The Cost of Children vs the Value of Children?
I recently heard a couple of discussions on the radio about family sizes and the cost of children. I’m trying to figure out whether or not I chose to have my four kids (I do choose to keep them though), I certainly was clueless about how much it would cost us, financially, emotionally and physically. Sometimes people will tell me that I must have my hands full, in those moments I have to tell myself not to feel sorry for myself, being busy is definitely better than being bored. Having your hands full can mean that your heart is full too, even if your pocket is empty.
For a long time there were none
I wanted a baby about four years before we started trying for one but we waited until my husband had completed his studies as I was working full time to support us. Then after trying for a baby for another year it was discovered I had a large ovarian cyst and endometriosis. I was told after the operation that if I didn’t conceive within six months my chances were very slim of ever having a baby. My friends with babies patted me on the shoulder and I smiled on the outside and we kept trying.
One plus one equals three
Ten months later I was turning my thoughts towards adoption when I finally fell pregnant. I stared in disbelief at the second stripe on the pregnancy test. For a couple of weeks I felt numb, I was reluctant to allow myself to get too excited, just in case, you know. However, my pregnancy was mostly trouble free, apart from some slight spotting, and the birth was utter hell but finally, in 2002, after all those years waiting, I held my first baby.
I thought to myself ‘What on earth have I done?!’ The full responsibility of what it means to be a parent dawned on me: this little baby was 100% dependant on us to sustain it, without responsible adults it would die! I had longed for this moment for so long and now I only longed to run away. My body was stitched together in places I didn’t realise I had. I developed breasts that actually touched one another down the middle – my husband stared at them. My friends with babies patted me on the shoulder and gave me nipple cream. My husband burped and bathed the baby. It took me about six weeks to work through the shock and begin to enjoy being a mum.
Week by week, month by month I followed the lead of the other mums in the breastfeeding support group and eventually, after a whole year, somehow we managed to bring our baby to her own first birthday party.
Twice as easy!
My second pregnancy just seemed to happen all by itself, we never gave it a second thought. In fact we were too busy thinking about moving house to another country in another hemisphere. After number two’s relatively trouble free delivery I felt wonderful and was out of the door with the pram and a toddler quicker than you could say ‘double buggy’ for walks within days. My new neighbour cautioned me to take it easy but I had an easy baby so it all was very easy!
Now we had two children, one girl and one boy. We were full of parenting confidence and, both being from large families ourselves, my husband and I definitely thought two kids was too few. We didn’t like the thought of being normal, like everyone else, haha no packaged holidays for us, nosirree! We knew we would like another baby.
Once again I was pregnant before I really knew what was going on within a couple of months of weaning my second. My third pregnancy was fairly straight forward. But then number three was born, I have to confess we wondered what on earth we had been thinking. My memory is very fuzzy but I seem to recall this little one would not sleep more than about 20 -maybe 40 minutes at a time (and as a consequence neither did I). I had no clue what to do even though I had practiced twice already on my other two. Her feeding was all over the place and my nipples were raw (I discovered she had a lip tie when she was eight).
Simultaneously I was also trying to look after a two and four year old without resorting to allowing them all day TV access. When the district nurse visited me on about day 5 and I told her I had no idea what I was doing, she took one look at me and said ‘Ah sure, you’ll be grand, it’s your third’. I hated her a little bit in that moment. My husband and I had also a few memorable arguments, we were frazzled – our brains fried by sleep deprivation.
Anyway we sat tight and as time passed things got better – they usually do I find with a bit of patience. Our baby became extremely cute and started to sleep at around one year old. We were now proud parents of three adorable minions.
Sometime around April 2008 we arrived at the point where we wondered whether we ought to make the same mistake all over again and find ourselves totally overwhelmed with another baby or just stay content with our three. We debated all the pros and cons of having another and finally came to the decision that we wouldn’t. Three was the perfect number, more than that would be very costly: we would need a bigger car for a start. My pregnancies had become increasingly physically demanding. I was inching towards 38, I was at peace with our choice. That’s it, just three, no more…
About six weeks later I discovered I was pregnant. I stared in disbelief at the second stripe on the pregnancy test. My friends with four children offered their shoulders to cry on and told me it will all work out fine, eventually. I looked at my then three children and asked myself whether I regretted having any of them. Of course I did not! Then I asked myself whether I would one day have regretted not having another baby and decided that yes, I would have. So gradually I was brought around to knowing that I was delighted to welcome another little one into our already squished house.
How many kids is a good many?
These past few weeks of school holidays our household has gone from the normal four children quota, to having no kids at home for a week (disquieting!), to another week with seven children sleeping over one night (crazy fun), and then to this week of our two youngest being the only ones at home. I have had a little taste of what is normal for other families.
With just two children the housework and food consumption has significantly decreased, as have the noise levels and arguments. But I have also realized how much these last two little children in our family have added to the joy of our household. In each child we discover different gifts and personalities, both sources of wonder for us as parents. I can appreciate those who continue to have more children in order to enlarge that wonder and to experience an increased volume in love received and given.
Not everyone has the choice over how many kids they have or whether they can have any children at all. My own journey has been filled with unexpected twists and turns, I’m leaning towards the belief that all of them were Providentially chosen for us. We know four is abundantly enough, we are grateful for these four priceless gifts.
As I mentioned, I recently heard a couple of discussions on the radio about family sizes. It appears that in the West where we have small families and huge resources, cost is one of the prime factors in a couple’s decision to have a smaller family. The poorer nations value their large families as their wealth, even though having many children can become a poverty trap. In my head it’s not all about the cost but about the value. Just ask any woman who has lost a child, and they would tell you they’d pay the earth to have them back.
I have seven women friends who also all have four amazing children each, they are my role models and heroes.
I think we’d agree it certainly is a busy life and there are many financial, emotional and physical sacrifices, but that there is no other busyness that would be or could be more satisfying and valuable than this.