When Did We Start Hating Big Families?

A friend of mine recently shared this picture on Facebook, and I laughed at it, a little bit sadly, I’ll admit.

big-families

It was kind of sad because the picture is very, very true. I only have three kids, but it’s already true. People in this country just are not friendly towards people with big families. Why is that? I don’t know when it happened, that two kids was the preferred amount of children and three was pushing it — and even then, only acceptable if you were trying for a different gender — but for whatever reason, it is no longer acceptable for people to have large families.

I hear it everywhere I go. The more mundane comments are extremely frequent, ranging from, “My, you have your hands full!” to “Oh, honey, God bless you,” to the outright pity of, “I’m so sorry for you, your life must be over!” Sometimes they’re much more rude. There was the woman at Disney World — the Biergarten in Germany at EPCOT, specifically — who asked how old our kids were and then, upon our reply, looked at us in disgust and said, “You know what causes that, right? I mean, get it under control!” I had heard these types of comments before, but it was the first time anything like that had been said in front of my husband, who quickly went into a near murderous rage. I can only imagine that she must have seen it on his face, because after dropping her little bomb, she quickly ran away.

Then there was the guy at Walmart, back when we were still living at Camp Lejeune and my husband had just gotten out of the Marine Corps. I was getting ready to move back to our hometown of Jacksonville, FL, just a few short weeks after I had given birth to our youngest, Ivy. A woman asked me how old my kids were, and I answered — two, one, and a newborn. A man behind us heard, and felt compelled to inject his opinion. He told me that my husband and I needed to stop having sex so much (except instead of “having sex”, he used a different word which I’m sure you can guess), and that he loved his wife too, but enough is enough. He said this to my back, which isn’t entirely surprising, I guess. I whirled around and asked him if he had a problem, and in response, he walked away.

There are also people that think that I shouldn’t have more children because Wyatt, my son with Down syndrome, is just such a burden. Or something. I never quite understood that. He has an extra chromosome. Calm down, people. Besides, more children equals more people to take care of Wyatt after my husband and I are gone.

How many positive comments have I received about my children? Just one. I was grocery shopping, and a man walked up to me and asked how many kids I had. I replied three, and then braced myself for the inevitable: the look of shock, the “you have your hands full” comment, asking if we were “done” now… the type of thing people always say when they realize I broke the rules and had more than the 2.1 children that are allotted to American families today. He replied, “Oh, you’re so lucky!” I almost cried. Because yes — yes, we are so lucky. My children are a blessing, all three of them.

This isn’t just my experience. Every single couple I know that has three or more children have the same experiences I have had, because we, as a culture, are not friendly to big families. And how did that happen? Why did it happen? It’s something that I just can’t quite understand. When did we stop looking at children as the blessings that they are? I honestly wonder sometimes if our abortion-minded culture of convenience plays a role. It must have some kind of effect, because when we tell people that children are only to be had when they’re convenient and everything in our lives are settled perfectly in place, then children stop being blessings and start being commodities. We’re taught, basically from childhood, that before we get married and have children we should have all our ducks neatly in a row. We can’t just have a job, it has to be the job, which pays well and has awesome insurance and makes us feel fulfilled and happy every day. We have to make sure we’ve bought the perfect house and have perfect cars and maybe have the perfect dog before we should even think about having children. But of course, by the time we’ve reached that point, for many of us it’s too late to have children naturally. So then it’s fertility doctors and IVF and surrogates, because we see children as products to be bought and sold. Everyone who wants a child should be able to have one, even if they waited until they were 42 to get started.

And don’t get me wrong, this isn’t about whether or not people should be waiting so long to have kids, or that there’s anything wrong with being an older parent, or that fertility treatments are evil. The point is that we have a mindset in this country that children are accessories to be added to your perfect life. So much of raising children is focused on money and time and stress and lack of sleep. We’re told that our lives will be over when we have kids, so we all feel like we have to get everything out of the way first. And when people see a “big” family, and especially one like mine where they’re all so close together, I think they find it uncomfortable. People find it selfish or irresponsible. They leer and turn away in disgust and, at best, make uncomfortable comments that there is no good reply to. We’re looked down upon. Plain and simple, that’s what it is. It makes sense though. In a country where children are commodities, products to be bought and sold when it becomes convenient, then of course people who have more than what’s considered acceptable will be sneered at and insulted.

