I recently picked up a copy of Time Magazine where a couple lounged on the beach with smiles on their faces and the title read "Having it all without having children." For a moment, I yearned for the days when my husband and I were kid-free and drinking a piña colada by the beach or poolside. Those days are temporarily over for us after deciding to be open to having children.
While childless couples are constantly asked, "Why they are NOT having children," my husband and I are bombarded with a different set of questions: "Why would you have SO MANY?" or "Are you DONE having children?" We have five daughters ranging from the ages of 10 years to 18 months, and most people find it shocking that we are raising a big family, especially when the cost of children can be so expensive.
The constant judgment is difficult for all couples that struggle with the decision of whether or not to start a family. Of course, deciding whether or not to have children is a personal decision, but I would encourage couples to stay open to the idea that having a child or adopting provides both personal and societal benefits.
My couple friends who have decided not to have children argue that they lack maternal or paternal instincts. I am a perfect case study for the transition from no maternal instinct to the love of motherhood. I remember being one of those women who never imagined I would get married and have children. You ask any of my high school friends, and I would have been voted in the class to be the least likely to get married or have children.
My single focus of pursuing a successful career changed when I met my husband. He was from the Midwest where families are quite large, and he is one of four children. I warned him that I had no maternal instincts, but was open to having children. When my first daughter was born, she was placed in my arms, and I was changed forever. My need to protect and raise her to the best of my abilities became my top priority. Although my career was temporarily placed on hold, I had a new focus, which was to love this child unconditionally. All of our children were created out of such deep love between my husband and me, and each child has added so much to our lives.
Childless couples argue that children are expensive. They are right. The USDA Cost of Raising Child report stated that the price tag is $241,080 in 2012 dollars or an inflation-adjusted $301,970 by the time adulthood arrives. Those numbers are discouraging for couples that believe that they simply cannot afford a child, especially during these uncertain economic times. Sure, my husband and I may be working until we are 80 years old so we can pay for our children's expenses; however the everyday smiles, hugs, conversations and memories with our children are priceless.
Although having children changes one's career options, they teach parents to become better crisis managers, multi-taskers and effective leaders. Parents not only impact their children's lives, but bring a different perspective to the workforce.
I understand that childrearing may not be for everyone. However, if I had not taken the risk of having children, I would have missed out on the greatest, most unexpected experience that has transformed my life and defines who I am today.
For a moment just think of how a child adds not only to a couple's life, but what it means as an added value to our society.
We are seeing a steep decline in birthrates the United States partly due to an economic downturn, future financial uncertainty and fewer immigrants entering the country. Add to that women waiting longer to have children or not having them at all. This means the economic burden on a child born in 2015 will be nearly twice that of a child born in 1985, according to a University of Southern California study.
Our greatest investment for the United States is our children – the human capital and future innovators of our country. They are the next generation of workers, leaders and mothers and fathers who will define the future course of our nation.
A recent study also showed that an increasing number of women measured to have higher IQs are deciding not to have children. But what a benefit to our nation if women who are prepared and educated are able to pass along their foundation and knowledge to their children.
I know plenty of couples or single individuals who have chosen not to have children and are happy with their decision, but I will continue to encourage those who may be unsure of whether or not to take the giant leap of starting a family. I am the prime example of having a change of heart. Having children has been the best decision of our lives. While I may not be lying on the beach with my piña colada, I know that my husband and I are investing in our nation's future.