Wednesday, January 27, 2010

On having a large family, part1

Wendy and October, with kids (minus one of Tob's, who was at home)

Disclaimer: the following is not meant to disparage anybody who has few or no children. It's just to say no one should be criticized for their family-size choice.

"You know what's causing that, don't you?"

So, fess up. How many of you out there, with more than 1 child, have been asked this question upon announcing a new pregnancy?

Recently I witnessed an exchange between one of my good friends and her pals. She plans to have more kids. And, apparently, her friends believe this means that she will be confining herself and sacrificing the possibilities of education, vacations, new cars, summer homes, sports for her children and everything that in their estimation is worth having. In fact, one woman said that the sports-deprivation would cause the children to "suffer." (Yes, it would be laughable, if this woman was not dead-serious. Since when does sports rank as high as love and support, family unity? Or even education?? When did it become a necessity for successful parenting?)

I suppose this goes along with the whole feminist idea that large families are harmful to women; supposedly motherhood turns them into domestic slaves to husband and children.

Then there’s the idea that somehow people who choose large families are irresponsible, backward and selfish, while having few or no children is the sure sign of being “enlightened,” and environmentally responsible. Fewer babies equal greener mama?

I’ll agree that today’s world does make it harder on single-income stay-at-home-mom families. However, even this is a matter of priorities. It's only unfeasible for some people because they choose to spend their money on unnecessary and pricey toys, enroll their children in every activity that comes along regardless of cost, travel extensively, spend too much on dining, and many other non-essentials. If you want to spend your money that way, then so be it. Live and let live. However, large families can make it if they’ll just cut back on unnecessary expenses.

I don't understand the often-heard argument that people with many children are more “selfish”' than people who decided kids would cramp their style. Having children, at least if you are a conscientious and loving parent, is the most effective cure for selfishness that a person can find. You can't be a good parent and remain selfish. Your life is devoted to others, who you love unconditionally. Parenthood demands putting someone else's needs first.
But you can read another debate about that here, Having Children: Selfish or Selfless?

Maybe that is why many people now instinctively recoil from having many children. It demands too much of you.

And, now, before part2, let me say that I do NOT think this is for everyone.Who should not have a large family, (or perhaps any children)? Anyone who doesn't want children. Duh. Anyone who is not prepared financially to care for them (home and food,) and anyone who has "other issues" that rule them out.... there are obvious examples of this that I don't really want to bring up.

Btw, a good answer for that question:

"You know what's causing that, don't you?"
"yes, Lots of wonderful sex with my husband. Lots of it," said with a large and mischievous grin.

Might throw them off balance enough to hinder other ridiculous questions.

Next up, What are the real arguments to be made for large families?
Yes, I'm on my soap box.


Anonymous said...

Don't tell Josh...I want at least 3 more! ; )


little mother said...

Can't imagine who inspired this article ;)

I think it's a very private matter to have more children, and that if you're close enough to someone to talk about the particulars of having more children that you would talk to them face to face in a delicate matter. It's really east to interpret 'you shouldn't have more kids' into 'hey, maybe you shouldn't procreate'. I myself, having been on and off government support since having children have wondered if it's wise for me to keep having kids, but I really think that God's hand is in this, and long before birth control was around God found a way to prevent a woman for giving birth if it wasn't in His plan.

We take the matter of fertility too much into our own hands. We prevent our bodies from working as they should so that we're unable to bear children when we're not ready, and mourn our infertility when we decide the timing is right but can't bear. I'm not against birth-control, but I think that it gives us this false idea that we are truly the ones in control of the size of our families.

It is rather hard to comment on this post without offending someone, isn't it?

Sun-Kissed Scholars said...

Commenting- yeah, I think I scared any would-be commenters away with this post. ;-)

Love your comment, btw. Especially the last paragraph. Well-stated.

Catherine Anne said...

GREAT post. It is something that happens a lot. I get this from my brother. My brother who is now 34 having their first and only child He dislikes the idea of me having more. For us GODS plan is the only plan~ Thanks for posting

Anonymous said...

A couple of comments, Wendy:
1. It's wonderful training in responsibility for the older children to help with the younger--look after them and love them. It brings the whole family close together. And teaches the younger that they have to be willing to listen to older people.
2. The word is "procreate," but we don't do that; it's only God who creates an immortal human life--to live throughout eternity. "Children are the heritage of the Lord; the fruit of the womb is His reward. Blessed is the man who has his quiver full of them." Psalm 127:3
We have 4 children and at age 76 I am so glad we do! And 12 grandchildren, and 11 great-grandchildren. And sweet memories of Mimi loving each one of them and taking care of them. Love, Papaw

Sun-Kissed Scholars said...

