The American Prejudice Against Big Families

Athena, 3; Etani, 8 months; Hesperus, 5

Athena, 3; Etani, 8 months; Hesperus, 5

I understand why people raise their eyebrows at us for being pregnant with our fourth baby.

The vast majority of Americans still only have two children but there is a small subset of the population creating such large families that one Women’s Health writer suggests the craze for more children stems from an addiction to being pregnant. She argues that women become pregnant because they like being treated like rock stars and being in the limelight and she dubs women like me with more than two children “bumpaholics.”

(I don’t know about you but my experience being pregnant in America has not involved red carpet treatment strewn with rose petals and last time I checked having stretch marks, morning sickness, leg cramps, hemorrhoids, insomnia, and a myriad of other pregnancy side effects did not equate to achieving celebrity status, but a rant against the arguments in this unsubstantiated article—which was written by a writer I respect and consider a friend—is off the topic of today’s post).


Etani 3; Hesperus, 7; Athena 5

Etani 3; Hesperus, 6; Athena 5

Though I think the argument that some women are addicted to pregnancy is specious at best, I understand why people feel judgmental about big families. I am very concerned about the environment and fear global warming with an anxiety that manifests itself in the pit of my stomach every day:

My kids: Why can’t we drive Mommy? We don’t want to walk/take the bus/bike today.

Me: Because we homo sapiens are going to pollute ourselves out of existence like the cyanobacteria! The polar ice caps are melting and polar bears are drowning and WE ARE NOT DRIVING NO MATTER WHAT!

A recent study by researchers at Oregon State University suggests that the best way to reduce your carbon footprint is to have fewer children (or no children at all).

I worry about overpopulation.

I worry because I want my children to feel special and loved and cared for, and I want to be the best parent I can be for each of them, and my time feels pretty divided already (especially when everyone’s talking at once at dinner), and I wonder what will happen when I have to turn my attention to caring for a newborn.

I worry because, like so many others, our finances are not nearly as robust (read: we’re broke and money is a big concern) in this down economy as they should be to have a big family and I read things in magazines like “you should have six months of savings no matter what.” We don’t have six days of savings.

My son Etani, who just turned six, asks for another hug at bedtime. He smells warm and salty when I kiss that soft place on his neck a hundred times. “Goodnight Pineapple,” he whispers patting my stomach. “I love you.”

There are lots of legitimate arguments against having even one child. Our new baby isn’t here yet but already I know that our lives will be much richer and more meaningful when he or she is in it.

Etani, 6; Athena, 8; Hesperus, 10

Etani, 6; Athena, 8; Hesperus, 10

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on Thursday, October 29th, 2009 at 5:51 am and is filed under American prejudices, On wanting four children, big families, overpopulation, pregnancy, telling people you are pregnant.
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