Parents live modestly to raise large family
A family of seven living on one income says you can't put a price on children, and you must simply live modestly to manage financially.
Jennifer Timm is a stay at home mom who home schools her five children. Her husband is a pastor. He earns close to $61,000, the average for a single income family with children, according to Statistics Canada.
She says "I sometimes get frustrated when people talk about kids and it's always about money, and I think you know, kids are not commodities."
On paper it appears that supporting a family of seven on a single income would be impossible. According to a 2006 report from the Vanier Institute of the Family, the cost of raising a child to age 18 is $167,000.
That amount includes food, clothing, health care, transportation, shelter, furnishings and recreation, but not post-secondary education.
Timm says the family lives modestly, has no credit card debt and doesn't have a big mortgage, "We get everything we want, we just learn to be content in what we have."
The family has learned to choose options that make it possible for them to manage on one income, including living in a smaller, 700 sq. ft. home and building an addition instead of moving to accommodate their growing family.
"When we got up to four kids they all slept in the one bedroom, and it was actually really nice because I think they've grown really close together as a result, so as they got older we put in a bedroom downstairs."
Cynthia Comacchio is a history professor at Wilfrid Laurier University and the author of "The Dominion of Youth: Adolescence and the Making of Modern Canada, 1920 to 1950."
She agrees with Timm's views, "We're a nation that's very avid on home ownership. What do you get for $167,000? Well where I live in Guelph you get a one bedroom condo. Is a child not worth more than that? Right? So it's not all about money."
The five Timm children, who range in age from four to their teens, are involved in sports at their local community center, use the library a lot and don't eat out often. The teenagers get new clothes, but Timm says she doesn't need new stuff.
"I find that there's a lot of really nice clothes in consignment stores now because so many people buy impulsively then they turn it over very quickly," she says. "So if I'm just patient and I wait I can get pretty much anything I want."
During the Great Depression, the average family size dropped to three children from four in the 1920s, and by the end of the 1930s the average cost of raising a child to age 18 was about $6,000.
Currently, the birth rate is about 1.5 children per family. Comacchio says the drop is the result of greater consumer choice and different attitudes.
"We didn't suffer through the Great Depression and the Second World War, and the notion of sacrifice and putting things off really isn't part of our cultural vocabulary."
Timm says her family's priority is for her to be at home to spend time with her children. The way that's accomplished, she says, is by family members focusing on what they need, not what they want.
Coming up in part three: Financial advice for people planning for a family and a plea for communities to step up and help out.