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Kids Aren’t Worth It, or Are They? [Stay at Home Nerd]

Kids are not cost effective. In fact, they are a financial liability. It would be much cheaper for my son to die now then it would be to feed him, clothe him, school him, care for his health, teeth, overall well-being, put him through college, and send him on his way. That’s why we don’t have life insurance on our kid. It’s even funny that life insurance is called life insurance since it’s insurance in case you die. Why not call it what it is? It’s death insurance. If you die, we’ll give you some money. Of course, that money is measured against your earning potential and likelihood of death. Kids don’t earn jack unless they’re on the WB or Disney, but that comes with its own set of problems.

My wife has life insurance. At least she will shortly. It’s been a process of determining what her loss means to the overall financial health of our family. Do we need one year’s salary, two year’s salary, or three to keep things moving along as we recover without her? Can we still send our son or children, if we should be so fortunate as to have another child, to college? Can we stay in LA or do we have to move? Thinking about it is thinking about the worst of all possible outcomes of our marriage and even writing that makes it feel distant and yet, and yet, it is possible.

What makes these end-of-the-world scenarios difficult to deal with is that I don’t want to put happy faces on the awful endings. Oh great, my son is dead; now at least I don’t have to pay for college seems like a an extra kick in the nuts when you would be willing to pay anything, and I mean anything, to bring him back. The feelings I have for my wife are stronger. I married her to go through life with her. That may sound cliché, but we’ve already been through a miscarriage and the thought of losing a child is never far away as the realities of how fragile life is become more and more apparent over time. If she were to die, I honestly don’t know what I would do. Put one foot in front of the other? Carry on? Be strong for my children?

The truth is that financially I’d be fine, which is weird because I’ve been determined by our insurance agent to be a financial liability. That’s right, a thirty-something year old male in America who just a few years ago held a secure, decent paying job with sweet benefits at a top notch university’s Writers’ Program (okay, it was UCLA), is suddenly not worth the low monthly premium of a life insurance policy.

That’s the reality of being a stay-at-home parent: you are financially worthless. But, what does that mean? According to the insurance numbers my son is also financially worthless, a liability in fact. And yet he remains the most important component, if that’s the right word, of our young family. So how do you balance the fact that you’ve put your career on hold against the value of taking care of your kids?

You don’t. At least I don’t. It’s easy to make it seem like I chose between making money and being a stay-at-home dad. I didn’t. I’ve never lasted more than a couple of years at any job I’ve ever held except this one and by this one I mean my marriage and I call it job because it requires work and before anyone accuses me of using the term job inappropriately let me tell you that I firmly believe that you should love your job and I do. That’s why making the decision to be a stay-at-home dad was easy. There was nothing that I’d rather do.

But that doesn’t mean that I’m not a financial liability and that’s what concerns me. I can’t be a financial liability forever or I’m really just one more mouth to feed in a growing family. If everything goes according to plan we’ll have another kid and then we’ll have another choice to make. How do we raise him or her? Does one of us stay home? Do we get a nanny? Daycare? Grandparents? A mix of all of the above?

It’s likely we’ll make the decision the same way we did this one. We’ll weigh all the options and do what’s best for our children and us. Now that my son is in daycare I’m working hard to not be a financial liability, but any career momentum I had has been lost. It feels like I’m starting from scratch and that’s okay. The truth is we have kids for a lot of reasons, but we don’t have kids for the money. It’s ridiculous to think of them in terms of cost and benefit because it’s immeasurable even though other people do. Let them. There are a lot of financial costs to being a stay-at-home parent, but as long as I’m fortunate enough to not have to make decisions based on money, and believe me I know how fortunate I am, I will – liability or not.

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featured image credit: Dominik Meissner