We need to start seeing children for what they are: gifts and blessings to be cherished, not objects to be purchased and scheduled at our convenience. Whether a person is blessed with one child or six of them, it’s a lesson we need to remember.

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760 thoughts on “When Did We Start Hating Big Families?

  1. doris says:

    My husband and I had 3 biological children then the Lord blessed us with adopting two more. We heard these things all the time. There was a time we were in a restaurant all of our Children at that time was young. Someone approached or table. I was getting ready for them to say something negative. Instead they said your children are so well behaved. That made me feel good. I love our large family and wouldn’t have it any other way! I am blessed with laughter and great times.

  2. Anna says:

    @catherine “If He wanted your womb open He would open it”. God help us! (Irony intended) There are seriously people in the world this backwards?! I am so angry by your close minded statement, it is astounding in this day and age!

  3. that guy says:

    The world is over populated. It is morally,socially and environentally wrong to contribute to population increase. One child per person, more is greedy.

    • KMad says:

      The world is not over populated. Morally you have no business interjecting, socially big families do better than only children, and environmentally there are thousands of other ways to help the planet and shaming people who want big families isn’t one.

    • Litoria says:

      Nobody has chosen to have any with you have they? It is actually possible to have children and be sustainable as well. That is a very narrow minded view.

    • Melissa says:

      I agree that overpopulation is the cause of a great many of the worlds environmental, social and resouce problems, but nobody has the right make derogatory remarks about those with large families. It’s a choice and perhaps education would help people to make the very difficult choice to have less children. I’ve had to make the choice myself and cried for a very long time before getting used to it. Children are amazing and a true blessing, but I also have to think of the world that they will inhabit. And the burdens my generation have passed to them- life will not be easy. Sadly, an extra billion people ( even with helping hands) will not heal those issues.

    • Muslimah in Solace says:

      Actually the facts shows that the population is aging and living longer thus we have lots of old frail infertile adults but less young kids running around. The majority of the population in the west are over 50years of age. We have less young.
      Thank you very much I can’t wait to have my 5 Kids!!!

      • Yes this is true. In many western countries we have already tipped the balance population wise and will very shortly be in big trouble – the economy will not survive unless immigration is hugely increased. And guess what? People are too selfish for this answer…so the country will go down the gurgler and be overrun but who knows what…tut tut for being so short sighted!

    • Alison says:

      Hahaha!!! I am bent on world domination. My husband and I are expecting twins next month, which will put us at 9 children. We are some greedy selfish people, let me tell you! It’s cool though, because the folks who fear overpopulation tend to die off with only one or no children, so I dont have to worry about what they think. Please folks, don’t worry about our over population friends, they are entitled to their opinions too :))

      • Marie says:

        I think you’re my hero! Ha! I have 5 of my own and about to have my finance’s children to add to our family. We are so excited to be a force to be reckoned with at the grocery store!

      • Emily says:

        Absolutely love this. We’re expecting our 8th in December and our oldest just turned 9. Children are a wonderful blessing.

        One of my favorite comments is “oh, I could never do that, I think I would kill myself.” My thought is always, “then it’s a good thing you don’t have these kids.”

    • Gary says:

      This is a liberal agenda statement. All you know is the foolish “wisdom of man”. My guess is you are a unhappy, selfish, self-centered, joy-less, individual that finds it difficult to relate to other people. You certainly do not consider someone larger than yourself and your opinion is always right. How many children a couple decides to have is between them and God, who is the author of life. Even your life. May you find yourself soon in a room full of children demanding attention, challenging you to learn to respond in thankfulness.

  4. Ophelia says:

    So I was with you until the end. Waiting until you have the money to raise kids (which is getting more and more expensive constantly) , ensuring you have a decent stable job with good benefits…you are a moron for not having these things in place. The people I know with whoops babies, who were not doing well in these areas are STRUGGLING. Their lives are consumed by stress that is detrimental to their kids. Abortion did not make big families bad. The world has made itself brutally hard for big families and the kids suffer for it.

