Large Families | What is your Reaction?

On the streets of NYC, where small families are the norm, a large family raises eyebrows.
On the streets of NYC, where small families are the norm, a large family raises eyebrows.

As a Mom, I find myself engaged in conversations with other Moms all the time, either at the grocery store, or while waiting for a ballet lesson to finish. Women love to converse, take notes and share tips on parenting. One big topic always seems to be the number of children we have. When kids first meet each other the first question is often “how old are you?” With women the question seems to be “how many kids do you have?” There is no doubt that there is an agreed upon number of children that people find to be the norm, and that is two. Having three children is still considered acceptable but a stretch for most. What happens when parents leap into the large family zone with having more than three?

If you are a member of the four plus club (a parent with any more than 3 kids) the conversation will often go in a judgmental direction. It seems that most people have a serious problem with these larger families. I have four children and if I had a penny for every rude comment I have gotten from Moms, complete strangers and even children, I would have a least a few rolls of coins in my pocket.The comments range from “why?” to “you’re crazy” even the “God bless you” which feels derogatory to me. Even some of my family members have expressed that my motivation for having a larger family has to do with needing to be loved.This family member of mine supports the zero population campaign. No stranger would ever think to tell me what clothes to wear or how often to exercise but they have no problem putting their two cents in on my choice of family size. I would get these kinds of comments everywhere, it even got to the point that I was thrilled when I didn’t have all of my kids with me on errands, since I could avoid the comments this way.

About a year ago, I joined an online group for parents of large families. It seemed like a good opportunity to gain tips on cooking and traveling, with the needs of a larger family in mind, but what became more apparent was the need for support from the barrage of negative commentary that all of these parents were receiving.It seemed wherever these Moms went it was the same thing, rude comments about having so many kids. One frustrated Mom finally came up with a one liner to spring on rude people, when someone would comment on her large brood she would say “I know you are just jealous, eat your heart out.”

What is the psychology behind all of this commentary?

It seems to me that most people like the status quo; if two kids is the societaly accepted number of children and having three kids pushes the envelope, then any more than that is just considered abnormal, many people feel the need then to enforce this conformity on others. Perhaps parents with two kids don’t want to consider an alternative to their lifestyle, as this would make them question their own choices. Maybe what these comments are really saying is “don’t make me question my choices.”

By Alexander Koester
By Alexander Koester

It is true that parents with more kids live a different kind of life, there is more interaction, more compromising, often less money to spare, but these parents have made that choice for better or worse. There are pros and cons to both large and small families. Life is about choices and people don’t have to agree with each other but it would be nice if people were more accepting of the differences. What ever happened to the expression “if you have nothing nice to say, don’t say anything at all?” Accepting differences in family size can also cross into some wider differences relating to issues of religion, culture, politics etc. all of which can get emotional and heated. The commentary is driven by a strong undercurrent of ethics.

"Kind hearts are the gardens,

Kind thoughts are the roots,

Kind words are the flowers,

Kind deeds are the fruits,

Take care of your garden

And keep out the weeds,

Fill it with sunshine kind words and kind deeds"

By Henry Wadsworth Longfellow



Now that my kids are slightly older I feel like I am getting less commentary, but each time a new member joins the large family group and they begin relating their experience my heart goes out to them. All the other parents offer support to these new members who have suffered on their own for too long.It is a sad reality and another aspect of how society as a whole doesn’t want to accept differences or support dedicated mothers.Whenever I see a Mother or Father with children it just makes me smile, and if I have the opportunity to talk to them I find kind words to say and maybe they will pay the positivity forward.

What is your 'magic number' of kids?

  • 0
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • sign me up for the 4 plus club
See results without voting

© 2011 Tracy Lynn Conway

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Comments 33 comments

stayingalivemoma profile image

stayingalivemoma 5 years ago from Tempe, Arizona

I am a member of the four+ club! I have five living children (one lost in a miscarriage). I came from a family of four girls, no boys. My grandmother had 9 kids(6 boys, 3 girls). My great-grandmother had 12 kids, I believe. As an African-American with roots tracing back to Alabama, Missisippi and Texas, our families had lots of children.

I find it interesting that you have received bad comments on the number of children you have. Personally, I think it has to do with where you live. For example, when I was in Michigan, it was normal for people my age to have one or two kids. When people heard I had five kids, they were like, "You're crazy!"

