Christina M. Currie: Paying the price
October 26, 2007
Craig — According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, it’ll cost me more than $500,000 to feed, clothe, transport and care for my two girls. That’s assuming they move out they day they turn 18, and that doesn’t include any college-related expenses.
I’m not sure why the U.S. Department of Agriculture is tracking this. Are children a commodity? They certainly aren’t a cash crop. Maybe it’s because, like the agriculture industry, parenting is something you do for love, even though you know going in that you’re going to lose money.
Maybe they are a commodity, just not traded on the open market. And, instead of someone paying me for my shares, I generally pay other people to take a share.
And they always give it back.
Webster defines commodity as something useful or capable of yielding commercial or other advantages. OK. I’m still missing the link, but that’s OK. I’m just glad someone took the time to provide me hard numbers that I can someday lord over deaf ears.
But back to the cost of raising children. Housing and food are the two biggest expenditures. I think there are savings to be made in those two categories.
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Miscellaneous expenses and the cost of clothing surprisingly outrank spending for child care and education (two items lumped into a single category, which is probably a difficult pill for teachers to swallow).
What really scares me is the fact that transportation costs ranked third. My girls are in kindergarten and second grade and already I feel like most of our quality time is spent in the car. I’m completely daunted by terms like “extracurricular” and “team sport.” I’m scare spitless at the mere mention of Girl Scouts, because it leads to similarly blood-chilling terms like “troop leader” and “assistant coach.”
I did and am counting the years until both my children are in school for a solid seven hours. Once we hit that point, my plan is to freeze time before that seven hours turns to ten hours splintered into the confetti of an on-call taxi service.
I can already see why transportation is on the list. An aside here: That cost is alarmingly stable, meaning you spend the same amount of time transporting a 2-year-old as you do a 17-year-old. That also means that these figures do not include the vehicle you will likely purchase in an attempt to buy back some of your own time.
In simple math, that means if you have two kids, the first $30,000 of your annual salary is spent on them.
Again, that’s another figure that I will someday pull out like an ace in the hole, which will also fall on deaf ears.
Here’s the bottom line. In having children, those were facts I accepted and a responsibility I agreed to. My problem isn’t the expense, it’s the waste.
I’d like to forge a new agreement with my children – I will soundlessly bear the entire cost of feeding, clothing, transporting, housing and educating them if they’ll reimburse me for the time I waste.
By that I mean the times I have to say “get dressed. Get dressed. Get dressed. Get dressed. Get dressed!”
I think if I have to say anything more than twice, I should be paid for that time. And that, my friends, adds up to some big bucks. It might even equal the transportation expense.
Get out of bed.
Brush your teeth.
Go to sleep.
Get in the car.
Eat your dinner.
Don’t kick the dog.
30 seconds. Just give me 30 seconds to think.
That’s just a smattering of the phrases I uttered again and again all day long.
Conversely, here are some of the things that I never have to say more than once:
Who wants ice cream?
Let’s go to McDonalds.
Time to watch a movie.
Come jump on the bed.
Interesting mix isn’t it? I think I’m seeing a pattern. There’s proof that my children aren’t deaf, which eliminates their defense against my claim for compensation. I really think I have a case here.
My downfall? Nowhere in the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s study is there a line for legal expenses.
My children’s downfall? There’s no line for psychiatric therapy either.