can a family have too many kids?

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that's the "March Mom Debate" being conducted by parenting online. the results so far?

Can a family have too many kids?

79% Yes (27,520)

21% No (7,519)

i encourage our readers to make their voices heard.
my response sent to

When did we become a culture of fertility police? And, exactly how many children are "too many"? We're the parents of four children with twins on the way. It's insulting and infuriating when people make snide remarks -- "Don't you know how that's happening?" "This is your last, right?" "Ever heard of birth control?" or "You must be Catholic!"-- as if it's any of their business in the first place. I recently heard that it takes at least three workers to cover the social security costs of one retired worker. If that's the case, then my husband and I are covering our bases. What I want to know is who's going to pay your social security?


Here's mine, Smockmomma:

It's apparent from your poll that your readers need to be better informed. Perhaps you haven't printed any articles about India paying bonuses for parents to have girl-children. India's birth control policy has resulted in a lack of baby boys (and what does that tell you about what has happened to baby girls?) Perhaps you haven't printed any articles about Europe's fertility rate being so low that the the Muslim faith (and culture) will be taking over those countries in just a few generations. Perhaps you haven't printed any articles about Japan's falling population and how their culture will probably not survive the immigration that will be required to keep their country afloat.

I hope, as a result of your poll, that you decide to focus on some of these stories. As it is, America's only growing now as a result of immigration. If our fertility rates become lower yet, we can all look forward to either working until we're eighty or being euthanized.

Mine should read, of course, that India has a "surplus" of baby boys, not a lack. :)

Here's mine:

Who decides what "too many kids" means? Does too many kids mean more kids than I have? Or a random, culturally approved number? Or more than average? Or does it mean that if the children have to share a room, wear second hand clothing and the family buys in bulk, there are too many? Basically, this is a poor poll question, designed to turn people against each other. Shame on you!!!

My first thought is: Yes, a family can have too many children. I'm not thinking of an external standard, but there do exist grave reasons not to have additional children. So, in the case of ill health of a parent or any of a number of other circumstances, a large family can be too large for the parents to fully and prudently serve God through the rearing of their family. I do not mean that the additional children should be seen as anything but tremendous blessings from God, but if parents are pursuing a large family for fleshly reasons (pride, fear of what others may think, etc.), then I believe it can be said that they did not consider the issue with spiritual discretion.

This is what I currently think, but I may be wrong. Or, as St. Paul said, this is not from God; this is just me talking.

roz, thanks for commenting. wouldn't you agree that it is obvious that this is not the angle parenting online is coming from? they could care less what the motives are, hon, and probably don't give a rat's rip about "grave reasons" for anything. they are undoubtedly only concerned with a socially acceptable limit to the number of children per family.

Gop for it girl, give em heaps. I am so tired of the anti child rubbish that is prattled by too many today. People wshould mind theri won buisness rather than pass comments on how many kids you have and are going to have. You and your husband carry those who stupidly have none as they want to be childfree. Here in Australia they are worried about the declining birth rate and who is going to pay the pensions of the bulging baby boomer generation who goes into retirement. I have had 3 kids and I have had stupid comments that 3 is a large family! When you get beyond four then you are getting into the big time in my book and if you can manage go for it. I know several very large families here and their kids seem to be well adjusted and the older ones help out with the younger ones.

I'm only a new visitor to your blog, but I love it. This is my response to Parenting's poll:

Why don't you reverse the question to "Can parents be too selfish when they decide to limit their families to only two kids?" Most of the families I know with two kids swear they could never have more because then they couldn't have a BMW or three vacations a year or new furniture every five years. We can do without all that stuff. But having more children gives our children more chances to develop socially, more chances to share, more chances to learn that "things" do not give as much pleasure as people do. Do you want your child to learn that happiness comes from having a big car or from developing meaningful relationships? I know what values I want my kids to develop, and that's why we won't stop at an acceptable two or even an outrageous three children. If they see us cutting out someONE from our life in favor of someTHING, what's to stop them from walking out on their own kids or their own marriages in the future? Or from their own parents, when taking care of an aging Mom or Dad might be expensive enough that they can't get a Lexus or go to the Bahamas?

I applaud you all for standing up for large families. I became totally convicted of how much most churches had succumbed to the world's anti-child standards over this very issue. I am Protestant and was leading a Bible study at my church. As a prayer request, I mentioned a family who had just had their 5th child when one of their other children was injured in a fall from a high dive. One of the members of the class (a friend of mine!) piped up, "they had another kid?" And I said, "yes, why?" He said "they need another kid like they need a hole in the head." I said, "why do you say that?" He replied "it's irresponsible to have so many kids." I said, "why?" He replied, "zero population growth." I asked, "where is that in the Bible?"

That startling conversation led me to research the whole zero population growth and the flawed science behind it. I have only 2 children and it is one of my biggest regrets that I didn't have more. I don't know why I've always admired those with large families, but I do. I stand up for you whenever I hear anyone say anything denegrating. I ask the person to state their reasons for saying that. If the person is a Christian, I push them to examine whether their thinking on large families is biblical. I encourage my own 2 dc constantly to "be fruitful and multiply" (after marriage, of course!).

I'll go answer the survey now!


clarifying my statement "I don't know why I've always admired large families, but I do." What I mean is, even before becoming convicted that it is God's plan and purpose for us to have as many children as He wills, I still admired those with lots of children. I could never understand the other side. Even when I was an unbeliever. I come from a family of 4 children (large by today's standards!) and didn't really know many large families growing up. Still, I've always thought, "the more, the merrier!" when it comes to children. As one friend said upon having her third child, which some friends criticized, "how could we say that we don't have enough love to give to one more child?"


