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Large Families | What is your Reaction?
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.”
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?
- Family size in America: Are large families back? | BabyCenter
Is three the new two? Get the lowdown on large families.
© 2011 Tracy Lynn Conway