Friday, December 21, 2012

The 4th Child Paradigm

I want to know who decided that 4 kids suddenly gives you a large family? As if it's so much bigger than only having 3 kids?

Yes, I realize the average number of kids per family worldwide is 2.5, and in the US it's dropped to under 2 (big surprise, Utah has the highest rate at 2.21). So 3 is technically average-above average, and 4 could be considered twice the average size. But it's also only increasing your family size by 20%. A very miniscule amount considered to the joy and love that a child adds to the family.

Just before the addition of our #4, a link crossed my screen for a post as to Why Everyone should have at least 4 kids.

What I originally thought would be a serious commentary on the benefits of having more kids turned out to be a satirical list of all the things you can supposedly get away with using "I have 4 kids" as an excuse, how people expect less from you because you have 4 kids. (Your house is a mess, that's understandable, you have 4 kids....)

While nice for a quick chuckle, I just as quickly dismissed it, figuring it would never work around here. I know far too many mothers with 5, 6, 10 kids who still manage to be thin, have spotless houses and well-behaved kids. (all things that apparently having 4 kids is supposed to prevent you from having). (But HipMama adds to the list too.)

But then I decided I wanted to share the chuckle with someone so I searched for it again. I was surprised just how many other sites and posts I found that relayed the same sentiment. How having 3 kids seems ok, but then having 4 just sends you into "big family" territory and starts drawing unsolicited comments from those around you, including complete strangers. Questions as to whether or not you know where babies come from and about when (and how) you're planning on stopping.

It kind of struck a chord since in the 2 months since #4 was born, I've already grown sick of that, even here in Utah where large families are more common. It started with healthcare providers before I even left the hospital. There weren't reminders that a woman's body needs time to heal before getting pregnant again, or anything resembling helpfulness or even tact. Instead I heard "What are you going to do to not get pregnant again" and treating the notion of even having another child as a threat and something to be abhorred. This was followed by a list of people congratulating us on our new arrival and adding various comments about us being done, not in question form, but as in some sort of declaration as if they knew our business.

It may very well be that we are, but its no one's business but ours. And there's absolutely nothing wrong with having more kids if we choose. But it's OUR choice.

I'll admit, we're still adjusting to having a baby again so there are days when 4 does seem so much more than 3. We are still trying to set up our new routines so things are a tad bit more hectic, but they'll settle down, and its not like the same thing didn't happen when each of the other 3 were born. I liked what was said in a post at "I have a hard time imagining a mother saying that she regrets having too many children"

And I know these sort of judgements are limited to those with big families, they come from big families towards smaller ones as well. I hadn't intended on getting on a soapbox. I just find it fascinating that there seems to be this magic number that somehow boosts a family from "normal" (/acceptable) to "big."

Growing up, I never imagined myself having a large family. I hated being 1 of 2 kids since I figured there was never anyone to break the tie when my sister and I would fight. But I couldn't see myself having a lot of kids until I started having kids. By the time I had my second I knew there would be nothing better than to have our home filled to the brim with the love and joy of family.

Life has a way of changing our plans, again and again. Only time can tell what the future holds.

But I also liked the perspective from Robbie Mackenzie as he not only addressed the issue of the "large" 4 children families, but the fact that one reason that 4 seems big is that so many people are putting off having families and pointed out that a couple years rarely puts you in that much better of a situation so why put off something as magnificent as getting married and having a family, because after all, you never know what the future holds. He also adds that while some may be amazed at why he (or anyone) would want 4 kids, he wonders why anyone wouldn't want those kids.

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