Are large families becoming extinct?

3 kids + 2 kids = 5 kids.

Prior to my five child experiment, I thought 5 sounded like a good number and had secretly fantasised about ‘accidentally’ falling pregnant with twins to complete my ideal family. Now, much to my husband’s delight I’ve decided we will NOT be adding to our family, or at least not in the near future.

I have quite a few friends with 4, 5 or more children. The majority of my friends however, have 3 children, like me and are openly opposed to the idea of producing a large brood.

In my discussions, the main objection is finances. Babies are relatively inexpensive but as they grow, the costs add up especially if we consider private schooling and extra-curricular activities like sport and music lessons. I agree,  it’s wise to consider our  financial ability to provide for our children but sometimes I wonder, if we’ve lost perspective.

The question is, what do children truly need? The answer is love, food and shelter and we don’t have to be rich to provide these. But, what about clothes, toys, books, education, you might ask, don’t children need those things? To some extent yes but not as much as we’ve been made to believe.

What children ‘need’ and what children ‘want’ are two vastly different things. If a child is exposed to popular culture, odds are, they are confused about the difference between a need and a want and more than likely, so are we.

Children don’t need designer clothes and toys to be happy,  fancy bedroom suites to feel at home, or even private schooling to be successful and yet, we may falsely believe that if we don’t provide these things that our children will ‘miss out’ or be ‘impaired’ in some way.

There is more to being a good parent than providing financially for our children. It’s about instilling values and helping them develop their character.

When we choose not to (or just simply can’t) provide all the things our children ‘want’ we instead offer them an opportunity to develop this character. How does a child learn to be generous? By experiencing what it means to go without. How does a child learn to kind? By having to share.

Of course, it’s not always that simple but it’s a much more positive way of looking at some of the sacrifices large (or not so large families) have to make at times.

Large families offer opportunities to develop character because children inevitably have to make sacrifices, learn to miss out, to share and get along, develop resilience and a deep loyalty and sense of community within their families. These life lessons have value far beyond the monetary value of educational toys or piano lessons.

Large families aren’t for everyone but I wonder if more of us would be open to the idea if we focused on what our kids would gain instead of what they would lack.

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