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Wednesday, December 9, 2009


At least once a year many magazines run an article along the lines of “How many children can you afford?”

In cold, objective figures the writer informs readers just how much it costs to feed and clothe a child, provide him with toys, games, hobby equipment, extra curricular activities and put him through school and college. Then there’s the cost of a large family car, mortgage for a large house and how many kilograms of meat a teenage boy eats.

My first reaction is to laugh, my second is one of anger.

As I think of our family of 7 children, I know that if I had allowed such articles to influence our ‘family planning’, on our income , we should have stopped after child number one.
Maybe that one child would have had more toys, more vacations, more pocket money and more designer clothes. But then I think with horror what life would have been like without the other 6, who have brought us and so many other people so much joy and happiness, who are such wonderful people and who have so much to contribute to ‘klal yisrael’ and who are now going on to have families themselves that, according to this article, ‘they can’t afford’.

Some things can be reduced to dollars and cents, but not life. No one has the right to try and convince another human being that he can’t afford children. Publishing such articles runs the risk of making lower income, and even many middle-income, families worry and, especially in today’s precarious financial climate, could easily make young couples decide against having children.
But those figures don’t by any means tell the whole story.

People on lower incomes manage to afford children by making them a priority in their life. Prioritizing is something we do all the time. Making choices, usually involves either time or money. There are the simple everyday choices made without thinking too hard; what to buy in the supermarket and what meals to cook, whether to eat out or at home , whether we can afford to go on vacation this year and if so whether it will be a hotel, youth hostel, apartment swap or camping.

There are the far-reaching decisions such as where to live, whether to buy or rent a home, what type of education our children will have.

Sure having a large family on a lower income means that designer labels are rarely seen in our closets. Clothes were handed down, as were games and toys .Out of school activities were limited and only a small amount of pocket money was given to the younger children, just enough to teach them the difference between spending it all at once and saving it a few weeks to buy something they really want.

We rarely eat out and vacations are on a tight budget. When they were old enough, all of our children were encouraged to earn some money either by babysitting or other jobs that don’t interfere with their school work but give them a small measure of financial independence.
The joys of our family far outweigh any of the drawbacks . There is always someone to play with, someone to help with homework, someone to share the chores with, to share good times and difficult ones, someone to borrow clothes and make-up from, someone to share a joke and a tear with, someone to help change the car tire or paint the bedroom, someone to ask dating advice from.

So please don’t tell me or anyone else how many thousands of dollars we need to have in the bank before we can afford children, or how much must be put aside every month for our children’s future.

Children are precious and priceless. They should never be viewed as a liability, as columns of numbers to be added up and totaled. They are not bills to be paid but gifts worth more than money can ever buy .

It’s all a question of priorities.