Aleteia logoAleteia logo
Aleteia
Saturday 25 September |
Saint of the Day: Bl. Herman “the Cripple”
home iconSpirituality
line break icon

Catholic Myths About Big Families

aurimas-mikalauskas-cc

Tom Hoopes - published on 08/10/15

When it comes to kids, does more mean better?

When it comes to kids, does more mean better?

I write for Catholic audiences and I have nine children. Those two facts about my life have exposed me to a number of myths Catholics have about large families.

I have encountered the myths coming often from two sources: Catholics’ well-meaning but misguided congratulations and Catholics’ well-meaning but misguided fraternal corrections.

Let me explain …

Myth 1: Large Catholic families are the only ones living Church teaching.

In the 1999, when Ricky Martin’s “Livin’ the vida loco” was ubiquitous on the radio, there was a brief effort to make “Livin’ the Vitae Humanae!” a catch-phrase for large families. It didn’t take. But one implication of it was clear: You can tell who is living the Church’s Humanae Vitae teaching against contraception simply by counting their children.

That simply isn’t true. Some couples who are wide open to life have few children or none. Some couples who actively try to prevent conception have several. (I remember one talk by a couple who counted off their kids this way: Condom failure, IUD failure, Pill failure, sponge failure … the story ended in their rejection of contraception.)

The motives and life stories of others are a closed book to us; we cannot know the beliefs or the biology of anyone, nor is it our place to even try.

Myth 2: Large families see their children as trophies in a way that others don’t.

I have seen this accusation most often as a fraternal correction. Large families can come off as brash and arrogant in Catholic circles, because they seem to consider their families superior to others.

I know where this comes from: Dads use a bravado language when talking about their children (“It’s not a race, but if it were I would be winning!”), and moms beam with pride as they look over their Sunday-best brood filling a whole pew at church.

But I would argue that this is not large-family mom and dad behavior; this is just basic mom and dad behavior that you happen to notice in a new way when you see it with a large family.

I know dads with two kids who take special pride in the fact that they have a boy and a girl, or two boys, or two girls (“Look at those two, just like their daddy!”). And moms beam just as much over one or two in Sunday finery as they do over 12.
Maybe it’s because of the Duggars, Kate Plus 8 and the conspicuous commercialization of big-family pride that people assume big families are different. Maybe it is because size attracts attention: Giant vans and rows of dresses and buzz-cuts make a big impression. But in my experience all parents consider their kids the greatest thing ever, regardless of their number.

A little more humility from all of us is probably in order.

Myth 3: Large families are unplanned families.

This myth is inconsistent with Myth 2, but coexists with it comfortably, I have found.

Pope Francis made waves by saying “Some think that … in order to be good Catholics we have to be like rabbits. No. Responsible parenthood!”

He updated his remarks a few days later with praise of large families, but I think he was trying to accomplish two things with those remarks: 1.) He wanted to make sure the secular world knew that the Catholic way is not just to have as many children as humanly possible. 2.) He wanted to make sure that the Catholic world knew that the Church did not expect a burdensome family size from those unable to support it.

It is possible to plan to have large families responsibly; in fact, breastfeeding practices can easily become a natural way to space children. We know many large families and most seem to have set out to have about as many kids as they had.

  • 1
  • 2
Tags:
CatholicismContraceptionParentingPope Francis
Support Aleteia!

If you’re reading this article, it’s thanks to the generosity of people like you, who have made Aleteia possible.

Here are some numbers:

  • 20 million users around the world read Aleteia.org every month
  • Aleteia is published every day in seven languages: English, French, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Polish, and Slovenian
  • Each month, readers view more than 50 million pages
  • Nearly 4 million people follow Aleteia on social media
  • Each month, we publish 2,450 articles and around 40 videos
  • We have 60 full time staff and approximately 400 collaborators (writers, translators, photographers, etc.)

As you can imagine, these numbers represent a lot of work. We need you.

Support Aleteia with as little as $1. It only takes a minute. Thank you!

Daily prayer
And today we celebrate...




Top 10
1
SLEEPING
Cecilia Pigg
7 Ways the saints can help you sleep better at night
2
VATICAN LEGOS
J-P Mauro
Chicago architect models Vatican City from 67,000 LEGO bricks
3
Tolkien
Philip Kosloski
Why J.R.R. Tolkien loved to attend daily Mass
4
OUR LADY
Philip Kosloski
An alternative Hail Mary to Our Lady of Sorrows
5
PADRE PIO
Bret Thoman, OFS
Exclusive photos: Meet Padre Pio and the place he lived
6
PADRE PIO
Philip Kosloski
How Our Lady saved Padre Pio from a violent demonic attack
7
peace
Cerith Gardiner
9 Padre Pio quotes for when you’re feeling scared or uncertain
See More
Newsletter
Get Aleteia delivered to your inbox. Subscribe here.