Counting the Cost of Parenting

One of the few nuggets of information that I retained from business college was the concept of opportunity cost. According to Investopedia.com, opportunity cost refers to a benefit that a person could have received, but gave up, to take another course of action.

When making decisions concerning our time and money we must consider the opportunity cost. Most of us do this in the decisions we make everyday.

If I work full time, than I won’t be there when the kids get home from school.
If my kids play sports, we will frequently have to miss church.
If I teach this class, I won’t be home on Wednesday nights.

There is a cost to parenting. Just as God sent His Son to pay the price for our sins. And just as there is a cost to following Christ. Having kids also costs us something.

The question is, who will pay?

I recently heard about a friend of the family I hadn’t seen in a long time. He and his wife have a four-year-old daughter and a baby. Let’s call him Max.

Max had lofty career goals from the beginning. After college, he attended one of the most prestigious, and the most expensive business schools in the country. When all was said and done, he had student loans in the ballpark of $100,000!

He got a job working for one of the most prominent consulting companies in the country. It required travel which meant he would be gone Monday through Thursday just about every week.

After being out of town for a project, he noticed his relationship with his four-year-old daughter was suffering. Max wasn’t home very much, and when he was, he felt like he was constantly disciplining her. They were having very little positive daddy-daughter time. So, he requested to be put on local projects, and their relationship improved.

It’s not just quality time that matters, because . . .  it takes quantity to get to quality.

Max’s next project was only for two weeks. But the project was in Paris. This highly prestigious job was sought after by most of his colleagues, and the competition was fierce. It was the chance of a lifetime and he couldn’t give it up.

So Max went. And he traveled again, and again.

Max’s daughter suffered when she didn’t see daddy for long periods of time. There was a cost, and she was paying it.

There is a sacrifice required when we have kids. If we, as parents, aren’t feeling the pain of sacrifice, than our kids probably are.

Let’s look at another family. Let’s call them Jack and Diane.

Jack is a an I.T. guy at a consulting company. Diane is a partner at a prominent law firm. They have two boys approaching the teen years. Most of their money is tied up in their trendy, suburban, house, and Diane likes to shop for new clothes, new furniture, and new cars. Their lifestyle requires both of their high incomes.

The oldest son is having difficulty in school. He doesn’t fit in and is having a hard time making friends. He experiences bullying at school and doesn’t feel like his parents listen to him. What’s most alarming, however, is that he recently threatened suicide. 

A threat of suicide should never be taken lightly. It’s true, you know your kid best, and every adolescent is different. Some fully intend to follow through and some don’t. However, we must err on the side of caution. We must err on the side of life.

Never ignore a threat of suicide.

If your kid is getting bullied at school and it is affecting him enough to threaten suicide, drastic measures must be taken. Parents must do whatever it takes to help their children out of despair. If parents won’t, who will?

For Jack and Diane, this may mean that one of them quits their job and homeschools their troubled son. Or, they may need to move so he can go to a different school and have a fresh start.

When parents sacrifice for their kids, they feel valued. When parents don’t sacrifice for their kids, they feel worthless.

If we are unwilling to sacrifice for our children, they will likely suffer.

If we want to give our kids the very best, we must be willing to do radical things. Are we willing to sacrifice for our kids? Are we willing to give up our career and/or dreams temporarily so our kids can thrive?

There is a cost to parenting. Will we, as parents, sacrifice for our kids? Or, will we put the “sacrifice” on them?

I am not saying that both parents working is wrong in every situation. Parents know their children, and their needs. And every family is different.

However . . . .

If we, as parents, are not feeling the pain of sacrifice in our parenting, then it’s possible our kids are feeling it.

What are we giving up to be a parent?

Tension on the tightrope; walking the fine line of parenting teenagers

I bumped into a friend of mine while dropping my daughter off at church the other day. She seemed visibly stressed and tired so I asked her what was going on.

My friend has been divorced for about ten years, and she and her ‘ex’ have joint custody of the kids. Her daughter doesn’t want to go to her dad’s anymore. He doesn’t pay much attention to her and she feels lonely and out of place with his ‘other’ family.

When she is at her dad’s there’s a lot of conflict and strife. She doesn’t get along with her step siblings. There is constant turmoil, and her dad and stepmom are on the brink of divorce. There isn’t much room in this family for her.

Amidst the chaos, she is invisible.

“The postmodern family is often so concerned about the needs, struggles, and issues of parents that the emotional and developmental needs of the children go largely unmet.” -Chap Clark, Hurt 2.0; Inside the World of Today’s Teenagers

Boy, could I relate! My dad remarried shortly after my parents’ divorce and started a new family. It was a loving home, but I never really fit in. And I never got the time and attention that an adolescent girl so desperately needs.

