Sorry, I cannot divulge the cost or anystatistics behind this headline, because I just made it up. But someone ought to write that story. After all, reports about the (insert fear-mongeringadverb of choice here) high cost of parenthood are so numerous, frequent andubiquitous, that they would be boring if they didn’t make me so irate.

Well, here is one more: “Beyond the scaryChristmas list: the full parenting price tag”.  I stumbled across this story on Yahoo newsthe other day, and when I re-Googled it a day two later to work on this post,there were so many corresponding hits, I didn’t know which site to link to. This version will do:

In the equation of life, few parents ever really do the math on the actual dollars-and-cents cost of a child. […] few parents would guess that the average American child costs more than $200,000, and that’s before college even starts. 

“Cost of a child”? Are we talking aboutacquiring a fashion accessory, or the welcoming into our family of a uniqueindividual with inherent human dignity?

As a mother of seven, stuff like this makesme crazy, and for numerous reasons. For starters, I find these cost-estimates,for all their pretended scientific ‘accuracy’, extremely misleading. For middleand upper class earners, life is as expensive as you want to make it, whetheryou have children or not. My husband and I are raising our family on his veryaverage income, and have never suffered. We live a satisfied and comfortablelife, though it might seem frugal and deprived to some (books and musiclessons, yes; designer clothing and trips to Disneyland, no). To those lessfortunate, especially in developing nations, our lifestyle might seemluxurious. It’s all relative.

Most families in the United States spend about $450 per child for Christmas, according to market research firm NPD. Mrs. Gianulis is budgeting about $400 for each of hers — for one big gift and several smaller ones.

Oh my. Am I a bad parent to admit that myhusband and I probably don’t spend that much on all seven of our children puttogether? And yet they always seem to be happy with their gifts.

When it comes to money, I find, as ageneral rule (cases of utter destitution aside), most people, even the workingpoor (and non-working poor) seem to be able to afford their priorities. I knowlow-income families who manage to keep their families fed and clothed, andstill find the resources to be able to enjoy art, culture, music, sport and soforth.  I know low-income families whocan afford alcohol, tobacco, gambling, iPods and satellite television, but notgroceries.

“We think travel is hugely valuable for our kids,” says Ms. Steck, a real estate agent. […] “We want [our kids] to grow up interested in the world and not ethnocentric.”

The cost for that? About $10,000 a year.

Oh my, oh my. I am clearly not in the sametax bracket as these folks, but as I said before, it’s all relative.

Secondly, I abhor the general anti-childbias that underpins these kinds of studies. They itemise and enumerate thecosts of raising children: food, housing, clothing, education, medical, dental,lessons, sports, hobbies, toys, vacations, yadda yadda yadda. Don’t singlepeople and childless couples have many of these expenses too? And many of themlive extravagantly at that, even those who can’t really afford it—look at anystats on rising personal debt, bankruptcy and so forth. Why doesn’t anyonewrite a shocking article about the appalling cost of a materialistic self-centredchildless lifestyle?

Because for some strange reason, in westernculture, there’s nothing scandalous, horrible or scary about spending greatgobs of money on yourself, only on your dependents. Am I the only one to findthis odd? When it comes to pampering yourself, “I’m worth it,” as the L’Orealads opine, but when it comes to raising children, we need to be forewarned, ifnot terrified into, thinking twice before attempting.

Prophets of doom from Paul Ehrlich (withhis “population bomb” theory—rather well-named, that) to current dayEco-crusaders who cling to the overpopulation myth have been telling us that theonly hope for the future of humanity is to stop having children. (No, Virginia,they don’t teach logic in school any more.)

Given how expensive it is to raise a child, it would make sense for families to be having fewer, especially during a recession. […] And a Pew Research Center survey last year found that 14 percent of 18-to-34-year-olds said they postponed having a child because of the recession. A Guttmacher Institute study in 2009 found that 44 percent of women wanted to either reduce or delay childbearing because of the economy.

Now here we are, more than half a centuryafter the post-war Baby Boom: populations ageing, schools closing, small townsdying, tax bases shrinking, welfare states going bankrupt, western economiesimploding right and left. And the answer is to stop having children. Go figure.

In short, children aren’t expensive;obsessive-compulsive consumerism is. Children are not a financial liability;they are (if you must speak of them in monetary terms) an investment (perhapsthe only one truly worth making) in the future.

Former head of America’s Focus on theFamily organization, Dr. James Dobson, famously maintained that “parenting isn’tfor cowards”. Nor is it for those whose sole concern is the bottom line. Yes,raising children costs money. But selfishness and focusing entirely onmaterial concerns, especially in terms of what it does to your soul and/or humanity,costs far more.

Mariette Ulrich is a homemaker and freelance writer. She lives in western Canada with her husband and six of their seven children. Mariette holds an Honours B.A. in English Literature...