When I moved out here to Arizona, it was different. They are more family oriented here, I think. Now the conversation is, "I have five too!" or "I have eight children!" Yes, I met a lady here that works at McDonalds as a manager and has eight kids. We have great conversations.

I think having a big family helps teach children about sharing, about being thankful for siblings and being thankful to have so much love around them. There's nothing wrong with it....and remember if it wasn't in God's plan, they wouldn't be here. God Bless!!


kerlynb profile image

kerlynb 5 years ago from Philippines, Southeast Asia, Earth ^_^

"Life is about choices and people don’t have to agree with each other but it would be nice if people were more accepting of the differences." - It all boils down to respect. In my part of the world, it's typical to have four and more kids. In Japan, it's common to have none or just one. I think culture has a lot to do with it. Religion also plays a major role in influencing couples' decision to have children, lots of them, or none of them :)


randomcreative profile image

randomcreative 5 years ago from Milwaukee, Wisconsin

It's too bad that this behavior has become so common in our society today. I cannot believe the comments complete strangers think are appropriate in any public setting about any number of personal topics. This is no exception. I'm glad that these online communities have provided some support. Don't let your personal choices as a family ever get you down.


Tracy Lynn Conway profile image

Tracy Lynn Conway 5 years ago from Virginia, USA Author

@Stayingalivemoma - that must be great to have such a large family! My husband, who is from Ireland, is one of 7 and his Mother is one of 16, but this is no longer the case in Ireland, now families are smaller as times have changed.

Maybe the commentary differs based on where you live but this online group is international with the greatest representation being in the U.S. and England. It is great to hear of the supportive environment that you have in Arizona.

I agree with you that larger families can offer children enormous benefits.

@Kerynb - It does boil down to respect! Parents living in metropolitan areas also tend to have a fewer children. In NYC, parents rarely have more than two children since apartments are small and expenses are so high.

@Randomcreative - You are right, inappropriate comments don't begin and end on the topic of family size. I don't let the comments upset me anymore and think they reflect more about the person expressing them than the person receiving them.


vissitor profile image

vissitor 5 years ago from Sonoma Valley, California

I come from a large family, seven brothers and sisters and a half dozen more step siblings. It's so very true that despite the inevitable squabbling inherent to any growing up with brothers and sisters, we really did learn socialization and even higher values such as sharing and empathy. My mother later told me that she'd wanted even more, which to me was one of the most loving things she could say...Thank you for this informative and inspiring Hub, Tracy. Voted up and awesome!


Teylina profile image

Teylina 5 years ago

Good hub, Tracy Lynn. I probably shouldn't comment, as my two children are grown. I've three grandchildren--a granddaughter who was reared alone by her father (my son), now 23 with college behind--and two boys, ages 6 and 9, who are my daughter's. I would have loved to have had more children-- beginning with at least one close in age to the other. As it happened, an accident when I was young had doctors saying I'd never have any children at all. My son was 13 when I married for the second time, and I begged my husband to have another right after our daughter was born, because I've found little good running as a single child. With a good 13 years between my two, it's a miracle they are close at all--but they are--very. Thank goodness. I think a lot of people think of the economics of rearing larger families, and being bombarded in the media about the messes in our society financially for families, that becomes a touchy issue w/some people. Personally, if people want a large family and they can afford (even if it takes stretching) it at all, it's their business only. I'm just grateful for the two I have, and yes, I wish I could have had two more--one for each of my singles!


Username Amanda profile image

Username Amanda 5 years ago from Florida

Thanks for the hub! I have three kids and would have 3 more if my finances allowed (right now they don't so I won't). How many children a person has is a personal choice and if you can support your children and truelly take parenting as a responsibly then it is no ones business. And as far as these population control ranters go, the fact is that 5-12 kids was the norm just 50 years ago, so a if I choose to have more than 2 kids I am just following the norm for every generation up till modern times. Family is the best investment to be made.


