Beyond the scary Christmas list
December 6, 2010 8:55 AM   Subscribe

The cost of raising a child from cradle to 18 has risen to $222,000. Chiefly among the reasons is parents' desire to "cultivate" their children.
posted by reenum (122 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite

 
Yeah, but that's only if you feed them. That's where a lot of people go wrong.
posted by nomadicink at 8:57 AM on December 6, 2010 [24 favorites]


What if Christmas didn't come from a store?
posted by The Whelk at 8:58 AM on December 6, 2010 [3 favorites]


Single link Christian Science Monitor, TLDR summary: people are spending more on education now.
posted by paisley henosis at 8:58 AM on December 6, 2010 [3 favorites]


Speaking as somebody's child, I'm worth every penny.
posted by jontyjago at 8:59 AM on December 6, 2010 [22 favorites]


I think I was only worth about 79.4% of what my parents spent on me.
posted by kmz at 9:01 AM on December 6, 2010 [1 favorite]


OK, so now I'm a weirdo for not eating Spaghetti-Os?
posted by GuyZero at 9:01 AM on December 6, 2010 [1 favorite]


Well, the tags are a bit at odds with the article. Oh, no! How dare people spend money on their children!

Children should be a revenue generator rather than a cost center, right? Get 'em into 't mill earning their keep. You had a box? Luxury!
posted by Sidhedevil at 9:03 AM on December 6, 2010 [6 favorites]


The phenomenon has a name: concerted cultivation.

No different than the age-old desire to give your children a better life than you had growing up.
posted by infinitefloatingbrains at 9:03 AM on December 6, 2010 [9 favorites]


paisley henosis, check your graph again
posted by found missing at 9:05 AM on December 6, 2010


Sorry, I'm colorblind.
posted by found missing at 9:06 AM on December 6, 2010


I couldn't even get through half of that article without getting a knot in my stomach. Ugh.

This was fascinating:
"A stealth expense hard to even calculate in dollar terms is the time parents spend with kids. Because parents today are more actively engaged with their kids than parents in 1960, this time – variously called "quality time" or "face time" – is considered more valuable."

Child care used to be largely supervisory, a background activity by Mom, who was busy making dinner or cleaning the house. "Families spent more time in the same household back then but [they] weren't actively engaged with each other. Now they are," says economist Nancy Folbre, a professor of economics at the University of Massachusetts and author of "Valuing Children: Rethinking the Economics of the Family." In fact, supervisory time is considered of so low value that it's often not even counted in time surveys, she says.

Ms. Folbre calculated a very lowball dollar value of all time parents spend with their children – not differentiating between engaged time and supervisory time – using a minimum-wage replacement for parents. She found that for children living in a two-parent, middle-income household, the annual cost of parental time ranged from $12,353 to $14,338, depending on the age of a child.

"This is what the time would cost you, regardless of the reason you do it, whether it's love or obligation," she says. Her research shows time costs are about 60 percent of the total cost per year of raising a child, and that is just the replacement cost, not the opportunity cost, which is the income a parent gives up by choosing to stay home with a child."

posted by zarq at 9:07 AM on December 6, 2010 [3 favorites]


The cost of raising a child from cradle to 18 has risen to $222,000. Chiefly among the reasons is parents' desire to "cultivate" their children.

That's somewhat misleading. The article says that- Athough the lion's share of parental spending today goes to housing and food, health care and education have both ballooned: Health care is now 8 percent of the cost of raising a child versus just 4 percent in 1960. Education – which includes child care and extracurricular activities – rose from 2 percent to 17 percent of the total childhood bill. So, yes, education/"cultivation" is a rising cost for some families, but housing and food are still the biggies.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 9:09 AM on December 6, 2010 [3 favorites]


> "There is this belief that if you don't nurture whatever potential you think could exist within them, if you don't let them try everything, they will never find their calling."

Look around you; the vast majority of people never "find" their "calling." There's nothing wrong with spending money on cultivating your child's abilities and broadening their horizons, but this type of thinking leads to a lot of broken dreams and bitter adults.
posted by The Card Cheat at 9:09 AM on December 6, 2010 [20 favorites]


No different than the age-old desire to give your children a better life than you had growing up.

No, but the point seems to be that culturally, we seem to be far more focused on other things than a college education and money in the bank to achieve that goal.
posted by zarq at 9:09 AM on December 6, 2010


Thanks to cross-country custody transfers and a double supply of all my worldly possessions, I was an expensive kid. But, as is so often the case, it was my parents' fault as much as it was their money. I distinctly remember being in high school, thinking they were doing it all wrong, and plotting ways to make having kids pay for itself (it usually involved YouTubish reality shows, appearances on Oprah, and production of vast quantities of homemade honey products.)
posted by SMPA at 9:09 AM on December 6, 2010


Maybe it gets deeper further into the article, but what I got out of the first couple of pages was that rich people try to buy the quality of their childrens' lives just like they try to buy everything else, ho hum. Knock off the top 15% of incomes in that average and and you will maybe deliver a number that means something to me about what people are spending to raise their kids.
posted by nanojath at 9:12 AM on December 6, 2010 [2 favorites]


I suspect raising a child in Manhattan costs more than that. Childfree FTW (for the wallet!)
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 9:12 AM on December 6, 2010


I am a parent.

These people are nuts.

There are things I would love for Toddler Zizzle to be able to do, but one thing comes at the expense of another thing. If he decides he wants to play hockey, then we won't get to travel because hockey is crazy ass expensive. If he decides he wants to travel, then he won't get to take guitar lessons and so forth. There's something to the life lessons that you really can't do everything. And that's the way life is.
posted by zizzle at 9:12 AM on December 6, 2010 [4 favorites]


Much of the spending on behalf of children, say parents and economists, goes toward easing a rising panic – concerns that if they don't fork over for educationally enriching activities, sports, tutors, musical instruments, and orthodontia, their kids won't get into the right college and, in turn, won't have a good life.


bourgeois parents' desire to cultivate their children. FTFY.
posted by scratch at 9:12 AM on December 6, 2010 [4 favorites]


Am I crazy (as a non-parent and lower-middle-class-wage-earner) to think that $222,000 actually sounds low? For 18 years? I'd have guessed significantly higher than that.
posted by penduluum at 9:13 AM on December 6, 2010 [8 favorites]


Ms. Folbre calculated a very lowball dollar value of all time parents spend with their children – not differentiating between engaged time and supervisory time – using a minimum-wage replacement for parents. She found that for children living in a two-parent, middle-income household, the annual cost of parental time ranged from $12,353 to $14,338, depending on the age of a child.

Let's calculate the "lowball dollar value" of all the time spent with televisions, find out how much that little monster really costs.
posted by nanojath at 9:15 AM on December 6, 2010 [6 favorites]


Heh. A friend of ours has occasional brushes with a neighboring parent who is very much the Seattle yuppie hippy (with fascist judgmental leanings, naturally), the last one being when she asked with great concern "Are you sure your child is getting enough ancient grains?"

ANCIENT GRAINS.

Seriously, it's like a major victory if you can get 4 year olds to eat something green and she wants to talk quinoa...
posted by Artw at 9:17 AM on December 6, 2010 [38 favorites]


If I had kids I would curate them.
posted by fixedgear at 9:17 AM on December 6, 2010 [7 favorites]


> Ramey and her husband, also an economist, have two children, a 21-year-old son in college and a 16-year-old daughter attending a pricey private high school in La Jolla, Calif.

