, resource shortage, global warming, environmental despoliation, etc. Folks, if you want fewer humans on "the planet," then give a cheer because it's already happening. Countries too many to list have birth rates far below replacement rate. At current birth rates, demographers project the last Italian will die around 2460. UN demographers project from current birth rates that world population will continue growing only until about 2050 and then begin a gradual but sustained decline. U.S. birth rates are barely holding at replacement level, mainly because of high birth rates among recent immigrants offsetting low birth rates among whites descended from last century's big European immigration and colonial times. The new groups haven't yet had their hope and emotional health beaten down by fear-mongering media and politicians. They're excited by all the opportunity they see in their new homeland and are too busy to absorb the self-loathing so fashionable among the white upper middle class. The language barrier also protects them from destructive, nihilistic messages. The smart set holds to visions of apocalypse thinking that faith in them shows intelligence and caring. But it really just shows ignorance and failure of imagination. These visions appear intelligent and convincing only if one believes that technology and science have come to a standstill and will never again move forward to new discoveries and new resources. But the actual record of such progress so far reveals that belief as irredeemable ignorance, superstition almost. We live longer than ever before, breathe cleaner air than any time in the history of industrial civilization, have safer food, cleaner water, etc. These are challenges being met by technology and science. Species feared to be near extinction increasingly are recovering. Glaciers retreat here and grow there. People have overcome worse and more immediate threats to survival we face now. As to today's perceived threats becoming more immediate, the amazing record of technological inventiveness and progress makes it illogical in the extreme to forecast global doom and believe having children absolutely harms "the planet." The "too many of us already" argument fails in the face of sheer demographic fact, verifiable numbers. It's not wrong to decide you're not cut out to be a parent and remain childless. Honest self-knowledge is rational. But remaining childless to "save the planet" reflects unreasonable fear or an insecurity soothed by celebrating the decision with a dose of false nobility.

ART

Sarah is right. We don't need any more people on the planet. It only took us the last 50 years to double the population, and at this rate, we won't have enough food and fresh water to feed everyone. We are already using "historical" energy in the form of petroleum for transportation as well as most of our goods, and at the pace we're going, it will run out soon. It may not be the end of the world yet, but materialism and our throwaway society sure are speeding us toward that goal, or rather, our demise. Read Ishmael by Daniel Quinn.

do over

Are they worth it? Of course those who already have kids are going to say yes, because no one wants to admit they made a mistake by having kids. Well, I will admit it. Kids are cute when they are small, and they adore you as their parent. But they can grow into some crazy individuals by the time they are teens. No matter how "well" you've tried to raise them, they have their own personalities and values. It sometimes doesn't matter what you do for, give to, or do without--they are who they are. I have one biological and three adopted. All of them have issues. If I could do it over, I might not have any. It's not just the financial. I don't mind that kind of sacrifice. But the emotional and health sacrifices were never mentioned. I wish someone had told me that kids can be this detrimental to my health. Don't get me wrong; I love them more than they will ever know, but raising them has taken a toll on my health. I may not be around to see their kids, let alone collect on that iffy social security.

Steve Murdoch

Art is an idiot.

Are kids worth the cost? How asinine. Parenthood isn't for everybody, so let's leave it at that. My ex-wife did, and that's why I'm raising my 11-year-old twins as a single dad. I wouldn't have it any other way, and I wouldn't trade it for the world.

Dan Blattner

What do you say we all just stop having kids, regardless of our positions and status in life? Let's just end the human race and let the animals roam the world (they wouldn't mind anyway). Just because some people want to live and dwell in negative selfishness and don't get any joy out of raising kids does not mean that others do--and there a quite a number who do, like me.

on the fence

I appreciate the comments by Do Over. I admire your courage to talk about the "rough stuff" in relation to raising children. I know you're not alone in your thinking.

Bryan

Sarah, I'm sorry, but you're an idiot. Your "conscious decision" is just a cop-out so you can keep your little comfortable meaningless existence, while not having to be responsible for bringing forth the circle of life. I find it scary that there are people like you spewing your anti-family propaganda right here in the free world. Save the whales and rely on people being taxed so that you can grow old and get a government check. It used to be that parents take care of children, who in turn grow up and reverse the role. Who's going to take care of you, Sarah? The whales?

