The Washington Post today ran a column asking if having three children was “showing off.”
My husband and I are getting ready to do what many couples in these brink-of-recessionary times would consider unthinkable. No, we’re not buying a Martha’s Vineyard retreat or planning a month in St. Bart’s or eco-decorating our house.
We’re planning to have a third child.
What shocks people, when we tell them, isn’t the thought of hauling three kids onto a place for a vacation, or even the idea of coming home every night to a houseful of runny noses and homework assignments. What gets them is the sheer financial audacity. Raising kids today costs a fortune. Last month, the Department of Agriculture estimated that each American child costs an average of $204,060 to house, clothe, educate and entertain until the age of 18….
And yet nowadays, people seem aghast if a couple wants more than two children. When Elana Sigall, a 43-year-old attorney in Brooklyn, was pregnant with her third, people came up to her constantly, she said, to admonish her: “You’ve got a boy and a girl already. Why don’t you just leave it alone?”
What’s worse, the desire to have another child opens one up to charges of elitism and status consciousness. In many major U.S. cities and their suburbs — especially New York, where I live — having three or more children has now come to seem like an ostentatious display of good fortune, akin to owning a pied-Ã -terre in Paris. The family of five has become “deluxe.” Last year, novelist Molly Jong-Fast mused in the New York Observer, “Are people having four or five children just because they can? Because they feel that it shows their wealth and status? In a world where the young rich use their $13,000 Birkin bags as diaper bags, one has to wonder.”
Well then I hate to admit it. I am a showoff. Big time. I have five.
I show off all the time when I’m buying pasta by the crate. Instead of store-bought birthday gifts for my wife and I, my children fill out “Birthday promises” on little cards they’ve written out for free hugs, kisses, cleaning the play room, or taking care of the baby.
I show off by instead of going to Chuck E. Cheese I take the kids to the cornfield near our home and we fly a kite and climb trees.
I show off big time when my daughter wears the hand me downs of her sisters. (I’m pretty sure we don’t have many or any name brands)
I applaud the woman who wrote the column for opening herself to the possibility of a third child but would say all those other material issues don’t matter. Children don’t know and don’t care how much the diaper bag costs. They’re not concerned with wealth or status. They want and need love.
The odd thing is that we live in the materially richest nation to ever exist on the planet and we constantly bring up material shortage reasons for not having children. But perhaps it’s not a shortage of money. America might just suffer from a shortage of love.