The Big Question

Hot on the heels of my last post – All Joy, No Fun? – comes one that examines the “Case for Having More Kids“, thanks to a thought-provoking writeup by Bryan Caplan in the Wall Street Journal…

Amid the Father’s Day festivities, many of us are privately asking a Scroogely question: “Having kids — what’s in it for me?”

Most of us believe that kids used to be a valuable economic asset. They worked the farm, and supported you in retirement. In the modern world, the story goes, the economic benefits of having kids seem to have faded away. While parents today make massive personal and financial sacrifices, children barely reciprocate.

Many conclude that if you value your happiness and spending money, the only way to win the modern parenting game is not to play.

The WSJ article cites a number of helpful studies, hard facts and relevant statistics.  It is worth reading in entirety, even if you’re remotely interested in the “big question” – Should you have kids? 

Most notably, however, the writeup offers some real solutions to some of the biggest problems concerning parenting!

The main problem with parenting pessimists, though, is that they assume there’s no acceptable way to make parenting less work and more fun. Parents may feel like their pressure, encouragement, money and time are all that stands between their kids and failure. But decades’ worth of twin and adoption research says the opposite: Parents have a lot more room to safely maneuver than they realize, because the long-run effects of parenting on children’s outcomes are much smaller than they look.

If you enjoy reading with your children, wonderful. But if you skip the nightly book, you’re not stunting their intelligence, ruining their chances for college or dooming them to a dead-end job. The same goes for the other dilemmas that weigh on parents’ consciences. Watching television, playing sports, eating vegetables, living in the right neighborhood: Your choices have little effect on your kids’ development, so it’s OK to relax. In fact, relaxing is better for the whole family. Riding your kids “for their own good” rarely pays off, and it may hurt how your children feel about you.

If you simply don’t like kids, research has little to say to you. If however you’re interested in kids, but scared of the sacrifices, research has two big lessons. First, parents’ sacrifice is much smaller than it looks, and childless and single is far inferior to married with children. Second, parents’ sacrifice is much larger than it has to be. Twin and adoption research shows that you don’t have to go the extra mile to prepare your kids for the future. Instead of trying to mold your children into perfect adults, you can safely kick back, relax and enjoy your journey together – and seriously consider adding another passenger.

I only wish I’d known of all this, earlier.  On the other hand, it’s never too late to improve…

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