Sunday, February 8, 2009

Big Families

In today's paper, this article caught my eye, And a Baby Makes How Many?

As the fifth of seven kids, I am always extraordinarily sensitive about the big family debate. Yes, I find the story of the octuplets born to a woman with six kids under eight extremely problematic. Personally, I am thrilled and overwhelmed with three kids under seven so I just cannot imagine, can NOT imagine, having more children. However, I loved growing up in a big family and I have a tremendous respect for my mom especially, but my dad as well, who did an amazing job raising us.

Both my mom and my mom-in-law, who has four children, remember(ed) a time when people had no problem stopping them on the street to chastise them about having so many kids. The idea of this vexes me beyond belief. A stranger would not criticize another's lunch choice publicly. It's amazing that someone would feel the right to comment on a far more personal and important decision. And we are not talking here about the extremes, the ethics of a fertility doctor who should not be implanting so many embryos, nor are we talking about this murky stereotype that some people have that a woman, presumably poor and uneducated, is having more kids just to collect more public assistance (which is incredibly presumptuous to assume).

My mom's standard response was, "You worry about the quantity. I'll worry about the quality." And my mother-in-law, who is amazingly kind and sweet, had a stranger come up to her, nodding in disgust at the four kids. "Didn't your mother ever teach you anything" the stranger spit out, of course, referring to birth control. "Yes," my mother-in-law responded, "She taught me to mind my own business."

Did I ever tell you that I have a great mother-in-law?


Anonymous said...

i don't think the article dealt with the environmental aspects at all well. while i love having 3, i still feel it is irresponsible... the lightbulb argument is stupid. adding more people to the lightbulb co-op doesn't lessen the impact of the lightbulb.

Jennifer said...

Actually, people do feel free to comment on other people's food choices, especially if they have an opinion about the other person's weight or health status. The thing I always say about America is that everyone has an opinion and everyone feels that they have the right to share it. Whether you want to hear it or not!

I think people react to large families because they think it's related to the parent's religious affiliation and they have an opinion or "feeling" about that.

I love that you've had two blog posts in a row and it's great to hear your voice!

Andrea said...

Ha! Good response. Yesterday I was at our co-op doing the monthly breakdown and one guy (I would characterize him as "cranky old hippie" was amazed at how well E and Z played together "for siblings." I replied that they had a lot of practice--since about two days after conception. He said, "Oh? They're twins? Well, I guess it's better than eight at once." Later, when I had to go meet M's bus after school, he said "You have another one? Oh, then you are just like the woman with eight." WTF?

Jennifer said...

Ok, so now I'm going to comment on a comment and that will be an interesting conversation.

Andrea, my mom used to get comments all the time about how the four of us would play so well together despite being siblings. I know lots of people don't get along with their adult siblings, but I think they forget that when you're a kid, no matter how annoying your sibling is, it's all that you know. I hope your three play well together when they're adults too!

Terra said...

I cannot imagine telling a mother or family that you disapprove of their large family. That is just totally uncalled for. I'd be much too busy chastising folks for other things like cutting in line or trying to enter the metro train before we can get out. LOL. Anyway, in all seriousness I do personally feel that it is not ethically responsible to have larger families in the developed world bc of the sheer amount that we consume and what we waste over the course of a lifetime. In my line of work we are constantly trying to help people in the developing world to have smaller families, when they could come here and call us hypcrites. Obviously, there are other reasons for poorer families to have less children... But, on the other hand as the article mentions, large families might tend to economize more, share more, and re-use more. ("It's not the kids that are expenisve, it's the lifestyle") Malcolm my boyfriend thinks my opinion is totally ridiculous (he is Catholic, family of 5). hehehee I love your blog, Sara, wish I could write more.