October 6, 2011

Baby Morality

I have a very heavy post to write today, so I hope you forgive me. After a tearful conversation with Sky the other night, I wanted to share what is on my mind.

I would love to have another baby. Not just love to- it is something my heart longs for. I don't want to now for several reasons, but I can honestly say I think about it, however briefly, nearly every single day. I have thought of it late at night when the house is asleep. I have thought of it while rushing around during the day. I have thought of it watching Millie play alone, and I begin daydreaming about her having a sibling.

And then another thought comes, loudly and without fail. You cannot afford a baby. Sometimes I wonder if Millie will be my only pregnancy for this reason, and this reason alone. The notion crushes hopes so deep-seated, I wonder if I will think about it until long after I'm a grandmother. It's amazing how the birth of my daughter stirred something within me that I wasn't even aware of until she came into the world. I think women who have that longing can probably say it's the strongest longing they've ever had.

Some things are just inevitable- there will be days when you can't afford to buy your child the toy they think they can't live without. There will be a time when going to get new school clothes will just have to wait. And there will be years when Christmases and birthdays will be scaled down. That's just the nature of life. But how much are we supposed to plan for this? In other words, is it ever wrong to have a baby because of financial circumstances?

One of the biggest dreams most parents have for their children-myself included- is their education. In fact, we usually expect nothing less than our child graduating with a four year degree. But only 28% of people who make under $50,000  say they think they could afford to pay for college (in this study). I can safely say that most of my friends don't have parents that are able to pay for their education. They take out loans they will spend dozens of years paying off, or they simply do not go.

Does that make them bad parents? When they love their children, have a happy home life, and raise them to be good people who make a difference on this earth, does it make up for whatever financial help that they can't give? (Is it even more valuable, really?)

There are more questions, too. What about parents who can afford one child but end up with triplets? What about a family who plans for a healthy baby and ends up with tens of thousands of dollars in medical bills or therapy? What about a family who is getting by, but loses a job shortly after a baby is born? Sometimes, circumstances don't allow planning, and families scrimp and save to allow for an unexpected addition. But for families who are carefully planning and considering having a baby- what, if any, are the 'ground rules' financially speaking?

I've read up on this topic a lot, and I've seen all angles. Some people have said, without a huge chunk of cash, it's immoral to have a baby, and it's incredibly selfish. Others have said their parents had nothing and that love and a happy home were worth more than anything money could buy. Some have even argued that rich children are worse off in many areas. I've read things that offended me deeply and things I agreed with, but I still can't tell you what I think is right.

I read to Millie all the time. I give her five hundred kisses a day and tell her I love her so many times that she probably already tunes me out. I brush her teeth twice a day. I encourage her when a new word is appearing in her vocabulary, and I answer her when she points and says, "What's that?" I feed her a healthy breakfast, lunch, and dinner. I tuck her in at night, and then go back into her room at least once more to make sure she's okay and give her one last kiss. And I worry daily about making sure her heart stays beautiful and her future is bright.

But I don't know if that is enough.

21 kind comments from you:

Snoopy's Sweetheart said...

This is such a difficult topic. Whenever we discuss when is "right" to start our family I get extremely emotional because I know that right now is definitely NOT the time, due to financial reasons, but I so badly want to hold my own baby in my arms...Not just the twins I take care of. I wish there was an easier way to make these dreams come true...

Mrs. Wookie said...

I think there's an extremely delicate balance of it all. I agree that silver spoon babies don't appreciate the true aspects to life. Both I and Mr. Wookie grew up in stretched-income homes, he with just his mom and I with both parents but a 4-kid household. We're both proud of this fact and agree it's made us better adults.

Each of our parents had the amount of children they wanted and made it work - this doesn't exclude the fact that times were tough. I remember having a savings account when I was around 10 of $100+ and my brother having one of $200+ that my parents had to drain to pay bills. I joke with my mom all the time that 'she owes me.' She feels incredibly bad, but I don't hold it against her. They've provided more than I could have asked for, even if it was considered meager by others' standards.

I feel there's a mix to life. It's great to grow up knowing the capability of the dollar and learning to earn your keep.

Yes, Mr. Wookie is still paying off loans, and I was fortunate enough to work an amazing summer job each year that landed me $10,000+ in 3 months (wildland firefighting) that I put towards school with help from my parents. So now our adult life is spent with a joint effort on those loans, because we wouldn't be where we're out without them.

I wish I had the answers for you - but unfortunately life is more complex than a simple e-hug, card, and the notion that all will be worked out in the end.

