Not long after our wedding, the questions and comments began. You know the ones.
“When are you going to start a family?”
“I think you’d look great pushing a stroller.”
And my favorite….
“You aren’t going to be one of those women who chooses career over motherhood, are you?”
Most people approach having a child as a given and are not shy with their opinions on the matter. Fortunately, I have always wanted children so the pressure I felt was relatively healthy in nature. After a few years of alone time, my husband and I knew the time was right to start a family. The day our daughter was born we underwent an incredible metamorphosis. We were no longer a couple, but a FAMILY.
No sooner had our daughter weaned from the bottle than a new set of questions and comments began.
“When are you going to give Bailey a sibling?”
“You’re going to try for a boy, right?”
And my favorite…
“Only children are spoiled. It’s your responsibility to have more than one child.”
Fortunately again, I envisioned myself with more than one child so the comments aligned with our family goals. We put the questions to rest by adding a precious son to our clan three years after our first was born. Children are blessings and we were overjoyed to grow our family.
Now that my children are ages 7 and almost 4, the questions have a different texture. “Are you done?” seems to be laced with judgment from those with small-family experiences and expectation from those with large families. For the most part, however, people assume that having a girl and a boy eliminates the very need or desire to consider more children. Further, some people act as though the prospect of being outnumbered or “starting over” is insane. I find this shift in attitude interesting and I find myself wondering whether there is a secret quota of child blessings. If this is true, I must have reached this quota and am expected to look for my blessings elsewhere. What happened to the average family size of 2.5 children? Am I not entitled, at least, to my .5?
I grew up in a family of six. I did not feel abnormal nor did I feel like we divided our love or responsibilities any differently than any other family, smaller or larger. My family, however, cannot compete in size with the now-infamous Duggars. In case you haven’t heard, the family announced last week they are expecting their 20th child. The Duggars have been candid about their “Quiverfull” philosophy and their aversion to birth control in lieu of God’s control.
While the family is ecstatic about the news, many others are outraged. I’ve heard and read comments about the perceived damage to the family in terms of the older children’s caregiving responsibilities, parental access among such a large group, and the physical danger associated with a 20th pregnancy, especially after the premature birth of the couple’s 19th baby. I can understand the interest and even the concerned questions, but I can’t understand the criticism.
Even though I do not adhere to the same beliefs about family planning, I defend the Duggars’ right to have as many children as they choose. If the government was shouldering the cost of each of these births and assisting the family to maintain a reasonable and healthy lifestyle, I might feel differently. However, by all accounts the Duggars are debt-free and able to provide for each of their children. Those provisions may not look like what I’m used to (having clothes that are just mine instead of community property among siblings), but I don’t feel it is my place to judge their values.
As for access to their parents, the family’s reality show proves that mom and dad are strategic about spending time with their children…together and separately. We have not always lived in a time when ample access was the norm. My grandmother was one of 12 children, which was not unusual at that time. She spent the majority of her time working land and/or going to school and taking care of her siblings. Her parents put in extremely long days to provide for both their present and their future. My grandmother did not have the same access to her parents that my children have to me. But she was happy and well-adjusted, as are my children. Just because the circumstances are different does not mean the outcome is not or cannot be the same.
Finally, I’ve heard so many concerns about Michelle Duggar’s last difficult pregnancy. Yes, she had many problems, none of which anyone would wish for her to have again. She said the doctors have determined her healthy and she is in the best shape of her life going into this pregnancy. The reality is most times there is no way to determine whether problems – the same or different – will occur from one pregnancy to the next. I realize people are genuinely concerned, but I still think it’s unfair to expect the couple to abandon their beliefs and quit having children because something bad might happen. Would we expect a couple who lost a first baby or delivered a child with health problems to choose not to try for a second? I know some couples WOULD naturally make that choice out of fear or as a result of medical warnings, but the question is whether society should expect that and criticize a different choice.
That said, I wish the Duggars the very best and hope their 20th child is healthy and happy. Many believe they are being irresponsible by putting this aspect of their lives in God’s hands, but I don’t believe God makes mistakes. He has a plan for each one of the Duggar children, just like he has a plan for my two babies. Perhaps he even has a plan for my .5 when and if I decide to become a card-carrying member of the “big family” club!
Blessings (2.5 and beyond)!