Papaw, those come into Part2: The real arguments to be made for large families. :-)

Arato Girl said...

I really like this post. It's amazing how people can be become such opinionated control freaks that they can't help but try to "help" other people live their lives, to try to make others' most important choices for them. How incredibly arrogant is that?

I was talking to a lady, a stranger, who said Ransom was cute and wanted to know how many more I was going to have. She misunderstood my answer and thought I was saying that I wasn't going to have any more. She replied, "No, that's not good for your son."
No? Who the heck are you, lady?
Now I know that's an example of the opposite point of view being pushed on me but my point is, people need to take a good dose of humility, realize they can't prescribe everyone else the ideal life based on their own biased opinions, and form their tense little faces into polite smiles. :)

Anonymous said...

Wow - what I see completely missing from this discussion is the subjectivity of the entire argument. Who chose the number that defines a family as "LARGE"? Seriously, I think most people would agree "19 Kids and Counting" is a LARGE family. But 4 kids? You must be joking! Everyone fits in one vehicle. Sure, it has to be a van, but tons of us drive vans with fewer than 4 kids. I vote you're not even approaching large if you can all fit in a "regular" vehicle, legally, in seatbelts, at once.
- sd

Sun-Kissed Scholars said...

Amy, wow. Seriously? That's exactly what I'm talking about. Large or small, breast or bottle, homeschool or public school, why do some people feel like they *need* to pipe up with their opinions?? If I ask for your advice, then give it to me. Otherwise, people, keep your mouth shut.

After I had Ethan, several people commented that I had my girl and my boy now, which was the "perfect family." Uh, not for me. Add in two more boys and maybe some adopted children someday, God willing. Now that is what I believe God's plan is for US. Can't speak for anyone else.

Sun-Kissed Scholars said...

Sherrill, that is the point, though. Large to one person means something completely different to someone else. The fact that people will criticize or demean the "large family," regardless of the actual number of people, is ridiculous. The number of kids doesn't even matter-- let people live their own lives.
And, for the record, I agree with you. Four children is not "large" to me. (Although even the large family websites that you can join require that you have more than TWO children.)
In 2002, the average American was having 2.2 children. I'm sure it's gone down since then. So I suppose "they" consider more than average to be large.

Mandy said...

I can see your blog again! I wasn't able to get my puter to pull up your blog for the LONGEST time and I've missed you. I tried again since you said you'd linked to my debate.. and you're here! lol Must be the new fab layout. :)

Ppl can see my POV on my own blog via the link you provided. When it comes to how many children a family "should" have, I will say that I am not of the belief that you should just keep having kids b/c you want to. I do think that common sense HAS to come into play. Having kids that you expect others to support doesn't seem morally right to me, and I know that seems like an overly bold thing to say.

I do believe that children that will never be able to play a sport or take piano or whatever will miss out. Our kids are definitely not overscheduled, but they each have their own "thing" and I do think their quality of life would not be as great without it. (again, TOTAL matter of opinion.)

Take the Duggars for example. I think that they are a super large family lol however, they seem to support all of their kids, they have room for everyone, they don't seem to rely on the government at all, and their kids get to learn to play instruments and such right at home. That's totally cool! If anyone's going to put that many ppl on the planet, I'm glad it's them. They seem to be raising wonderful adults! :)

We only have 3 kids and we got the craziest comments about adding Samuel to the mix when we only had 2! Ppl will freak out when we start fostering and add in some biracial children, a sibling group of 5, or something that will REALLY turn heads. It'll make our little family seem totally 'normal' to everyone. lol

Five Freddys said...

LOVE your answer to that questions at the end of your post. I'm pregnant with #4 (due in May, have a 5-year-old, 3-year-old and 18-month-old. I'm the oldest of 5 and remember my mom getting comments like that all the time. "Are those all yours?!" Looking forward to part 2.

Just what are those Woods up to? said...

Woooo! Good post! I've only got two kids, and you with your family of 6 is way more active than we are. I am pretty sure I'm not "large family" material (which I guess I'd say is anything over 4 kids, I don't know) but good for those who are! As long as people are having kids for the right reasons, and are paying attention to them all, then go for it if you want to! The sports thing is soooo silly, but to lots of people sports can be a very important thing, and the lack of it is apparently socially crippling, or so I understand (:

Anonymous said...