Bonnie said...

There never is a perfect time to have a child. when I had Noah, Zack was paying $1057 a month in child support for his son with his ex-wife on an e-4 pay and I had just gotten out of the army. We have been really lucky to have been a little more financially stable when Gracie came along but times were really tough for us for a really long time. if you want another baby and you are blessed to have another one, you will find a way to make it work. I promise you will :)

contradistinctive said...

Follow your heart, not your head. that road usually leads to love, which is more than enough. I had used clothes and hand-me downs... but I learned to look to character instead of judge labels. I had home cooked meals instead of take-out and dinner out on the town, and i learned to appreciate family and conversation. I had garage sale toys, and harldly ever had "new" things, and I learned to appreciate simplicity and the outdoors. My grandparents couldn't "afford" to adopt and raise my sister and I, but they didn't want someone else to, even if it meant we'd "have more"... and I'm grateful almost every day for that. I think children are overly entitled today... and although we are going to start a savings to pay for whatever continued education the girls want, that's it. once that money's gone, they're on their own ;) If everyone waited till they could afford a baby to have one, no one would be born ever, and we'd all be either miserable or non-existent ;) I agree with Bonnie completely

Jessa said...

I've never been able to 'afford' my children. You don't afford them, you just do what you can with what you have. And if you raise them knowing tht money doesn't grow on trees, they accept it and are grateful what they have. I do have two circumstances in which I do believe someone should hold off, but I keep those to myself for the sake of not getting into arguments with people.

annoyed army wife said...

We waited until we were secure, until OccDoc was done with training and stable, until I could quit my job to stay home, now two years later we're still waiting but not by choice this time. I don't know if not waiting would have helped anything in our situation and if we would have been able to get pregnant a few years ago, but it has taught me not to wait and do the totally rational thing.

I don't think anyone would be able to tell you what's right and I don't think you'll even be able to say with 100% certainty what is right, so don't wait around until you have it all figured out. I know it's easy for someone like me to sit back and say to follow your heart when they aren't the ones facing the bills, but I know the heartache can come from waiting too long.

Carlyn said...

Hi, this is my first comment, but I have been reading your blog for sometime and love it!
My husband and I just got married and I so desperately want a baby. We are still in school, buried in loans, and without jobs, so for us it is just not the right time to have a baby. But I, like you, long for a baby. I have dreamt about being a mom since I was a little girl, that is all I have ever saw myself doing.
I know some people say that it is not smart to have a baby when you are not financially stable, but I think that you just make things work. I think that you make ends meet where you can, and you cut back on things that you do not need. In our first year of marriage I have learned what we can go without and what is a luxury, but we are giving things up so that we can have a life together, not apart. And I think you do that with a baby, you give things up to make it work, but you are doing that for someone that you love, and so that you can fill a missing part in your life.

A Boring Girl said...

Yikes, i dunno. Kids are always a blessing, right? But maybe there is a time for everything. We need to hang :)

Poekitten said...

I don't know that we can necessarily afford a baby but we're trying to have one anyway. We're staring infertility testing in the face and if we do have to do it, I have no idea how we'll pay for it. Or the baby that will *hopefully* result. We're trusting God that we'll be able to provide for the baby. He has ALWAYS provided for us, I know he won't stop now!

JennyTheBeatBoxer said...

The Lord will provide. That's all I could think while reading this post.
I grew up in a household where "no" was used quite often. Not because my parents didn't want me to have whatever I wanted at the time, but they couldn't afford it. Honestly, I think I'm a better person because of it. Had I been handed everything, I would be a completely different person. I was an accident. I don't know that my parents had planned to wait until they were financially stable before they started having kids or not. I came along, though, and they loved me with all they had. (My sister too, but she was planned). I never had the best of anything and that was alright. There were plenty of times that we did without so the bills could get paid. But I didn't suffer any because of it.
As for paying for school. Cross that bridge when you get to it. There are so many ways to get scholarships and grants. You can start college funds and add money when you can. Even if it doesn't cover the entire cost, it will help in some way. I know my grandmother bought my sister and I savings bonds when we were young and made it so we couldn't access them until a certain age. It wasn't much but it paid for a semester of books and some odds and ends.
I'm not too fond of this saying, but sometimes it just fits: Let go and let God.
If you wait for the right time, it will never come. :)
The Lord will provide for you and your family, don't fret. :) Jeremiah 29:11 says For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.
For YOU! And your little ones. :) Don't lose heart!

Anonymous said...

