Growing up in a large family as a baby I always enjoyed having several siblings and cousins around.
It brought me great happiness and security having my own built-in friends and playmates, as did several of my peers. Yet nowadays, more and more Kenyans seem to be voluntarily adopting the infamous Chinese “one-child policy,” or at most two. Spending time together at social engagements with other young parents the question sometimes arises: “When are you having baby number two?” (a second or even third child) Often the response is non-committal, with the person joking, “Right after you!,” or “soon…but don’t hold your breath!”
Some Western parenting websites have created a high-tech gizmo known as “baby cost calculator.” When I was expecting, I thought to myself, what in the world is that!
A child cannot be that expensive – they are so little, they can’t eat that much! But as my due date approached, I learned the fallacy of such a viewpoint.
Sure, upcountry it costs hardly anything to raise a child, since breast milk is free and countless hand-me-downs can be obtained from several miscellaneous relatives and neighbours, and they simply sleep in their parents’ bed. Here in town yuppie parents (or yuppie-wannabees) it is a whole different ball game.
First of all, during prenatal care you better make sure you have good health insurance to cover the countless consultations that accompany a pregnancy. In case of an emergency Caesarean section you had best budget the price of a small car for your hospital stay, not to mention Doctors’ expenses. In view of the fact that Kenya has among the highest incidence of car accidents in the world. It also makes a great deal of sense to invest in a sturdy car seat to keep baby safe. Add to that your little darling will probably need a pram, a bassinet, a crib, rocker, his or her own decorated and furnished room, plus a thousand and one tiny but costly items.
A walk down Biashara Street into the plethora of baby shops will leave you with a daunting list of “necessities” for the little one. Most high-end kindergartens require early registration to join the long waiting list of potential scholars. Sometimes couples book, while the baby is still in utero! Factor in the rising cost of diapers, formula, one or two extra domestic employees to assist with the increased work load of child rearing, and you realize the importance of the adage.
“Who of you does not first build a house without counting the cost!”
Parenting is a wonderful and extremely rewarding journey, especially when undertaken with a clear view of the sacrifices involved.
Much more significant than the financial cost, prudent parents realize that children require an even more vital investment of their time and loving attention on a daily basis. This is a responsibility that cannot simply be outsourced to Domestics. Will we end up having a generation of spoiled solo-kids like the Chinese? I doubt it – Africans will always love larger families! If parents focus on giving them love, affection and instruction as opposed to just the things that money can buy, we will have gifted them with a childhood that is truly priceless.
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