Three Kids: The new status symbol

Several things struck me while reading Pamela Paul's child-rearing article in The Washington Post: (a) Children are expensive; and (b) some people spend $13K on diaper bags. But, hey, some people spend the same amount on NBA season tickets, which is no bargain either.

Ms. Paul, the author of "Parenting Inc.: How We Are Sold on $800 Strollers, Fetal Education, Baby Sign Language, Sleeping Coaches, Toddler Couture, and Diaper Wipe Warmers -- and What It Means for Our Children" (a book you don't have to read because the title literally says it all) makes the point that people are not having three or more children these days because they just can't afford it. According to the Department of Agriculture, the average American child costs approximately $204,060 to clothe, shelter, entertain and educate from birth to age 18. And then there's the wedding.

But, hold on a minute. Like Barbara Ehrenreich's book "Nickel & Dimed," which explored a year in the life of a minimum-wage worker, the data may be a little skewed: Ms. Ehrenreich discovered, after a year of trying to get by on minimum wage, that she just couldn't do it; however, she neglected to modify her standard of living to match that of a real minimum-wage worker, making her research somewhat moot. The same can be said of child-rearing. Of course we can't afford three children when we truly believe that they all need their own Swarovski Crystal Baby Pacifier.

As Ms. Paul points out, back in the 1970s we were having tons of kids. With TVs blaring "My Three Sons," "The Brady Bunch" and "Eight Is Enough," it seemed the norm to have big, strapping broods making tie-dye shirts in the basement and playing kick the can in the schoolyard. How could we manage this? Well, first of all, Alice didn't cost an arm and a leg to watch the kids, Sam delivered the meat and nobody really wanted 10,000 songs in their pocket. In other words, there are just way too many cool things to buy these days.

So, what I'm saying is, yes, you can have three kids. Heck, you can have nine kids. Just remember to ask them each the following question: Do you want to go to college or have a big wedding? Choose one, not both.

B. Brandon Barker also writes for Political Machine.
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