Just read your blog. On another side: it's extremely embarrassing and sad when ppl ask those without children "so, why don't you have kids? So, when are you going to start having kids? You're not getting any younger, ya know". Etc. Etc. Especially sad if there are personal and private reasons WHY you don't have kids...---and those reasons have nothing to do with material things or selfishness. No, it's none of their business, but just like the questions large families get asked, childless ppl are still being asked and it's still uncomfortable to answer. Answering flippantly is more difficult when the reasons are close to the heart.

Just what are those Woods up to? said...

Ah, yes, I see Shyla's point. That is also really insensitive: to question why someone doesn't have kids or plan to have them. It may be that they can't, or may be a personal decision that they don't want to share with or defend to the world. For a couple of years I'd occasionally join in with others asking my sister-in-law when she and her husband were going to take the plunge and have kids. Then I realized that our questions and comments bothered her, and I haven't asked her about it since. I regret hassling her about it in the first place.

Also, to my last comment I wanted to add that I don't consider the Duggars to be a large family, I think they're a gigantic one! And my opinion on them is different than how I feel about large families. We can discuss sometime if you're curious but I won't post my opinion on here(-;

Ellen said...

It's interesting reading this post, because, from an infertile perspective, it is not one that I get to think about often. It's good to hear the other side.

I'll admit, I don't really want a "large" family... just one more. But I don't have any plans to do any more infertility drugs or treatments, not just because of the hormonal trainwreck it causes me or cost, but because I know that I really do not want to have multiples, if I can help it. Adoption did not work out for us, so by process of elimination, we have an only child. I never thought that would be the size of our family, but there are some really great things about being so small.

I think that in the same way that mothers of large families get judged, we mothers of only children get judged (often without people knowing the whole story) for being selfish or "not really" moms. I get comments from well-meaning Siloam mom friends all the time like, "Well, if you had more children, you'd understand" or "Must be nice to have so much time to yourself!" I know that they don't mean to be malicious, but it is hurtful and condescending. I am still a mother, even if it is just to one child.

Anyway, thanks for letting me get that out!

Sun-Kissed Scholars said...

Catherine Anne, I loved your point, "GODS plan is the only plan." Amen.

Mandy, I also think that extracurricular activities can enhance life. Making sure that each child can play a sport does not come into my family-size decision-making-process, though.

*Typically* homeschoolers have larger-than-average households (5 rather than 2,) yet they are also usually the most involved in their communities and participate in more extracurricular activities. Sports just doesn't rank high with me. Making the point that family size does not mean fewer activities; Often it's quite the opposite.

Five Freddys, Thanks. I have another answer to that question coming up... ;-)

Julie, loved your whole comment. "As long as people are having kids for the right reasons, and are paying attention to them all, then go for it if you want to!" Yes!!

Shy and Ellen, I've thought about that, too. And, as aggravated as I get at insensitive or downright rude comments, it's not something that is hurtful to me. I'm sorry you both have to deal with crap from others who just don't get it.

Occasionally someone finds out about our multiple miscarriages and decides to quiz us on our birth control knowledge. Gah. Golden rule, people!!

Sugar-n-Spice said...

Hi! I'm a mom of 6... some bio, some adopted, all precious gifts.

I love to answer that question about knowing what causes that like this, "oh, yes, but I don't want to live without it... is your husband doing something wrong?"

I think it's kind of obvious where I stand on the issue... but I enjoyed catching back up on your blog, I hadn't visited in awhile. Looking forward to the sequel.

Mandy said...

Ellen, not sure if you'll read this, but I also struggled with secondary inferility (we had two children already) and the comments we got during that time were truly the most hurtful things I've ever heard. To want a child so badly and feel helpless to fill that void... it is so hard. I will pray for you and that God will send the encouraging people to you that you need, and keep those opinionated folks far, far away!

Mandy said...

Ellen, not sure if you'll read this, but I also struggled with secondary inferility (we had two children already) and the comments we got during that time were truly the most hurtful things I've ever heard. To want a child so badly and feel helpless to fill that void... it is so hard. I will pray for you and that God will send the encouraging people to you that you need, and keep those opinionated folks far, far away!

Anonymous said...

nice post. thanks.