Monday, March 7, 2011

So, I have this daughter.  She's 12. She's usually a sweetie.  Very responsible most of the time.  Lost two pairs of glasses in the last 6 months.  We took her a week ago to replace her glasses and shelled out $150 for a pair and a spare.  They came in Friday...we picked them up Saturday...she found her lost pair within hours of returning home.

My response to this was to sigh and be glad she has glasses again.  Her prescription had changed anyway, so the new glasses were needed.  We can find a charity for the old pair and send them to a third world country, and she can learn a lesson in giving.  For some other lost item, I might have made her help with the cost, but glasses are in a different category.  Richard and I are on the hook for medical needs like that.  And really, the opportunity to raise this child more than makes up for any expense we just incurred.  She's definitely worth it.

Or is she?

According to a recent report published on, a study found that parents who were given information on the costs of raising children exaggerated how happy they were to be parents. See, back in the old days, children were very valuable because they could work the family farm and help raise the family income.  Since the economy shifted away from enforced child servitude, well, kids just aren't that valuable to parents, so parents pretend the emotional rewards are greater than they are in order to avoid realizing what a huge (HUGE) mistake they made in having them in the first place.  I mean, if it weren't for their kids, all these parents would be living in the lap of luxury without a care in the world.

That's right...because we parents have nothing better to do than sit around and tabulate costs vs benefits all day in an attempt to know whether or not we made the right choice in having kids.  I know I turn in a parenting profit and loss statement every year with my taxes.  The cost of those glasses is going to keep Miriam in the red for a long time unless she learns how to earn a wage really soon.  The government is also very interested in whether or not Miriam's skill at the flute is keeping pace with the money we spent buying her the instrument.  Don't even get me started about the clothes she wears or the food she eats when she doesn't even have a factory job and a nice case of rickets to show for it!

Can you even imagine?  No. Because you're a parent who loves your kids and you don't think that way.  You don't see your kids as an investment to which you expect an equivalent return.  You see them as a responsibility and a privilege, a job you are willing to do without thought to what you will get out of it. And in doing that, you step outside yourselves and find joy.  And if some researcher presents you with data and you try to convince them of feelings they won't understand unless they've experienced them themselves, they'll smile a sad smile and nod at your pathetic attempts to convince them of your happiness despite their "evidence" that parenting costs too much for that kind of thing.

As someone who works in an active research lab at the University of Utah, I have some training in reading studies and finding their flaws.  It would be great to get my hands on the actual data and check out the validity of the study.  How are they defining costs?  How are they defining benefits?  Do their methods in fact measure what they purport to measure?  But I don't have time for that.  As a happy mom, I obviously spend an incredible amount of each day deluding myself about the joys of parenting.

What I love about articles like this one is the fact that these researchers and the writers who report on them seem to think that telling parents that parenting is hard and expensive is some kind of shocking exposé.  As a mom of 14 years, I am here to say definitively that we parents are very aware of the fact that being parents is sometimes difficult and costs a lot of money.  No, really.  It's okay.  No need to free us from the cloud of parental optimism.

You know what else is hard and costs of a lot of money?  Marriage.  Having a job (when compared to living off the state, which is a viable option for many people).  Paying taxes in order to live in a society with appropriate public services and infrastructure.  Working toward a goal.  Getting ready for a vacation.  Pets.  Hobbies.  Going to the movies.  Having much needed surgery. 

Wait a minute!  All of those things are worthwhile if done right!  Are you telling me that anything worthwhile takes work, sacrifice, and the occasional heartache?!  And people STILL CHOOSE TO DO THOSE THINGS?!

Those poor, deluded people.  Where is science when you need them?

For your viewing pleasure: The little money-grubber herself.



Lis Cook said...

LOVE IT.....

Smallbits said...

I LOVED this post. I read the same article and was just annoyed. You said it so much better than I could. Thank you!

(PS I know I have never commented before but I've followed your blog for awhile. You do an awesome job and make me smile lots of days down here on the border. One rough day in particular, one of your product posts had me laughing till I cried. Thanks. Found your blog through my friend Karen who I think was your instructor at one point.)