Large families. Speaking as someone who was lucky number four of four, I clearly benefited from one. Mom had a girl followed by a boy, and by all rights could have said, “Welp, got my set, I am DONEZO.” But she didn’t, and thus, you are reading this post.
As for myself, we’re probably going to have two and call it good unless there’s some sort of freak accident or immaculate conception. I’m no spring chicken, as my dad likes to say, and on top of that with #2 we’ll need to be considering the expense of day care. Which I have been considering. Often.
Which brings me to the aforementioned large families. A Facebook friend commented on this blog, which asks “When did we start hating large families?” In my case, when I see a large family I don’t think “oh, that’s terrible, what freaks, don’t they know about birth control?”, but instead “holy crap how can they afford that?” It’s genuine curiosity on my part. Does one spouse have a really, really good job? Do they have a live-in family member who watches the kids while mom and dad work? Are they living mortgage-free (did they inherit a house, do they live with family)? How do they manage this? How?
I am the chief number cruncher for the Paddock compound, and I can tell you right now that if Mike’s unemployment income evaporated, we’d be making some drastic changes in record time. Yes, we have savings, but I’m cautious of breaking that glass. Basically, the worst thing* that could happen would be for us to foreclose on our home. To stop that and live only on my income, we’d need to sell at least one of the cars (possibly both), stop 401(k) and college contributions, and a whole list of other micro adjustments. We would have to question visits to doctors. Vacations would be few and far between. Eating out would be maybe a monthly event.
I run through these scenarios constantly, and all we have is one kid. If we had four, I’d probably be investigating EBT and other government assistance.
This is not unusual, especially not in California, where rent is laughably expensive and food isn’t much better, and having a large family means either being well paid or constantly checking the couch for spare change. And though the norm used to be very large families (especially in pre-reliable birth control days), it isn’t anymore. We tend, as a society, to react poorly when we see something that doesn’t match the patterns we’re accustomed to.
There are people who will rant about “the breeders” and how the planet is overpopulated and why don’t you just adopt? Those people have their opinions, and as one of the breeders they rant about I obviously think they’re wrong and can take a short walk off a long pier while wearing concrete boots. But hey! I have my biases and I know it. Also, adoption in America is a) expensive and b) difficult. Making a baby — if you are able — is comparatively easier and a lot cheaper, providing you don’t have complications. Not to mention that US birthrates are actually on a decline, so congratulations, ranters! Mission accomplished! And while it may not seem that way, the truth is that a society that doesn’t replenish itself is a society in crisis. Just ask Japan.
In conclusion, I don’t think most of us hate or disdain large families. I think most of us see an anomaly and freak out a little about it, and a few of us (like me) are wondering how they do it. Because in this day and age, in this economy, it’s the only question I don’t yet have a good answer to.
* “The worst thing” in the sense of our personal finances. Obviously, death, injury, disease, locust, and cats puking on the duvet are infinitely worse.