The ROI on kids is not particularly good. At least, not at first.
For those unfamiliar with the term, ROI – “Return On Investment” – is a common business term used to evaluate whether something is worth spending money on. If investing in that faster email system for $10,000 lets you earn money twice as fast, there’s a good (5x!) ROI if you normally make $50,000/year and now make $100,000… and a terrible one if you normally make $1000 and now you make $2000, because you spent $10,000 to earn $1,000… so it’ll take 10 years to payback that investment.
Babies have a terrible ROI. The first six weeks is almost all “I”, in the form of sleepless nights, unproductive days, and a constant give, give, give for all your baby will take, take, take. Your primary R is a smile here and there, and a sense of accomplishment for all that you’re investing. Toddlers are only slightly better. Grade schoolers definitely have more “R” because they’re more fun. Middle schoolers even more so.
The ROI becomes more obvious as your kids grow. They gain self-sufficiency. They help you out with chores, sometimes even without prompting. You don’t spend $75+ on baby sitting for dinner and a movie. As they grow older, they become your sidekicks, your cribbage partners, your avatar. They’re the home team you’re rooting for in life. They’re the source of so much proudness.
And don’t get me started on grandparenting. From what I’ve observed, that’s when the kid thing pays crazy dividends. Not to mention it becomes up to them to take care of you, eventually.
Of course, all of this is bullshit, too. Because love doesn’t keep score. And parenting isn’t measured on ROI.
But still… it doesn’t hurt to get those moments where one kid is running around at soccer practice, and the other is on the playground with grade school friends, after the three of you finished dinner and had some ice cream, as a comfortable fall evening wraps up. You look around, take a deep breath, and say to yourself: “This is a joyful moment.”