    • Jen says:

      Like 😄. It isn’t the 1970 era where everyone lives on one income. Especially because of health insurance. Still we lived with my grandmother when I grew up. Imagine 5 people in a 2 bedroom 1 bathroom house. We lived outside I felt like. Jokingly said go outside is all I remember my mother telling me and my sister. Not the childhood I would want anyone to have.

  5. Tabitha says:

    I just wanted to say I love you, and I love the way that you don’t describe your child with Downs Syndrome as a burden xx

  6. Hot topics along the way, but enjoyed your article. I have one child, no medical reason for having been barren more for 8 years now, so while I don’t know what it is like to have several children, I can honestly say that I think it would be a huge blessing- a busy one, but a blessing all the same! I get the opposite end of the spectrum having only one, where people tell me what I should be doing to conceive. People are far too ready to share their opinions with others and we have become a society in general that thinks that “I” am always right. It’s sad. I hope that you enjoy your joyous blessing of a family!

  7. It really is a shame, but I do wish people who do love raising children and wish to expand their family would also look at non-biological options. There are SO many children who desperately need a loving home. Big families are wonderful, but please don’t forget about the children who are already here who really need your help. :)

  8. Kelly Arndt says:

    My parents were on an average income, with Dad a school teacher and Mum a SAHM. They had five children, managed to put us all through school, and I think we all turned out okay! Both my brothers became police officers, all of us are ‘productive’ members of society. None of us have had a drug problem, done jail time or had to live in a trailer…! My Hubby of 15 years and I have four gorgeous kids. We are also on an average income. I don’t think we are doing too badly, though… There are a lot of horrible people around who were raised in wealthy families. I don’t think it is selfish to be on a median wage and have several children. It is all about priorities. We hope to instill good values, good morals, and a good work ethic in our kids. You have to work for what you want and you have to have drive to succeed. I would love to hand the world to my kids, but I cannot, and real respect for what you have comes from earning it for yourself. All that being said, I have had a mixture of good and bad comments, from ‘Your children are so well behaved’ to ‘Haven’t you heard of t.v?(Yawn).’ Most people simply say, ‘My, you must be busy!’
    I just smile and say simply, ‘Yes. And Happy.’

  9. People need to think says:

    Quote “Besides, more children equals more people to take care of Wyatt after my husband and I are gone” seriously is this the best reason to bring another life into the world? “oh, how come you were born?” – “to take care of other people because there is no one else, nothing more” .
    Have children if you know you can love them and take care of them, no other reason should dictate this.

    • cassyfiano says:

      Work on your reading comprehension. That’s not THE reason to have more kids; it’s a rebuttal to people who say I should not have more children because Wyatt has DS.

  10. Julie says:

    Love your outlook!! We need more people to see families the way you do. We have been recipients of the many rude , rediculous, comments as well. We have 7 beautiful children!! 4 of our own , 3 adopted from US foster care. We also homeschool them all!! Yes I bet you think we are weirdos lol but we aren’t. Many many people are having more children but just are keeping it quiet because of all the rude remarks you get on the subject of children. We love life! Love our children and are always looking for ways to serve others. If people would remember our values and seek Jesus for his guidance in their own life everyone would feel as joyful as we do. Children are a blessing from The Lord. God Bless

  11. Jamie Ireland says:

    I was born into a large family too. I have five siblings and I grew up in the 70’s. That negative attitude has been there ever since I can remember. We heard negative comments all the time. Even from resteraunts when we arrived to eat! And I have rarely found other people that have big families like mine. I truly believe children are a blessing!!!!!!!! My sister has five kids and I have said to her ”you have your hands full” BUT she REALLY does!!! I also say ” You are so lucky and blessed!” I don’t think the first comment means any thing more than an actual observation. However, I am sorry that other people can be so mean and you have felt their cruelty! Kids are a BLESSING and you are soooooooo LUCKY!!!!!!! Keep calm and carry on…… and remember in your heart…. they are just mean and you are the lucky one!!!!