"My husband and I have much higher incomes than our parents did and we are ridiculous with the credit cards. We just got our daughter a car for $14,000," says Ramey. When her son was younger and took flute lessons, she bought him a $1,500 silver flute because "he was really good"; when their daughter showed an aptitude for photography, they bought her a Nikon D90 camera for $900. "It's kind of scary," she says, "the way you think if everyone else is doing something for their kids, you have to do it, too."


What I'm taking away from this article is that it's possible to be both an economist and a total idiot with money.
posted by The Card Cheat at 9:20 AM on December 6, 2010 [50 favorites]


We just got our daughter a car for $14,000," says Ramey

What's wrong with a $500 clunker from the local mechanic? Or the ten year old car that belonged to her aunt until her aunt bought a new car?

Geez.

Maybe we all need a lesson in want v.s. need.
posted by zizzle at 9:20 AM on December 6, 2010 [4 favorites]


SNL has this covered (transcript)
Paul: We're pretty well off financially but we also have a fairly expensive lifestyle and frankly maintaining that lifestyle is important to us.

Wife: That's why when Paul and I decided to have kids we made ourselves a promise....we're not gonna spend a lot of money raising them.

Gary B. Anthony: Who says you have to? Hello, I'm Gary B. Anthony. And if you're spending more than 5% of your disposable income feeding, clothing and caring for your children you are literally throwing your money away. That's why I created cheapkids.net. We search the world to bring you incredible savings. Like this children's car safety seats.
And there was a second skit.
posted by filthy light thief at 9:20 AM on December 6, 2010 [6 favorites]


"It's kind of scary," she says, "the way you think if everyone else is doing something for their kids, you have to do it, too."

NO, YOU DON'T!

Friends jumping off bridges and all.
posted by zizzle at 9:22 AM on December 6, 2010 [1 favorite]


What's wrong with a $500 clunker from the local mechanic?

Have you bought a used car lately? A "$500 clunker" isn't going to be roadworthy. It's not 1983 anymore.
posted by Sidhedevil at 9:23 AM on December 6, 2010 [28 favorites]


I think other people should pay for me to raise my kids. It's only fair.
posted by ZenMasterThis at 9:23 AM on December 6, 2010


But few parents would guess that the average American child costs more than $200,000, and that's before college even starts.

I would have guessed substantially more, actually. But I know a lot of lawyers who quit work to stay home with kids, presumably forgoing that much income in just a few years.

Which is to say: I would be more interested to hear the average multiple of household annual income a child costs.

Finally: is it now a requirement that every hand-wringing article about modern American parenting, no matter what the subject, has to complain that kids these days aren't allowed to run around the neighborhood by themselves?
posted by escabeche at 9:24 AM on December 6, 2010 [3 favorites]


My neighbor's kids play hockey and musical instruments. We live in Ypsilanti, MI. There is nothing bourgeois about Ypsilanti. They have a small house, and are always broke. But, they choose to spend that money on their kids in order to enrich their lives. Caring for your kids is not limited only to rich, upper middle-class families.
posted by Roger Dodger at 9:26 AM on December 6, 2010 [1 favorite]


If I had kids I would curate them.

Sometimes you do want to nail them to the wall.
posted by Kabanos at 9:26 AM on December 6, 2010 [3 favorites]


"It's kind of scary," she says, "the way you think if everyone else is doing something for their kids, you have to do it, too."

Well, that's obvious bullshit.

But you know, what the fuck. We spend a lot of money on our kid. So what? It's our money. It makes us happy to do so. Three years ago we spent a lot of money on eating out and bottles of wine. What's important, in my opinion, is that the kid knows that our love and ability to be there for her is more important than what we spend on her and so far I think we're doing a pretty good job of that.
posted by gaspode at 9:26 AM on December 6, 2010 [6 favorites]


What's wrong with a $500 clunker from the local mechanic?

Have you bought a used car lately? A "$500 clunker" isn't going to be roadworthy. It's not 1983 anymore.


First of all, hyperbole.

Second of all, yes.
posted by zizzle at 9:28 AM on December 6, 2010 [1 favorite]


Look around you; the vast majority of people never "find" their "calling." There's nothing wrong with spending money on cultivating your child's abilities and broadening their horizons, but this type of thinking leads to a lot of broken dreams and bitter adults.

By "bitter adults" I'm guessing you meant the kids raised like this, once they've grown up.

But I get the sense it leads to a lot of anxiety for parents and parents-to-be as well. If your standard of success is "Johnny earns an honest living, he's kind and friendly, he reads books and goes out on dates and travels sometimes and he seems to be having a lot of fun," then it's not terribly hard to feel like you might succeed as a parent. If your standard of success is JOHNNY IS A FULLY ACTUALIZED SELF-DIRECTED MOTHERFUCKING GENIUS ON A LIGHTNING TRAJECTORY STRAIGHT TO THE TOP OF MASLOW'S GODDAMN HIERARCHY OF NEEDS... well, that can't be a pleasant thing to confront, can it?

I think a lot of the craziness that we like to bash as "helicopter parenting" and so on makes sense when you think about all that anxiety. A big segment of middle-and-upper-class society has decided that they can declare you a failure if your freshly minted 21-year-old winds up without some nebulous, uniquely worthy "calling," even if the kid's got a perfectly good home of his own and some friends and a job and all the other prerequisites for happiness. And living up to that peer-group pressure from other parents would sure as shit make me act out in loopy-ass ways.

I mean, a calling might be a wonderful thing to have. (I wouldn't know. I've never had one — and hey, I do okay.) But either way, parents can only make a kid so happy. After that it's up to the kid.
posted by nebulawindphone at 9:29 AM on December 6, 2010 [30 favorites]


"There is this belief that if you don't nurture whatever potential you think could exist within them, if you don't let them try everything, they will never find their calling."

Who really thinks this way? Nobody I know. I think this is either (a) a straw man, or (b) some tiny section of society that is replete with upper middle class idiots living in an upper middle class neighborhood (i.e. La Jolla, California).

Then again, I also know people that used to be happy-go-lucky non-conformers who, once they had kids, suddenly felt an intense pressure to keep up with the Joneses.

But buying a $14,000 car for anybody besides yourself seems like a bad economic decision.
posted by jabberjaw at 9:30 AM on December 6, 2010 [3 favorites]


This is a big meh. For the working classes and lower middle classes, raising your kids effectively takes up all of your income. So you go without buying the big ticket fashion items that you had before you had kids, or your holidays -- if you can afford them at all -- are local, child-friendly holidays rather than backpacking to extreme destinations or five star luxury pampering.

So what? Was there ever a time when raising kids was ever not like this? It was like this for my parents, it was like this for me when I was a parent, and I expect it to be absolutely identical for my children if and when they decide to have kids.

As for savings -- all of the time my kids needed supporting (two are now self supporting, the youngest still relies on us for college stuff -- until next summer), the struggle was to stay one step ahead of the bailiffs. Saving wasn't even a fantasy. Then at some point, your kids move out, your mortgage is paid up and you're quids in -- until you get made redundant, and find yourself too old/overqualified to get hired ever again.

If I was doing it again, I'd sell them to a brothel in Thailand as soon as they can deliver a hand job.

(Not you, Cathy. Just the other two. Honest.)
posted by PeterMcDermott at 9:30 AM on December 6, 2010 [8 favorites]


I basically raised myself, and don't regret it. I'm bilingual as a result, for one. My first language was the same one Jodi Foster speaks in Nell.

T'ee an me an t'ee an me.
posted by Astro Zombie at 9:32 AM on December 6, 2010 [8 favorites]


What's wrong with a $500 clunker from the local mechanic?

It would be an educational experience, but I wouldn't 'rely' on it for transportation.
posted by ovvl at 9:33 AM on December 6, 2010


even if the kid's got a perfectly good home of his own and some friends and a job and all the other prerequisites for happiness.

