This is a common question when friends & family learned I’m expecting our third (boy!) and I’m (gasp!) only thirty years old. And the answer is quite simply: I don’t know!
Grace over at Camp Patton wrote a great piece about number of kids, Lindsay over at My Child, I Love You wrote a great one about why most families have 2 kids, and my girlfriend Rachel wrote about fear of the larger family for Crisis Magazine. A little better reading for your minds!
Most of my lawyer mama friends have one child, and maybe have two. Very few of them have families larger than three. It’s pretty impossible to juggle a career as an attorney, if both parents are working, and three children. I worked part-time through having one child and that was a challenge. Kuddos to the ladies who are open to children + lawyering because it’s really tough!
I was recently at a lawyer girlfriend’s baby shower. It was a change of pace for me to be in a room of other female attorneys–and lots of them. Most people were politely surprised to learn I was pregnant with my third, not practicing, and so young, relatively speaking. A few years back, I would have felt uncomfortable, or like I needed to justify my life choices. At this point, I was delighted to have interesting lawyer conversations and field any larger-family-related questions. It was like my belly was evangelizing.
Most of my natural world & religious mama friends have 3+. My Catholic mama friends have 5+. In part, perhaps it is because most of them either work part-time, share child-care with spouses, or are at-home (staying or working).
Fertility and family size are two of the most private conversations topics out there. Maybe throw in food privilege and abortion rights, and there you have it: the full spectrum of awkwardness. In my mind, the reason fertility & family size are so sensitive to discuss is because the conversation is replete with assumptions.
You spaced your kids because they’re 2.5 years apart, right? So you’re all hopped up on contraceptive drugs? Maybe it’s because they have trouble getting pregnant, and these kids are IVF, or unexpected gifts.
You have one kid because you aren’t open to life. ONLY one? Maybe that pregnancy and labor & delivery almost killed the mom and she’s not able to carry other bebes. Maybe the family struggled to have “just” that one and are grateful for him or her every day. Maybe they don’t feel they can care for a larger family, financially and emotionally.
You are pregnant again and your youngest is less than a year old. You are an irresponsible breeder. Let’s give this family the benefit of the doubt. They chose to keep the baby alive, and will figure out how to care for their growing family. Before you disdain their larger family choice, be rest assured you aren’t financing them and those siblings will have great opportunities to learn sharing and be better citizens as a result, right?
You have a ton of kids and that must mean you’re not interesting and we have nothing in common. Not true! We were at a fabulous friends’ dinner a few months back with almost a dozen other couples, all walks of life and number of children. My two favorite conversationalists were a working mom of three girls and a stay-at-home-homeschooling mom of five. Both were dynamic and fascinating women!
Here I sit pregnant with my third. We are open to a big family because we see it as our joy and delight to be parents, and given that I’m able to be at home with them and have close family nearby that’s super supportive, the challenges aren’t outweighed by the love of the gift of them. Maybe I’m half-way there? Maybe I have a long road to travel. I doubt this is my last–that’s so sad to consider! To sound clichedly Catholic, I just watching God’s plan unroll for our family and marveling that how things are going are so much better than I could have hoped for!