The “Right” Number of Kids

I have one daughter. One. She was planned. She was planned as an ‘only child.’

This shouldn’t be an issue… but surprisingly, it often is.

About the only parents who don’t experience the strange social phenomena of the “right” number of children are those who are happily married, financially well-off, and have one boy and one girl spaced somewhere between 1 1/2 and 3 years apart in age.

This is, apparently, the American concept of the ‘ideal’ family.

I have many friends who are Childfree. If you’re not familiar with the term, let me give you the reader’s digest version – they aren’t ‘childless’ because that implies that something is missing that is wanted. They have actively chosen not to have children because they don’t wish to be parents. Some of them can’t stand children – some of them have no issues with children, but just don’t want to parent for one of many reasons.

The response they usually get to letting someone know that they are Childfree is along the lines of “oh you’ll change your mind later” or “you’ll wish you had changed your mind when you’re older” or “you’re just saying that because you haven’t had a child yet” to somewhat more attacking and rude comments.

I have a friend with 5 children ranging in age between 9 and 21. All were wanted and planned. She has faced the slings and barbs of many a grocery-store wit saying things like “they know what causes that now” and “haven’t you ever heard of birth control?”

One of my mommy friends has 4 girls. On both pregnancies 3 and 4, she was consistently asked things like “oh, going for the boy you didn’t get before?” as if somehow, the number of children they wanted was solely dependent on having at least one of each gender.

Recently, a couple who are friends of ours, whose daughter is Buttercup’s age and son is around 15 months, let us know that they were expecting again in July. Somehow, I already knew she was pregnant before she was showing… so I won a bet with GeekDaddy that she was – and our hearty congratulations were met with wistful sighs of relief. Apparently, we were the first people they had told outside of family – because their families’ responses were all horror and shock. The phrase “but you already have one of each” actually came out of one parent’s mouth. They were actually afraid to tell anyone else because they wanted positive reactions, not criticism.

Where did this belief come from that there is a “right” number and gender type with regard to American children in a single family?

I’m not sure of it – but it’s one of those ‘unwritten’ rules that seem to pervade our society. Even when those holding the belief come from families that don’t reflect that at all.

The thing is? The “right” number of kids is different for each family – from none, to one, to two, to a dozen – there’s no such thing as a “right” number, unless you mean, “right for us.”

Okay, I’ll get off my soapbox now… it’s just one of those pet peeves that comes up all the time. We’ll never be the “2 kids, one boy, one girl” family – but I can’t imagine our family any other way than it is.

Can you?

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~ by Lucretia on February 4, 2008.

10 Responses to “The “Right” Number of Kids”

  1. I just don’t understand why people care so much about what other people are doing with their bodies. 5 children or no children, I don’t care. If it makes you happy and the children are cared for, loved, and in good homes, then what is the problem?

    As a single woman with no children, I find that I’m often treated with disdain. I didn’t follow the “normal” route, and that calls for intense scrutiny by those who consider themselves the arbiters of normality. Bah. My life is as it should be. It’s right for me.

    I love kids. I adore my nieces and nephews. It just wasn’t in the cards for me, and I can’t see it any other way.

  2. ~giggling~
    Your little buttercup is precious and i honestly never saw you with any, so I am thrilled that you are Deliriously happy with your One! ( as it should be) Screw the rest of them, To bust not minding their own business. Sigh
    Hey my personal favorite with 7 years between my 2 is ” and who is his father? ” as if he doesn’t look exactly like his dad. i have been tempted to say ” Bill Clinton” a time or two, but those manners yaya beat in me seem to keep me straight. :)

  3. I have a boy and a girl. We get a lot of comments about how nice it is that we got one of each. I usually let it go, but sometimes I say that we would have liked another boy just as much! It is really annoying. People are also surprised when they hear we might have more children down the road. UGH!

  4. I know what you mean. We had a boy and a girl, both gorgeous of course, and that was enough most people thought. Then I got paralyzed, so most people said how fortunate we were to have our family. You can only imagine the comments we got when we had Josiah Storm when his brother was 13 and his sister 7. Honestly, he was the only one we actually “planned”!

  5. @kellytyler – because you couldn’t actually have *meant* to have a child when everyone else decided that things were perfect the way they were, right?
    *sigh*
    I’m glad your family is the way you want it! :)

    @everyone else – thanks for confirming my post – it’s weird, isn’t it, how our society has this “image” of what is “perfect” even as we all strive to be individuals.

  6. I had to laugh reading this. My mom said to me the last time I talked to her, “I think you have enough kids; you don’t need to be talking about adoption.” We planned a second child but didn’t get one. Five years after our first I finally got pregnant – with TWINS! So Mom’s a little freaked out when I talk about how neat it might be in a few years to adopt a boy (we have all girls).

    We’d adopt because pregnancy is so hard on me (I was hospitalized for most of both pregnancies), and because I was adopted so I know the positives from it. Also, my groom as named after his father and his siblings (8 of them) all saved that name for him in case he ever had a boy. So I was just sort of daydreaming one day to my mom about adopting a boy and got a curt reply about “wasn’t having twins enough?”

    Then there are those who say, “you have THREEEEEE kids? oh, but two are twins, well then it’s not your fault.” :)

  7. @Natalie Jost:
    Yeah, heaven forbid you actually *wanted* a large family!

    It’s just the strangest phenomenon, isn’t it?

    I mean, at 4, you’d only have 1/2 the number of kids your guy’s family did… so honestly!! :)

    Good luck with the adoption should you decide to go that route! I’d have to as well if we weren’t totally satisfied with just one… I had serious issues I didn’t post here – but I couldn’t get pregnant again if I wanted to!

  8. I’m sorry to hear that – if you decide you want more. Until then it’s a blessing really, isn’t it? :)

  9. Oh don’t be sorry- I’m sorry I didn’t give you enough information to go on!! It’s a good thing… it was that, or lose my life. I’ll take the blessing of being alive each day to share with my family! :)

  10. CLAP. CLAP. CLAP.

    Thank you!

    I am one of the ‘childfree-by-choice’ types and even tho I made my mind up when I was 8 years old, I got harrassed all thru-out my life for my decision…by my parents (they didn’t budget for college since it was expected I would graduate from High School, get married and start poppin’ out the kids…so I put myself thru college), friends, siblings…you name it. I was even harrassed by the RN that did my pre-op visit for my partial hysterectomy last summer….she said ‘it’s not too late to change your mind and call off your surgery”. Blech!

    I so agree that the perfect amount of kids is unique to each person. And as long as the children are wanted, cared for and loved, what does it matter? I just wish some people put as much thought into why they decided to have kids as I put into deciding that I did not want to have them.

    Thanks again for your thoughts!

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