  12. Cecelia Mc says:

    Children are a blessing! I am a mom of six, one of which was a special needs child. I am very embarrassed and saddened by some of the rude remarks here. as it is so sad that some people can be so hurtful with their words. Or maybe they are just bitter that they have not received the same blessings. I also received the same comments that you mentioned. My usual reply was that my hands were not full, but blessed. In my honest opinion, you have no control over when you are going to have children. All six of my children were conceived on six different types of birth control. And I wouldn’t trade a single one of them! I think birth control just gives us a peace that allows us to feel like we are in control. Why God decides to bless some with many and others with none, will be a question that only He can answer one day. I would encourage you to come up with your own positive response to use on others when the remarks are made. My husband’s is always “we are having a ball!”…”it’s like a big party all the time at our house”…”I highly recommend it”… Choose a response that represents your family and start using it with a big smile on your face. The only way to change the world is one person at a time. Yep, my hands are full and ….(insert your comment). Let me also add, that there is nothing sweeter than a special needs child in your family to teach your other children lessons beyond measure! Lessons that they learn through life experience from an early age throughout their adulthood. They are benefited greatly and in a way that we could have never dreamed of…. God Bless you and your family!!

  13. Zipperfish says:

    Children are a real blessing and a gift. Sadly over here in the UK far too often raising a family is seen as a hindrance to a career path rather than a greater choice.
    For too long I confess I’ve been annoyed that ‘family’ tickets only mean 2+2; there are families of all shapes and sizes and large families are just as valid as smaller ones and those made of adopted or fostered. I’m sometimes too slow to recognise that those who are critical may be hiding hurts or sadness.

    We are blessed with four children, a normal sized family I’d say!

  14. I have four, three of which are teens now and I do say the rude comments do begin to subside as the children get older. This doesn’t make the rude commments any better just passing on hope.

    • cassyfiano says:

      Yeah, I think in my case it’s not necessarily the number so much as it is that they’re so young and so close together.

  15. julie says:

    Have you ever thought it was the other way around? That the more children you have the more they seem like a commodity & are more likely to be neglected! Maybe you are taking those comments a little too personally, or maybe YOU are feeling guilty because yes, more children may take resources from your special needs child if you aren’t careful. The commentators may be from a big family themselves & know how it feels to fight for attention. The reason I do not want more than 2 or at most 3 children (I already have 2) is because I do not think I could give enough love and attention to them (not to mention finances. I hate to say it, but come on people everyone knows money makes the world go round. People with more money tend to be healthier happier and have more resources). I am one of 6 children & our family had plenty of money but my dad was a workaholic & my mother was sleep deprived & stressed out most of the the time & now most of us are grown and all live far away from them. Names mixed up, birthdays confused, not everyone knew each others favorite drinks colors or meals. I want to have stronger relationships with my children, & to savor/cherish each moment I can with them.

  16. Cheryllyne Vaz says:

    I absolutely loved reading this article. Congratulations on your gorgeous family. We just found out we’re having our third, and are, both, nervous and exited. Thank you for your very supportive article. Btw, you look so wonderful.

  17. Great blog! I myself am one of six kids and have been subjected to remarks such as these my whole life! I think its easy for people who havent had or been part of a large family to say its irresponsible to have more than the average amount of children but having grown up in a large family i wouldnt change it for the world! My parents are my heros and we all have a close relationship with them none of us have ‘weak’ relationships with our parents just because there are more of us! ill take a big family over a small one any day, look forward to reading more about your beautiful family :)

  18. Katie says:

    So I take it the author and supporters of this article all support Snap, WIC, Tanf benefits, and expanding Medicaid. If you do, then I am okay with this article. If you don’t, consider that as a society we shame women who have kids they can’t “afford them” and cut social welfare benefits. Children are the largest group in poverty. Over 1/3 of Americans in poverty are under the age of 18.

