I have a story in today’s Washington Post Outlook section about my desire for three kids (and, conceivably, four — did I just write that?!?) It is, I hope, a fun riff on the very real conflict many parents feel between the size of their families and the size of their wallets.
The cost of raising kids is rising far faster than our earnings. Estimated household income rose 24 percent during the past 10 years, while the cost of raising a child rose 66 percent. Whether or not to have kids and how many to have were once choices that could be made without poring over Quicken and breaking into a sweat about college bills. These days, prospective parents find themselves wondering whether a wife’s paycheck will even cover the cost of child care, let alone help provide for a family. Couples have to grapple with long-term weighty questions like, Will you have to move antifungals farther away from work and spend more time commuting in order to afford enough space to house a child (or two)? Can a wife take maternity leave if it’s unpaid? Just how much do you have to give up to afford a child? These questions of work arrangements, child care and housing are enough to send prospective parents into despair. No wonder so many of us put off child-rearing until we’re 35.
Not surprisingly, more couples today can barely eke out an only child. According to the U.S. Census, the percentage of women having only children rose from about 10 percent to 23 percent from 1980 to 2000. A family of four is as large as most couples are willing to get. Though some brave parents of two boys decide to “go for the girl,” for most people, once you’ve gotten the requisite boy-girl pair, you’re done.
Anyone here felt similarly conflicted?