dmct74 profile image

dmct74 5 years ago from Fort Mill, South Carolina

I have four children and love it! We can afford the luxury of having a big beautiful family so what in the world is the big deal. I have five brothers and two sisters, having a big family is a huge blessing! I do stay home which I chose to do the minute I found out I was pregnant with my first and have been a stay at home mom ever since. It's my duty to raise my children the way I see fit, I love knowing I've been molding my children into awesome, smart and creative adults. They are happy that I stay home and here when they are coming home from school. I don't give two shits about someone else's comments on how many children I decided to produce in this world! Ok I'm off my soap box now;)


Nell Rose profile image

Nell Rose 5 years ago from England

Hi, they would have had fun with my family! lol my gran had ten brothers and sisters, so eleven all together, and her mother had eleven too! I think a large family is lovely, always surrounded by people who love you, there was only two in my family, me and my brother, and now because our parents and relatives that were older, have gone, there is only the two of us, I have one son, would have had more but numerous miscarriages stopped that, I believe people are just jealous, I love the idea!


Tracy Lynn Conway profile image

Tracy Lynn Conway 5 years ago from Virginia, USA Author

@Vissitor - What a really loving thing for your Mother to say. Thank you for the votes!

@Teylina - That is lovely that your children are close even with the age difference and yes, people should mind their own business.

@Amanda - I wonder if 50 years ago parents got opinionated comments if their family was 'too small.' The people that make the comments come from a very narrow point of view about what life is supposed to be like. I agree with you that family is the best investment.

@dmct74 - I don't know what the big deal is either! It would never dawn on me to make a comment like this to another person.

@Nell Rose - Large families are beautiful! There is always a playmate when the kids are young and hopefully siblings are still close in the golden years. I am sorry to hear of your miscarriages but I am glad you still have your son and Brother in your life.


rosettaartist1 profile image

rosettaartist1 5 years ago from United Kingdom

Interesting and voted up. Good to now be a follower!


Tracy Lynn Conway profile image

Tracy Lynn Conway 5 years ago from Virginia, USA Author

Rosettaartist1, I am glad that you found it interesting and thank you for the vote and follow!


Alecia Murphy profile image

Alecia Murphy 5 years ago from Wilmington, North Carolina

I think it is interesting that people comment on large families in such a personal way. I am an only child but both my parents come from large families. I think they have their advantages but I think with the population growing near seven billion, people are starting to look for sources of where population control has broken down and alot of times it is related to large families. Another thing I think people resent is the way large families are portrayed in the media and how some people see it as either boasting about being a good parent (like Kate Gosselin) or showing how being a big family is better than smaller families. I say as long as there is love and support, the size of your family is nobody's but your own.


Dardia profile image

Dardia 5 years ago from Michigan

I have only two children--that is not because I only wanted two but was as fate dictated. I wanted six. I came from a large family of eleven children. I am number 10 and even though I was tormented a lot by my older siblings they also loved me a lot. I have heard so many rude and ignorant comments because of the size of my family. The one that makes me the most angry is when someone says it is selfish to have a large family. How can loving and caring for more make you selfish? If anything it is the other way around. A lot of people don't want kids because it would cost them their freedom and their material goods. We have plenty of love in us and we should share it. Voted up!


Tracy Lynn Conway profile image

Tracy Lynn Conway 5 years ago from Virginia, USA Author

@Alecia- It is interesting how personally people make this topic, this is what feels nosy to me. Maybe it is a reaction to the growing population but the strong emotional undercurrent seems to defy logic. The media has made a circus act out of large families like the one with Kate Gosselin and this kind of fascination with large families is not new. It reminds me of sad story of the Dionne Quintuplets from 1934, their family also became a circus act. http://articles.cnn.com/1997-11-19/us/9711_19_dion... You are right, it is less about size and more about love and support. Thanks you for you thoughtful comment.

@Dardia- That is a good point about it not being selfish. I think you are right that many people would rather have more material goods, we are each allowed to choose, it is the respect for those choices that is lacking. Thank you for the vote!


Romelle 5 years ago

I have found that once you have 6 kids, people just know you are crazy and are too polite to point it out. At 3 kids they are just joking about you being crazy. With 6 kids, you really are crazy to them so they would never say so.


Tracy Lynn Conway profile image

Tracy Lynn Conway 5 years ago from Virginia, USA Author

Funny observation! Thanks for commenting.


princesswithapen profile image

princesswithapen 5 years ago

Tracy

The word 'family' is something magical and something that is going to stay with us for the rest of our lives. Maybe the people who gave you nasty remarks on why you had 4 children did not experience the warmth that you have experienced in raising and loving your family. This hub was a heart-warming read, especially because it came straight from a mother's heart.