Unfortunately, for a wide swath of the population, living and enjoying a modest life purely for its own sake is basically something you do as a last resort.
posted by hermitosis at 9:38 AM on December 6, 2010 [6 favorites]


My 8yo plays soccer and takes skiing, French and violin lessons--which sounds pretty obnoxious, I guess. But it's not because I'm trying to make her some kind of super kid. French and violin are offered through her school for a reasonable fee, so...why not? And we live near a very small, very reasonably priced ski mountain, so...why not? Soccer fees are pretty cheap for a season and my husband loves coaching, so...why not? Now, I'm not buying her expensive equipment or anything like some of the people in the article, but I'm sure that you could paint me as an over-indulgent mother if you wanted. Really, I just like that my kid likes to do stuff. Doing stuff is fun.
posted by jrossi4r at 9:45 AM on December 6, 2010 [5 favorites]


Childfree FTW (for the wallet!)

Yeah, my rough calculations put 20 years of birth control under $10,000. Throw in a couple of fur babies and we're still under $50,000, resulting in substantial savings.

This would seem crass if the article wasn't setting that mood from the get-go.
posted by almostmanda at 9:46 AM on December 6, 2010 [2 favorites]


But buying a $14,000 car for anybody besides yourself seems like a bad economic decision.

My parents bought me a new car for about ~$17,000 when I got my license in high school. Fifteen years later, I'm still driving it, so I think it's been worth the money.
posted by thewittyname at 9:48 AM on December 6, 2010 [3 favorites]


a very lowball dollar value of all time parents spend with their children – not differentiating between engaged time and supervisory time – using a minimum-wage replacement for parents. She found that for children living in a two-parent, middle-income household, the annual cost of parental time ranged from $12,353 to $14,338, depending on the age of a child

So I'm a little confused by the numbers here: $12,353 per year, the calculated minimum-wage value of the parents' time, over 18 years is almost exactly the $222,000 figure cited in the article title as the USDA's total cost of raising a child in terms of direct expenses.

It goes on to say "Her research shows time costs are about 60 percent of the total cost per year of raising a child" which suggests that she's talking about a total cost of $370,000.

Is it just coincidence that the UMass study and the USDA report come up with the same dollar amount for completely different aspects of childraising costs? Or did the reporter get two studies confused?
posted by ook at 9:48 AM on December 6, 2010


My husband and I like to call childrearing the world's most expensive and time-consuming hobby.
posted by Alison at 9:51 AM on December 6, 2010 [3 favorites]


Bah. I don't believe those numbers, especially since the article is framed for maximum drama as spaghettios vs. whole-grain-organic-locavore-pricey-food-trend. There's a whole world in between the two extremes where I think most people live. Then again my son complained last week because "goodwill" wasn't an option on a facebook "favorite-place-to-shop" survey he was taking, so my perspective might not be the same as the Joneses (who I'm not interested in keeping up with).
posted by headnsouth at 9:52 AM on December 6, 2010 [1 favorite]


Can someone please explain to me how playing with my daughter, versus what I used to do pre-child -- watching mindless tv, dicking around on the laptop, reading pointless rss feeds -- is somehow a cost?
posted by mark242 at 9:57 AM on December 6, 2010 [11 favorites]


There should be strict limits on the amount of healthy food, athletic activity, and training in the arts kids can have.
posted by brain_drain at 10:00 AM on December 6, 2010 [2 favorites]


Is it just coincidence that the UMass study and the USDA report come up with the same dollar amount for completely different aspects of childraising costs? Or did the reporter get two studies confused?

The USDA's 2009 annual report and child-cost calculator are here.

"For the overall United States, annual child-rearing expense estimates ranged between $11,650 and $13,530 for a child in a two-child, married-couple family in the middle-income group." So it seems to be a coincidence.
posted by Horace Rumpole at 10:10 AM on December 6, 2010


Can someone please explain to me how playing with my daughter, versus what I used to do pre-child -- watching mindless tv, dicking around on the laptop, reading pointless rss feeds -- is somehow a cost?

Your daughter is just probably more fun to hang out with than some of these other people's kids.
posted by hermitosis at 10:13 AM on December 6, 2010 [2 favorites]


parents' desire to "cultivate" their children.

Cultivate? What are they, children or wheat?
posted by jonmc at 10:14 AM on December 6, 2010



Can someone please explain to me how playing with my daughter, versus what I used to do pre-child -- watching mindless tv, dicking around on the laptop, reading pointless rss feeds -- is somehow a cost?


It's an opportunity cost, but then again, so is everything else.
posted by GuyZero at 10:14 AM on December 6, 2010


Rather than a sunk cost, I prefer to think of it as a high performing investment in middle-class smugness.
posted by rhymer at 10:19 AM on December 6, 2010 [8 favorites]


The opening of the article torpedoed any possible point I may have thought about taking away from this piece.
The kitchen is sizzling as Samantha Gianulis cooks up a comparatively costly meal, both in price but also in the time she devotes to it: steamed green beans (organic, $1.60 a pound, about 50 percent more than regular beans), whole wheat pasta shells ($2.50 a bag versus the 50-cent special on store-brand pasta), and tomato sauce she makes from scratch (organic tomatoes for $2.10 a pound and extra virgin olive oil, the good stuff at $12 a bottle); time invested is about 10 times that of opening a can of SpaghettiOs.
When the basis of comparing what to feed children 1) is "SpaghettiOs", 2) and mother Samantha's preference for food with flavour and taste ("organic", "the good stuff")
when the USDA started counting such things and when kids shared bedrooms, had one pair of shoes, ate TV dinners and Wonder bread sandwiches, did homework with encyclopedias, didn't go to the doctor – let alone medical specialists – for much more than vaccinations or a broken arm, and went out to play unsupervised.
Also, when doctors swore smoking was not addictive, Los Angeles had air quality like Beijing, and countless people got STDs and pregnant due to the fact that condoms were "evil".

It's called progress mofo's.

I will make two comments before I go have a wonderbread sandwich and watch ollie and the beav.

1) Could it be that cans of Spaghettios and processed shit food are correlated with rising healthcare costs?

2) As far as the children playing unsupervised. This is a sore motherf*cking point for me. The media has done well at helping put children into danger in the first place.

That would have been before the manufacturer "Red scares" pumped into the media, right?

And also before the 24 hour news cycle that informed us that we were all victims in waiting, right?

And also before the sexualization of children and teenagers in print and broadcast media, right?

Okay, just checking. Keep your SpaghettiOs. I am going to waste my life by cooking a meal that wasn't made from bottom-rung ingredients in a factory somewhere and stocked at the back of a store shelf.
posted by nickrussell at 10:19 AM on December 6, 2010 [6 favorites]


I read stuff like this and am glad I'm not crazy like this.

But there is a tiny voice screaming OMG if everyone else does this and I don't then my kid will really be far behind!

Oy.
posted by bluedaisy at 10:20 AM on December 6, 2010 [1 favorite]


"For the overall United States, annual child-rearing expense estimates ranged between $11,650 and $13,530 for a child in a two-child, married-couple family in the middle-income group." So it seems to be a coincidence.

Awesome. So my takeaway from this, if both sets of calculations are correct, is that all I have to do is get my son a minimum wage job and he'll be completely self supporting, and I gain the same value in recovered opportunity costs! I can double my money every time I have a child!

CHILD LABOR FTW!

