I Helped Pay For My Growing Up

In a recent U.S. Department of Agriculture news release, reporting the information from it’s annual report, it states that a middle-income family with a child born in 2010 can expect to spend about $226,920 ($286,860 if projected inflation costs are factored in) for food, shelter, and other necessities to raise that child over the next 17 years. Of course, that all depends if you have a kid who is low maintenance and is satisfied with just above average and not attempting to be a member of the overly popular group that demands the latest in everything. If that is the case, then you are out of luck with this USDA report.

There is around a 2 percent increase from the 2009 report. The expenses with the greatest increases were transportation, childcare, education and health care, which are a big part of rearing a child. They showed small changes in housing, food, clothing and miscellaneous expenses on a child over that one-year period. This was based on a family income between $57,600 and $99,730. It seems the more you make the more you spend raising your child, so if you are making more than $99,730, you can expect to spend $377,040. I guess that extra cost is for silver spoons or something like that, figuratively speaking. If you make less than the $57,000 figure, your child is only going to cost you $163,440. I guess this proves that the more you have, the more you will spend.

USDA started this survey fifty years ago and back in 1960, when the first report was issued, a middle-income family could have expected to spend $25,230 to raise a child through age seventeen. In 1960, I turned 12 years of age and had only five more years to go to reach the 17-year goal that the survey sets when you should be finished paying for the rearing of a child. During those first 12 years from 1948 to 1960, it was pretty lean at our place and I think this survey would have been difficult to conduct on a Middle Tennessee farm family just getting by. As my preacher said last Sunday, “We were so poor, we ate cereal for breakfast and supper with a fork. The reason we used a fork was to save the milk.”

My early years of life were spent in an air-conditioned house. Whatever the condition of the air was outside, it was the same inside. However, the plumbing made up for that. You got plenty of exercise going to the well for water and going to the outhouse when needed. At an early age you developed bathroom discipline. Cost for all of this”¦priceless.

Every Saturday was spent “harvesting” and picking a chicken for Sunday dinner, which may have included the preacher as a dining guest. I guess you could say a lot of our chickens went into the “ministry.”  But our meals included homegrown vegetables and meats, which never would have been included in a survey.

Our milk came from the same cow and went into the crock pitcher in the Frigidaire. Later we skimmed the cream off for cooking and cereals, which made for some real good eating. The milk was usually good except when old Ruth the cow would eat onions or yellow bitterweed and then you had to hold your nose to get it down. That’s when we discovered Bosco chocolate drink, but sometimes you couldn’t even get enough Bosco to kill the taste of bitterweed. I still have memories of raw milk with onions and bitterweed, which is one reason I will stick to my pasteurized milk from the stores these days. And yes, I am above my raising.

The good thing about my raising starting as a 1948 model child compared to the cost of a 2010 model child, is that my model wasn’t really involved that much in the competition of child rearing back in those days. Most of us boomers had about the same things and pretty much dressed alike. A couple pairs of blue jeans, a pull over shirt, white socks and a pair of penny loafers was all you needed to get by. You had home clothes and schools clothes, which neither the two varieties did twine. Bored was not a word you dared to use around parents for fear of finding yourself moving hay bales from one side of the barn loft to the other and then back again or maybe even cleaning out a fence row which never seemed to ever get clean.

There is something to be said about us “antique kids.” We may have been cheap to create as kids, not costing a quarter million dollars to rear, but we are now costing a pretty penny to operate and keep running. What goes around comes around, I guess.  


– Pettus L. Read is editor of Tennessee Home & Farm magazine and Tennessee Farm Bureau News. He may be contacted by e-mail at pread@tfbf.com