Sunday, December 26, 2010

are parents of large families selfish?

My grandmother is the youngest of 5 siblings born between 1910 and 1922. The brothers and sisters have all lived in the same small city for most of their lives and have been best friends for 60+ years. Genealogy has been a hobby of many an ancestor so we were all steeped in family lore and family charts dating back to the first family member to step foot in Virginia around 1632. Every Christmas season for 35 years the clan has hosted traditions such as decorating graves at the cemetery, taking bags of gifts to each other's homes in a sort of moving open house party and culminating with a party at noon on Christmas Day. I have group family photos of every Christmas since I was 8 and it is amusing to see various hair and fashion styles as well as remember great aunties and uncles who have passed away.

This is a very educated bunch, every person over the age of 20 has a college degree so they can all count and use logic. Each of the 5 "greatest generation" siblings had 2 or 3 children and about 1/2 of the baby boomers had children, none more than 2. So far there are 13 children in the 4th generation and 6 of them are mine. One of the reasons I wanted a large family of my own was due to a desire to emulate my grandmother's close familial bonds. So it seemed that this was the last place I would hear grief about my family size. 

Yesterday, at the annual party, while Tim was holding a sleeping baby and resting his eyes he overheard some unidentified boomer say, "It is selfish to have more than 2 children." That statement has filled me with hurt in a way that no stranger's rude comment could. After all, if their grandparents had limited their offspring to 2 more than half the people at the gathering yesterday would not exist (including myself) or not be included. It is very likely that the deceased in the graveyard would not have their annual gift of beer or cookie, and the other traditions that gave given us all such a sense of continuity and pride would not exist.

I also find that logic seems to escape this person's thought. If Tim and were selfish we would have limited our family size and been able to have free time and more toys. I don't "lunch" with the ladies, I teach my children at home. Tim doesn't have a sailboat like he used to, instead he spends his time teaching Will his math and taking the boys to Scouts. Our disposable cash is spent on piano and dance lessons, not the latest electronic gizmo. I'm sure the last time either of us slept past 7 am was over 10 years ago. So, I would not describe anyone who has 3 or more children as focusing on their own comfort. I might be selfish for wanting a Christmas filled with a plethora of family members, all grateful for each other but I wouldn't consider it a sin worthy of public chastizement.       


Milehimama @ Mama Says said...

Ah but in many ways it IS selfish.

Mother Teresa says:
"Loneliness is the most terrible poverty".

Big families have such an abundance of things that can't be bought-
love, companionship, camaraderie,just the abundance of family.

Anyone can buy a quad or too big house or a bimonthly appointment at the hairdressers. But only the very elite - parents- can ever procure the rare gems that are a daughter's hug or the sound of brothers giggling with a flashlight under the covers.

Nârwen said...

Gee, I've heard people call the parents of large families many things ('crazy' being the word most frequently used) but 'selfish ' is a new one.

>Big families have such an >abundance of things that can't be > bought- love, companionship, >camaraderie,just the abundance of > family.

That depends. My late grandmother's relationships with her 7 siblings were such that she was publicly thankful that she and her husband only had my mom. ("Unlike me, my daughter didn't have to grow up in 'Grand Central Station', thank God !")

SherryTex said...

Families can have large or small hearts regardless of size, that being said, it is much harder to live in an isolated world as an adult when there are multiple people who need, crave and seek your attention and love and devotion and dedication.

It's funny, the slams of selfish which often come with the completely contradictory, "When do you get time for you?" type questions. We aren't put on this earth to carve out our niche or "Me time," we're put here to love and to learn how to love as God loves, 24-7, unconditionally.

The Cichy's said...

May God bless you and your husband for being open to life!

I found your comment on Pundit's blog. A few months ago my husband encountered a woman at work in Seattle who said the exact same thing, "People who have more than 2 children are selfish." This was said directly to him. He just smiled at her because she continued to rant that no one could change her mind. We have four children with one on the way.

I have to remember that it can go both ways. I can't presume to know why someone "only" has two or one or zero children. There may be things I don't know about them- infertility, health issues, etc. that prevent them from having a large family like we do. I have caught myself doing this to good Catholic couples who have small families.

I found a list of things some folks say about large families and what you can kindly say in return. Unfortunately being called "selfish" is not on the list.

Just a conservative girl said...

I am sorry that you and your husband had to be put through that. It is truly awful. I hate hearing things like that, as I wanted a large family and couldn't have one due to ovarian cancer. Tell your relative to look in my eyes and say how selfish it is.

God bless your family. If you raise them correctly they will always turn to one another when things are tough. Nothing selfish about that.

Anonymous said...

Hi. This is the first time I've seen this blog & I just want to say THANK YOU. Thank you to you all. I could go on with my reasons/explanation but I don't think it changes my Thanks to anything else.

Tania @ Larger Family Life said...

I doubt very much that the person who voiced that opinion would tell four of your children they shouldn't have been born, if they were given the opportunity. Unfortunately, parenthood and families in general seem to be up against a tide of negativity and discouragement (as I blogged earlier today). Larger families, moreso.

Anonymous said...

Yes, parents who have large families are selfish, stupid, and uneducated. Children from large families are impoverished, develop slow, have low academic achievement, are not exposed to cultural and intellectual activities because their parents do not have the money to do so.

Children in large families have no privacy and live like pack animals. Children from large families are not considered as individuals but as part of the group. Children from large families have no sense of self.

However, parents of large families have it easy. They won't be raising their brood. Oh no, it is the older children who raise their siblings. In large families, children raise each other. Any parent who has a large family should be cited for child abuse and being an unfit parent. Children from large families do not finish high school and definitely do not go to college.

Children from large families end up on the lower socioeconomic rung of the ladder. They are relegated to having menial jobs because they are not educated. Throughout adulthood, children from large families will be economically poor. It even gets worse in old age. Studies show that children from large families get alzheimers in their old age because of the impoverished conditions which are rife in large families. Large families are a moral evil.

Let us be intelligent and have small families which are beneficial to the parents and children alike. Only stupid, illiterate,and uneducated morons have large families.