Monday, April 7, 2008

Status obsession

What kind of person announces her obstetric intentions in a Washington Post op-ed?
My husband and I are getting ready to do what many couples in these brink-of-recessionary times would consider unthinkable. No, we're not buying a Martha's Vineyard retreat or planning a month in St. Bart's or eco-decorating our house.
We're planning to have a third child.
(OMG! Stop the world!)
What shocks people, when we tell them, isn't the thought of hauling three kids onto a place for a vacation, or even the idea of coming home every night to a houseful of runny noses and homework assignments. What gets them is the sheer financial audacity. Raising kids today costs a fortune. Last month, the Department of Agriculture estimated that each American child costs an average of $204,060 to house, clothe, educate and entertain until the age of 18.
("Sheer financial audacity"!)
What's worse, the desire to have another child opens one up to charges of elitism and status consciousness. In many major U.S. cities and their suburbs -- especially New York, where I live -- having three or more children has now come to seem like an ostentatious display of good fortune, akin to owning a pied-Ã -terre in Paris. The family of five has become "deluxe." Last year, novelist Molly Jong-Fast mused in the New York Observer, "Are people having four or five children just because they can? Because they feel that it shows their wealth and status? In a world where the young rich use their $13,000 Birkin bags as diaper bags, one has to wonder."
OK, lady, if the family of five is now "deluxe," then what adjective applies to a family of eight? Yes, I said "eight." My wife and I have six kids. No one has ever accused us of elitism or "ostentatious display." Drop by and visit sometime, we'll have macaroni and cheese.

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