The teenage years are tough enough. Hormones are raging and emotions are confusing. Bodies are changing. Teens are awake when the world sleeps, and sleeping when the rest of the world is awake. It’s a strange time of life.

When you pile on family chaos and neglect, their chances of successfully getting through adolescence are significantly diminished.

Teenagers need their parents more than ever.

“There is a hunger for genuine and meaningful relationships so pervasive among teenagers and young adults today that experts now cite “relational deprivation” as one of the marks of today’s emerging generations” -Walt Mueller, Youth Culture 101

Parents today seem more interested in their own pursuits, finding love or finding themselves, or living their own dreams, than actually finishing what they started when they had kids. We, as parents, have become very self absorbed.

I often wonder – Where is the sacrifice in parenting? Why do we feel entitled to have kids, yet not feel compelled to sacrifice for them?

Later that day, as I thought more about my friend’s daughter’s situation, I wondered, ‘how did we as parents become so selfish?’ How did we stray so far from how parents were many generations ago?

My mother-in-law grew up in a family that over-parented her. They were oppressive. Her childhood was filled with fear, and a lot of guilt and shame. It was not OK to question mom or dad. Conflict was just swept under the rug. And, there was no freedom to learn, explore, or express yourself.

How did we come from a place of overbearing parenting, to a place of neglectful parenting? From being helicopter parents to ones who neglect to parent at all?

It blows my mind.

Society is like a pendulum. We find ourselves too extreme in one direction so we swing the pendulum the other way.

However, instead of stopping in the middle, the pendulum picks up speed as it flies right past the point of healthy balance. Before we know it, we find ourselves on the other extreme, and we are no better off.

Why can’t we live in the middle? Why is moderation seemingly unattainable?

It is a fine line to achieve and maintain balance in parenting. We experience tension as we keep ourselves from going too far one way or too far the other way. It is a juggling act. It is the tension of parenting. And, it’s part of the deal.

Tension will always be part of the process, because our tendency will always be to go too far. We just want to keep that pendulum swinging! It’s in our DNA.

Both my teenagers have recently gotten their first boyfriends. Right when I thought I had this parenting thing down . . . . BAM! . . . they start dating! And, I am a bumbling idiot!

I have found the trickiest part of parenting a teenager with a boyfriend is finding balance. It seems as though I am walking a tightrope, and I could fall to my parenting death at any moment!

My girls are young women, but they still need parenting at 14 and 16 (despite what they may think!), and they still need limits. They need a lot of guidance at this age. The issues are substantially bigger and scarier, and the consequences more drastic.

The lines of communication must remain open. I fear the day that my girls stop talking to me about their boyfriends. I know that if they don’t value our relationship, it could be very bad for them. We could lose them to a dark, painful path.

It is important to share their excitement and celebrate in their joys of life. They need to be able to talk through the many new experiences and feelings they are having with their mom. And, I want to laugh and rejoice with them.

However, I can’t just be their friend. I have to be their parent. My husband and I are the only parents they’ve got. And we could be the only voice of truth they hear in their social media world.

I recently met my mentor for coffee. She told me about a friend of hers who worked outside the home until her kids were around 10 and 12 , then she quit her job and stayed home with them. She believed that kids need parents more during their adolescent years then when they are little.

“Christ Frappier, an investigator with Vermont’s state public defender’s office said ‘What I am seeing in recent years is a total and complete alienation of youth. And it is not coming from them; it is coming from the adults who aren’t bothering to reach out to them.'” -Chap Clark, Hurt 2.0; Inside the World of Today’s Teenagers

Unfortunately, many people quit parenting when their kids reach the teenage years. They think they are done.

Kids need involved parents during adolescence more than ever.

The world speaks loudly to our kids. It speaks through absent fathers, broken families, and childhood abuses. The world speaks loudly through public schools, movies, and social media. The world speaks loudly about the issues of pain, suffering, and morality.

Our kids will listen to whoever is speaking the loudest to them, whether it is truth or not.

3 Of the greatest gifts young parents can give their kids

I was recently asked if I would write an article in a newsletter for a young moms group. As I started thinking back to the time when my girls were little, I was flooded with warm memories and deep regrets.

I have been very blessed, not only to have enjoyed that magical time when my kids were little, but also to have survived it.

If I could go back in time and talk to my younger self, what would I say?

Being a young mom is a thrill ride. There are new challenges and milestones every day. You learn as you go. And nothing can prepare you.

I remember when we were leaving the hospital with my oldest daughter, Emily. I was thinking, ‘How could they let ME walk out of here with a baby?! Were they crazy?