I'm already a little behind, though. Does anyone want to hire a two-year old at minimum wage? He's awesome at sorting small objects into piles of matching colors, or putting pegs into holes, so I'm thinking some sort of small-scale assembly line work might be a good direction to go.
posted by ook at 10:24 AM on December 6, 2010 [1 favorite]


Yeah, my rough calculations put 20 years of birth control under $10,000. Throw in a couple of fur babies and we're still under $50,000, resulting in substantial savings.

Well, sure, but whose extra room are you going to be staying in when you're old and incontinent?

Surely, you're not planning on Social Security to take care of you or Medicare for that in-home care worker?

'Cause let's face it, the cats are just going to eat you if you've fallen and can't get up.
posted by madajb at 10:28 AM on December 6, 2010 [2 favorites]


I'm really thinking that the vast majority of this can be accounted for with housing prices.

Look at this graph.

Housing is just more expensive than it was in 1960. Hell, the median home price has gone up 34% since 1970. And people with kids need more house than people without kids, not only in terms of space, but because a significant part of the housing bubble involved people with kids competing for a limited amount of real estate in the districts with excellent public school systems.

I find it completely unsurprising that it take a quarter of a million dollars to get a kid from birth to his eighteenth birthday, and completely plausible that housing costs are going to represent a decent chunk of that.

So today's headline is that kids are expensive. In other news, water is wet, lead is heavy, and the Democratic Party can't politick its way out of a wet paper bag. We thank Captain Obvious for his hard-hitting reporting.
posted by valkyryn at 10:35 AM on December 6, 2010 [1 favorite]


This article suggests it's about a new trend in raising children, "a very middle-class equation that involves love and a striving to give their kids healthy, enriched lives" (my emphasis.) It then goes on to tell us that the main subjects live in a 2,100 square foot home in a county with median home price of $379,000.

Asking honestly: is that middle class? No slur on the parents profiled in the article -- if you make money, by all means, feel free to spend it on your children as you see fit.

But I get a little irked by this constant mis-labeling of "middle class". Maybe parents feel constant pressure to keep up with the Joneses re: raising their children because the media keeps insisting that a $379,000 house is "middle class".

So we mis-label something as middle class and extrapolate a Brand! New! Trend! It's like something in the NY Times Style section.
posted by lillygog at 10:40 AM on December 6, 2010 [2 favorites]


You know, fuck all this. Here's my morning today;

My four-year old daughter has been waking up pretty consistently in the middle of the night with nosebleeds. So, I took her to an ear, nose and throat doctor for an exam. He excavated some world-class boogers from her nose, with some scary-looking booger forceps. She was brave and well-behaved through the whole episode.

Afterwards, I wanted to give her a treat on the way back to school, so I pulled the box of raisins out of my lunchbox and gave it to her.

She thought for a moment, then said "Daddy I want to eat all your raisins, but will that make you sad?". At which point I got all misty, while I was driving.

Having and raising my kids has been one of the best, finest things in my life (so far), and a privilege. I won't be made to regret any of the costs.
posted by newdaddy at 10:40 AM on December 6, 2010 [30 favorites]


Madajb, I assume that I won't have to worry about things when I'm old and incontinent, because by then I'll be permanently plugged into the Matrix.
posted by suburbanbeatnik at 10:43 AM on December 6, 2010


Ha. yeah, like my parents spent anything like that on us kids. They went to Europe on annual vacations; we were lucky if we were sent off to the grandparents in middle-of-fucking-nowhere rural southern Illinois. Sports were right out -- neither parent would even consider allowing it, let alone fund it. Face time? Dad worked, every night, from the time he got home until late in the evening, mom did Church stuff every night. "Do your homework and go to bed." Not that they ever even checked on the homework, just bitched if grades weren't all "A"s, and the one time I pulled that off, not a word of encouragement or congradulations.
posted by Blackanvil at 10:45 AM on December 6, 2010


A healthy disregard for blind conformity could save these families tens of thousands of dollars.

Growing up in the 80s, when I asked my parents for designer jeans, fashion boots, and Izod shirts so I could be popular, my parents replied that kids who only liked me for my clothes were shallow little losers, and why would I want to be friends with them anyway?

They had a point. They saved money, and I made friends who weren't cliquish, and who were interesting. I developed character and individuality at a young age. Win-win.

I got babysitting jobs from ages 14-16 and joined the real workforce at sixteen. I paid for my own contact lenses and put the huge, taped-together tortoiseshell frames my frugal parents bought me in the garbage.

Again, my parents saved money, and I learned a work ethic. Plus, I became less geeky looking. Win-win again.

I had advantages that apparently are long gone. My school offered school plays, Model United Nations, afterschool sports, and a Socratic discussion group called "Meeting of the Minds." There was a program where advanced kids could take classes through the local community college, such as Calculus II, and get high school credit for it. Our community had a Youth Theatre program. All these were free.

I enjoyed some of these programs and wasn't under any pressure from my parents to continue in them if I wasn't interested. I found my calling, writing, at age 11. But if I hadn't had a calling, I'm sure it would have been fine.

Bringing back these enrichment programs would go a long way toward mitigating today's parenting costs.

Parents need to understand that a lot of their fears are capitalism-driven, and the fact that free stuff is gone is because some people are profiting off their healthy desire to give their kids good experiences.

I think it's great that parents are more aware of healthy food choices these days, but tragic that kids can only play in supervised, contrived situations such as play dates. Nothing beats running across your friend's lawn playing statues, climbing trees, or wandering down to the local empty lot to pick wildflowers and play hide and seek in the bushes. It seems like the natural sense of wonder has been controlled and regimented out of childhood now. That is one big reason why I've chosen to remain child-free, because that is too sad.
posted by xenophile at 10:48 AM on December 6, 2010 [7 favorites]


Childcare costs go way up if both parents are working, but income goes up too.

i dunno, it seems like this article is way too busy making cracks at "ergonomic diaper bags" and so on to really nail any of the big stuff.
posted by Artw at 10:54 AM on December 6, 2010 [1 favorite]


By the time Alex turns 18, Mr. and Mrs. Giulianis will have spent somewhere around $222,360. That's the cost the USDA figures for the average middle-income couple raising a child from birth through age 17.

There is a difference between "average amount spent" and "cost." "Cost" is the least amount spent. The rest is discretionary.

It doesn't cost middle class people more money to raise children than it costs poor people; it doesn't cost the upper class more than it costs the middle class. Just like houses don't cost more for rich people-- they choose to buy nicer ones, is all.

So I'm a little confused by the numbers here: $12,353 per year, the calculated minimum-wage value of the parents' time, over 18 years is almost exactly the $222,000 figure cited in the article title as the USDA's total cost of raising a child in terms of direct expenses.

The math is very simple. They forgot to leave out the benefit part of the equation is all. It turns out that the estimated opportunity cost of supervising children is exactly equal to the estimated benefit of having children around to supervise you. If you didn't have the children, you'd have to hire somebody for minimum wage to make sure you don't get into trouble. (It's a sad comment on our nation that only the wealthiest find the resources to afford personal supervisors.)
posted by nathan v at 11:03 AM on December 6, 2010 [1 favorite]


I don't have much time today, so will everyone do me a favor and pretend I wrote a few paragraphs about how my choices with my own children are better choices than those in the article, and my values are better, too? Thanks. I want to contribute to the conversation but I'm all freaked out about opportunity costs now.
posted by Pater Aletheias at 11:20 AM on December 6, 2010 [11 favorites]


Growing up in the 80s, when I asked my parents for designer jeans, fashion boots, and Izod shirts so I could be popular, my parents replied that kids who only liked me for my clothes were shallow little losers, and why would I want to be friends with them anyway?

