Kids can be expensive. The first shock might be the hospital bill when you leave. I have friends that went into medical debt for their kid’s birth. If you escape medical bills, the next shock comes when you purchase a child seat. Really, its a throne, a really large, hard to use, plastic throne that your child will soil quickly. Because I have a large family, I noticed that these thrones couldn’t fit three across a seat. Even a booster seat seemed to magically bow outwards so that I couldn’t fit three kids in a backseat. I commented to my wife that it was a real disincentive for big families to not be able to fit three seats in the back seat.
Apparently, that was worthy of a study. A recent paper looked at just that, and noted that the new standards only saved 57 more people, but caused 145,000 fewer births since 1980. That’s a pretty significant difference.
That cost gets worse because it is near impossible to get a used car seat. When I worked at Goodwill, we wouldn’t take them because of liability concerns. To buy a new car seat for every kid gets expensive. Worse, the car seat standards change nearly every year. When it happened one year and I was told to throw out my old seats, I looked up the new standard (as in, I read the really boring, multi-page engineering standard) and noticed it barely changed anything. Going through the history of changes, most of the changes are minor. These changes serve to automatically deprecate car seats, to the point they’ve become like cell phones in that you can’t use old models, even though they may have plenty of life left in them.
This is just one thing in long list of items that makes it hard to have a large family. Unless you want to get the massive “Catholic Van,” you’re stuck with less kids. Now the government wants kids to sit in a car seat until they are 12 or 13. That’s kind of insane. Yet the same government is OK with a school bus full of kids that has no boosters, no seat belts and crappy bench seats. At least a passenger vehicle is designed with seat belts, air bags and crumple zones to keep people alive in a wreck.
Car seats is just one example of the quiet way we make it hard for responsible parents to follow the rules while also having a big family. As birth rates fall worldwide, governments are trying to find ways to promote larger families, with plenty of discussion on government child care and mandatory maternity leave. That might help, but if we’re not addressing the common day to day issues that face large families, people will continue to opt out of large families. Ironically, the most effective practices for governments might be to listen to today’s large families to understand their struggles, rather than viewing them as a burden.
This post represents the views of the author and not those of the Department of Defense, Department of the Navy, or any other government agency.