Michelle Teheux: Pure luxury in a pastel blanket
By Michelle Teheux
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I’ve never lived a life of luxury. Aside from the occasional splurge, I tend toward a fairly simple lifestyle, as befits somebody in a profession that’s more rewarding intellectually than monetarily.
However, I did make two big splurges when I was young, two giant, expensive splurges that have only just stopped costing me big bucks.
I had two children.
Apparently, babies are today seen as a luxury item, much like a diamond ring or a Louis Vuitton bag — and if you don’t have a lot of money, we are now told by some, you shouldn’t have them.
While having children was once seen as a matter of course for almost every married couple, today that is not the case.
When the struggles of young parents trying to support their children on their low-wage salaries are discussed, a naysayer is sure to pipe up that these parents ought not to have had children.
The problem is not that some jobs pay so little that parents cannot make enough money, even with both of them working full-time, to support their family. Nope, the problem, apparently, is that the parents did not become highly paid attorneys or nuclear physicists or reality TV stars before conceiving.
Babies are not sports cars or vacations or mink coats, and having children is not a right reserved only for the wealthy.
Moreover, a couple can be financially stable when they have children, and then see their income fall after they’ve started their family. You can repossess a Lexus, but not a baby.
I find this whole school of thought very troubling. To say people should prepare themselves for parenthood is one thing, and I agree. To say that couples ought to postpone having a child until/unless they’ve reached a certain income threshold is another.
By that measure, I might never have had children at all, or at least not until I was darned close to being too old to conceive naturally.
I remember in college mentioning to someone that I wanted to have my children as soon after graduation as I could manage it, and being told I ought to wait. “Don’t you want to be able to give them everything?” I was asked.
While I don’t remember my answer, my thought was that I absolutely did not want to give them “everything,” as I didn’t want spoiled kids.
I’ve never regretted having my children young. It has meant more years of having them in my life, and it has meant becoming a grandmother at a relatively young age.
Too many women are waiting and waiting and waiting for the right time, money- and career-wise, to have a child, and that means some of them will never have children at all. Mother Nature allows men to wait as long as they like, but not women.
Do we really want to live in a culture in which only the wealthy are considered worthy parents? Do we really think that poor people can’t be nurturing moms and dads? Surely we can agree that one’s bank balance has nothing to do with one’s ability to love a child.
The reality is, if we are going to continue allowing middle-class jobs to disappear, we are either going to have to focus on assisting lower-income parents with things like the Earned Income Tax Credit and subsidized medical care and child care, or we are going to have to come right out and declare that we don’t think poor people deserve to have children.
Hopefully, we’ll decide babies are not, in fact, a luxury to be reserved for only the wealthy.
Michelle Teheux may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her at Twitter.com/michelleteheux.