"If they were laughing you don't need them,
Cause they're not good friends"?
posted by madajb at 11:26 AM on December 6, 2010


I had advantages that apparently are long gone. My school offered school plays, Model United Nations, afterschool sports, and a Socratic discussion group called "Meeting of the Minds." There was a program where advanced kids could take classes through the local community college, such as Calculus II, and get high school credit for it. Our community had a Youth Theatre program. All these were free.

This is well-stated, from xenophile. Not having children (though hoping to, some day), I have this assumption that interesting school programs are just "out there", in the ether, paid for by the money trees growing right next to the school portables.

I'm not sure where the truth lies. Have all school programs just disappeared, so instead of kids going to band 5 times a week, parents only have the option of sending them to private lessons?
posted by lillygog at 11:27 AM on December 6, 2010 [1 favorite]


Childcare costs go way up if both parents are working, but income goes up too.

Not true. My husband and I both work, and we as a couple make about as much as many friends who have a stay-at-home parent in their family. Of course, I work for an NPO and he works in a warehouse, while our friends have more ... "professional" jobs.

So, yes, both parents working may mean a higher income but not necessarily, especially in this econonmy.
posted by anastasiav at 11:29 AM on December 6, 2010


...In general, individual cases may vary.
posted by Artw at 11:33 AM on December 6, 2010


Well, sure, but whose extra room are you going to be staying in when you're old and incontinent?

The first time I held my newest nephew I said to him, "You're going to take care of your poor spinster Auntie Elsie when she gets old, aren't you?"

It'll be a lot of work to be his favorite, but I'm prepared to put in the time and let his parents put in the cash.
posted by elsietheeel at 11:40 AM on December 6, 2010 [1 favorite]


It then goes on to tell us that the main subjects live in a 2,100 square foot home in a county with median home price of $379,000.

Asking honestly: is that middle class?


Umm... yeah? Pretty much? The average home size in 2004 was 2330 sq. ft. $379,000 is definitely more than the average nationally, but there are plenty of counties were a two-bedroom bungalow can go for more than that.

We've had this conversation not that long ago, and I don't want to go over it here, but yes, it could be entirely reasonable for a family who lives in a $379,000 home to consider themselves middle class. That family might only be making $90,000-150,000 a year, what with the recent slump in mortgage underwriting rigor. That's comfortably middle-class these days.
posted by valkyryn at 11:42 AM on December 6, 2010 [2 favorites]


Cultivate? What are they, children or wheat?

My children are wheat. Your children are chaff. Heh.

So my kids get dancing lessons and soccer lessons, even though they're five. They have had similar classes for a few years now. They like it. When they don't like it, we say "okay" and they don't take the class.

We don't do this to guarantee their success in life, or get them into college, or whatever; honestly, that's never been on my mind, and I'm the parent who pushes to sign them up for fewer things to ensure they have enough free time to be bored (and learn how to deal with that.) We do it because we can.

My parents grew up dirt-poor, and through work and luck got to lower middle class. They loaned me $2,000 for a car so I could get to a job, didn't stop me when I moved out at 19 and paid my way through a few years of college, and I never got classes like that (I had a few piano lessons, but they fizzled quickly because we didn't have a piano at home so I couldn't practice.)

Anyway, here's what I learned, and how I'm applying it to my kids: it is really important to learn how to be independent and how to do stuff. And that, my parents handled really well, so I try to emulate them in my parenting. However, it's also really important to know what possibilities exist, and what opportunities we have. My parents sucked at that; they didn't expose me to new and interesting things, they actively suppressed my desires or refused to support my opportunities (in some cases*), and in other cases** they didn't know about the opportunities or didn't have the means to support me.

So now, since I'm lucky enough to be where I'm at, I'm damn well going to let them explore the things in life that interest them, so long as they're not neglecting school or other responsibilities. I fill the house with musical instruments, I send them to dance and soccer class, and we were very lucky to get them into an amazing elementary school that doesn't actually cost anything (so we donate the money we had set aside for private school.)

And will this get them into college? Who cares? I'm just increasing their happiness now (because they enjoy school and classes and making musical noise), and later (because the more they feel they can do if they want, the more they'll try to do -- and in this household, we don't really care whether you succeed or fail, so long as you try.)

Oh, and when I sit down to spend time with my kids? It's not "face time" or "quality time", it's because my kids are awesome and I love spending time with them some of the time. Anyone who wants to mock me for that, go right ahead; my kids and I will be in the other room making construction paper robots, not listening to you.

disclaimer: I love making construction paper robots, so it's kind of like cheating

*my father often felt that driving to things was too much of a drag, and so he wouldn't bother. things like piano lessons, taking me to get stitches, and my high school graduation.

**the only piano in the house was a foot long, and you could only press one key at a time. also I was apparently a national merit scholar finalist and had access to tons of scholarships, but they had no idea and so neither did I, and I was in my 30s before I found out about the opportunities I'd missed there.
posted by davejay at 11:45 AM on December 6, 2010 [10 favorites]


I sound bitter in my previous comment. I'm not. Visualize me smiling the whole time. Or visualize me as a paper robot. Either or.
posted by davejay at 11:47 AM on December 6, 2010 [3 favorites]


She should cultivate her daughter by sticking her on the bus.
posted by Brocktoon at 11:57 AM on December 6, 2010 [2 favorites]


This was discussed previously.
posted by TheCavorter at 11:58 AM on December 6, 2010


Most of this reads as the significantly less exciting truth: People with disposable income spend their disposable income on things!

People without disposable income somehow manage to have children on less.

Middle class, however, is such a useless term. Nearly $400k around here buys you a really damned nice house. *$200k* around here buys you a very respectable house. $100k buys you a house you can very comfortably raise a family in. But depending on where you live, that isn't the case. A dollar is not a dollar, depending on where you spend it. And everybody tends to think of themselves as middle class, no matter what they really are. $150k a year around here? Soooo not the middle of the economic ladder. But I would not at all be surprised to find that the households with those sorts of incomes don't think they're doing particularly better than average, or that it's at all unusual to spend what they spend on their kids.

People have a certain bias towards thinking everybody else is like them. It always shows when it comes to stories about money and parenting.
posted by gracedissolved at 12:01 PM on December 6, 2010 [1 favorite]


"In accordance with my conception of life, I have chosen not to bring children into the world. A coin is examined, and only after careful deliberation, given to a beggar, whereas a child is flung out into the cosmic brutality without hesitation."
posted by past at 12:07 PM on December 6, 2010 [2 favorites]


Middle class, however, is such a useless term.

Actually it means someone who is 3 paychecks away from financial ruin/homelessness as opposed to a worker who is 1 paycheck away or a member of the working poor who is a missed shift due to illness or car trouble away.

The problem is that 'middle class' is intentionally misused to refer to 9-percenters (i.e. those in the top 10% but not the top 1%), which is why you'll hear people on the news or in the papers refer to "middle class taxpayers such as doctors and small business owners," spreading the lie that someone making 4 or 5 times the median wage is 'middle class,' and therefore struggling just like the single-mom Walmart cashier.

It's pretty effective too, witness broke-ass Teabaggers protesting (in some cases armed with rifles) to protect the profits of insurance executives.
posted by hamida2242 at 12:42 PM on December 6, 2010 [6 favorites]


We just got our daughter a car for $14,000," says Ramey

What's wrong with a $500 clunker from the local mechanic? Or the ten year old car that belonged to her aunt until her aunt bought a new car?


I'm an adult (sort of) and I've never paid more than $4,000 for a car. Sheesh. Then again, the car my dad gave me when I got my license gave me carbon monoxide poisoning, so perhaps there's something to be said for slightly higher standards.