Princesswithapen


Tracy Lynn Conway profile image

Tracy Lynn Conway 5 years ago from Virginia, USA Author

Princesswithapen, I suppose you are right, some people may not be aware of the warmth that can exist in a larger size family. I just wish these people would keep their opinions to themselves. You are making me smile because I do try to write from my heart. Thank you for this beautiful comment!


kschimmel profile image

kschimmel 4 years ago from North Carolina, USA

If you are ever in NC, visit my church. Many of our young families are having four children or more. Back when I had my fourth, I was looked at as some sort of freak, but our church is a haven of acceptance for all families: international/interracial adoption, small or large.

Lare families are more accepted in the South and rural Midwest, probably because they are more comman/more affordable here.


Tracy Lynn Conway profile image

Tracy Lynn Conway 4 years ago from Virginia, USA Author

Kschimmel, it is inspiring to hear about your open and accepting church community. I think you are right about the connection with economics and family size. It is this pressure to conform and lack of acceptance for the differences between people that always bothers me the most. Thank you for sharing your experience and observations.

Tracy


StayathomeMommyJo profile image

StayathomeMommyJo 4 years ago from The Midwest

I only have one, but when I see moms with 3 plus, I generally say, "oh my I don't know how you do it", but it is said in the spirit of admiration because my one wears me out. I think moms with lots of kids are great and I admire them, but not sure I could do it! I hope those moms don't take my comments negatively!


Tracy Lynn Conway profile image

Tracy Lynn Conway 4 years ago from Virginia, USA Author

StayathomeMommyJo, I once worked for an attorney who always said "it matters more HOW you say something than what you say." I think you are safe. When someone is being judgmental you can even read it in their body language.

The first child comes with a big learning curve so by the time the second baby rolls around you are better able to channel your energy, but of course it can still be exhausting.

Nice to meet you!

Best, Tracy


wordsmith2418 profile image

wordsmith2418 4 years ago from Pocono Mountains, Pennsylvania

My closest friend has nine children and is pregnant with her tenth. I have been enraged at the kind of comments people make to her. She has been dropped by doctors and dentists because she brings too many children to the waiting room. It's so ridiculous because her children are some of the best behaved. I have seen women with only two or even one child that they can not control and yet no one gives my friend praise about how well-behaved her children are. They only give grief and make nasty comments to her or near enough for her to hear. I only had three chidren because of physical reasons. I know I don't have patience enough for ten but would have liked to have more. I find her amazing because she does more with hers and has more energy than I ever had! She eve homeschools the younger ones. I believe her children are a blessing and when I am around her I know that she is absolutely meant to be a mother and I'm proud to be her friend.


Tracy Lynn Conway profile image

Tracy Lynn Conway 4 years ago from Virginia, USA Author

Wordsmith, I love hearing stories about Moms like you and your close friend that enjoy parenting so much. It is inspiring! What a pity it is that others cannot respect this. I am sorry to hear of all of these negative experiences of your close friend, stay strong. Thank you for sharing your experience.

Best, Tracy


kelleyward 4 years ago

I have 3 boys and I think that is a large family,at least for me. Sometimes I feel like we are living in a circus but it is fun and crazy all at the same time. I wouldn't change it for anything. Thanks for the hub!


Tracy Lynn Conway profile image

Tracy Lynn Conway 4 years ago from Virginia, USA Author

kelleyward, I agree, 3 boys is large, I can relate to that. I have three boys too and they can get so loud that I might as well have 5. I couldn't agree with you more. Thank you!


Giselle Maine 4 years ago

Hi, I only have 2 kids but would not dream of saying anything negative to a mom of a larger family. I do admit though I find it exciting and cool when I see a large family and I might tend to say something like "wow, how cool, I'm impressed!" but from reading your hub maybe this isn't a good thing to say. It is just because I am enthusiastic (I am one of 3 siblings myself and I know how it can be fun).

