I don’t know what that means; large family. Other than the literal meaning of
of more than average size, quantity, degree, etc.; exceeding that which is common to a kind or class; big; great:

The last definition, great, is apt. It is great, as in fantastic, to have a large family; and great, as in large in number when you compare it to the birth rate of most developed countries.

A popular question directed at me when I announced my 4th pregnancy, “was it planned?” I kind of get the impression the question that was actually being asked of me is “was this planned madness?”

Are there negative connotations to having a large family? Am I being paranoid? It just seems to be a talking point that I have 4 kids. Why is 4 such a special number?

You want special numbers, Mr M’s two sisters have families reaching double digits. So compared to them I’m still small fry.

General consensus is large families have 4 or more children.

The Australian Government says you’re a large family when you have 3 children. It was reflected my Family Assistance Office payments; I receive the Large Family supplement.

Peter Costello suggested we have one for the mother, one for the father and one for the country.

Well I had one for me, one for Mr M, one for the country, and one spare in case there was a dud. Are you buying that?

I have a family friend who told me once that families should be based on logical reason. You have one child because the parents want one; and then you have second child to keep the first child occupied.

I have another family friend who looked at it from an economical view; he said he wouldn’t have any more than 2 kids because family holiday packages aren’t set up for 3 kids.

I have to agree, it is a tad little bit limiting when trying to book accommodation. I’m also a tad, little bit limited in the car department too.

Most people who grew up in a large family tend to look on those times with fondness.

Most I’ve asked have said that they like the idea of a large family but financial or personal constraints are limiting them.

But while it may seem that having 4 children is in the minority, is it possible that the trend to go on and have 3 or 4 children could pick up speed?

Let’s look at some pros and cons.

The media has reported on numerous occasions that metropolitan cities like Sydney could not possibly cope with a substantial population increase. Sydney, it would seem, simply does not have the infrastructure in place. But if Australia is below the 2.1 replacement birth rate, then population increases surely then depend on migration.

Environmentally it is not a sound decision. Perhaps. I wonder if environmental impact has less to do with the number of people we have and more with how we live and treat this planet.

Economically and financially…well… while it has been reported that raising 1 child costs $1 million, I put it to you that 4 children will not cost $4 million. Clothes can be reused, as can major furniture items. Discounts are usually offered to siblings for school fees. I even get a discount for their swimming lessons.

The biggy is lost wages for the stay at home parent. Well while the SAHP will lose earnings, it’s not multiplied by each child; time out of the work force is extended by the age gap of the children, not an entire lifetime.

More children means more taxes to help sustain the ageing population.

There was a mini baby boom in 2008 with almost 300,000 babies being born taking the fertility rate to its highest level in 31 years (Women delivering more bundles of economic joysmh.com.au, 18 November 2009).

Why the boom?

Are women deciding to have children earlier? And therefore having more children?

According the abovementioned smh.com.au article women are having children earlier, because they’ve heeded the warnings about leaving it too late.

According to the demographers, the arithmetic explanation is not that parents are deciding to have more kids, but that they’re deciding not to leave it so late to get started on a family. It’s changes in the timing of child-bearing that do most to influence the annual fertility rate.”

If so, the trend to earlier starts may lead to more children being born because fewer women find they’ve left it too late to fit in a second kid. (The median age of women having children is now 30.8 years.)

For decades, surveys of young women have shown that the great majority of them intend to have two kids. About one in five say they don’t intend to have kids, but these are offset by the small number saying they’d like to have more than two. This finding implies that what varies is not couples’ views on the desirable number of kids, but the context in which they find themselves, particularly their economic context.

So we are having children earlier, just not more of them. So having 4 children is still out of the ordinary. So this sudden boom might just be a blip and birth rates will plateau as opposed to continually increasing.

I asked Mr M how he felt being the father of a large family. He looked up at me and asked “Am I?”

He thought about it for a minute and said, “It’s kinda cool, but it’s tough. Lots of responsibility”.

A good friend of mine has 4 children and I asked her if she is bombarded with comments.

“All the bloody time! It’s always a look of bewilderment – as if saying my god how could you!!! I think its a combination of actually having more than the norm of two or three and how one manages to look after them as well as those who see it from a financial view -‘doesn’t that cripple you …’

I feel overwhelmed at times, but it’s only when things get the better of you and I wouldn’t have it any other way!!”

So, I am a very proud owner of a large family. I am not an extraordinary person or earn a small fortune. It may not be easy raising 4 children, but it’s definitely not as hard as your think.

This post was first published on my other Mum’s Word blog “I Am The Proud Owner Of A Large Family”

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