Mr. Sonika and I have worked it out that I'll be working from home (as a nanny, which is what I do now anyway) while our kiddos are very little, which will help eliminate childcare costs and bring in some income. We've pretty much spent the past three years setting up our lives to accommodate this, so we've definitely put a lot of thought into "How are we going to fund babby?"

I don't know how much I care about "culivating" my kids, but back in the 80s I had Little League, swim team, horseback riding lessons, ballet, and flute lessons and my parents weren't exactly rolling in money. It was pretty much made clear to me that if they were shelling out cash for something, I had to stick with it. I figure I'll do the same with my son (due in March!) - if he wants to do something, I'll gladly help him do it, but I'm not going to be signing up for Toddler Tae Kwon Do unless he's actually interested. I've seen a lot of parents - especially in cities - signing kids up for classes that the kid is honestly apathetic about, and that's a big expense. If you want to provide opportunities, that's awesome, but you can totally mitigate some of the costs by waiting to see what the kid actually wants to do.

(And then, I could only do one thing per "season" [in addition to music lessons, which were the one thing that my mother made mandatory at all times - though I did get to at least pick the instrument] so no ballet and riding lessons, f'rinstance. Which is a policy I will probably enact as well. That also keeps costs down and helps avoid the frantic shlepping around.)
posted by sonika at 12:56 PM on December 6, 2010 [1 favorite]


Just to clarify my own points about the "middle class" nature of the article: I was getting the feeling that the expenses discussed in this article are not representative of a new trend, but rather representative of a group of people having discretionary income to spend on their children.

Again, similar to Times Style interviewing 3-4 upper-middle-class Northeast urban-dwellers and suggesting their responses represent the lifestyle choices of the country at large. (I say as a Northeast urban-dweller.)

The article touched on a lot of interesting points and then abandoned them in favor of "look, people may spend their money in ways of which you don't approve!"

An article exploring, say, the ballooning cost of extracurriculars might have been useful, since that was one of the highest expenditure jumps. Instead, the article focuses on wheat pasta and ergonomic diaper bags, and then suggests those are the concerns of middle-class families at large.
posted by lillygog at 1:02 PM on December 6, 2010 [3 favorites]


Children should be a revenue generator...

I read this as "Children should be a revenge generator..."

I thought, "Ungrateful bastards".
posted by magstheaxe at 1:02 PM on December 6, 2010 [3 favorites]


"It's kind of scary," she says, "the way you think if everyone else is doing something for their kids, you have to do it, too."

gaspode: But you know, what the fuck. We spend a lot of money on our kid. So what? It's our money. It makes us happy to do so.

Does it make you happy because it makes them happy? If so: congratulations! You're a decent person.

Does it make you happy because you're keeping up with the Joneses? If so: congratulations! You're a a shithead.
posted by coolguymichael at 1:02 PM on December 6, 2010


The poor will always be with us because the poor can't cultivate their children.
posted by francesca too at 1:13 PM on December 6, 2010


What?

"Although the lion's share of parental spending today goes to housing and food, health care and education have both ballooned."

There's nothing anywhere in this article about which parts of raising a child have stayed roughly pegged to inflation and which haven't, except for this line. And I'm just floored that you could get to this bit and want to keep talking about the cost of parenting with this huge, angry elephant in the room.
posted by mhoye at 1:16 PM on December 6, 2010 [7 favorites]


mhoye says it more succinctly than I: there's an important story here, one the article just skips right over.
posted by lillygog at 1:23 PM on December 6, 2010 [1 favorite]


Sidhedevil : Have you bought a used car lately? A "$500 clunker" isn't going to be roadworthy.

Only in states that require inspections, and fail a car for any "check engine" error (with emissions sensors, power windows, and "we think you should have your 10YO airbags replaced for no good reason" as common meaningless causes of this "failure").

In the rest (or if you know how to kill that stupid little light), a $500 car can serve as a perfectly safe mode of transportation for 5-10 years (ie, two should last them through college), and do so during the years they will most likely total a car or two due to inexperience.

/ Totalled a $500 car or two... Okay, three. And haven't had a single accident in 15 years, knock on wood.
posted by pla at 1:30 PM on December 6, 2010


I feel like my 2 sisters and I had very full social lives as children, but no way my parents shelled out the bucks the people in the article are. One thing that probably saved them a lot of dough: church activities. They didn't pay to send us to choir, GAs, youth group, etc. Costs would come up here and there, but it was still cheaper than classes.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 1:41 PM on December 6, 2010


"It's kind of scary," she says, "the way you think if everyone else is doing something for their kids, you have to do it, too."

Wow, coolguymichael. Thanks for deleting the line where I said this attitude was bullshit.
posted by gaspode at 1:47 PM on December 6, 2010


As long as I could afford it, I'd consider buying my kids a good solid reliable car the best use of my money in that department practically ever. Maybe not 15k but definitely not the cheapest on the market.

$900 camera for a kid, I agree is a waste, but the difference between a shitty car and a nice car could be the difference between attending a funeral and attending a graduation. :\ If you can't afford it, okay.

I've rode in of my friends' no-brakes, stall-in-the-middle-of-the-road cars, I guess.
posted by Solon and Thanks at 1:54 PM on December 6, 2010


Take this from a different view and you'll note that all children live in a socialist arrangement whereby their parents are the State paying for all the needs of their kids. Just don't tell anybody....
posted by Rashomon at 1:54 PM on December 6, 2010


Wow, coolguymichael. Thanks for deleting the line where I said this attitude was bullshit.

Aww, have pity, gaspode. Apparently coolguymichael's parents could not afford to cultivate the funds to send him to Reading in Context camp.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 1:57 PM on December 6, 2010 [3 favorites]


I'm curious: what does the average adult cost for 18 years?

Aside from the bluster about health care (which is certainly more expensive now) and education (which can be free if you go to public school and skip college), there's a much more pertinent message here:

Americans have been conned that they can purchase experiences, or that certain experiences have a definite price tag. That is a lie.

This anxiety-fueled spending may be unique to the broad middle and upper-middle classes, but inasmuch as it has become iconic behavior portrayed in the media – and because broad swaths of American working and lower classes aspire to middle-class models – it has become something of a good-parenting standard.

There's the parenting variant of the lie.

The Steck-Tifts' child-rearing ethic extends to dining out, too – a way they expose their children to different kinds of foods, such as Indian or Japanese. It costs them about $2,400 a year.

Again, if you learn how to cook Indian or Japanese food (which can be free, thanks to the Internet and trial and error), that "extra" $2,400 is not extra at all. It's called groceries. (Also, how much of that $2,400 would have gone to "normal, American" meals?)

(Yes, I know, I know, consider the opportunity costs!!! That time I spent learning how to cook Indian food must be costing me ... $4,562/hour!!)

For birthdays the children get tickets to a Broadway show with one parent and can also invite a friend or get a small gift

Now that's sorta silly, and extremely discretionary. There are plenty of community organizations that put on good shows for much less money. That's like taking your kids to see the Yankees when you have a high-school team next door. Go see your local high school's production of The Music Man and rent a DVD of the Broadway production of Nine or whatever.

After reading the whole piece, I have to agree with nanojath. Who reads the CS Monitor anyway, fat cat New Yorkers? Cut out the 9-percenters and you'll get a number closer to what it costs for normal Americans to raise children.

But what do I know ... my wife and I make good money, and even though we don't own a house, our income and savings make me consider us "rich" (but not wealthy), so perhaps my opinions are totally skewed.

Seriously, it's like a major victory if you can get 4 year olds to eat something green and she wants to talk quinoa...

