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DALLAS — I've read estimates about how much money it takes to raise a kid these days. Without looking it up, it seems like the number is somewhere in the gazillion dollar range. It’s enough to make you think twice before having, say, five kids.
I always assumed that most of the money was spent on big-ticket items like hospital bills from actually having your kids; or doctor bills when the ear of one child gets halfway ripped off in a wrestling match by another one of your kids ("It was an accident, Mom! I swear!”); or mortgage payments, or college expenses, or food (since if you're any kind of a parent at all you'll probably want to feed your kids).
Then I became a mom. And like all of my pre-mom assumptions, this one proved overly simplistic.
They are delivered in such a way that they distract you into thinking how super cute or artistic or creative they are — until you realize that every last one of them asks you to write a check.
The big-ticket items, I have come to discover, are in fact thousands of little-ticket items that add up to at least half of the gazillion dollars per kid. They sneak into your house by the hundreds in children's backpacks, are handed to you at school events, practices and rehearsals, arrive via email and snail mail and voice mail. They are delivered in such a way that they distract you into thinking how super cute or artistic or creative they are — until you realize that every last one of them asks you to write a check.
Field trips. Fundraisers. Book orders. School lunch accounts. Driver’s ed (heaven help us all!). Test fees. Fundraisers. Banquets and graduations (how many grades will my kids graduate from?). Meals for off-campus events. Fundraisers. Uniforms and registration and equipment fees. Lessons of all varieties. Recitals and costumes. Team and individual pictures for every blasted one of these activities. And fundraisers (in case I forgot to mention them).
Day after day after day after day.
There are months when I’d rather have an extra mortgage payment — at least I'd know exactly what's coming.
I can’t in good conscience deny my kids the means of developing their talents on their journey toward figuring out who they are and their place in the world. On the other hand, I’m pretty sure that giving them unlimited resources for unrestricted activities (which I can’t afford anyway) would be equally detrimental.
So I’m forever trying to strike the right balance. Results vary and I often change my mind, so I hope and often pray that good intentions carry sufficient weight in the end.
I pay the bills, but my supportive and wonderfully frugal husband likes to review finances, make helpful budgeting suggestions and the like. Since he brings home almost all of the bacon, I figure it's perfectly acceptable for him to put in his two cents. As long as it’s not too often.
On one such occasion, my ill-fated husband made a teensy weensy error in judgment. After a long day wherein I had written at least 4,792 kid-related checks, he looked over our finances and actually asked me (yes, out loud), "Where does all the money go?"
I handed him the checkbook and left the room, leaving the rest of that evening's budget reconciliation to him.
Here's what's crazy. If you were to ask my husband, he swears that the checkbook whizzed past his ear right before the door slammed behind me.
OK, so maybe his version is slightly more accurate. But for the record, I missed on purpose. My husband is a pretty swell guy.
*Susie Boyce totes her checkbook in her purse, just in case. Her column, "Momsensical," is featured in several North Dallas area newspapers and posts Thursdays on ksl.com. Visit her website at www.seriousmom sense.com.*