I think also that the negative things people can say are not just restricted to family size, but also other things when they do not fall on the 'societal average' such as spacing of kids ages (and almost anything else parenting-wise). Although I just have the 2 kids, they are spaced 19 months apart. Funnily enough, even though I don't consider this especially 'close' in spacing, I have got the impression that because it's not the 'standard' 2 and half to 3 year age gap, that some people think it's weird. The bias is more pronounced in parenting magazines or online than it is in person, fortunately, so I haven't had people say negative things about the kids spacing to me personally. So I think it is what you said - some of those negative people are trying to justify their own choices but they are doing it by putting down other people's choices.

However, I also feel that they can only bother me if I let it - so I just don't let it get to me. It's me that has to feel comfortable with my parenting choices, not other people!

Sorry to ramble on and on.... but this was such a great hub which really got me thinking. Thanks for your insightful hub.


Tracy Lynn Conway profile image

Tracy Lynn Conway 4 years ago from Virginia, USA Author

Gisselle - I had not considered negative comments about child spacing so I am glad that you mentioned it. I guess that anything outside of the typical family expectation leaves a family open to being judged, which is really such a shame. I have heard beautiful stories of families with children that have larger spacing where the relationships are strong.

I am glad to hear that you don't let it bother you. When I would receive the comments it always felt like a kind of shock to my system, I just never expected it.

Thank you for a great comment!

Best, Tracy


Leanne 4 years ago

Where you live, does depend on people's reactions. Being a military spouse and living in numerous places, I have found that there are places where people are outright rude and will even determine your economic status and education level by the number of children you have. Having three and soon to be trying for four when my DH gets back from deployment(crosses fingers), I found that being military allows no real judgement, but the area you are stationed in does. In Florida, I found no real comments, Midwest was, the more the merrier feeling, Tacoma, Wa was a tipping point of rudeness to the three kid reaction, but Buffalo, NY and the surrounding areas are ruthless. And I have lived here since I was a kid and I am shocked by how rude people are in this area. Most people here believe that you are uneducated and poor if you have more than two children. It's laughable. Are Buffalo NY people jealous? Most likely. Hateful? YES!


Tracy Lynn Conway profile image

Tracy Lynn Conway 4 years ago from Virginia, USA Author

Leanne - What you have described about the disparity between different locals makes a lot of sense. I am happy to have some validation from you as to the venom that underlies some of the comments. I will always be shocked at how opinionated a perfect stranger can act towards a woman or man with a certain number of children. I even had comments made towards me when I was caring for a friends children, not even my own, and this was offensive as well.

I wonder why the Buffalo, NY folks were the most opinionated and outspoken? I suppose since you have traveled around you are able to take the comments with a grain of salt. I wish your DH a safe return and your future addition brings you all the joy and love the world has to offer.

Best, Tracy


Connie 2 years ago

I was the 9th of 13 Children and while my family might be a bit to the extreme, basically my siblings and I raised ourselves. I don't remember one bedtime story, one I love you from my Mom or Dad my entire childhood. Need less to say, my siblings and I struggled throughout our adult lives because we never formed secure attachments and were for the most part emotional cripples. I have dedicated the last 10 years of my life to researching early childhood development and the outcomes for children who do not get their needs met emotionally. The outcomes, I assure you, are horrible. If parents really want to know the correct number of children to have I would suggest getting a really good book on what a child REALLY needs, both materially and emotionally, and then get real honest with yourself about whether or not you are willing to devote yourself whole-heartedly to your children. Also, people should not have children so they will have someone to LOVE THEM....that is not the role of the child. The child NEEDS you to LOVE THEM, not the other way around. I think alot of parents get this wrong. If anyone may be interested there is a great video on youtube that explains what a child REALLY needs: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Al_tYuos2n4


Tracy Lynn Conway profile image

Tracy Lynn Conway 2 years ago from Virginia, USA Author

Connie,

You make an important point, ideally each child should get more than their basic needs. Children crave attention, they yearn to bond with their parent, they need these things to not just survive but to thrive. Neglect and abandoment are forms of child abuse, whether people realize this or not and as you point out there can be life long scars as a result of these and other kinds of child abuse.

The message of this article is about respecting the people that we come into contact with, which in this case is a large family. In other cases it could be a handicapped person or a homeless person. The message is about the poor manored people that say whatever is on the top of their mind and fail to filter their thoughts, and easily judge others. These people spread pain and work to divide the world, rather than bring it closer together with love, respect and understanding.

Best, Tracy

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