Children Are Not Costs and Benefits

The view that holds that all decisions should be guided by an aggregate cost-benefit analysis is spilling over from the government, military, social, and industrial bureaucracies to personal life.  For an example of this utilitarian delusion, consider the remarks of one of its spokeswomen, Bernadette Young, about whether and when to have children.

“In addition to straightforward financial outlay, parenthood comes with costs of time and opportunity.  Loss of flexibility and leisure mean you won’t be able to take all opportunities (like taking on extra work to make more money or advance your career).  Late notice travel is unlikely to be possible.  You will probably be sleep deprived for a large part of the first year or more of your child’s life, and this may impact on your work performance.  The work of parenting will take time, though some of it may be outsourced at the cost of increased financial outlay.”

Are you surprised that she doesn’t suggest “outsourcing” conception and pregnancy too?  She goes on to say, “I don’t have the answer to the origin of the longing for children that many experience.  It’s almost certainly due to a complex mixture of biological and social factors.  It might even be an evolutionary trick.”

Someone should have told the author that we do not have children on the basis of rational calculation.  We have them in hope.  Not hope in the sense of blind optimism; I am speaking of the gift of God.

Some also should have told her that having children is not about increasing the net balance of happiness over pain.  Of course they are a profound source of joy, but what makes them so is that in giving ourselves to them, we are no longer thinking of our joy.  We are thinking of them.

Praise God for sleep deprivation.  Praise God for all those other things that shatter our security and selfishness.  Children are not a lifestyle enhancement; they are themselves.  Of such is the kingdom of heaven.