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Thou Shall Have More Kids

Thou Shall Have More Kids


Feb 25 2013
In defense of bigger families and smaller budgets.

It's not often that a company asks you to "go make babies," but Chicago's National Public Radio Station, WBEZ, is imploring listeners to "Do it. For Chicago." Their surprising marketing campaign, called the 2032 membership drive, also prompts their audience, saying "Hey Interesting People, get a room already. And then put a crib in it."

But NPR may have failed to do their math. In her New York Times essay, "Opting out of Parenthood with Finances in Mind," Nadia Taha estimates the cost of raising a child at a whopping $1.7 million. At that amount, if WBEZ listeners follow the station's advice, they wouldn't have much left for philanthropic contributions.

Recognizing the potential economic disadvantages of starting a family, Taha and her husband decided "that the single decision that can best help us achieve [our financial goals] is one that many newly married, affluent young adults don't usually consider: Don't have children."

Money talks. Money decides. Although we may not follow Taha's extreme advice, we too can be tempted to let finances decide the size of our families. However, as Christians, we need to challenge the uncontested assertion that money should act as the primary factor for making such decisions (acknowledging, of course, that our ability to conceive isn't really up to us).

I grant there are economic considerations to having children. Days after I discovered that my surprise pregnancy was a twin pregnancy -- we already had three children at the time-- my actuarial husband worked to reconfigure our college savings spreadsheet. It didn't look good. If we hoped to send our children to the private Christian college we'd both attended, we'd need to start saving more money than we earned.

I can sympathize with families who ask, "Can we afford more kids?" and "Where would we live if we did?" We aren't the Duggars, but as a family of seven, we struggled to secure a place to live when we recently moved to a large city (Toronto). Buying a house is expensive, and renting isn't so straightforward. "Too many children," one landlord insisted.

We can't add up the costs of a big family without acknowledging the advantages, though. Having more kids, which necessarily divides a parent's attention, forces children earlier into roles of responsibility.

In her essay for The New Yorker, "Spoiled Rotten," Elizabeth Kolbert writes that Americans are raising "a generation of kids who can't, or at least won't tie their own shoes." Her essay is a haunting look into the way American parents baby their children, and a quick panorama of some new parenting book titles-- The Price of Privilege, The Narcissism Epidemic, Means Moms Rule, A Nation of Wimps-- suggests we have a new crisis on our hands: parents expecting less of their children at home, and kids mastering fewer and fewer life skills.

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