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When I told my sister we were completely remodeling our bathroom, she asked me if we were rich.

I told her two things.

Thing One:  Rich people rarely have this as their “before” picture.

Do NOT make me tell you about the bucket. Let’s just pretend it’s a decorative accent in our early-armageddon theme…


Thing Two: We committed parenthood. Four times, actually. If the cost of raising a child is $506,326 per kid, that comes to $2,025,304. Before taxes.

NOTE: Another of my blast from the past columns which originally appeared in the Champaign-Urbana News Gazette, October, 1991, but with only the most token attempts to update..

Where does the money go?

According to informed sociological sources such as the supermarket publication containing the interesting information that Elvis had returned in a UFO to sire a British royal heir, the cost of baby production and maintenance has raised biological clock-ticking angst to alarming heights.

I’ve given this situation a lot of thought, and for humanitarian reasons and the vast sums of money this blog is NOT generating,  I’ve decided to provide you with the benefit of my own child-rearing expertise and expenses. After all, I’ve got four children and none of us has yet been convicted of a major felony (although it was touch and go while my son was in preschool…)

If you don’t count worrying about your child eating one of those little button batteries and needing a rush batteryectomy before stomach acid meets battery acid, the only two things new parents have to worry about are money and sleep. At the birth of your child, you can kiss both goodbye.

I wouldn't mention it to your husband, but this is not what your children will actually do.

FYI: not what your children will actually do…

My own children elevated parental sleep deprivation to an Olympic event. On any given night, I might be awakened at 3:37AM by a small person climbing into our bed, putting little arms around my neck, and confiding, “I hafta throw up.” (I think the kids held time trials to see how fast their parents could move from a dead stupor.)

For parents, of course, money is even harder to get than sleep. Face it, eventually you will get some sleep, usually during a nonessential activity like driving to work. But a fundamental rule of childrearing is that you will never again have any money. The following alarming statistics drawn randomly from just the first five years will give you an idea of how the rule works:

  • giphyYou’ll spend $1,250 on about 7,280 disposable diapers. This is enough to fill City Hall with the soiled ones. (Which, if the wind doesn’t shift, is actually not a bad idea when you think about it…)
  • Because of a little-understood phenomenon we experts call the BabyGap effect, you cannot buy enough clothes for your child. For example: you go to the mall one morning and buy this winter’s toddler wardrobe. You then stop at Chez Big Mac, where the child who has not eaten since July 4th consumes three entire Kids Meals (holding out her tongue for you to remove stray pickles and onions of course) and knocks back a quart of ketchup. You arrive home to find your child has grown two sizes too large for the morning’s purchases, none of which can be returned because she stored the de-tongued pickles and onions from McLunch in the shopping bags.)
  • You’ll spend $912.50 for the 1,823 quarts of milk your child will pour directly onto the floor and another $9,100 on food which your child will refuse to eat because it is a) green or b) not green.
  • You’ll spend $1,350 on graham crackers, none of which your child will actually consume. Mixed with baby saliva, they will form a layer on the seat of your car which is impervious to any known human tool. NASA is experimenting with using family car backseats as future heat shields on upcoming space missions.
  • Your child will flush the toilet 10,950 times, using 131,412 gallons of water. You may argue that you get a break from flushing for the first two years. This is entirely offset, however, by that stage where the spirit of scientific adventure will move your toddler to unroll about five pounds of toilet paper into the basin and then flush. Repeatedly. Besides destroying every bit of plumbing in your house, this generally tends to neutralize the survival benefits of being extremely cute, frequently all that stands between a two-year-old and justifiable homicide.
  • You’ll buy 173 pairs of shoes, not one of which will actually fit. This is because brilliant shoe scientists at the Foreign Shoe Institute have developed material which actually shrinks new shoes 2 1/2 sizes when warmed to toddler body temperature as your child wears them out of the store. At a cost per linear inch, these children’s shoes rank right up there with the rarer gems and the Pentagon’s newest bomber program.
  • ChildrensRXYour child will have 127 ear infections which will cost $9,178 in doctor office visits because they will only develop symptoms during the holiday and weekend rate hours, or on national holidays. This is nothing compared to the gallons of prescription antibiotic which will cost about as much as mounting your own space program.

You parents may think that despite all this, you can get by if you make a few sacrifices. You can give up such luxuries as eating every night and concentrate on bare essentials like baby sitters. To you I say one word. College.

There is an adage that a year of college costs about as much as a new Ford. Well, there is a much bigger selection of Fords today than when old Henry F. said people could have any color they wanted as long as it was black. And there is an equally larger variation in college tuitions. Whether you want to send your offspring to Harvard (fully tricked-out Ford Expedition EL Platinum) or to the University of Illinois (Ford Fiesta, stripped), saving for the sheepskin is a frightening thought.

I checked with my own alma mater, the University of Chicago. The nice lady in Undergrad Admissions offered information, sympathy, and advice. She said we could project a six-percent yearly increase in college costs from the $19,275 cost the year we started our baby production run. Thus a newborn’s diploma in the class of 2011 would run a mere $240,617.15. **[note from Barb: scary accurate prediction] With four children to send, our bill would come to $962,468.60 or about two-thirds of our annual income until 2217 if we start saving immediately and stop buying pediatric antibiotics.

Although invoicing my kids gave me something to occupy my mind during the midnight shifts of child maintenance, I sometimes think I should have taken the Fords…

But back to my sister’s question. [See how I wrapped us back around to the beginning of this piece? This is called closure, which I can do because I’m a professional writer. Do not try this at home, boys and girls.]

Hell, yeah.

“Yes,” I told my sister. “All four of my children are off the payroll, and nobody wakes me up at night to tell me they have to throw up. You bet I’m rich!”