Julia Stone

To the young man from Prague, thank you for your wisdom. I agree with you 100%. Your child will be blessed to have you for a dad.

To Sarah, why would you bash Americans? If you live here, do something to make it better; if not, who are you to judge?

There is nothing I would trade my children for. They have all grown up to be law-abiding, productive members of our society. I am looking forward to the births of my grandchildren. I hope to have a least a dozen.

To the person who said that 46% of the people in the world do not believe in God, well just because they do not believe does not make God any less real. Rest assured that all 100% of the people will come face to face with God someday. And how did the God debate get brought into this debate on the cost of children?

George

If you look in nature, anything we consider to be alive reproduces. Plant. Animals. Their lives center around their reproduction. Why should we be any different? Because we are smart enough to reason it away?

I am not married (yet), I am not a father (yet), and I do not believe in God. I believe the closest thing we have to an objective meaning of life is to push our genetic material into the next generation.

When I look at this from a selfish standpoint, I am repelled by it - I want to keep all of my money and freedom to myself because it would make life so much easier. However, it just seems that nothing else is more important than being a biological parent. Like everything else alive on this planet, it is our mission. It is simply the greatest thing that anyone can achieve and the closest you can get to immortality.

I think that if you die without having been a biological parent, you have failed on some level as human being. That may sound harsh, particularly for those who are sterile through no fault of their own, but I think it is the truth. Those who are not biological parents but who adopt children are doing a great service to humanity and are to be commended.

Father of Six

To each his own. Isn't it great that we have a choice? Kids are our future, and whether you want a lot or none, it is okay, and this is a pointless debate. Only parents know the rewards of bringing up kids and teaching them to give something back and to leave this world a little better than you find it. Humanity is depending on our skills in raising the next generation. I laugh and tell people that I have the type of kids who will change the world and make it better a little bit at a time. Now that is an ROI that is unmeasurable.

Patrick

First, kudos to Businessweek for hosting this potential powder keg of a topic.

My wife and I have two children we love dearly. The fact remains, though, that our family leaves a huge environmental footprint with each day of our existence. This is not solely our fault or the fault of our children, but rather a result of a complex and subtle web of causes that is modern American society. (Don't get me started on modern "developing" societies that are fast surpassing us in terms of global impact).

It's good these conversations are happening, but they need to happen within the larger framework of global population control, "carbon neutral" lifestyles and an eye toward a future at least 75 to 175 years off.

Sarah (along with those in this thread who echo her sentiments) is dead-on. More important, it is a hard fact that our children cannot "leave this world a little better" than they found it. Each disposed diaper, every plastic bag and every mile driven to soccer practice guarantees that our children are forced to carry on the environmental harm started by their parents.

That's what we need to change. And I don't know that we will--as a planet--be willing to do it until we have to. The day we fight our first war over drinking water will be a sad turning point.

Nic

I am still evaluating the whole idea of having kids. People say it is greedy to not have kids. Having kids is somewhat greedy, too, since many expect to be taken care of when they are old, or don't want to be without family, etc, I think I am part of this category, I want to be taken care of later; it is a fair trade. Biologically we seem to be designed to reproduce. When an attractive girl walks by me, I start liking the idea of performing activities that could result in reproduction. Of course, I also wonder if it is such a good idea to bring a child into this world of chaos. At the same time, since I am intelligent, healthy, and attractive I feel an obligation to contribute to society. The intelligent population has less children than the not so bright. Eventually there could be a world full of idiots.

To get back to whether they are worth it personally. Hmm, I think it might depend on how many kids. I could have one kid who could take care of me, two kids would take care of both me and my wife, three kids who would contribute to society. The fourth kid does not do much. That would be an interesting question, if you have two kids now, are two more kids worth it?

Tinkertot

Having a kid doesn't mean you have to live in a cardboard box. Sure, there's the doctor bill, but with planning you can fit almost anything into your budget. Most parents first mistake is wanting designer clothes for their newborn babies. The truth is that the kid could care less about what he wears.

