May 25, 2013
Written by Joe Pisani
Wednesday, 30 March 2011 00:00
In my fantasy world, I could have owned a waterfront home in Greenwich if a) I didn’t go into journalism and b) I had no kids. Journalism didn’t pay enough and four kids cost too much.
I’ve often been told children are “priceless,” but I’d argue they carry an enormously high price tag, financially and emotionally, and over the years, I’ve met parents who are downright unhappy because of their kids — kids in all shapes and sizes, from toddlers to teenagers and 20-somethings and older.
Most of the time, I love my kids and wouldn’t do anything differently even if I could. I think. I hope. Who knows?
Nevertheless, I’m worried by a recent study that suggests mothers and fathers play a mind game with themselves by exaggerating the so-called joys of parenthood in order to justify the costs of childrearing, which can top $300,000 when you factor in diapers, car insurance, torn jeans, body piercing, junk food and tuition.
Baby Boomers could put that money to more profitable use, paying for Metamucil or senior-care, not to mention membership in AARP.
Researchers at the University of Waterloo in Ontario, who published their findings in Psychological Science, concluded that “as the costs of raising children have grown, so too, have parents’ belief that parenthood is emotionally rewarding.” Their study showed that the high price of raising kids leads us to idealize the joys of parenthood as a rationalization for all the money we’ve spent.
Apparently, we do the same thing when we buy a pricey car that turns out to be a clunker or a house that’s a money pit. No one wants to admit costly bad decisions.
Another study in Great Britain concluded that young married couples without children had the happiest relationships of anyone, but when the baby arrived, the relationship started to sour, and couples with preschoolers were the unhappiest of all.
In the olden days, children were considered a necessity because they supported the family either by working or caring for aging parents, and back then, there was no such thing as the “emotional joys of parenthood” although I suspect there were a few economic joys.
All this leads me to conclude that before entering the phase of life called childrearing, parents should assess the ROI. That’s hard to do with toddlers, but a savvy parent would be wise to have legal agreements drafted by the time their offspring reach 16.
“Son, you want a driver’s license? OK, sign here and promise to get me senior care and three meals a day in my golden years.”
“Sweetheart, college is wonderful, but tuition ain’t cheap. However, we can work something out if you turn over 15% of your gross annual income once you enter the workforce. I’ll need the extra cash because Social Security is tanking.”
We have to dissociate parenting from all the fuzzy happiness and look at the cold hard economics. Parents should get some payback. Or as my mother always told me: “After all I did for you ...”
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