Tuesday, April 8, 2008

How do you afford all those children? - Part 1

The first thing i'd like to say is that I will be writing this in two parts. The first part will be a background of sorts that has nothing to do with the financial side of raising children, but is just as important to say. The second part will cover the practical how to's that we apply in our family to be able to afford raising our children. So let me get started.

How in the world do you afford to feed and clothe all those children? Your husband must make really good money. I hear it all the time. I will say this, that while we are not living below the poverty line, we are by no means rich either.

I was just reading an article today that quoted the latest Dept of Agriculture's figures on how much money it takes to raise a child. They say that each American child costs an average of $204,060 to house, clothe, educate and entertain until the age of 18. I'm sure that does not include the cost of college either. That means it take $11,337.00 per year to raise one child.

If that were always true, then that means I would be spending $68,022.00 a year on my six children. I can definitely tell you that I am not spending that much. Does that mean I am depriving them? I think not.

The questions I get on how we actually make it work are legitimate concerns for most people. They just don't see how in the world I can really give all my children what they need. While this is not a post telling you to have a big family, I do want to show people that raising children can be done for less than what you think. Without making your children feel deprived, of course.

What do your children really need? Of course a home to live in that keeps the cold and the heat out, good food to eat, clean clothes that fit. That about covers the basic material needs for survival. Anything else we give them materially just adds comfort. Then, most importantly, they need need love, nurture, safety, support, guidance, relationship, training, and discipline. These are not written in any particular order, of course.

So then, why is it so expensive to have children? Is it really the rising costs of living? Let me share with you something I looked up. In 2006 the median family income was $48,201.00. By comparison, in 1955 the median family earned $4,919 (worth about $35,857 in 2006 dollars). That is less than what we make now, on average. Also, the average family size back then was 3.7 children. I think it is hovering right over 2 now.

Yes, things do cost more. I really think though, what has changed the most is our perception of what is needed. There is a difference between what we need to raise our children and what we want to give them.

It's completely natural to want to provide for, and give things to your children. It's what a loving parent wants to do, but don't let the things you give them be how you show them love. That's where it gets confusing for most of us.

I know that when I became pregnant with my first baby I told my husband that I wanted to give her everything that I didn't have. Now mind you, I wasn't neglected, but at a younger age I wasn't able to be involved in many things nor did I receive many of the things I asked for. I resented that.

As we added more children to our family we had to step back and evaluate how we were doing things. I felt that if I didn't let them be involved in more activities or give them more things, that my children would resent me too, like I did my own mother. I think it was at that moment that I realized that it wasn't the lack of involvement or the lack of things that I resented. It was the lack of relationship.

After that my priorities became clearer. I understood what my responsibilities as a parent were. Yes, I still give my children things. Yes, they are still involved in some extracurricular activities, but it is the relationship that I have with them that matters more than anything.

One thing I want to share with you is that we set goals for our children. A few of these goals are to:
*Raise our children to love the Lord
*Raise our children to become productive citizens. We want them to know how to run a household, how to have a good work ethic, etc..There are obviously more goals that we have for them, but I just wanted to share a quick glimpse with you.

So, what do we have to do as parents to help our children reach these goals? This is how we approach things when making decisions about what we give them or what they're involved in. It makes it much easier.

The responsibilities that we, as parents, have are those I listed at the beginning of this post. Besides the basics of providing them with food, clothing, and shelter. We are to give them love, nurture, safety, support, guidance, relationship, training, and discipline. When we apply these things, it's puts perspective on what's important and maybe not so important for our children.

Like I said, what I have written tonight isn't exactly the practical how to's that i'm known for, but this was just as important to say. It gives value to things that aren't material and encourages family relationships.


Cajunchic said...

Very insightful post. I always laugh at the figures they use on how much it costs to raise a child. My children are far from deprived and we manage way below that.

Missy said...

I came from a family of six children, I only have 3 myself and what I wonder about is how you do it all mentally and physically! I am worn out by 6:30 just about everyday.
I never felt deprived, (my dad was a high school teacher and my mom was a sahm.)in fact many times I felt I had more than other my friends because my parents were frugal and in some cases gave us more for less. This is a great post! Can't wait to read the other part! You are right about it being more about relationships than money.

Teresa @ A Life At Home said...

Now I never said I didn't occasionally get worn out or tired.-lol
I will say this, it was much harder for me when I had 3 little ones 3 and under than it is now. All but the littlest one can do a few things for themselves now. It is a wonderful day when at least one of your children can get their own drink!