We aren't wealthy. We have three kids. We'll have more. We're homeschooling our kids and giving them an education better than the local private schools. We expect our children to earn their way through college with scholarships (athletic or merit based) or get a job and work their way through. This isn't based purely on finances. We actually think expecting our children to take responsibility for their own education (as young adults) requires us to work really hard to make sure they are prepared for it.

Having a baby can be expensive (the hospital bill alone makes it daunting) but it isn't nearly what people would have you believe. My third child has no new clothes. She wears 100% hand-me-downs. I rarely buy new clothing for my older two. I stalk the local second-hand shops and buy whole seasons worth of clothes during bag sales. We don't have cable TV (or any channels on our analog TV) because 1)it saves money and 2)there's nothing on. We have cheapo trac phones we use sparingly. Add in simple lifestyle choices like breastfeeding, eating at home, choosing free activities rather than going to movies (or just going to the Virginia when they have something good on the cheap) and we spend less than some families with one kid.

I think babies are a good thing. Always. :)

Jessica {Team Rasler} said...

I think what you are giving Millie IS enough. Also, I completely agree with whomever out there has said that you never know what life is going to throw at you, so declaring that only rich people with piles of cash should have children is preposterous. Knowing I had no home, for example, would make me pause before choosing that moment to have another baby. But otherwise? I think that having only a few toys, gently-used clothes, and a loving family trumps that cash every time.

I have a lot of friends who are limiting their families because they want to be able to travel with their kids, send them to college, etc. I respect that, completely, because we all have to do what makes us happy. But for me? I'll skip a trip to Europe or to DisneyLand if it means having the third baby I desperately want. Because I was a third baby, and I know that all three of us turned out just fine and survived going to college on borrowed money. We are from the most loving family you can imagine, so that was worth missing out on a lot of the material advantages that I didn't even know I was missing out on until I was old enough to know it wasn't as big a deal anyway.

So I say, go with your heart. If it says it's not a good idea right now, respect that. If it says that this is what is best for you and your family, keep that option open even if you don't jump in right at this second.

This is such a tough issue because I don't believe there is a right answer, and I'm frustrated on your behalf that people on the internet give their opinions so decidedly.

Manda said...

The only time I think it's wrong to have a baby based off of financial reasons... is when you have absolutely no money, no job and are depending on things like welfare and state assistance.

Giving your children gobs of toys, the name brand clothes etc... is not important. Giving your children food and a roof over there heads and an abundance of love IS important.

The New "Normal" said...

We really couldn't afford either of our children when we had them. Our first was a surprise (yes, I know how it happens:), but I think if it hadn't been that way, we would still be waiting for the "right" time. We always wanted our kids to be closer in age, so we planned our daughter. We knew it would be a stretch to our already stretched finances, but we also knew that we were willing to make more sacrifices to have our babies. Giving them lots of "things" isn't important to us, but giving them experiences and love is. We wanted to be able to do that and I managed to stay home with them the first 4 years because that was what was important. I now work to put them in an amazing private school (I work at the school) so that they can have a great education, which is also important. We do however, debate the home school topic from time to time and may go that route eventually.

I think love, experiences, time with parents and education are the most important things to a child. Material possessions are not. Some of the happiest kids I have met are the ones who appreciate the sacrifices their parents make for them and have very little "things".

All kids really want and need is to feel secure, loved and like they belong. You are amazing at giving that to Millie. It's a very personal decision, but it's always seemed to me that there is no "perfect" time to have a baby and you really just have to go with your heart. And praying about it too!

____j said...

This is a hard subject to talk about. I'm like you, I look at it from all angles, and it's really hard to say. I think if you can afford to LOVE a child and provide the basic needs, that is all you have to have. I'm not even sure if that makes sense, but I guess what I'm trying to say is, where there is a will, there is a way. I don't think it's selfish or immoral for you to want another child even though times are hard. Obviously, I don't know everything about your situation, but there is assistance out there. Adelei was a complete surprise to us and I will be the first to tell you, we were not prepared financially. I went straight to government services and applied for medicaid and was accepted based on our income. I also applied and was accepted for WIC. Some people are embarrassed to say they use these services, but I am not. I am thankful that they are around, because I was able to have my entire pregnancy, L&D, & postpartum care paid for, as well as all of her doctor's visits. It pays for her formula monthly, and some basic groceries. I don't think you're selfish, Erika. I think people who go out and have 5 & 6 kids by 3 different baby daddies and leave their children with strangers while they go out to the club and get drunk are selfish. And I see this all the time. If this is something that you and Sky both agree on, I don't see why you shouldn't try. You are a wonderful mother! Fulfill your hearts desire!