Oddly enough, my 2yo daughter had quinoa for dinner the other night (as did my wife and I). Quinoa is not expensive to make at all. (Greens, on the other hand (the good, leafy kind) are nigh impossible unless I hide them in eggs, pasta, or pizza.) Kids like that bland shit like "ancient grains." The greens are just too bitter, though.

What's wrong with a $500 clunker from the local mechanic?

Or hell, a bicycle. With a car, you can talk all you want about cultivation ... but you are handing her a loaded gun.

She should cultivate her daughter by sticking her on the bus.

AMEN.

buying a $14,000 car for anybody besides yourself seems like a bad economic decision.
posted by mrgrimm at 2:18 PM on December 6, 2010


Of course costs of raising children have increased. Children are like lap dogs to people now. They give them ridiculous names given the proliferation of Jayden/Cayden/Brayden and Madisons/Mahdicynnes and Addisons/Adecyns and complete obsession with childen, and the whole Mommy culture (I seriously saw a comment from a SAHM on the Times website a few weeks ago that accused mothers who work outside the home of treating parenting like a "hobby"). How could anybody be surprised by how much parents are spending on cultivating their little miracles? Isn't this what living in a kindergarchy is all about?

I don't recall many stretches of boredom in my boyhood. Life was lived among friends on the block and, later, during games on the playground. Winter afternoons after school were filled up by "Jack Armstrong," "Captain Midnight," and other radio programs for kids. Boredom, really, wasn't an option. I recall only once telling my mother that I was bored. "Oh," she said, a furtive smile on her lips, "why don't you bang your head against the wall. That'll take your mind off your boredom." I never mentioned boredom again.

That's how I'd want to raise my kids, but with a martini glass in my hand that is never empty. First order of business would be to teach them how to mix drinks for mommy for when she gets home after a long day of work. I'll tip them fifty cents, directly into their college fund.
posted by anniecat at 2:21 PM on December 6, 2010 [1 favorite]


hamida2242 - "spreading the lie that someone making 4 or 5 times the median wage is 'middle class,' and therefore struggling just like the single-mom Walmart cashier."

The struggling single-mom Walmart cashier is working class, not middle class.

I realise there is wiggle room where the classes meld and meet but in general

poor - not paid
working class - paid hourly
middle class - salaried
upper class - work optional
posted by zeoslap at 2:25 PM on December 6, 2010 [2 favorites]


A big segment of middle-and-upper-class society has decided that they can declare you a failure if your freshly minted 21-year-old winds up without some nebulous, uniquely worthy "calling," even if the kid's got a perfectly good home of his own and some friends and a job and all the other prerequisites for happiness..

My son has an okay job (barista at a couple of different upscale local coffee chains for nearly three incident-free years) with which he is able to support himself, paid for more than half of his three-month school trip to study Art History in Europe a few years ago, has successfully moved to another city and established a life there, has been sharing an apartment with his (sane, intelligent, talented, hard working and generally awesome) girlfriend for over a year, is still on speaking terms with his parents and other family, has close longstanding friends and an excellent sense of humour, gets along easily with women, reads books, is showing a flair for photography, and has yet to find himself in jail or addicted to drugs. I consider that all this makes my parenting a triumph, pretty much.
posted by jokeefe at 2:32 PM on December 6, 2010 [1 favorite]


First order of business would be to teach them how to mix drinks for mommy for when she gets home after a long day of work. I'll tip them fifty cents, directly into their college fund.

Do you really want to model your life on Don Draper? Sure he's suave, but his family life is shit.
posted by Solon and Thanks at 3:01 PM on December 6, 2010


They give them ridiculous names given the proliferation of Jayden/Cayden/Brayden and Madisons/Mahdicynnes and Addisons/Adecyns

Not to argue that these names aren't in and of themselves overdone, but haven't names always been ridiculous? There are fads in every generation and it doesn't really have much to do with economics or parenting so much as "Oh hi, it's 1870. Guess I'm gonna name you Prudence."
posted by sonika at 3:05 PM on December 6, 2010


This Christmas our kids (boys, 2 and 4) are getting:

- homemade superhero capes (but with velcro'd, swappable emblems - from Gatchaman to Greatest American Hero in two seconds flat)
- recycled plastic hero masks
- a PVC rocket launcher
- felt play food
- putt putt boats that we'll paint and box Ponyo-style
- Transformers and Pokemons we got from a thrift store
posted by obiwanwasabi at 3:23 PM on December 6, 2010


mrgrimm: education (which can be free if you go to public school and skip college)

My daughter has gone to public schools for 9 years now. Every single year, we've paid fees for: registration, transportation (buses), activity fees, field trips, book fees, class parties, etc., etc. Not to mention the required supplies she had to have, that included things like paper towels and tissues and ziploc bags that go into the school's general supply collection. This is not even counting the extras we chose to pay for, like band or the lunch program.

Even the year she chose to walk to school instead of taking the bus, we still had to pay the full transportation fee. And try to opt out gracefully when the room mom asks for a few bucks to bring in some art supplies, or the teacher asks for $5 to buy craft supplies.

No that she's in high school, the registration fees are even higher, and so is the subtle and not-so-subtle pressure to donate to the various booster clubs and foundations that pay to keep some of the after-school activities if not free, at least in the general area of affordable for most kids. But if you can't afford the uniform fees for band or basketball, forget it.

Public school is not free, at least not in my area (suburban Chicago). And it hasn't been free for a long time now.
posted by SuperSquirrel at 3:25 PM on December 6, 2010 [1 favorite]


Public school is not free, at least not in my area (suburban Chicago). And it hasn't been free for a long time now.

Even if there weren't those sorts of fees, public school would still not be free. Property taxes are real, and they're the biggest source of income for most school districts. Property taxes affect everyone who uses real property, whether they own, rent, work, or shop. And while property tax rates haven't skyrocketed, property tax revenues are linked to property values, which have. It's kind of a hidden cost, particularly if you aren't paying it directly, but property values affect just about everything, and education is no exception.
posted by valkyryn at 3:52 PM on December 6, 2010 [2 favorites]


Have you bought a used car lately? A "$500 clunker" isn't going to be roadworthy. It's not 1983 anymore.

Not to derail too much, but my daily commuter (100 miles roundtrip last year, 40 miles this) for the last two years has been a car I payed $850 for. The last one before that was $800. Each lasted many daily commutes, and many long distance trips. Both lasted till well over 200k miles.

My son sure as heck isn't getting one worth more than a month or two's rent, when the time comes, because kids are stupid and destroy cars. And that's if he's lucky enough to have one to call his own.
posted by Dr.Enormous at 3:53 PM on December 6, 2010 [2 favorites]


Yeah, my rough calculations put 20 years of birth control under $10,000. Throw in a couple of fur babies and we're still under $50,000, resulting in substantial savings.

Well, sure, but whose extra room are you going to be staying in when you're old and incontinent?

Surely, you're not planning on Social Security to take care of you or Medicare for that in-home care worker?


I think, madjab, the answer is right there in your questions - not spending so much on children over the years enables better savings, at least for my family, and we will have plans in place for ourselves when we're old and incontinent. Besides that, a short visit to any old folk's home will demonstrate that many children don't even visit their elderly parents, so I'm always puzzled people are so confident that THEIR children will rise to meet that challenge.
posted by agregoli at 4:06 PM on December 6, 2010 [1 favorite]


OK. Suppose an extra $300 a month to live in an apartment with an extra bedroom. An extra $100 a month in food (less when they're little, more when they're older). $100 a month in clothes and toys and extra household items and kids spending money and everything else. That's $500 a month or $6000 a year, for 18 years, makes $108 000 (not counting inflation or discount rate or anything). That's really a bare minimum. Not counting an additional car, college tuition, babysitting or childcare, or any luxuries. If you can afford to live in a slightly nicer place and buy slightly nicer food and clothes you will probably do it and that will easily double the costs. In other words, this is a non-story.
posted by PercussivePaul at 4:15 PM on December 6, 2010


Not to argue that these names aren't in and of themselves overdone, but haven't names always been ridiculous? There are fads in every generation and it doesn't really have much to do with economics or parenting so much as "Oh hi, it's 1870. Guess I'm gonna name you Prudence."