We all want our kids to grow up in the best environments. Most want there kids to go to a high-end private school, too. If it can't fit in your budget, though, you shouldn't try to force it. A public school is fine as long as you don't choose the one on the wrong side of town. Try to teach your kids to hang out in the right social groups and don't assume it's the school's fault if their grades start to slip. College is another issue. Teenagers can get a job and pay for it. It will not scar them for life if they have to lift a finger, but it's always good to keep a savings account.

I think having a kid is always worth it. It doesn't have to rob you of every penny.

corey

First off, I think of the question "Are kids worth the cost?" as a bit off the topic. As I see it, both sides are correct in how they feel, but they both still fail to see the "real" underlying question that people need to ask before they decide to (or accidentally) have kids. And that is the simple question: "Can we afford a child?"

Phoenix

Jan,
If you see God as a punitive person, then more power to you. I see God as a force. God is love. With that in mind, you just might to reconsider.

James

Generally I do not participate in this type of public forum. I have to share my years of fighting with my inner self as to whether I ever wanted kids or not for all those reasons mentioned by people who would rather not. I used to ask everyone who had kids if they had to do it all over again, knowing what they know now, would they have kids again? Surprisingly, there were few "I love my child and wouldn't change for the world, but if I knew what I know now I would not choose to have kids."

I am one of the most selfish people that I know. Generally it is very much my way or no way. I also agree with those without kids pointing out how our society is completely obsessed around bending over backward for people with kids. I highly resented those who had kids and got time off whenever there was a "kid" needs while I couldn't get time off to get my hair done as I did not have kids so I must have lot of time. The worse thing was when everyone could not stop talking about their kids, showing pictures, and bringing them to the workplace, which is completely unacceptable as it is disturbing. I do not like kids--never understood why anyone would rather change their lives with and choose such a task that has nothing but negative factors on paper. I wanted my sleep, shoes, and peace. As logical as I am, my research showed that there is no reason I should have a child or anyone else should, for that matter.

A few years later, I now have Jake, who just turned 5 years old. The fact is that my research-- let's just say unfortunately--there is no language or word that can describe how I feel about Jake; thus, no one can tell me in any language that made any sense. If I had to choose a person in this world I would die for and give up all the worldly possession for, it would be Jake. And sadly there is no word that I can say to those who are debating this issue. Don't get me wrong, I still love sleep and continue to buy an excessive number of shoes. I still hate other people's kids, especially the dirty ones. And the things that I can do for that $1,000-a-month private preschool fee--that is lot of shoes.

Now, I look at my friends who chose not to have kids. I cannot help to feel sorry for them; I know those of you without kids don't feel this way and you feel sorry for us with kids, but to go through all your life without knowing this...the thing that no word in the world can describe. I consider myself very lucky to have chosen to have Jake and for very selfish reason. (I want to make sure that if you are wacko and have large issues, you do not have kids and have an innocent child suffer. It's crude.)

Joy

So, what this argument is really asking is whether children have intrinsic value, or whether it is our desire for them that makes them valuable.

But what happens if, instead a framing the question around "potential people" (should we have a child or not), we put a price tag on some other group?

If children have no intrinsic value, then, logically, all people have no intrinsic value. After all, we all start as children, and something that begins with no intrinsic value can't acquire it later --intrinsic means it is there from the moment a thing begins to exist.

So, taking that argument to its logical conclusion, people who have no value of their own will have to develop a value in some way--by contributing something of value to those around them, by becoming useful. If they don't become useful/valuable, they are really just useless eaters.

Old people: useless eaters
Sick people: useless eaters
Handicapped people: useless eaters

Welcome to Nazi Germany.

Humanity can take its place at the end of the line and wait for time, illness, or misfortune to call our numbers. Maybe all the world will adopt China's one-child policy to regulate the "entering" phase, and when we are still consuming too many resources, we will find government-mandated euthanasia waiting to cull all the worthless people who still managed to get born.

If people don't have worth until it is assigned to them, who will be the one who makes that decision?

Mary

Andre:
"When my kids are supporting your Social Security payments, you can thank me."

And when I financially support your children through school taxes, property taxes, paying a portion of your fair share of income taxes so the government can hand you a child tax credit, you can thank me. Wait...I already do all of those things. Where's my thank you?

Jack

Dropping into this without reading any of the previous comments...

It doesn't matter to me whether a person is a parent or not.