____j said...

Also, if you ever need anyone to talk to more about this, you know my email address!!

Catch Her in the Wry said...

I may be your oldest commenter, but I speak with wisdom and experience. You should wait before having another baby.

According to your bio, you haven't even been married two years. With a pregnancy, a marriage, and military spouse, those are some of the biggest life stressors that are difficult to handle one at a time, let alone all three in such a short period.

I think finances should have nothing to do with your decision, but waiting will help stablize your life and emotions. Enjoy what you have now with Millie. You have plenty of years ahead to have more children.

BTW: I had my first child at age 33.

A Creed and A Psalm said...

So much good advice already!! Since my love and I have been trying desperately for a child for the past almost 7 months, I KNOW that longing. It buries itself in your soul and it really does decide to bloom out in the most unbeknownst moments during the day and night. The other night we were in a group of people and he was sitting at another table, and I teared up wondering how he would look with a baby in his arms - and how terribly frightening it is to think that if he deploys and something happens, all of that beauty will just be gone since we are childless, and I can't bear that. I grew up with a younger brother my mother tried for 6 years for after me - and I loved having a sibling. He and I are close to this day. We rarely had new things and rarely went on vacations, and I am currently taking on the vast majority of my college loans because my parents never saved for my education when I was young, because they just couldn't. But did I EVER have a day when I didn't think my family loved me? No. I knew how deeply my parents wanted to have me. I knew how long they tried. I grew up knowing all of my grandparents AND great-grandparents. And looking back, I had a great childhood. My parents couldn't give us much because they didn't budget, didn't plan, and didn't allocate the funds they had coming in correctly. My mom stayed home with both of us until we were in school and my dad only has a 2-yr degree, but they tried to give us material things and so the money was stretched excrutiatingly thin. But I LOVE my parents. I say, if your heart longs for it, start trying to put a little away in savings now, and then whenever a pregnancy happens, you will feel better and more prepared. But don't put off having a child if it's what you really want - sometimes you miss a window of God-given opportunity. Plus, he already knows your hearts' desire :)

Deanna said...

I've wanted to post ever since I read this, but am just now getting a chance-

After we finished grad school, I was really in the place where I wanted a baby. Aaron was starting a business, so he said that it would be 5 years more before we could afford one. I was convinced that we should have one right away. Long story short- two years later we had Addison, trusting God to provide. You know the story- the hospital stays, the surgeries- her first year of life cost over a million dollars just to keep her alive. Providentially, I had a part time job that had the most AMAZING insurance- all we had to pay of that million was $20. Every step of the way when something arose that Addison needed that we couldn't pay for- something always worked out where it was covered. It truly has been awe inspiring to see the Lord work. Then when we knew that Addison needed a sibling close in age, but his business still wasn't where it needed to be and I would need to stay home from work, we trusted again. Things are hard, but everything is still being provided for (and Aaron's business has really taken off this summer)
I guess what I'm saying is- if this is such a strong desire for you- it's not a bad thing. It's a Lord given thing and he will provide every step of the way. And Millie is gorgeous and will be an awesome big sister....I say go for it (when you're ready, of course) (-:

Wife on the Roller Coaster said...

What a tough dilemma but you're definitely not the only one who is/has gone through this. And it sounds like you're getting some great advice. Hopefully the answer will find you when the time is right. In the meantime, save up as much as you can and keep giving your beautiful little girl 500 hundred kisses a day. :)

Jillian said...

You are a wonderful mother to millie, and I know you'll family will grow when the time is right.

My man and I were discussing the money/family issue the other night, and I discovered his viewpoint to be a little surprising. He does not want to be financially responsible for his future children's college tuition. In his family, you either earn a scholarship or pay for your own college, so he worked his butt off to get into the Naval Academy. His sister got scholarships and is now paying off loans and joining the peace corps.

I'm paying my own way as well, but my parents tried to help me out in the beginning. With the recession and tuition hikes, there was no way to go to college without being in debt afterwards. I appreciated my family's support and even took some time off from school when my dad got laid off.

Even though student loans suck the big one, I'm happy to be financially responsible for my higher education. I appreciate it more, and I've learned how to take control of my personal finances in the process.

I know this doesn't really help in regards to whether or not you should have a baby at the moment, but I think that you should take a little pressure off of yourself. It's natural to want to support your children all the way to a successful career. It's just that sometimes it's not possible. You do the best you can with what you have, and I'm sure your children will grow up to be amazing people.

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