I thought that was to remind everybody to be prudent and practical. Plain and god-fearing was in. Surely you are familiar with this from Anne of Green Gables.

"[I] t doesn't matter what a person's name is as long as he behaves himself," said Marilla, feeling herself called upon to inculcate a good and useful moral.
posted by anniecat at 4:54 PM on December 6, 2010


Do you really want to model your life on Don Draper? Sure he's suave, but his family life is shit.

Hell no. I'm thinking Sharon Sedaris.
posted by anniecat at 4:56 PM on December 6, 2010 [1 favorite]


Who reads the CS Monitor anyway,

I had two half baked thoughts about what it was, having never encountered it before coming here. I think I may have believed or had a vague vision of a convent (like from "Sister Act") and somewhere in the back of my disinterested mind, decided it was written by nuns for nuns to help other nuns who can't leave the convent for whatever reason (vow of silence, etc.) keep up with the news.
posted by anniecat at 5:08 PM on December 6, 2010


I think, madjab, the answer is right there in your questions - not spending so much on children over the years enables better savings, at least for my family

Sure, that's what you tell yourself.
But I know about you childless types, with your two-seater cars and your Sandals child-free resort vacations and and your new clothes with no mysterious stains on them and your eating in restaurants that don't have a cartoon mascot[1].

[1] It must be true, I read it in the NYTimes lifestyle section...
posted by madajb at 5:34 PM on December 6, 2010


This Be The Verse

They fuck you up, your mum and dad.
They may not mean to, but they do.
They fill you with the faults they had
And add some extra, just for you.

But they were fucked up in their turn
By fools in old-style hats and coats,
Who half the time were soppy-stern
And half at one another's throats.

Man hands on misery to man.
It deepens like a coastal shelf.
Get out as early as you can,
And don't have any kids yourself.

--Philip Larkin
posted by bardic at 5:48 PM on December 6, 2010 [1 favorite]


In other words: those with the financial means to pay a lot of money to raise their children, do so.
posted by zardoz at 5:49 PM on December 6, 2010


PercussivePaul : Well, sure, but whose extra room are you going to be staying in when you're old and incontinent?

Apartment 12B at the local assisted living facility - Right next door to you (metaphorically speaking).

Seriously, I don't get people who ruin their kids' lives by moving in with them to slowly die. I have no intention of having kids, but would not ever do that to them, even if I did. Kids might cost $200k to raise, but we don't need to "pay" them back for that by sucking the same amount out of them in our old age.

Actually, I kinda lied above - If nothing takes me out before then, I plan to climb mountains until the day I can't, at which point I will die quickly and with dignity. Simple as that.
posted by pla at 6:05 PM on December 6, 2010


My future kids will have to concentrate on affordable hobbies. Like masturbation.
posted by knoyers at 6:29 PM on December 6, 2010 [2 favorites]


obiwanwasabi, Those are some very cool ideas.
posted by Tashtego at 6:36 PM on December 6, 2010


Sure, that's what you tell yourself.
But I know about you childless types, with your two-seater cars and your Sandals child-free resort vacations and and your new clothes with no mysterious stains on them and your eating in restaurants that don't have a cartoon mascot[1].


Yeah....We're two artists on a shoe-string budget who have been spending their "extra cash" on getting out of debt. (Succeeded 1 month ago!) We have a 4-seater car from the late 90's, shop at the thrift store...but you got me on the restaurants. We do eat in those, and hate everything that Disney represents.
posted by agregoli at 6:56 PM on December 6, 2010


(Although I see now I misread that - I'm not against all cartoon mascots. I like any mascot that is an inanimate object).
posted by agregoli at 6:57 PM on December 6, 2010



What's wrong with a $500 clunker from the local mechanic?

It would be an educational experience, but I wouldn't 'rely' on it for transportation.


My dad bought me a 1979 Honda Civic (in ~ 1993) for $5 as a "high school car". One of his Army buddies stopped it from being crushed at the junkyard as a "favor" - it had clearly been written off as totaled. Trying to get it up the steep incline out of the parking lot of the local public library without a working first gear was an amazing lesson in practical physics.

It also came free with a rectangular hole in the passenger-side footwell specifically created for ice fishing (it had rusted through, of course, but the previous owner had put some effort into shaping it, then covering it with a heavy mat).

Every day I wished it would die, and every day it would start without fail. When I finally left for college two years later, it was sold to the local mechanic for, you guessed it, $500.
posted by ransom_k_fern at 7:16 PM on December 6, 2010


PercussivePaul : Well, sure, but whose extra room are you going to be staying in when you're old and incontinent?

For the record, it was madajb who said that, not me. Not that it matters really.
posted by PercussivePaul at 7:30 PM on December 6, 2010


What a nice bike you could get for $500...or a really nice skateboard...or REALLY nice walking shoes...
posted by Brocktoon at 9:16 PM on December 6, 2010


Dear Christian Science Monitor and other publications: perhaps a real story based on SuperSquirrel's experiences might be worth looking into.

Honestly, this really hits home for me, as a thirtysomething trying to figure out how to afford kids. By the time I send kids to school, I assume we'll have to have fundraisers to buy a front door to the school.
posted by lillygog at 4:06 AM on December 7, 2010


The $500 unreliable clunker is PART of the educational experience!

Like using math to calculate how much gas is left because of the broken gas gauge. Or how much to charge your buddies to drive the whole carload across town for something. Then there's good time management development learning to estimate how long it'd take to catch a bus when the clunker won't start. Or people skills learned by having to beg for a jumpstart when the battery craps out. Or Jr. MacGyver skills learning just what size 2x4 is necessary to whack the transmission back into neutral. All that would be lost getting something "reliable".

I have absolutely no intention of schlepping our boy all over town for 'activities'. My old man was more than ready to pony up bus fare. Car pools worked wonders too. We could participate in all sorts of stuff, as long as it was off a bus line. And yes, we all learned how to call the cops and report the skeevy-looking guy that tried to pick us up at the bus stop. Sometimes we'd even get lucky and the cop would drive us to our destination. Doing our civic duty and pocketing a profit from the bus fare too. Win-win!
posted by wkearney99 at 5:17 PM on December 7, 2010


Serious: Your parents bought you a car? My brother and I borrowed theirs when they let us.

Not serious: Also, we ate gravel. [tm Monty Python]
posted by sdn at 8:15 PM on December 7, 2010


bringing the two threads (98059 and this one) together:

"A new study (PDF) finds that delayed marriage and childbearing are leading to increased stress for American men and women in balancing work and family obligations."

- Delayed Child Rearing, More Stressful Lives, Economix blog, NYT, 12/1/10

"Professor Bianchi suggests that parents are devoting more time to child care, partly because more live in urban areas and feel the need to take their children to school, but also because 'parents are increasingly concerned with giving their children a wide range of opportunities with the hope that this will ensure children’s later life educational success.'
Translated, that means more time coaching soccer or Little League or taking kids to ballet or gymnastics classes."
posted by mrgrimm at 12:03 PM on December 8, 2010


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