I’m listening to the delicate and lulling sound of my teething son screaming himself to sleep, wondering how it is that people are still having multiple children. In fact, in Utah (where I live) it’s quite common. So common than my mother-in-law is disappointed that we only want 2. Maybe 3. But maybe just 2. Notwithstanding freaky Octomom, there are a lot of normal parents having a big family. My parents had 6. I think they’re normal.
But there are a lot of differences in the world in which my parents raised a family and the world in which I am now raising a family. So this blogpost, while not condoning or condemning anyone for their chosen family size, is an attempt to justify why I think it’s a lot harder to have a big family these days.
- Social Pressure. My parents started a family back in 1959 when having a big family was more common. The US family size was 3.35, whereas now it’s somewhere around 2.5. You could go to a public place (restaurant, business) with 6 kids in tow and not get impudently stared at. Now, I’m one of those gawkers. I see more than three children and I lose focus on whatever I’m doing. Thoughts like “how do their parents keep their names straight” and “how do they fit them all in one car” race through my mind. Now it’s just not the norm to have more than 2 children. Social pressure says any more than two is just plain extravagant.
- Fitting all those Kids in Car Seats. My parents fit 6 kids in a station wagon that now would fit barely 3 kids with car seats now. Back then, we fit in there just fine. Four in the back and two in the seat-less cargo area. Now that you need kids in car seats until they’re 20 (ok it’s eight) how are parents supposed to fit all their kids in the car at the same time? Seriously, you can forget about a fuel-efficient vehicle. We rarely wore seat belts when we were kids. Taking corners, we’d jam our shoulders into our brother or sister, smashing them into the car door. We climbed over the seats and fought. It was great fun. Soccer moms get blamed for their huge, glitzy SUVs with DVD players, but what else are the kids going to do while they’re in seat prison?
- Challenge of Keeping Kids Safe. When I was growing up, my mom NEVER hovered over me when I was playing. She never played with me. She was in the kitchen making dinner, taking a rest, sewing, etc. I had plenty of freedom and plenty of ground to cover. I played in the backyard with my best friend Alicia, in her backyard, in the field across the street. We rode bikes around the neighborhood, we walked to Top Stop 3 miles away. The world was just different when I was growing up. My mom didn’t have to worry about whether or not someone was going to steal me away or kidnap me while I’m playing in the backyard. Not to sound too doom and gloom about “our world today” but here’s the material point: my mother got her “me” time. She wasn’t constantly with me. Mothers these days can’t just go send their kids off to the park. They have to go with them. This cuts in considerably on mommy’s “get anything done” time. Consequently, they turn to TV and video games to entertain their young kids since they can’t send them off to play by themselves very easily anymore. So moms get stuff done and kids get fat.
- Financial Pressure. Somewhere along the lines, we got to thinking that kids should have their own bedrooms. Kids should have their own computers. Kids need their own cell phones. Kids need designer clothes. Notwithstanding all this nonsense, which is also very real right now, my parents bought their 5 bedroom Bountiful home for $20,000. That’s right, it’s not missing a zero. Now homes are 20 times that amount for a 5 bedroom. Homes now are bigger, but they don’t offer more bedrooms, just more vaulted ceilings. The ratio to the cost of a home and our salaries nowhere compares to how it was when my parents bought their home. Houses cost more and incomes are not rising to the occasion. I think we could do more and live on less than we do, but the cost of raising a family is higher than it used to be when bigger families were more prominent.