Day by day we learned, and the kids grew. My husband and I fumbled around going this way and that, doing the best that we could as young parents. We were tossed to and fro by well intentioned advice and made many mistakes.

Now our girls are in high school. Where did the time go?

Just when you think the teenage years are so far away, there they are, staring you right in the face!

Looking back, there are 3 pieces of advice that I would give to young moms (and dads!).

1. Show your kids that God comes first

My greatest regret in parenting is not being a Christ-centered family when my kids were little.

We were typical American parents. God wasn’t our number one for most of our marriage. If you would have asked us, we would have said that He was. But He wasn’t. We were very much living for the American Dream.

We were raising our girls to be good people because we were good people. Wasn’t that what we were supposed to be doing?! Wasn’t that enough?

We taught them to say please and thank you. We taught them to be nice and polite and do what they’re told. We took them to church on Sundays to learn about God. And we taught them the importance of a good education.

Purposefully or not, by mirroring things we observed from our parents, the media, the culture, the church and our community, we put our family first.

It saddens me to think about it. We were wrong.

*God Must Always Come First*

Not only should God come first, there shouldn’t be a close second. Nothing should come close to God in our lives.

It’s no wonder that most kids grow up to be young adults that care very little about God or their faith. Why would they put God first when their parents didn’t?

Our kids will do as we do.

We must put God over our families, the way He intended. Only then can our families and our kids be healthy and strong. If we put God first, then the family will be as it should be, UNDER His Lordship.

Read my blog post, 5 ways to put God above the American Dream

2. Give yourself grace

Someone once said to me, ‘If you were a perfect parent, your kids wouldn’t need a Savior!’ Amen to that!

As a young mom, sixteen years ago, I put a lot of pressure on myself; pressure to be the perfect mom and to have the perfect kids.

I felt pressure to . . . . .

  • raise geniuses
  • potty train by the time they are 2
  • have my kids reading before they can walk
  • have the perfect amount of activities; playdates, music classes, soccer, etc.

I remember people having opinions about everything; breastfeeding or formula, thumb sucking or the pacifier, potty training, putting the kids to bed, daycare, homeschool, etc. The list goes on and on.

Everybody seems to have opinions when you have kids. And, for some reason, they feel they have to right to share them with you.

Don’t let your kids use a pacifier or suck their thumb, they will need braces if you do.
Don’t give them a bottle too soon.
Don’t pick up your baby every time they cry.
Don’t let your kid have a tantrum or make noise at the grocery store.
You should start piano lessons early, it helps their brain develop.
You must give your kids the flu shot.
They shouldn’t ever watch television when they are little.

Pressure, pressure, pressure! There is so much pressure!

The advice that I give young moms is . . . . lower the bar.

The house doesn’t need to be clean all the time. Let it go. So what if the house is messy? Do you want your kids to remember that their mom spent time with them, or that the house was clean?

Kids don’t always need to be dressed, or wear matching clothes, or even wear clean clothes. Sometimes, they don’t need clothes at all! They don’t need to have perfect manners, a clean face and groomed hair.

Lower the bar.

If little bobby has a temper tantrum in the grocery store one day, and you give in. So what?! It’s one time. It’s not the end of the world! If you need to buy those groceries and book it out of there, than buy that Hershey bar this time!

Give yourself grace.

Other people will judge you. Count on it! But, so what?! Don’t worry about what other people will say or think. At the end of the day, one of the best things you can do for your kids is to take care of their mom!

3. Don’t put too much weight on ‘milestones’

Don’t worry about milestones. Your kid will eventually walk, she will eventually stop sucking her thumb and wearing pullups at night, she will learn to ride a bicycle, learn their A,B,C’s, and so on.

Some kids walk when they are 9 months old and some when they are 16 months. Some kids crawl first, some scoot, and some skip all that and go straight to walking! Some kids talk in full sentences from the womb, and some don’t say a word until much later. And some don’t stop wearing pullups at night until they are 10!

So what?! Let your kid be who he is. Let him have his own milestones, not be forced to have someone else’s.

The shoulds of life can imprison us. Let them go. Take the word should out of your vocabulary, especially when it comes to raising your kids.


The greatest success in parenting is raising kids who know and love God.

Our job is to raise kids to become adults who chase after holiness, not happiness, and seek God’s will more than the American Dream. Our job is to create adults who put God first.

If our kids grow up knowing and seeking God in their lives, not much else matters. In other words . . . . don’t sweat the small stuff! Cut yourself some slack, and enjoy the ride! It will be over before you know it!


What are your struggles as a young parent?

If you are a seasoned parent, what would you have done differently when your kids were young?