On Children as Commodities |

On Children as Commodities

admin September 12, 2014

This is a post I’ve really wanted to write for awhile, but something that happened the other week inspired me to write it now.

It was early afternoon, and we’d had a late breakfast, so we headed out to do a little shopping before lunch (me and the kids and my mom).  I went through Joann Fabric’s red tag fabrics, which were 50% off, looking for all of the cheapest cotton and flannel to make new wipes, napkins, and blankets for our home.  Even buying off the clearance rack on sale, it cost a lot of money.

Towards the end of the trip, my 18-month-old was losing it.  Like, really losing it.  Even if I held him, or my mom held him, he was just screaming and screaming and fighting to get away, because he was so tired and likely getting hungry too.  He’s big now, so when he throws himself around it’s hard to hold onto him.  I felt frustrated and annoyed by the situation, and was trying to finish up the transaction as fast as I could so that we could get home and solve the hungry-and-sleepy problems.

But it made me think: there are people who would say, “Don’t have so many children.  Don’t have more children.  Then maybe your life would be easier.

That made me mad.  That’s treating children as commodities, not as people.  And I don’t like it.

Do Fewer Children Make an Easier Life?

Thing is, would having fewer children — or at least, not any more than I currently have — make my life easier?

I don’t think it would.

I mean, in the short term, having fewer children can make some things easier.  Pregnancy, babies, and toddlers are a lot of work.  Babies and toddlers require a ton of hands-on time to carry them, feed them, help them sleep, entertain them, and so on.  They have to be watched constantly.  And as adorable as they are, they don’t give a whole lot back.  They make messes but can’t help clean up (much).  They might even stop you from cleaning up because they want to be held constantly.  They can’t really talk to you or be “company” for you.  It’s pretty one-sided.

But they grow up.  This is what I always say to people who tell me having so many young children is a lot of work.  (First, I know.  I live it every day.)  It won’t always be this way, with the heavy hands-on work.  My oldest two still require general supervision, but no longer need so much hands-on time (they are 5 and 6) so I know the difference.  I know it changes.

Of course, if you have lots of kids, then you have the baby-and-toddler phase longer.  But it’s different when you have older kids too.  “Hey, play with the baby for 10 minutes so I can take a shower” is an option, rather than having to take the baby with you or waiting for another adult to be home.

And no matter how many children you have, there are trade-offs.  Fewer children does mean doing fewer dishes, less laundry, less cooking.  It may mean less driving to activities (depending on how many activities you allow).  But this type of “work” doesn’t necessarily make for an easier or harder life!  Because “easy” is defined in a totally different way…

What Makes Life “Easy” Anyway?

The thing is, chores never go away.  It doesn’t matter if you are a single person or a large family, you still must wash your clothes, prepare your food, and clean up the home.  It’s hardest for a family with a bunch of littles, where there’s a lot of work and it mostly falls on the parents.  But that’s just a season.  As the kids get older, they can help more and more, and caring for the home may actually be easier in a home with lots of people rather than fewer people.

But of course, life isn’t just a series of jobs.  And our lives aren’t easier or harder based on how many jobs we have to do.  Our lives are easier if we’re surrounded by people who love us, and harder if we don’t have many close relationships.  Our lives are easier if they are filled with satisfying work and sources of joy, and harder if we feel trapped or like we’re struggling.

“Easy” and “hard” are really defined more by whether we’re doing what we want to be doing or not.  A life that’s easy to one person would be hard to another because they want different things.  How much work we’re doing isn’t really that important, as long it’s what we love.

Do we really define our lives, and our family size, by how much work it takes, anyway??

Children Are Not a Job

I don’t want a lot of children because I want to do a lot of work, although I know that that does come along with it.  I don’t want them because I want to “collect” people.  Nor do I want them to prove something to anyone else.

My children are not commodities.

My children are not burdens to me.  They are not sources of work for me to do.  They are not increased cost of living.  They are not “things” that behave or misbehave and which are difficult if they don’t behave as anticipated or preferred.  And I run into this attitude all the time.

  • “Your children have so much energy”
  • “You must have so much work, having to clean up after them”
  • “It’s harder to go places or do things with so many children”
  • “How can you meet each of their needs, with so many?”

Others see them as a unit.  A pack.  My little commodities.

They are people.

I see each of them as individuals.  I see the relationship I have with them.  I make decisions about how many I want based on the number of awesome little people I want to know and raise — not how much energy they have, how much work they are, or how much my life is limited in other ways.  Because that’s what I want.  (And that’s what they want, too.  They miss their siblings if they’re gone, and they constantly ask for more babies.)

It’s all about the relationships.

Yeah, we have bad days.  Just like I described at the beginning — it wasn’t fun for me, or my 18-month-old, to be at the store at that moment.  It wasn’t something that I enjoyed happening or that I look forward to happening again.  But it’s a part of life.  Not all of life is fun.  Not having children, or having fewer children, doesn’t mean there won’t be annoying or difficult moments.  They might be different annoying or difficult moments, but they will still exist.