  19. Catherine says:

    I’ve met many people who have one or two children that wouldn’t ever have another, mostly because they cannot handle the children they already have. But when I mention I’ve always wanted a big family I have never gotten any push back. I am a blessed single mother with two young children 3 and 6 years of age, one a special needs child, and have recently began dating a man with four children ages 8, 11, 12, and 13. Children are a blessing, the bible tells us that, and that we should go forth and fill the earth with these precious blessings. Am I naive to the argument of overpopulation and irresponsibility? No, I have a degree in biology, and I can assure everyone the ratio of large families to small is great enough to balance the ecologic burdens these blessings may place on that situation. I want and plan on having more children. Big families are wonderful. Everyone loves and helps each other and there is a bond there rude commenting people will never understand. Let them whine. Unless they recycle every dang piece of garbage and live in a tiny house their hypocrisy is a moot point. Fill the world with love, there seems not to be enough of it in the world anymore. Or maybe it’s because I’m being greedy and stashing it away in our home. ♡

  20. Lady Beth says:

    This is the most ridiculous thing I’ve read in a long time. We live in a completely different time and having huge families is no longer beneficial. This is not the 1940s when big families were necessary to keep a farm running. We live in a time where if we don’t change what we do regarding overpopulation in urban areas and over-consumption of resources, there will be serious consequences. Your question about when did people start hating big families can be answered with when the human race failed to properly provide for the people that already exist without destroying the planet. Forgive me for being so blunt, but the message you’re sending is simply irresponsible and ignorant.

    http://www.theguardian.com/society/2014/oct/28/how-save-planet-stop-having-children-doctors?CMP=fb_gu

  21. Merry says:

    Amen sister! I have 5 blessings , including one with Down syndrome (baby #4). People are “shocked” by my large family daily (and even more so when they realize I had ANOTHER baby after having one with Down syndrome). I constantly hear all the same rude comments. Yes, my hands are full… full of love and joy and happiness. I would do it all again in a heartbeat.

  22. kparker says:

    I don’t think that most people are being negative when they say that you have your hands full, or at least I don’t. I want a big family, but I have used that phrase to acknowledge the massive amount of time, work, and dedication that it takes to care for that many children. Itdoesn’t mean you shouldn’t keep having kids, it means that I am aware that while your kids are surely wonderful, they also don’t take care of themselves.

    • cassyfiano says:

      It all depends on their attitude when they say it. Some people smile and it’s like OK, they’re being nice about it. Other people sneer, so they obviously mean it as an insult.

    • barbara says:

      I agree…I often say to moms “you really have your hands full”, but I don’t mean to offend. It’s an accurate affirmation, with no judgemnet intended about the number of kids. I stopped at two because that’s all I felt I could handle. More power to those of you who can handle more!

  23. Elena says:

    As someone who grew up in a large family, I would never have one. My concern would be for the oldest children, especially the girls, who often end up as surrogate parents to the younger ones. Moms are only one person, and with a lot of kids to manage, often the elder children are expected to help out. Now of course, families help and work together. However, my youngest sister spent the first two years of her life calling me “mama” because I was the one who did most of her care. My mom wasn’t sitting on the couch eating bonbons, either. She was working hard to take care of everyone. But there just aren’t enough hours in the day. So when I see a large family, I look at the eldest kids. Are they looking as stressed and tired as mom? I have to wonder what kind of childhood they are having. That said, we do not have the right to tell other people their choices are wrong just because we don’t like them. Having a large family is wrong for me.

  24. Jenn says:

    I have five!! I had one also that passed away after 6 days as I had pre-eclampsia and she was born at 25 weeks..so I had 6. This is my 2nd marriage, I have 20 year old identical twin girls, in college sophmore year, a 12 yr old DD (Previous marriage) THEN my 4 yr old son who has cancer, and 2 1/2 year old who was born 2 days before the cancer diagnosis. Our DD Eva was born before my son, and we heard all the time “you are trying again SO SOON after her death? (8 mo later) then after my son’s dx people clucked at me and asked why I would try again for a baby (my 2yr old) after finding out he had cancer..well she was already here. But I get it all the time when all five are together, especially sinc eI look pretty young for my age, I’m 43 but married my now 30 year old hubby, we look very simliar in age though. People think I had my twins when I was 16..lol. I also get asked WHy I didn’t stop after having twins for God’s sake. Well..my Dad is identical, my bro/sis fraternal, and there are trip Aunts on both sides..guess we just knew it was coming.

    People need to mind their own business I say. If you aren’t paying for the gallons of milk and Pediasure I go through for son’s cancer weight gain, or paying double tuition for twins who now want to be doctors, you are NOT entitled to an opinion in my eyes!

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