Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Three Kids Elitism?

My friend, Jack (whose wife NEVER updates their blog (thought I'd get a guilt trip in there while I'm blogging--multitasking!)) sent me a really good article from the Washington Post. Yes, my friends, it has come to other people having to keep me up-to-date on what's going on in the world. How sad, but so, so true. I'm bad about current events. The article was funny because it addressed the idea of having the third child.

Given that I have been raised LDS, three kids never seemed like much to me. Not that I, myself, was raised in a big family (I have multiple step and half siblings, but never lived with any of them). However, going to church and associating with friends, big families were the typical thing--I was the anomaly. I also have never discussed the ultimate size of the family my husband and I want to end with. Since I was raised as an only child, I figured it'd be better to take it one at a time and see how my sanity was holding up.

In the article which you can access here, the author talks about how she too is expecting her third kid. Apprently, NYC is not accustomed to seeing people who can afford to raise three children. She sites the Dept. of Agriculture as saying that the average child costs $204,060 to raise to the age of 18. I have to digress again and wonder why they didn't round out that $60? Was that the Disney movies you had to buy or the popcorn at the theater you knew was too expensive, but bought anyway?

She goes on to poke a bit of fun at how we think of children nowadays and I had to think that some of it rang true:
For a couple's every conceivable wish or worry, the parenting industry knows the precise formula of guilt, fear, hope, love and desire that will empty the parental wallet. Rather than fret about spending too much money, most parents these days are consumed by the anxiety of underspending -- the fear that somewhere, some other parent is offering her baby an educational toy or child-development class that will propel the toddler ahead, and that if you skimp, your child risks losing out and falling behind.

Isn't it true that we're feeling the stress to keep our kids in the game of life? I know that getting into college is getting trickier and trickier and good grades are nowhere near going to be enough to get a child in. My mom enrolled me in a few summer activities a couple of different summers, but my family was in no way hypervigilant at pushing any one activity in hopes of leading to my college success.

However, don't we parents worry now when we think that somehow we are letting our children fall behind the "average" or "accelerated" curve? It's funny because most of us realize that if we want little Tommy to play basketball in high school, he had better start by age 4 or he'll never even have the skills to make it on the middle school "A" team.

I'm definitely digressing from the point of the article. I just thought it was absolutely outrageous when she cited the following statistic for NYC:
Once a new mom's maternity leave (if she's lucky enough to get it) is up, a nanny or quality day care is in order. In upscale urban areas and tony suburban enclaves, where luxury families are flourishing, that can translate to $800 a week for child care alone. So-called high-end nannies -- those who hail from licensed agencies and come equipped with working papers and even driver's licenses -- can cost more than $50,000 a year on the books. And to think, some deluxe families hire two. After all, how can one nanny juggle a set of twin infants and a 3-year-old, or ferry three kids under 6 to their various play dates, preschool programs and lessons?

$800 a week for child care??? That's $3,200 a month folks. I just can't imagine expending that much money for child care. The most ironic thing of all is that these families don't consider the mother staying home. It's not even on the radar. Instead, the effort is expended in finding the best nanny. I just don't get it.

And, you're not going to believe this:
Today's American children, by contrast, get an average of 70 new toys a year, yet child development experts agree that the best toys are simple playthings such as blocks, balls and figurines that a child can play with over and over, in new ways. When I was growing up, a sticker was something precious that a stationery store owner would carefully cut off a roll and sell for 25 cents. Today, a made-in-China jumbo book of 600 stickers can be bought at CVS for $6.99. Something has been lost in this ostensibly positive development.

Wow! 70 new toys a year? Think of the cost of that alone. She also cites how these parents put their children in private school and private lessons for sports and how all of that adds up. Well, no wonder they consider three children a sign of wealth and elitism. If I felt the need to buy all of those things for my child, I'd probably never even have one.

I love how she ends it though:
As for my husband and me, we hardly have unlimited resources, but we're still planning to go forth and multiply in the big city. The way we figure it, one day our children will be grateful for what we didn't give them -- and what we did for them instead.

I hope that my children know I love them 'cause I'm never getting a nanny (no matter how I beg my husband won't give in. I tell him it's for me and not the kids). I think that we worry too much about giving each child this amazing childhood and not enough on how important it is just to love them. Running through the sprinklers, coloring in a coloring book, reading a story, those are all interactive, fun activities. Not saying that providing more is bad, but don't you feel the pressure to do so?


Minharos said...

Wow! My kids are lucky to get one new toy a year. Just kidding, but seriously I've never understood spending that much on your kids. WHen I have gone overboard at Christmas or birthdays my kids get overwhelmed and cranky. I've learned that less is definately more.

When we moved out here we looked at private schools for Macey. How much could it really cost we naively asked. We found an amazing school that we totally fell in love with and almost died when they said Kindergarten was 12,500. The prices increase each year so that your paying 15,000 by the time they leave junior high. Are you kidding me?! That's like buying a new car every year. I can't believe people are actually paying that!!!!

Lara said...

