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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735 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!

  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.

  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.

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