Kate said...

Teresa, as much as I value and gain from your practical, how-to posts, I must tell you that I also value and gain so much from your "encouragement" posts. You truly speak to my heart, thank you!

This post is so true. We deal with this all the time from family and friends. My sister and her husband have their children enrolled in every class imaginable and she complains about how it costs so much. But yet she'll tell me that I'm depriving my children by only having them involved in extra-curricular activities that are free. We also have a friend that has told us, SERIOUSLY, that we are ruining our children because they do not get to go out to eat at least once or twice a week.

I believe perspectives have just changed so much that it seems like a constant struggle when you embrace a more "old-fashioned" point of view. Our children are HAPPY and LOVED, even though it only costs us $817/yr. to raise them (and I was being generous with my figuring!)

Thanks again for such an encouraging post.

Teresa @ A Life At Home said...

Kate, I love being "old-fashioned". :-)

Anonymous said...

It drives me crazy when people make (what sounds like to me negative) comments about the size of my family. I'm a SAHM mom to a 17, 12, and 10 year old daughters and a 8 year old son.

I can remember getting comments at the grocery store, "You must be running a daycare?". At the time I also had my step daughter with me, whom we had custody of.

Whatever people! I can guarantee I'm raising well adjusted kids who aren't spoiled brats.

Sorry for the anonymous post but this subject gets me heated. I'm so heated that I couldn't read past your first paragraph.

Those hilarious comments, "Don't you know what causes that?" or "Haven't you heard of birth control?" I just hate those too.

Real funny... NOT!!!!! My husband makes over $250,000 a year and we've heard this from his bosses. Its so old and tired I just want to scream.

I'm so sorry I'm choosing to scream on your blog.

Teresa @ A Life At Home said...

I can assure you that I have heard just about every comment that people can think of. None of which are that original.

The comments for the most part do not bother me, people just aren't used to seeing a large family anymore. Yes, it can sting and yes, people can be very rude.

Number 4 and 5 is when it was the worst. I guess people think we've just lost our minds now.-lol I can say that we receive many more good comments now than bad comments.

We just try to be a good example of what a family should be.
While i'm not here to try to convince anyone to have as large of a family as I do, I do want to show people that it is possible to raise more than 2 children and still give them everything they need.

"People, we just need to be careful with what is coming out of our mouths. Especially when the kids are around. You never know when it could really hurt someone. While it may just be a joke, or you just don't know what to say. Maybe just think about your comment for a few seconds before you speak it. If it doesn't sound as funny as it did, then say something nice. We mother's need all the encouragement from one another we can get."

Sharon said...

This was truly such a beautiful post. Thank you so much for sharing.

I am the youngest of 8, and growing up (even still) I'd hear that my father must be loaded. NOT THE CASE! lol He provided well for us, but as you pointed out, that didn't = buying us costly items.

I get discouraged when people already tell me we can't afford more kids, when we only have 2. TWO! I am a SAHM, and that also seems to let people think we can "afford" it. Well, we're still renting, and we only have 1 car, and my dh works 2 jobs right now. BUT, we are a good family and our boys are happy. Dh and I are happy. Money doesn't buy happiness.

Sorry this was so long. Thanks again for this beautiful post.

Anonymous said...

Absolutely agree with you. I'm the mother of three children and stepmom to three more (we have stepchildren here every weekend and hope to have custody someday -- they are currently with their maternal grandparents). With the money we bring home (after hubby pays child support), we would be considered to be living below the poverty line. But my children have healthy food, shelter, nice clean clothes, and love. We can't always give them what they want, but they have what they need with a few extras thrown in. It takes creativity: Learning how to stretch the food budget, cooking more meals from scratch or with a few inexpensive shortcuts instead of packaged foods and eating out too many times, not being afraid to let friends and family know you would be more than happy to take their kids' outgrown clothing or toys, shopping end-of-season clearance racks and thrift stores, yard sales and online yard-sale-type sites for toys, furniture, etc. Our home is decently furnished mostly with hand-me-downs (we put the word out when hubby and I were about to move in together and couldn't buy everything new all at once, and family and friends stepped up and helped). Creativity is key. My son, who like me and his stepdad is musically inclined, gets free saxaphone lessons by joining our local marching band (they do marching music and classical music), and he loves it. In exchange for showing up for gigs and practices, he gets free lessons. I could go on and on, but I'm sure you know what I'm talking about.