Just before Christmas, I was chatting with my aquafit instructor at the edge of the pool while we waited for a couple other moms to arrive for the class. Somehow, in our conversation, I said something about a big family, and she replied, “People gotta be crazy to have that many kids.” After a comment like that, I didn’t have much to say, other than mentioning that I knew a family of nine kids when I was growing up and they were one of the most happy, loving, and hospitable families that I knew.
In our society, where the average family has 1.8 kids (last time I saw the stats), parents who have more than about three or four are often considered weird. Friends of ours who are expecting their third commented that nobody says anything about number one or two (other than congrats), but after three comments start popping up like “So are you done now?” and “Is this the last one?” When my hubby and I said we want a large family, we heard, “Wait until you have one and then you’ll change your minds.” (We had one and we haven’t changed our minds.)
Shannon over at Rocks in My Dryer has run a great series of posts called “What I’d Like For You To Know.” In one, she featured a “mom of many” who says, “Parents of large families are not out to prove anything. We’re not vying for your admiration, we aren’t trying to win any awards, we don’t view childbearing as some sort of contest (someone asked my husband during our last pregnancy if we were trying to “beat the Duggars”), and we don’t think you’re less spiritual than we are if you have fewer than we do. We aren’t asking anyone for special treatment, but it doesn’t seem too much to ask for common courtesy. Resist the urge to count out loud as you see us go by. Don’t marvel that we do, in fact, know all of our offspring’s names (even—given a minute or two—their birthdates)! And for the love of all the little green men on Mars, don’t ask us if we know what causes that. We do. And we enjoy it, although not as often as is (oddly) assumed.”
People have a variety of reasons for their family sizes. Shannon also featured a “mom of an only child” who was unable to have more children and is grateful for her only daughter. I know a woman who had two very difficult pregnancies and deliveries, and so for health reasons, will probably only have two kids. A friend of mine wants four kids, but because she feels called to be a teacher, and to touch kids’ lives that way, thinks two might be a more realistic number. Several of the families that I knew growing up had lots of kids (5 plus) and so, seeing the fun and the love in those families, I’ve always wanted lots of kids. At the same time, for quite a while after Sunshine was born, I felt that she was all I could handle and I wasn’t ready for the next kid.
One thing that’s always bugged me is places that charge “family admission” but limit “family” to “two adults and two kids.” A family may be two adults and six kids, or one adult and three kids, or two adults and one kid; a family is a mom and/or a dad and their kids, no matter how many.