Family Planning: Our Social Obligations

A while back, I wrote an opinion article "Counting Children: How Many is Too Many?" In it, I discussed reality stars who are having large numbers of children. Some responsibly, some not. And I got some great responses to my opinions, which is now driving me to better lay out my thoughts on the issue of family size in normal families. You know, for those who don't have cameras following them around every day. Like me...and possibly you...

Anyway, I'd like to clarify my thoughts on family size as applies to us normal peeps. As I said before, I believe that every person in the United States has the right to have as many children as they wish. No matter the family base structure. Single parents, unmarried couples, married couples, gay parents, etc.; everyone is entitled to choose their ideal family size.

On the other hand, as I mentioned before, I also believe that each type of parent has a social obligation to ensure they are financially able to provide for their children. This is where my first article may not have been clear, so let me lay out my thoughts in a more clear and concise format.

Our Social Obligation as Parents

It's no secret that kids don't come cheap. Food, clothes, insurance, health care, toys, educational materials, daycare or the price of staying home, etc., etc. ...it all adds up to rather expensive little (adorable!) monsters. For that reason, since it's not a surprise that kids cost a lot, it's up to us to plan around their arrival as best as possible.

Of course, family planning is not as cut and dried as it appears above; planning the arrival of a child can mean so many different things to so many different people. Some people are prepared to make intense sacrifices to bring a child into their family, like cutting expenses in extreme ways. Other people may plan to save for quite a while before changing their family structure. Still others may choose to take on debt to make their dreams of enlarging their family possible. And I truly believe that all of these situations and more are ways to be financially responsible.

The Financial Assistance Issue

Where I have issue is planning to have children in order to collect financial assistance. Not in using public assistance when it's an unplanned necessity; that's completely okay in my book. Things come up, and any time that the safety of children is at stake because of some surprise financial set back or another (or a surprise pregnancy), public assistance could be an absolute must. This can include unexpected job loss, unplanned health issues and other expensive things that were not issues before the planning of the child.

The opposite side of the coin, planning to collect assistance in order to have children or having children in order to collect assistance, is another matter, and here's where I have to clarify a little more with a few examples.

  • Example #1: A few years ago, I worked with a temporary employee who planned his family around how much financial assistance he could receive. He had four children, and neither he nor his wife had worked in years. He got the temp job, but he carefully constructed his hours so that he could still receive all of the assistance. Then, he and his wife decided to have a fifth child, fully knowing that they would need even more financial assistance to get by. When the temp job ended, he was unemployed once again...and still collecting mega-dollar financial assistance.
  • Example #2: I have read multiple books and seen many movies that touched on some larger social issues in our nation, and each has opened my eyes to the practice of having children simply to collect financial assistance. In these cases, parent(s) want more assistance, so they have more kids.

These are the instances where I have issue with large families. Basically, in these types of cases, financial assistance is being abused. Basically, the children are not receiving the best care possible. Basically, planning large families only for the financial benefit they can bring to the parents is wrong.

I feel I must reiterate, though, that using financial assistance is never wrong in situations where it became a surprise necessity. Also, using financial assistance in other countries as is part of the normal way of doing things may be necessary (like in Canada, the system is set up so that childcare is expensive, but the nation encourages parents to use childcare assistance). Finally, going into debt in order to have children can be a financially responsible way to enlarge a family, if the situation calls for it – I once knew a family who refinanced their mortgage to make a larger family possible, and when the mom went back to work, they began a much higher rate of mortgage debt repayment.

All in all, family size is never a one-size-fits-all construct. We must be responsible in planning our families to the best of our abilities, in taking on financial assistance as is necessary during surprise situations, and in making sure that we do not abuse the financial assistance program. We are all in this parenting thing together, despite our differences, all to make the best world possible for our children.

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