Aagghh!! If I have to hear "You know how that happens, don't you?" once more, my teeth will give way from the grinding. Whose business is it? Hmmm?
When people learn we're expecting another (only our second) I usually receive the pity face. Like we're too stupid to use birth control or something. Geez.

I don't know where the magazine is coming from -- the poll is sitting out there by itself without any context. I'll bet that you and I are on the same page about whether a family is a service or a self-indulgence to be calculated on a cost-benefit analysis along with the BMW.

Hi Roz!

Yes, I think you and the Smock would be on the same page in real life!

But to throw my 2 cents into the pot, I do think this question is biased.

What if the question had been phrased "Can a family be too small?" I think there would have been an uproar on the site--from the other end of the spectrum. "How dare people question the number of children I choose to have!" "Having one is my right!" And on and on and on. I think they would think the "too small" question is biased.

In the same way, I think the "too big" question is biased. More than that, almost every glossy, slick parenting magazine published today has a bias toward smaller families. They are certainly full of ads for the kinds of things that most of the big families I know can't afford! :0) So I understand where Micki is coming from on her assumption of bias from the magazine. I think that bias exists throughout the media.

I'll withhold judgment on the website, at least until next month. Let's see if they have the guts to turn the table and ask about "too small" families. I won't be holding my breath, because I believe their underlying belief structure is such that they do not believe that there IS such a thing as a "too small" family, only "too big" ones.

Does that make sense?

I like what you said about "too small" families.

If people can make comments about my family being "too big," why can't I talk about all the local folk with mini-mansions (and some real mansions) and their 1.8 children per family? (Who is living in these houses? Boarders ? Foreign exchange students? Extended family? Trained weiner dogs? I mean why do people need 7 bedroom homes when they have families of about 4 ? )

As a woman who would love to have a larger family than we have, but due to medical circumstances, can't, let me just urge caution when speaking to people with small families. Right now we have 2 children, 12 years apart, because I almost died with our first and it took us ten years and LOTS of trauma to actually be able to adopt our beloved son. We would have loved to adopt more children but the agencies don't appreciate or understand our "family bed - attachment parenting" philosophy. Also, a Catholic organization that we were dealing with to help us adopt a sibling group from Mexico up and left the adoption business (due to some legislation, I guess) without ever once informing us. When we went to them and said, "Okay, we're ready to proceed," the man who had been our case worker had moved out of state and we were informed, "oh, sorry, we don't do that anymore."

It's very possible that people who have small families mourn for the children they couldn't have. I don't know about mansions but until you know where their money is going (maybe they give 90% to their church) or what they're values are, we can't judge someone else's lifestyle.

I sent them a one-liner based on a mother Teresa quote.
My comment: can a garden have too many flowers?
This question is a trap - because it is actually true that some families are horribly stressed by 'too many children' although I think the stressor is really the false cultural expectations.
We currently have only one child at home in our 4 bedroom house. I miss the rest of them.

Nancy, please understand that I share your feelings. If you've not read our blog very long, you probably don't know that I am the mother of an only child, and it wasn't because that was what we chose. So I understand the possibility of the question of small families being hurtful. Truly I do.

However, I don't think the thought process went the other way when the poll question was designed. That it was hurtful to people to question the size of their large families. Should work both ways, seems to me, but I still agree with Smock that the cultural bias runs against the large family.

No one ever looked at me with my one delightful child and felt sorry for me automatically. Or felt like they had the right to comment on the number of kids I had. So any pain that I felt from the situation was internal and private, and not caused by some yahoo in the grocery store thinking they should let me know how they felt about the number of my kids.

Now, there have been some nasty comments from other Catholics with vanloads of kids, but that's another issue.


Exactly. And I think that was what Roz was sayng too--obviously we have all known a family that was stressed by the number of children they had--and weren't coping very well with it.

However, in the cases I have seen in our parish, the real culprit usually turned out to be an exterior problem--the loss of a job, an illness that lingered--rather than strictly the number of kids. And maybe I've been lucky, but even the ones who have struggled the hardest have seen their children as blessings--even when they wondeered how to clothe them and buy them school supplies......

So a value-neutral way to phrase the poll question would have been, "Is it possible for a family to be the wrong size?" Or, "Is it possible for a family to have the wrong number of members?"

jane, thanks for visiting us and for leaving your link.

i suppose that questioning someone's family size is inappropriate, regardless of size. hopefully, i've never made a snide remark to someone with a smaller family -- i know i never have intentionally. unfortunately, i can't say the reverse is true; in fact, i catch crap for our family size all the time.

Unbelievable. Well, totally believable, but sad. Don't they have better things to discuss on

Here's my comment. The split was 78%/22% when I voted, FWIW.

"Hmmm…the question says, “Do you think that a family can be too big? Tell us!”

Are you going to ask readers if they think a family can be “too small?”

No, I guess not. Because that question would (rightly) be decried as being insensitive to people with small families.

Yet you feel it’s perfectly appropriate to encourage visitors to your site to pass judgment on people with families they deem “too big.”

Do you labor under the mistaken impression that parents with “big” families don’t get enough feedback from strangers on their decision to spend their money on providing their children with siblings, instead of “stuff?” Because I can assure you – society already sends plenty of messages about the perfect family size. One boy, one girl. Hurrah! You’re done!

Perhaps you should address the issues of declining populations in Europe, India, Japan, Australia, etc., etc., before you bash families in this country who choose a lifestyle with fewer material things and more children. Or perhaps you should just stick to not encouraging your readers to pass more ill-informed judgments on their fellow families."

The best answer I've heard to "Don't you know what causes that?" is "Well, we've narrowed it down to either water or sex and we're not giving up either one!"

That said, I've not yet had the opportunity to use that one. My husband and I only tend to get the "You must be very busy/have your hands full" comment. Maybe we give off a vibe or something.




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