War on the family

This excerpt came from an article sent to me by a friend last week:

Brad and Michelle aren’t the only young parents who are finding that
they can’t afford to have as many children as they would like. Across
the country millions of other young parents are reaching similar
conclusions. Without much in the way of comment or debate, Canada has
become a country where small families are the norm — and those small
families are shaping a demographic crisis that is going to hurt all of
us over the decades ahead, whether we have children or not.

understand why, consider the amazing shrinkage of the Canadian family.
As recently as the 1960s, families used to span an average of four
kids; today, the typical family includes a mere 1.5 children. Since
today’s parents aren’t having enough kids to replace themselves,
Canada’s population growth has slowed to only 1% a year. Two-thirds of
that meagre increase comes from immigration rather than new babies.
Soon we will rely completely on immigration to keep Canada’s population
from shrinking…

The tug of war between the generations has already begun. Over the
past three decades, governments have consistently funded and enriched
programs for seniors. Meanwhile, young families are finding it
increasingly difficult to make ends meet. As a result, they’re reducing
their number of kids — which has the effect of ensuring the problem
will grow even worse in years to come.

You can’t blame young
couples for their decision to have fewer children than their own
parents. Over the past three decades, total family incomes in real
terms — that is, adjusted for inflation — have actually gone down.
Statistics Canada says the median family income in 1980 was $58,000.
Twenty-seven years later, it’s $57,700. (Both figures are expressed in
2005 dollars to remove the effects of inflation.)But stagnant incomes
are not the worst problem. A generation ago, it took just one working
parent to generate that median household income. These days it takes

Read the entire article here.

I know this reality all too well. We live it every day. The constant struggle of trying to make ends meet and provide for a family on a single income, when you live in a dual income world.

For us, there is no other option, no other consideration. We choose to continue to work hard to live frugally and carefully in order to keep me at home, raising our children, and have decided to trust God with our family size and the financial consequences that may bring. Some declare us foolhardy. Others say we’ll change our minds. Some may think that we won’t be able to provide our children with everything that they "need".

We choose to believe instead that children are a blessing, regardless of our income, our house size, what we drive, the state of our wardrobe or how much our kid’s RESPs are worth. We choose to view children as an asset, and not a liability.

However, the struggle remains. I found myself nodding my head over and over again as I read the article, agreeing with many of it’s points–yes, young families are overtaxed, can barely make ends meet, feel pressured to have the mother working. Yes, that our country is in trouble, that children are our future, and that we have lost sight of their value.

I disagreed with the conclusions of the article, regarding higher pay for maternity leave and improved daycare systems and subsidies. Farming our children out to be raised by others is not the answer. Personally, I think a return to valuing the traditional family and seeking to support it through tax breaks and other means would be a step in the right direction.

What do you think about this issue? Do you relate to the financial struggles described in the article (and where do you live)? What do you think should be the response of the government to declining birth rates and the financial challenges faced by young families in today’s economy?

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  1. Hi Stephanie,

    I’m so glad you posted about this. I think it’s a struggle for families of any size to raise children on a single income these days. Or perhaps it just seems harder, because we’re comparing ourselves to dual-income families (which seems to be the norm here in Nova Scotia). In any case, I’ve often said that I wish there were more subsidies available for stay-at-home parents. The Universal Child Care Benefit has certainly been a step in the right direction, in terms of allowing parents to choose whether they want to use it towards daycare costs, or towards enabling one parent to stay home and raise their own children.

    I’m curious whether you’ve read the book The Two-Income Trap? I haven’t, but I’m thinking about borrowing it from the library. I believe it speaks to the fact that dual-income families have basically driven up the cost of living by bidding up the price of housing, etc., to the point where it is no longer affordable for single-income families. Also that dual-income families are actually at greater risk for financial disaster, since there is no person at home who could be a safety-net if someone (say a sick child, or an elderly parent) needs care, or to be able to help earn an income if the primary wage-earner loses their job or is sick or injured. They are so dependent on the two incomes that if one person loses their job, they are likely to face a financial disaster, because there is no one to pick up the slack. Anyway, I think it sound interesting – just wondering if you or any of your readers has read it.

    I am in no way saying that either type of family is right or wrong – everybody’s circumstances are different, and we all have to decide for ourselves. Every day I wake up grateful that we chose for me to stay home and raise our children – and even though it’s a struggle sometimes, I wouldn’t trade it for the world. In fact, I actually find the challenge of it kind of exciting, and am constantly (thanks to you and Crystal, and others!) finding new ways to cut back and live more simply.

    Thanks so much for your blog.


  2. It sure would be nice if a mother’s important job were to be recognized (i.e., SS benefits accrued while raising children).

    We currently pay nothing in federal taxes (we get it all back, and then some) so I’m not sure tax breaks are the way to go. We get child tax credits on both a federal and state level, and the government gave us over $9000 this year.

    I think instead we should be educating people. Teaching budgeting. Teaching people to buy with cash. Teaching them how to cook and save $. Teaching us how to be self-sufficient – i.e. fix our own car, sew a basic seam, garden, etc. Education on how children actually contribute to the wealth of a family!