Whenever I read articles about how much it costs to have a chld I always wonder what on earth these people are buying. I know food costs and gas get to be a lot more with each kid, but it's not this huge number that I constantly see written down.

I don't even think we make as much as "they" say it costs to raise one child, let alone three. But we do okay.

wackywilsons said...

Once again, another great "thinking" blog....

I have heard that baby #3 puts people over their limits...you'll have to let me know how it goes for you...some end up with 9 kids b/c they say after 3 kids, it's all the same!

Just a few weeks ago i cleaned out my toy room b/c less really is more....kids just throw things everywhere if they have too much stuff.

I am grateful to not live in NYC either, I would probably feel so much pressure. Did you see the movie, "The Nanny?" I think that is the name of it. It has Scarlett Johanssen...and it talks all about her experiences as a NYC nanny...a good flick to rent for sure.

Kim said...

Congratulations! And no, I haven't given up on blogging, but life is kind of funny. You should go read my blog.

JLJ said...

I read "she's pregnant with her 3rd too" and thought that was quite the subtle way of announcing your pregnancy. That is until I went back a few days for the actual announcement post. Congratulations! In some ways 3 really does put you over the top, but in other ways, it really isn't much more difficult than 2. And no, I didn't make chocolate, just chocolate cake. With store bought cocoa powder.

Jack and Annie said...

Rag on me will you! I must say having a friend who is as witty as you are puts a large amount of peer pressure on a girl! To have something interesting and thought provoking to say every few days or so...well I can't do it!

At the risk of sounding SUPER boring, we just don't have a lot going on. I also have trouble looking at things in our lives and saying to myself...this is so funny or interesting I should blog about it! LOL Can you tell I was never much of a journal writer!

On another note have you seen that SAHM's make six figures now? Google SAHM salary...I figure that entitles me to a little extra spending cash! LOL

Julie said...

Thanks for the post, Audrey. Very thought-provoking. My mother-in-law was just telling me yesterday that as a young mother, she sanded and painted wood scraps to make blocks for her daughter. Compare that to finding them today at the dollar store. I agree that less can be more, especially when it is infused with love.

Steph Bowen said...

Derek sent the article to Tyler who sent it to me...I love how info travels. I thought it was interesting how the writer was saying that there is so much pressure to buy the best things for the kids. I just kept thinking about how I don't think our daughter will care if it's from Goodwill or Pottery Barn until she's at least a preteen (if I'm lucky!) The moms probably go to work so that they can pay to have a nanny. Then they can claim they have kids but still can have a career.

Steph Bowen said...

I forgot to mention that I know you're just having another kid so you can show how much money you make :)

Heather said...

Kids can be expensive, but obviously not to the extent the article says. It is interesting how you said things like stickers used to be gold to us, but now I give them to Brody all the time because I can buy them so cheap.

I also totally feel the pressure to create a talent for my kids (music/sports/etc). And you pretty much do have to start at three, or so it seems. It really freaks me out!

Lacey said...

So it took me 2 days to read your post but I loved it and can't wait to read the article. I can totally relate as we are preparing to put Elodie in preschool as well as various summer activities. It can be draining and stressful.
I love the last quote and I think that's what the church is all about too...in the end, your kids aren't going to remember what toys they had when they were 2,3,4,5,or 6...but I know they will remembering being loved! And that is really the most important thing..oh, and being fed and clothed..those are good ones too!

JM said...

By the way, sorry we couldn't hook up with you guys while we were out there...I didn't see your comment until we got back! (Plus, we were pretty busy the whole time we were there...) It would've been really great to see you, though. We'll have to plan for it next time!!!

wackywilsons said...

Cute new background!!! Where did you get it!!!

Kimberlina said...

I read Pamela Paul's article and then sent her an e-mail. She wrote me back and basically agreed that all children need is love. She also suggested I read her book, Parenting, Inc., about the whole marketing frenzy around babies and parenting.

It is amazing to me how many things you can get for a baby. They all SEEM necessary (I especially felt that way with my first) but really they don't need much more than being loved and having their basic needs met. But, hey, I'll enjoy a good shopping trip to Babies-R-Us anyday!

Zim Family said...

When we lived just outside of the city, I would take Ryder to swim lessons and it would just be me with the nannys. No moms. And if there were siblings, two nannies (otherwise you were cheap). To send Ryder to preschool it would have cost me $8000 for the year. Ridiculous. Needless to say, we love the suburbs, where I feel encouraged to be the best mommy I can, to have as many children as I can, and to give them as much from me that I can...we hate toys in this house. The kids don't play with them and they only make a huge mess. Bleh.

rachel said...

SO, I have wondered if you have gotten the same flack I have for having a third child. I have encounter 5 nurses and each one has asked Was it planned? Are you done? Then they about have a total fit when I say I am the oldest of 9regular siblings and 4 foster children. Even more I don't resent my parents and have psychological problems. Well you know I am bit crazy but who isn't. I have never had to defend the choice of having another child like I have these past few months and I think I am getting a little defensive. . . Are you catching that vibe or am I just crazy?