I was FB chatting with a friend earlier this week and she made a comment about how freeing their experience of being debt free has been, and I had a kind of "aha" moment while her words sunk in.
I also got really, really excited about the future, and about being able to experience that kind of freedom for myself.
Now, the friend in question has more than a handful of kids. And my mind immediately jumped to the conclusion that financial freedom was probably immensely liberating in the bedroom, too, in terms of family planning.
Does that seem far fetched?
I kept thinking about it all afternoon, considering the connection between our deeply-indebted culture and a general aversion to children, past the perfunctory one or two. (And I'm speaking here to couples who are intentionally avoiding additions to their family, not to those struggling with the heartache of infertility.)
I thought about our neighbors across the street, eager to hand me bags and bags full of darling little girl clothes, and equally happy to tell us on more than one occasion how very "done" they were because they simply "couldn't afford" any more children. That their youngest daughter, though very much loved, was very much a surprise.
They're a sweet family and she works hard to stay home with her girls, running an event planning business and keeping another baby 40 hours a week for a working mama. Their girls have the best toys and clothes, and they throw fantastical themed birthday parties every year - last year's fete for the 4-year-old was Frozen-themed and featured a live, rented reindeer, a snow machine, a karaoke set up, Elsa's wedding cake, and a spread of Swedish food that put Ikea to shame.
I have to wonder whether what they - and so many of us - consider to be necessary trappings to the ideal childhood are really just that: trappings.
I know that kids care about having cool stuff, but I think they can be coached into caring, can be educated into a certain lifestyle and level of expectation, just like any of us can.
On the other hand, I think that parents who are drowning in consumer debt, choked by student loans and car payments and ridiculous mortgages, are probably honest-to-God afraid of having more kids under such circumstances.
I am just wondering where the intersection is between "hot damn it's expensive to raise a family in this economy!" (and it is) and "you know, maybe we don't need to be racking up semiannual beach vacations on our credit cards (but mileage points!) and driving 2-year-old cars with all the best new features to have a happy family."
I wonder how many American couples are avoiding having any/more children because of debt.
I wonder how much of the Very Real Struggle of NFP is tied up in financial insecurity.
I wonder if there's some kind of connection between generously and prudently managing one's money and one's fertility.
I am speaking to a stereotype here, but as is often the case with stereotypes, they issue forth from grains of truth.
Is it hella costly to raise and launch a kid into the world we live in?
Yes, yes it is.
But we all make choices, whether in our careers or in our decisions at the grocery store or the mall. We all decide how and where we're going to spend the money we've been entrusted with, and whether or not we're going to make debt a part of our lifestyle.
Some families have fewer options, whether due to underemployment, chronic poverty, or disability and restricted income potential, but I'm speaking here to the typical suburban American family, the one driving multiple car payments and buying brand new clothing and eating out in restaurants every week.
I wonder how much of our collective inability to manage money (and I'm looking in the mirror here) translates into our collective terror at the specter of Too Many Mouths To Feed (though that is hardly the real issue for 95% of us, let's be honest with ourselves.)
I think that being freed from the crushing burden of thousands of dollars of debt flowing out the door every month would go a long way to alleviate some of the fear of the unknown in terms of how many kids we might eventually be blessed with, creating some space for daring and generosity in hearts that are cramped and burdened by chronic stress and fear.
And I fully own that we made - and are making - the choices that got us here, and the choices that will set us free.
(And in the spirit of full disclosure, here's a little snapshot of our budgeting plan.)
What do you think? Totally reaching here, or maybe onto something? I can't be the only one thinking these crazy thoughts.