And I do mean several. Hubs and I have 8 between us, 7 live with us, ages 2-18. We're growing peach fuzz at the moment, but I've always been a Mustachian in various ways. EER won't be in our future, but perhaps FIRE will.
I wanted to start a thread about the realities of having several kids on your finances, as well as kicking aside some of the idiocy that's spouted about how expensive kids are.
Having a large family means it will take my husband and I years longer to retire, but it's worth it to us, because our children are an important part of our value system. I would hate for anyone who reads MMM to become discouraged by the many who espouse childlessness but would instead like to vouch for some of the benefits.
- My kids provide a Labor Pool that I tap into often
Siblings, especially in large families, do a little thing called differentiation, so they all have vastly different skill sets that benefit the family.
The 15 year old keeps the family bikes in tip-top shape. He also repairs drywall when the little ones beat up the walls, repaints stuff. The oldest has fixed our dryer and washer when they stopped working, repaired our vacuum several times, (never to be underestimated!) makes excellent coffee and has mastered pizza crust and bread baking. He also helps everyone else with math (we homeschool, and I am not smarter than a 5th grader). The little ones are great for cleaning out those hard-to-reach areas of our huge van, providing excellent distraction for the bored toddler while mom puts the finishing touches on dinner. The older ones help me cook, play with little ones or babysit (often at their own request). Guess who cuts the grass? Hint: it ain't my husband, who suffers from environmental allergies.
- Having siblings teaches you, with no conscious effort on the part of the parents, that the world does not revolve around you
I in NO WAY am criticizing those who choose to have one or two, but this statement is nonetheless true. Having siblings means waiting, sharing, prioritizing time and resources, and rubbing against other personalities all day can't help but train you in conflict resolution. I have witnessed quite a few only children with Special Snowflake/I Fart Rainbows syndrome because they are the only kid/grandkid and receive far too much adult admiration/approval without doing anything to earn it. One only child I became acquainted with refused to drink tap water (she called it "toilet water"), and didn't know how to make her own effing sandwich, because she never had to. Excuse me while I vomit.
Ok I'm back now.
- Economies of scale
I buy one book (actually, I get a lot free from BookMooch and PaperBackSwap), and it's shared by several kids. Clothing, furniture, bedding, toys - handed down. Cooking a huge pot of soup takes no more time than cooking a small pot. Little kids eat almost nothing, so the food expenses don't really go up until they're teenagers (then it goes way up!).
- Having a few kids teaches you what really matters (in terms of purchases)
The $100 trampoline? Tremendous value, as it has been played on every day for 5 years by several kids. Bikes bought cheap at yard sales? Way worth it.
The piano? Hell yes if you want to raise musicians.
GAP Kids clothing they're going to stain after 15 minutes? Sucker bait. (Actually, just drive across town to the richy-rich thrift store and buy the nice stuff at 80% off, letting the first owner take the depreciation hit. Teehee.)
Becoming a parent can also make you hyperaware, fast, of marketing bull. From free formula in the hospital to free overpriced wearable trash (disposable diapers) in the mail when you're still pregnant, it's neverending and eyeopening.
I cloth diapered and breastfed all 7 of my kids and they went straight to fork-mashed table food at 6 months.
(I'm a former breastfeeding counselor and realize not all women can breastfeed, but even if a woman can't bring in a full milk supply, using an at-breast supplementer like the Lact-Aid can reduce formula usage, thereby saving money and give some of the yummy goodness of breastfeeding that go beyond just the milk.)
A $5 thrifted baby sling that allows you to "wear" the baby while going about your life can replace thousands of dollars of cheap, outgassing plastic crap. Babies would rather play with pots and wooden spoons than any Suckers R Us toy. Kids belong outside where God gave them free entertainment, and need FEW toys until they're old enough to buy them themselves.
I've never used a crib, we follow 90% of the planet's example and sleep near our babies on a safe, firm, low to the ground bed, then the baby goes straight to a sibling's room.
Extracurricular activities are minimal, meaning I only invest in those when a kid shows a TRUE interest or skill. My teenage daughter does ballet, which is pricey, but her goal is to become a freelance choreographer, so this is an investment into her education. The kids have taught themselves to: do gymnastics, repair computers, dance, play piano and guitar, dabble in foreign language, and many other things for free, thanks to the internet. See below.
- We're a homeschooling family.
Homeschooling, for me, is Mustachian because it gives a child their TIME back. Schoolwork can be accomplished in 4 hours or less per day, leaving several hours for pursuits that can pay off in spades in adulthood. Much time is wasted in regular school with administrivia, disciplining the dumb and lazy, standing in lines, etc.
My oldest is my first grad and I'm proud to say he's a hardworking, functional, and dare I say, freaking awesome member of society. He started a band and they're soon playing their third local gig. He built an electric guitar, **from a block of wood**, in our workshop. His employers at his first job praised the ever lovin' heck out of him every time I stepped foot in there. It took him a few months to declare the following to me:
"Mom, I am going to quit and work for beau pere (his stepdad, my husband). I've figured out that the harder I work at Maddio's, the more they work me, and the less other people around me work, meaning I'm working harder for less money, and I can make $30 an hour doing piece work for Zeke."
My 15 year old has been operating a profitable eBay business for 5 years and also earns money uploading LEGO instruction videos on YouTube.
Also, homeschooling can be done for free or super cheap. Thousands of blogs are dedicated to this topic. A well-worn library card, a booklist, a computer and the willingness to go down the rabbit hole are all that's required to learn the Big 4 (in most states, thankfully I live in one that puts minimal restrictions on homeschooling parents).
Homeschooling also means my kids aren't inundated with commercial messages in the schools (UGH) and from their peers. They have little interest in brand names.
- Kids provide endless hours of free entertainment and joy
Of course, Mustachians know that joy and pleasure are not the same. Studies that show that parents are less happy, moment-to-moment, than other adults, illustrate this. Parents experience plenty of frustrating moments while raising kids. But fast-forwarding into the future, I can't wait to see 7 adult kids sitting around the table for Sunday dinner, along with beautiful grandkids (should they so choose). This is the life my grandmother and my mother lead, and I know they wouldn't trade those relationships for anything.
And as a woman, there is nothing that has ever come close to the earth-splitting, badass lifegasm that is giving birth (especially since I did it at home, without pain meds. RAWR!). It is about 10 times as intense as falling in love, and how many times do we get to do that in a lifetime? To say nothing of the empowering experience of watching a life be nourished and little thighs grow fat from the food from your own breasts.
It's pretty darn cool.
Once again, this is not meant as a criticism of those who decide to have no or one kid, however, there is much opposition to having large families these days, perhaps even here on this lovely spot on the web, so I offer this as a counterpoint.