    Also, I am SOOO tired of hearing of “moving to a smaller, 2500 sq. ft. home” and “a 2000 sq. ft. starter home” and so on. I think the average American has no idea WHAT it means to live within their means. They see waitresses and newspaper columnists on TV with fabulous NY apartments and designer clothes, and figure they should have that too.

    I think less government, and more power to the people is what will solve the problem.

  3. As a homeschool family,(and therefore a predominatly single income family)I know all too well the pressure for surviving within your means. BUT one huge benefit that came out of about 10 years of very tight times was the amazing creativity that came to characterize our lives. I made do with the cheapest and most healthy foods which brought me into discovering sprouting for winter nutrition when I could not afford lettuce in December. I made our bread and ground the flour (really not all that hard). I capitalized on garage sale clothes (next to new) and sewed the rest of our clothes.My children got used toys for christmas at times, (and it didn’t hurt them a bit)We borrowed a fridge for several years and survived on one car(gasp) Neither did we have a dish washer. My newborn slept with us in my freezing basement bedroom for the first year, I think, because we just did not have the rooms renovated upstairs yet. I searched and found ways of budgeting and planning ahead that ended up saving more and somehow got through a very through. Out of those lean years also burst forth a home based business that produced very well and allowed me to work in the evenings and early mornings (before the days of the internet)when my little ones were sleeping. I still look somewhat fondly on those times as being times of family and togetherness and learning the value of hard work. The fact that our tax money is taken from us (no, not given to us)is a travesty to start with but I still do not hold out for government handouts and tax breaks. I neither want their (my) money nor their interference in my personal or business life. We do not need more legislation but less and more liberty being placed back where it belongs in the hands of families and business owners who are capable of providing for ourselves without goverment interference and hand outs. There is always a trade off when the government “gives” us money. Most often and quite simply, they take 10 dollars to gift us back with 3 and we are to be grateful. Despite the difficulties of living on one income, God will bless you family as you trust him with the blessings of children.

    Psalm 84:11 No good thing will I withhold from those who walk up rightly.

    Keep praying for creative ways to save money and you may surprise yourself and come up with some amazing ideas both to save and to earn that little bit extra. Finances are a little easier now for us but for some reason, I long for for the challenge we used to have and the blessings of creativity that sprang up out of necessity. Perhaps is was the pressure of adversity that made us grow!!!

  4. That is an eye opening article. It is frightening to me that we will soon be bearing the financial burden of millions of baby-boomers. Even scarier is thinking about my kids and their few peers supporting my aging generation–especially since we can now anticipate living longer.

    God very clearly stopped us at two children but it always feels not quite right to me–like there should be at least one more voice in my house. Sometimes even more than the cost of living here in Seattle I feel the pressure of the pace of life–which affects how we spend money as well. There is the pressure to have kids doing everything which leads to driving all over, eating convenience foods, the costs of activities…I feel like we are always swimming upstream against the parenting culture of our city.

  5. Great post. We too are a one-income family here in B.C.

    I think we have to adjust our attitudes when it comes to wants and needs and never compare ourselves to what others have. After all we aren’t in this world to have as much as the Jones’ next door, but to glorify God. I think my staying home with the family is a way of doing that.

    I just recently completed my income tax forms and noticed that families are getting more of their tax back. We have 4 children, so we could claim $2000 for each one (that translates into $1200 more in our pockets.) As well with the UCCB we receive a chunk of money each month from the gov’t. I’d rather they give every family the money rather than just supporting daycares.

    This may sound really tacky, but if Christians are having more children, then in the next generation the ratio of Christians to non-Christians will be better (does this make sense, I am having a hard time putting it in words.?)

    1. @Alisa,
      I recently read an article about this as it applies to Europe, and is beginning to apply in Canada and the US. Unfortunately, it’s not just Christian families that are having more children, but Muslim families as well. In Europe, people of European descent have had such a low birth rate for so many years that they will shortly become a minority. Their birth rate is now so low that this is inevitable. Muslim families have such a high birthrate that they will quickly become the majority. Mathematically, European nations will be Muslim nations within a few generations. And Canada and the US are on the exact same path! If I can find the article, I’ll post the link.

  6. i love the way you write. reading your blog always makes me feel peaceful.

    I am a working mom of one 6 year old. I would love to have 10 kids if i could.. my husband however does not want anymore. i have to respect his choice, and i am absolutely blessed to have the daughter i have.

    i think that stay at home parents, who also choose to homeschool their children should get benefits in some way or other. I live in the province of Quebec, and the way it works here is that parents pay 7$ a day for daycare (if you go to a place that is government licensed). The government then forks out 18$ a day to the same daycare for your child. Imagine how many parents, who would LOVE to homeschool their children, would readjust their lives to stay home if the government paid THEM that amount instead?
    If i chose to have an at-home (licensed) daycare, i could get paid by the government for all those kids, however, i could not be paid for my own. That saddens me! we are encouraged as parents to send our kids out to daycares, (home daycares or bigger ones).

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