Research shows the stated ideal family size is once again going up … and maybe these are some of the reasons why.
I hope this doesn’t sound like bragging, but I’m a rich man. I didn’t earn it and don’t deserve it, but I’m surrounded by a wife and children who give me far more love than I could have ever dreamed of having. Our particular brood is made up of six little ones between the ages of one and 12. I suspect that if life had been slightly different, the number of children we’ve welcomed into the world could easily have been higher or lower. As it is, we have the perfect number. Our family is considered large by today’s standards and people often ask why we decided to have so many children. Setting aside for a moment how odd a question that is to be asked, I don’t mind answering that we have so many children because we think they’re cool.
Yes, the simple fact is, they’re fun to hang out with. Last night I was playing chess with the four-year-old and she told me about her dream that more people could sit on bleachers, watch her play, and admire her strategic skills. She thinks she’s so good at chess that she deserves a crowd of spectators. After capturing her queen, I made a mental note to sign her up for Chess Club next year.
She’s right, it’ll be fun to watch her play. It’s also fun to go to watch the kids compete in volleyball games and soccer games. It’s fun to go to the zoo and apple picking and mountain biking. It’s fun to make bonfires and roast s’mores and invite other families over for impromptu poetry and music jam sessions. My children are giving me the chance to live a second childhood, which, to be honest, I’m loving even more the second time around.
Years ago, the size of our family wouldn’t have raised an eyebrow. For instance, in 1976, 40% of mothers age 40 to 44 had four or more children. Today, that number has lowered to 13%. So yes, a family with six children or more has become increasingly rare. Here’s a twist, though. After declining for years, the ideal family size is once again going up. When polled, the share of Americans who think the perfect size for a family includes at least three children is on the rise. Families are still much smaller than they were decades ago, but perhaps that may start changing soon as people are beginning to desire larger families.
It seems that large families are becoming trendy again. Of course, being trendy isn’t a good reason to have children, but my experience shows that there are many other good reasons. To put it simply, as father-of-five Mark Oppenheimer says in a recent article in The Wall Street Journal, “Every one of our … children has improved my life.”
That’s exactly how I feel. Even as my food budget and other expenses continue to empty my pockets, I’ve felt as though with each additional child my heart has become more full.
Here’s what else I love about our family: The kids take care of each other. The boys, who are typical rough-and-tumble fellas, show a tender side when they pause to gently pull their youngest sister around the yard in the wagon. The older girls will make grilled cheese sandwiches for their younger siblings. Some of the kids have even helped each other learn to read in a far more patient manner than I could ever have achieved. They love being together and always have a friend around. They learn how to socialize, share, and practice selflessness. Something is always going on at our house and the neighborhood kids flock to it to join in the fun.
There are costs to having a large family for sure. I joke about how expensive they are, but it really is true. In order to have more children, parents have to be willing to give up other luxuries. Our family doesn’t eat at restaurants much. Our vacations are short and local. The cars we drive are both over 10 years old. I haven’t purchased a new article of clothing in years and can’t remember the last time we went to a movie theater.
The other commodity in short supply around our house is privacy. The kids all share bedrooms and, when they have nightmares, end up in bed with mom and dad. I’m not kidding when I say that yesterday I woke up in the morning and discovered three children piled into our bed who had made their way in sometime overnight. Personal space is limited and that can be frustrating for both parents and children.
All that said, would I trade my large family for any other luxury in the world? Absolutely not. Based on surveys, it appears that more and more people are beginning to agree.
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