Sunday, June 2, 2013

Beyond an Investment: The Rationale Behind Children

Just why do people have kids?

I mean, they're expensive, stressful and a lot of hard work. And what are the parents supposed to get out of all of this? A little cuddle at the end of the day to make it all better.

At least, that's what economists seem to say about having children.

I recently read an article published to by Jessica Irvine titled "Is Having Kids Really Rational?"
Now this article was written in response to a report by AMP and the National Centre. Apparently the reasons behind having kids is baffling these number crunching economists.

Have Kids?! This makes no sense!

According to this report, is costs on average $812,000 to raise a child. That is a big number.
Jessica's article then goes on to ask the question, just why do people have kids. From a purely economical point of view, she has a point. Of all the money that you invest into a child, when do you see a return on that investment? You don't. Well, at least not in monetary terms.
She concludes the article by stating that in the end, perhaps all those hugs and kisses you get from your kids is worth the 812k.

I don't know about you, but somehow I think she's missing the point. Here is what I think.

As someone who has delved into parenthood, I can definitely say that I didn't crunch the numbers on how much money I would need to invest in order to see any sort of return on my "investments". I was not thinking who would be looking after me into my golden years and I definitely didn't have kids just for the hugs and kisses (although that is a nice fringe benefit).

Why do people have kids? There is no singular reason. Some people see it as their duty to have children. Others simply like the idea of having kids. I can definitely say the reasons are different depending on who you talk to.

I think the most disappointing thing I come across these days is some people's attitudes towards people becoming parents and I think it is reflected well in this article. Ms. Irvine refers to children as "luxury goods" in her piece. I think this statement reveals a sobering reality to how today's western society seems to perceive children or at least how they appear to see children. I think there is one statement that sums up the feeling I get from Jessica Irvine's story: We have children mostly for our own enjoyment.

What's wrong with that? Well, it's true that parents should enjoy having kids in order for their sanity to hold together, but what I'm talking about are people who are critical of parents when they have kids. They make statements like:
  • "They don't have much money. Why are they having kids?"
  • "They already have 'x' amount of kids. Why do they need more?"
  • "I don't see why families should receive tax benefits. If you can't afford kids you shouldn't have them."
That last statement is one I've been reading and hearing a lot about lately with the debate surrounding family benefits coming out of the Australian Government's Budget.

The truth is, the impression I'm getting from society is that kids should only be reserved for the wealthy and the affluent.

Don't get me wrong, you need to support your family and you should work out if you are financially able to provide for your family before you take the plunge. But I don't think people should become critical or judgemental over one of the most important thing that a couple can undertake with each other.

I think that this criticism comes about from people not fully understanding themselves why one would have kids and is especially hard for those who haven't got kids or plan to never have children.

The thing is, people are wondering why people have kids but it is engrained within our very being.

The biologist will probably will tell you that our sole biological purpose is to ensure the survival of our species and procreate.

The religious may tell you that we have biblical mandate to have kids. Genesis 9:7 contains God's instruction to Adam and Eve to go forth and multiply.

I think the reasons why people have kids runs a lot deeper than simply being in it for the hugs and kisses or whether its a good investment. Having kids means so much more than personal fulfilment. 

Having kids means continuing our heritage, raising the next generation of society and being largely responsible for how a person grows up and defines them self. It is one of the most important things that parents could on this planet.

But that doesn't say why people have kids despite the economics. So why do we have kids?

It's hard to say because everyone has their own reasons. Some do want to those hugs and kisses, others want to continue their legacy and others may feel it's the status quo.

Myself? Well, I'd like to think I was made for this. That it is engrained so deep within me to have kids that $812,000 is not just worth it, it's an absolute bargain to bring someone of worth into this world and hopefully give back to society in so many ways.

And to those cynical people who are critical of those family benefits. I hope you remember those words when our kids/future taxpayers are paying for your seniors benefits in your old age.

1 comment:

  1. Hey Matt,

    Great topic. Children being reduced to consumer goods is becoming a common position now. Just look at the celebrity examples.

    --Taking a Christian perspective here--

    I think a lot of people forget that God intended marriage to make us Holy and bring us into righteousness before him through obedience. Obedience is love and true freedom is found through it.

    Marriage is not a product or a feel good injection you pick up off the shelf for yourself. However, our schools and society pushes this image on a daily basis, even our churches are falling into this trap.

    I'm not married so I can't talk from experience, however the last tab on my post "Objectifying Providence" really put this into perspective for me.