discuss the potential effects of having children on a couple's finances and marital happiness;
Bob will share his personal reasons why he thinks having children is worth it despite it all;
hopefully make you wonder whether it's worth it to have children, exploring your own hopes and aims for the future, because ultimately, that's what the decision comes down to.
I do not usually talk about children in this blog. But I will today because, like many other parents of children under 12 years of age, I am very aware of the special challenge we face because we cannot get the children vaccinated, whether we want to or not.
The financial costs of raising children are staggering
Of course, there are other special challenges as well. The cost of a college education has skyrocketed. In Ithaca, NY, where we live, there are two colleges. The cost of a year at Cornell University is $76,258. The cost of a year at Ithaca College is $64,091. Then there is preschool. Preschool tuitions are variable. In New York City, they range from $1280 to $72,725 per year (almost the price of a year at Cornell).
To cut to the chase, the average cost of raising a child in the United States today, to age 17 (i.e., exclusive of college costs) is $233,610. It depends on where you live, however. In New York City, the average cost easily can go up to $500,000 or more.
This is not to mention the accidents, the crying (one of our triplets was crying as I wrote much of the above paragraph), and, from the standpoint of this blog, the cost to the parents’ relationship.
Having children decreases marital satisfaction
In psychology, many studies yield conflicting results. But studies of the effects of kids on the marital satisfaction of their parents are unequivocal.
Having kids decreases marital bliss. In terms of numbers, John Gottman, a famous researcher on marriage, found that for roughly two thirds of parents, having kids decreases marital satisfaction.
I suspect that this is a substantial underestimate, as many parents will not want to admit that their kids make their marriage less happy.
So, parents pay for their kids financially and in terms of their own marital happiness.
Why, then, have children?
Today, I will write about my person reasons why having kids was one of the best decisions of my life, despite the fact that, without doubt, I would have been much more secure financially if I had not had them—all 5 of them!
So why have kids?
There is no experience like it.
Sure, having pets is great. But compared to kids? Really? It’s like climbing Mt. Everest, without all the climbing gear. If you have kids and see them become their own people, you climbed your own Mt. Everest. Maybe, as in my case, multiple times.
We have so much fun with our kids. I go walking with them twice a day. We start talking when we leave the house and don’t stop until we get back. We play games. We take hikes. We ride bikes. We grow up together! They get taller, I get, um, larger in a different place.
It gives you purpose and meaning in life.
When I was younger, I thought my work would give me purpose and meaning in life. To some extent, it has. But sooner or later, for almost all of us, we realize that all the changes in the world we hoped to make probably are not going to happen in our lifetime. Maybe it’s different for a Mahatma Gandhi or a Nelson Mandela or a Mother Teresa. But for most of us, despite our efforts, not much will change, and much of what we think will change will become undone. As a university administrator, I made changes I thought were significant, only to see them undone after I left. As a psychology researcher, I have seen that research is one thing; getting people to change is another. The older I get, the more I feel that my main contribution to the world has been my kids. Whatever I did not do, maybe they will. Or maybe they’ll do even better. My two oldest kids already are doing better!
They make you feel younger—most days.
Some days, I feel like I’m over a hundred years old. But most days, having kids makes me feel like the years hardly have passed. I do all these crazy things with the kids that otherwise I would have told myself I’m just too old to do. And I see my childless friends often putting their “inner child” behind them—becoming old in mind as well as in body. I can’t afford to! My kids won’t let me!
You not only make your life better; you make the world better.
Our triplets brighten up every room they enter. They are like that. My older son Seth is running a large company that provides home health care to elderly people who just do not want to go to a hospital, an elder-care facility, or a glorified warehouse for the elderly. My oldest daughter Sara does poverty law, trying to help change a legal system that grossly and overtly favors the rich, the powerful, and the well-connected. I feel so rewarded that I had anything to do at all with what made them who they are today.
Eventually, you likely get to be a grandparent.
That is to say, all the fun without having to worry about the college costs, the throw-ups, and the accidents.
If you’re lucky, they’ll take care of you when you are older!
Hey, we all get old—if we’re lucky! If you take care of your kids, you can hope they will take care of you. Once you retire, you may actually need some help. Time for the kiddos to return all the favors you have done them. In our case, we hope to live near our triplets when they are older, meaning they just have to settle down in the same place! (Fat chance of that.)
You get a chance to do right everything your parents did wrong.
My parents did a few things right and, unfortunately, many things wrong. I’m sure I have done a lot of things wrong as a parent too. But I’ve really tried to do right by my kids in all the ways my parents did things wrong. And it gives me a lot of satisfaction to know that I do not have to pass on to them all the mistakes my parents made with me.
You know that you will have done something that lasts.
It is so hard to do things that last. Almost all we do is so ephemeral. Your kids will go on after you, and their kids after them, and you know that, through your kids, you have built something lasting that is not just, well, a lifeless statue or something else frozen in time.
They will be with you until the end.
It ends for all of us. I have asked my kids just one thing—that if I do not die unexpectedly, they be there at the end. They have promised they will be. I don’t want to end it alone: I want to end it with my wife and all five kids there with me. And that’s what I expect to happen!
Are kids worth it? They’ve been fun at some times, a bit of a torture at others. But there are few things I have done in my life for which I’m more convinced I did the right thing and would absolutely do the same again!