New research published recently shows that single women get ahead faster than single men. “Forgoing marriage and parenthood has a bigger payoff for American women than men,” one article put it. You don’t say?
In 2019, single women sans those pesky kids had an average of $65,000 in wealth. Their single, childless male counterparts had only $57,000. This makes sense. Childless women are likely spending less than moms. The lesson? If you weren’t going to have kids or were questioning whether you should — especially if you want to be wealthy — don’t.
The article goes on to subtly diminish parenthood, saying it was “losing its appeal” even pre-pandemic and now, in the middle of skyrocketing inflation, insane gas prices and an ongoing housing crisis, the number of people who want kids is down. The article insinuates it should be. In fact, it encourages women to eschew the notion altogether. After all, they’ll just be richer: we recently learned it costs over $300,000 to raise a kid to 17 and that’s discounting college.
There are plenty of reasons not to have kids these days. It does cost a lot. School supplies and new clothes and shoes alone were more than $1,000 for my four children, and that’s the cost of typical monthly groceries, too. This is to say nothing of extracurricular activities like sports, music, camps, and more. Add sudden or chronic medical issues and voila: There’s not much left over.
Feminists and leftist policymakers suggest there’s hidden costs like the “motherhood penalty” which implies moms, and especially moms of color, make less than childless women. I don’t doubt that. “There’s the consequence for your earnings of having kids,” as one of the experts quoted in Bloomberg so bluntly says. Basic economics suggests there’s a tradeoff for everything in life, be it a child, a vacation, or a mortgage.
But all this talk of money is missing a very large, vital piece: The joy of kids and motherhood.
In 2010, New York Magazine ran one of my favorite headlines of all time: “All Joy and No Fun: Why Parents Hate Parenting.” The concept eventually became a book, “All Joy and No Fun: The Paradox of Modern Parenthood.” It highlighted a deep, hidden — almost shameful — part of parenting, particularly young kids: It’s really hard. It’s exhausting. It’s expensive. It’s all day, every day, every day of the year.
In the early days, it can be fun, but it’s often work. It’s full of vomit and potty training and zero personal space and a pace that feels like you can never catch up. But deep down, there is joy in raising children.
This is especially true as children age and can do things for themselves. The “All Joy and No Fun” turns into both fun and joy. Suddenly, you go from showing your son how to zip up his jacket to how to make a left turn in the driver’s seat. You go from learning ABCs to Aristotle and “Hamilton.”
The joy of raising babies into independent human beings outweighs the exhaustive effort, the constant outflow of funds, and the anxiety over how you’ll retire because you spent all your money giving your kids the best life you could.
Society could do a better job relieving problems such as the “motherhood penalty,” but not if we’re also simultaneously just telling women to eschew motherhood altogether in favor of a heftier portfolio and that second house on the shore.
If women truly don’t want children, they probably shouldn’t have them — they might hate motherhood and their kids. But for women on the fence or who still want both a family and a career they’re proud of, it can be done with the right mindset and support system.
Having kids costs a lot, but the benefits of motherhood are priceless.
Nicole Russell is an opinion writer for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.
Fort Worth Star-Telegram