I believe it's easy to see how a young person benefits from education.

So, I cannot understand how a person might believe that it's not worth spending time and money on a kid's education.

Whether or not we have our own kids, surely we can see that the future we fade away in is going to be affected more by today's kids than anyone else.

I'm not going to define "education" for you. But it is true that without an education, that kid is likely to not be able to make something new out of his or her life in the future, and therefore make something new out of this society that we live in today.

We are responsible for our todays. But who is responsible for our tomorrows? It cannot be the kids that we don't take time and money to educate, can it? They aren't likely to understand the tomorrows when they happen unless we give them the help they need. Social skills, abilities that help them make it in our complex society, and the education that will help them make the society better than it was before. All that comes with education, and certainly won't happen without it. As much responsibility as they have, parents cannot do this on their own.

There is nothing to be proud of when a person in your town is unable to understand the simple math of filing their own taxes.

There is nothing to be proud of when people in your town don't use the library because they see book learning as a waste of time, and they haven't the language skills to read the Declaration of Independence for themselves.

And that is the bare minimum.

So what do we do? Reap the whirlwind, or prepare for fruit? We've had too much willful ignorance already.

Greg

This is almost laughable to those of us that have children. We know the answer.

YourMajesty

I think that Sarah has "invested" her resources in the care and feeding of a high horse.

carrie

I am sad for Sarah. The politics have gotten into her head and taken over. I am a mother of two and still volunteer to take care of our planet. We volunteer with the adopt a highway program, We recycle. I am a Sunday school teacher. We work on houses for widows in our church and community. I am also a substitute teacher in our public schools. Sounds like you are the selfish one. This planet, our home, was not made to last for an eternity. I have a home waiting on me when I leave this earth, that will be for eternity. I pray that you do too. Also the earth's temp has been cooler in the past 20 to 30 years and not getting warmer. We have had one of the coolest summers in years. I suggest you do some research.

God bless you, Sarah.

soozle

Sure, children are an investment. So are friends, parents, siblings, church families, etc. When did we decide that we are to be the personal recipients of the returns on our investments? When you give a birthday present to your bff, do you count the return to yourself? When you let your sister cry on your shoulder, do you wonder when the favor will be returned? When you volunteer at the nursing home, do you look for a reward? When we invest in people, we look for the return for them. If you can afford to help children with education (which is a tool), you want to see them at a good place in their lives. All the hours, the money, the worry, the heart ache, is invested for them. They will not always make you happy. They will not always make it easy. Toddlers are hard (and amazing). Teens are harder (and incredible, even at their worst). The return is when they are healthy, balanced, strong, independent (and interdependent) adults. If you have to count the return on your relationships, don't have kids. No skin off my nose. But I hope you don't treat all relatioships in that same light.

dnarich

Vrbcik is absolutely right that a part of the problem is that in the US, expectations have changed. In contrast to my upbringing (in the US, in the 1950s and 1960s), where we played baseball with the kids down the block, we walked to school, we had one (black & white) TV, and absolutely (no surprise here) no computers, no cellphones, no iPods, and our family had a single vehicle, today's families are typically voracious consumers of everything. The expectation is that kids will be driven to organized sports at frequent intervals (perhaps 2 days of soccer practice and one game per week, or maybe 4 gymnastics practices and a meet per week), taking time and consuming automobiles and gas. It is now virtually the norm that kids in high school have cell phones and iPods, and a significant number of households have more than just a single computer--often so the kids can do their assigned homework, complete with assignments that must be prepared on PowerPoint or other commercial software. I would bet that there has been a significant escalation in costs just due to these factors.

Though in my youth it may have been considered appropriate for the high school band to perform in the community parades and at high school football games, today's high school performance groups often travel out of state to performances, and foreign language classes often travel to foreign countries, and field trips to D.C. are not entirely rare.

As parents, we are constantly told how poorly educated our children are and how lazy they are, and yet, in my experience, our kids have outstanding educational opportunities (okay, in my community the public school system is pretty terrific) and are learning skills and knowledge once taught in college.

Our expectations for standard of living and consumerism have skyrocketed--and so, too, has our appetite for energy consumption.

Perhaps a tempering of our habits would dampen the huge cost of child-rearing!

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