I'm Expecting My 5th: What To Make Of The Trend In Bigger Families



Well, the big news in our life is that I'm expecting baby number five. I've known for some time now, but having had two miscarriages, I wanted to wait to announce anything publicly until I was definitely in the clear. Things are currently looking good and I expect to have an uneventful pregnancy. The most interesting thing about being pregnant with my fifth is that suddenly I'm noticing a lot of articles talking about the trend toward bigger families. Specifically, these articles suggest that it is becoming a status symbol among the wealthier set to have a big brood – four, five, even six kids. In the past, this affluent demographic had only one or two kids, while large families were the domain of the poor, ethnic or Catholic. I fall into the third category and I can assure you that "Brangelina" or any other fad had nothing to do with my decision to have a fifth child. The most common explanation for the recent trend toward larger families is that over-achieving, former career women-turned at-home-moms are behind the phenomenon and that stripped of their corporate or professional ambitions, they have transferred this energy into "competitive birthing". Frankly, I'm tired of people ganging up on at-home moms and assigning some sort of psychological illness to their decision to give up the rat race to be home with their kids. It seems to allude these journalists and pundits that there actually are normal, sane, and intelligent people who love kids, want more than 2, and seem to find value and joy in spending their days in the company of children, especially their own children. This particular article/blog and the NPR story it references take issue with moms of big families who hire outside help to make their family life and schedule more manageable. http://www.businessweek.com/careers/workingparents/blog/archives/2007/08/the_new_fad_big.html They subtly undermine moms who get help by citing exaggerated examples of women hiring out the potty training or someone to remove nits when their child comes home from school with lice. I know plenty of great moms who have hired out a college student to help shuttle kids between school and activities, or hire a nanny or babysitter so they can help out at their child's school or go to a child's recital without a crying infant. Personally, I hire someone to help me clean the house in the morning 3 days a week. We work together and get the job done in less than half the time it would take me to do it alone. This doesn't make me less of a mom; it makes me a more resourceful mom. I'm a mom, not a martyr. The other criticism is that having a big family may actually shortchange a child since he or she will get less quality time with the parent. While one-on-one time is indeed harder to come by with each additional child, the extraordinary benefits (and outright fun!) of having multiple siblings should also not be ignored. I grew up in a family of four kids, but my husband grew up in a family of 11 kids (yes, 11!) and we often discuss the benefits and drawbacks to both situations. What both of us can agree on, however, is that we wouldn't wish for one less sibling in our families. The bottom line is that there is, indeed, a rise in bigger families in America and I think it says something very positive about our society that children are being valued and desired. After decades of parents who were more interested in "finding themselves", it's refreshing to see a new generation of parents who are discovering the meaning of life in the joys and trials of parenthood. Far from being something for academics or NPR to worry about, I think this bodes well for the future.

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Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.