And you know, even in that moment, even as I acknowledged — this is annoying — I still thought, I wouldn’t change it.  I still love my babies.  I still want my babies.  Because they are awesome little people who have occasional hard times.  Just like I do.

Why do we keep forgetting that children are people?  Why do we limit the little people in our lives because of things like “work” or other things that are only a season?

If you honestly only want one child or two children, because that is the number of relationships you want in your life, than so be it.  I’m not criticizing anyone’s family size here.  Everyone’s ideal family is different, and that’s okay.

But why tell others not to have children because of how much work they are?  As if they aren’t people…only commodities?  Only a job?  Only a burden?

They’re so much more than that.  So much.

There are bad days.  Days I wish they’d all go away for a couple hours so I could have some peace.  Get more sleep.  Eat something before noon.

But after a few hours, I miss them.  I want to talk to them, to hear their little voices, to know what they’re thinking about and what they’re planning.  What they’re passionate about.  Who they are.  I love each of their unique personalities and talents.  Maybe I miss some of the “physical” details (like how much they’re eating, if they bump their elbows, etc.) that I might have known if I had fewer, but who cares?  I don’t miss their excitement, their talents, their intelligence, their emotional needs.  Those are so much more important.

Create The Life You Love

Have the children that you want to have, whether that’s none or twenty.  Enjoy the relationships that you want to enjoy.  All that work and other mundane “stuff of life” will happen and be fine.  Heck, you can hire that stuff out, if you want.  But you can’t replace or hire out the relationships.

And yeah, children are expensive.  But there are ways to cut costs down, experiences to be had for free, and why should we make decisions on how many kids to have based on finances?  (From a mama who is debt-free and considers financial decisions important in general.  But not as important as people.)

I hope we can move on from this idea of children as commodities.  I hope we can stop seeing families as some sort of ‘unit’ instead of a group of people.  I hope we can stop criticizing large families because we don’t understand why.

Please, if you’re unsure why someone makes the choice they do about having or not having children, just ask.  Nicely.  But I’d rather answer an honest question than listen to an ignorant judgment.

Create the life you love.  Not based on how much “work” it is.  Not based on how “easy” it is.  But based on how much you want it and feel called to it.

Do you think we treat children as commodities?


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  1. I loved this post. We are hoping to have “lots” of kids, at least “lots” in this society– more than four? Five? I don’t know. 🙂 But no matter how many we end up having, we definitely see them as blessings and as PEOPLE, not as tasks.


  2. I have 2 daughters, 27 months and 4 months. One comment that bugs me is when people say, “you have your hands full.” And they say it with raised eyebrows and almost a hint of pity in their voice. Oh please…we all have our hands full, just with different things! Funny thing is, they don’t offer to help me, they just like to comment on it. 😛


  3. I wish someone could tell me how to feel like this toward my kids. I’ve felt completely overwhelmed since my 2nd child was born 5 years ago. I have four now, a girl and three boys, 1.5 to 8.5. I feel like I am drowning every day between crazy active boys who climb everything and won’t leave anything alone, balancing different combinations of multiple food intolerances for 5 people, and chronic insomnia and thyroid and adrenal problems. I feel a little bit jealous, and a lot discouraged, when I read blog posts like this or see Facebook posts from people who obviously enjoy their kids, because I just don’t know how to do it, and I haven’t got the foggiest idea how I would begin learning to do it.


    • I feel this way with one child, so I can only imagine with four! He is 18 months and is a happy, fun-loving child, but he can also be very needy and overwhelming.
      I always thought I’d have 3 or 4 kids, but he had a cleft palate (I am almost done pumping after 18 months) and continues to have feeding issues. People always say every child is different as if I’m not aware. I know that but given environmental and genetic mutations and so on another child might have a different set of issues that only compound the existing family challenges we face. We are only recently getting past simply surviving day to day. I want my child to have a sibling for his sake but it’s difficult to imagine doing this again.
      I love my child, but I also (usually) don’t feel this kind of joy that’s been described.


  4. Thanks…love this post. The other thing that bugs the heck out of me is when people want to know all about how we’re going to “time” having our children. Why do people think this is their business???


  5. I have been thinking about this post on and off since I read it months ago. Children are not commodities, but when you’re planning a family and considering how you intend to raise children, then money, resources, support, etc. all become factors. My friend and her husband have determined they can afford to send two children to private school, and they have only two children. They may want more, but in order to bring them up the way they choose to, there is a definite dollar limit associated. If there were a happy surprise baby for this family, they would make it work of course, but there’s nothing wrong with having your family plan and sticking to it.


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Hi, I’m Kate.  I love medical freedom, sharing natural remedies, developing real food recipes, and gentle parenting. My goal is to teach you how to live your life free from Big Pharma, Big Food, and Big Government by learning about herbs, cooking, and sustainable practices.

I’m the author of Natural Remedies for Kids and the owner and lead herbalist at EarthleyI hope you’ll join me on the journey to a free and healthy life!

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