On How Many Children to Have, Who Pays for Them, and the Dangers of Poverty

by on March 7th, 2015
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Question

Why are we expected to have children in accordance to our finances? Many people say parents should only have as many children as they can afford. Isn’t that untrue? Isn’t that a selfish thought? Children are gifts from God, and He will take care of those children. If everyone started going by this logic, then soon only the rich would be able to afford big families. I plan to have eight or more kids, and no one will change my mind about that.

Answer

You are, of course, welcome to have as many kids as you like. But your question brings up several points worth addressing. So let’s dive in.

First, you are not “expected” to have a particular number of children. Not by society, at least. If your mother or your friends suggest you can afford to have three kids but not four, they speak for themselves, not for you or me or anyone else. The decision to have children, and the further decision about how many to have, is intensely personal. For the most part, your familial choices are between you, your husband, and your God. Nobody else’s opinion matters unless you let it.

Second, Psalms 127 says children are the heritage of the Lord, and the man with a quiver full of them is happy. Of course, the word “full” means different things to different people. And while the Bible suggests that children are in fact gifts from God, like any other such gift, they come with caveats. Money can be a gift from God, but if you don’t manage it well, it can turn into a curse. The same can apply for a job, a relationship, or just about any possession you acquire.

Too often people use God’s word as a justification of conduct that, without the perceived biblical cloak, would seem irrational. Yes, children are a gift. But if you pop out a bunch of babies and expect bibs and shoes and formula to fall from the sky, you’re fooling yourself. Seriously, how much time can you afford to give to eight children, especially while working the two jobs you’ll need to support them?

Which brings me to the third point. While you can have a bunch of children, you do them a disservice if you give birth to so many that you can’t afford to give them what they need. Many organizations have conducted studies of the effects of poverty on children, and the trends are chilling. The statistics I cite below (courtesy of the National Center for Children in Poverty and the Connecticut Commission on Children ) barely scratch the surface:

In 2009, nearly 15 million U.S. children, accounting for more than one-fifth of the country’s kids, lived in families with income below the poverty level, then defined as $22,050 for a family of four. Families generally need about twice that income to cover basic expenses. We’re not talking Gucci bags and summer camps, but simple stuff like food and toothpaste and underwear. Poverty is the greatest single threat to children. Relative to kids in nonpoor families, poor children are nearly twice as likely to be obese, 3.6 times more likely to be unhealthy, and five times more likely to die of an infectious disease. Children living in poverty are 1.3 times more likely to suffer from delayed development or learning disabilities.

Now, back to your question.

Yes, you can have as many children as you choose. But if you choose to have more than you can afford to feed, clothe, nurture, and educate, you put those children at a huge disadvantage to other kids. You labeled as selfish people trying to tell you how many children you should have, and you make a good point. But I would submit that any parents who knowingly have more children than they can afford to raise, thereby burdening the rest of society through government handouts and burdening the children themselves with built-in disadvantages, are at least equally selfish.

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