Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Super-sized Families?

The NY Times recently had an article entitled "And Baby Makes How Many?" that was triggered from the woman with the octuplets and 6 other kids, as well as the popularity of shows featuring The Duggars (17 kids) and Jon and Kate plus eight. The article discussed how family size in the U.S. is shrinking overall, which is making large families an exception that is more and more looked down upon.

Replacement level for a population is 2.1, and that is the current American birth rate, even though it has actually been lower recently and only got back UP to 2.1 in the last year stats were available. The article focuses on megafamilies, with 6+ kids, but it stated that people with more than 3 kids often get "raised eyebrows".

The article itself is pretty respectful and non-judgmental, although it mentions that people with larger families could be considered "freak show attractions" nowadays. The comments to the that is a different story.

The commenters mostly decried people having more than 2 kids "irresponsible" and "selfish", trashing Earth's resources for their own self-fulfillment (or more clinically put, "evolutionary need to replicate"-reminds me of the part in The Matrix when Agent Smith compares humanity to a virus). Some were generous enough to deem it appropriate to have 2 kids, then adopt needy kids/orphans if you HAD to have more than two. Heaven forbid the carbon footprint that is left by a family of 4 kids or more.

The majority of comments were disturbing on many levels. Besides the judgments and disdain for some people's "choice" when it collides with their own self-interest, there were some issues that no one in the comments noted. I wanted to post there, but the comments were closed by the time I read the article.

First of all, do we want to become like other societies that have effective "family planning?" Countries like Japan, where a demographic crisis is looming because they are getting older without a young workforce to support the elderly? Perhaps Germany, which is rapidly becoming less German, since German families don't hit the replacement level of 2.1 kids, but immigrant families from Eastern Europe and Turkey are filling the void, keeping their own culture without assimilating to German ways in the process? I know, how about China? Since their one child rule, the percentage of male to females is dangerously imbalanced, which is already causing human trafficking from other Asian countries to provide wives to the men who can't find the very in-demand Chinese women?

Some in the comments cited the 70's era Population Boom scare, which has not occurred as doomsayers were predicting back then. Technological advances have continued to allow us to produce enough food, even if political and infrastructure problems still keep way too many people without proper resources.

I am willing to become a better steward of our resources, and I want to see poverty eradicated so people in undeveloped countries have more opportunities other than having many kids so some will have a chance of surviving. However, the crass hypocrisy and judgmentalism from the commenters is pretty remarkable in a country where all sorts of "freedoms" are promoted, unless it goes against the current postmodern, environment-worshipping culture we seem to have at this time. Overall, as a parent of four wonderful children, whom I plan on educating to be the best possible citizens of Earth during their sojourn, even as I hopefully help them reach their potential in the Kingdom of heaven, I want to say as carefully and intelligently as I can to those commenters:

Mind your own business.

(Bonus-I love some of the comebacks from parents of the megafamilies:

How can you afford so many? “Lifestyles are expensive, not kids.”
Don’t you know what causes that? “Oh, yes, I now wash my husband’s underwear separately.”
Do you get any time for yourselves? “Obviously, or we wouldn’t have six kids.”)



  1. Anonymous3:26 PM

    So a friend of mine alerted me to the hypocrisy that is prevalent in this discussion. The same people who are commenting about her being selfish and not responsible are probably the same ones who would throw a fit at someone suggesting abortion is wrong. In the latter instance the argument would be that the woman has complete and sole reproductive rights. Hmmm. But someone wanting six or sixteen babies doesn't have those same rights.

    Who says?

    We can ignore the welfare of a single unborn baby but horrors if we ignore the welfare of the unknown future masses.

    How have we gone so astray?


  2. You mean your carbon footprint wasn't your overriding concern when you made this decision?