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Wednesday, May 15, 2013

"Those Families" with Big Vans and Stair Step Children

By Chrisbwah (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0
I am in an interesting position in that I believe in openness to life in the marital covenant, but, being infertile, I have only one child. When you have only one child, people tend to assume that you wanted it that way.  When people assume that you chose to limit the entry of children into your family, they tend to freely say what they think about large families in your presence.

Wow, people think some not so nice things about large families.

I regularly hear smug stories about "those families with big vans" and "a line of stair-step children." I've even been treated to such statements as, "they should sterilize her."  These comments are generally delivered with an elitist tone and a judgmental air.  They tend to be accompanied by statements that question the ability of the mother to provide proper care and attention to each child.  Of course, this questioning is usually advanced by a woman during her workday while her child(ren) is/are in the care of someone else.

I'm not sure how we came to this. I'm not sure when we began to believe that a separate bedroom for each child, expensive gadgets, and freedom from hard work (to allow time to "be a kid) were necessary.  Heaven forbid children should have chores and hand-me-downs.  Honestly, even pro-life Christians regularly treat me to negative evaluations of families with more than 2.5 children.

Granted, there are families who are irresponsible about the care of their children.  This is true of both small and large families.  However, I think that somehow the Christian community has lost sight of the fact that "Children are an heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb a reward. (Ps. 127:3)"  Somewhere between the genesis of the option to (attempt to) block the Lord's creative hand with pills and poisons-- and the development of the idea that woman at home are lazy or unpleasantly "chained to the stove"--we've lost sight of what is good and wholesome.  We've also managed to raise a generation of spoiled brats who feel entitled to private university tuition and a subsequest easy helping of the standard of living that their parents worked long and hard to achieve.

Perhaps the pendulum swings?  Maybe the shift in values toward Pro-Life beliefs will carry over to an increase in positive attitudes toward children and families in general?  Time will tell.  In the meantime, those of you who are blessed with the opportunity to build large families for the Lord have my prayers and blessings.

Pax Christi dear ones,

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  1. While I agree that anti-large-family comments are highly offensive, I am puzzled by the idea that children who expect university support are spoiled brats. Perhaps it is a cultural difference. In my culture, children expect parents to shoulder all educational costs, and parents are expected to push their children to be achieve. If anything, kids in this situation are not spoiled, but rather full of anxiety about how they will repay their parents - not with money, but with a set of glowing accomplishments.

    1. I don’t think that all children who receive higher education from their parents are spoiled brats, although I do believe that a large percentage of young people in our culture are just that. We have saved for college education for our daughter since she was a baby and have provided all of the money to pay for her first two years of college.

      What I do believe is that we have shifted as a society toward believing that giving a lot to one or two children is somehow meeting the minimum standard for parenting, while providing the basic necessities for a large number of children while showering them with the blessings of growing up in a large Christ centered family is somehow inadequate. I do not believe that children need the affluence that we provide to American children, and I believe that it is unfounded to negatively judge families that spread their affluence more thinly in order to bless the lives of many children.

      I also believe that it is far more important that our children grow up immersed in the gospel and prepared to raise up children to the Lord than it is for them to achieve secular accomplishments. I expect my child to be part of a future family that is self-sufficient and self-reliant, but I do not measure success in fiscal or professional terms. My point in bringing up “private” university is that I do not believe that it is efficacious to limit family size in order to secure the opportunity to spend $100,000 on a private university education that will accomplish no more than a public university education would. I am far more concerned that my daughter live in our home while she is of courting age and remain under the protective guidance and headship of her father during this time than I am that she pursue worldly success. I also believe that building the knowledge and skills for being a wife and mother is far more important than any career education that she may pursue. We believe that she ought to be prepared to provide financial support for her family if necessary, but that her calling as a woman is to be a wife and mother, not a breadwinner.

      I hope that the last thing that she feels is some pressure to provide us with glowing accomplishments. I pray only that she achieves her dream of providing us with the glowing smiles of children raised up to the Lord.

  2. Hi Michelle,

    I find this as well. I get the "oh you have 2 children, a boy and a girl, how perfect, so you must be done!" assumption. We may or may not have more children, but we don't believe in "being done," yet I really don't want to get into personal details with people. Although they feel free to share very personal sterilization details with me (I wish they wouldn't!) :) I always just try to discreetly say that we are open to having more, which people do think is shocking given that I'm 38, so hopefully that portrays a positive message. It's definitely a pervasive attitude in our society that is saddening, to be sure.

  3. I want a large family, but even if I didn't I would be open to one if that is what God wants for me. I already know that I'll get negative comments from many people, including family and friends so I prep them ahead of time. They know I want a large family now so if it does happen, they can't be surprised. But the truth is, I shouldn't have to head off negative comments by telling people a large family is our choice. It's so sad. I love my daughter and want to give her good things, but those "good things" are not material items, but a good upbringing and siblings to be raised with, discipline, and love of the Lord.

  4. Thank you for this post! I am so glad to hear your positive Biblical view ... you are so right. Even in the church, sadly, people have negative opinions on the number of children a family should have or not have. All children are a blessing from Heaven! We have five girls and they are stair-step, as you call it, and yes, we do get comments - from within the Christian circle and from the outside, as well. The worst is when they say their negative comments in front of the children.

    I'm so glad the Lord has blessed you with your child! They are precious in His sight!

  5. We are Catholic homeschooling family surrounded by large families. I feel blessed my children get to witness this. I was blessed with only 2 children, but would have loved to be one of those mama's with the big van and stair-step children. I find it sad when so many people find children to be a burden.

  6. I have to say, this is always a struggle for me. We have two... a boy and a girl... and just experienced a miscarriage. We were surprised about the pregnancy and so we were filled with anxiety about a bigger car and providing and money and all that. By month 3, we had handed it to the Lord, knowing that children are a blessing only to find out the pregnancy ended. It was interesting to hear people react to the news.... on both fronts... and the whole experience really demonstrated to me how precious each life is....


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