Guest Post: Too Many Children?
I pull into the country club pool parking lot and see the impeccably dressed women emerge from their Lexus SUVs with their two perfectly groomed children in tow. The children are dressed in the latest swim wear from Gymboree or Talbots Kids. The mothers spent the morning golfing with their friends and then enjoyed a light lunch at the local high-end café followed by a manicure. The nannies are given a two hour break as the mothers take their children to the pool for the afternoon. One lady, Mimi, works part-time as a pharmaceutical sales rep and another one, Kelly, sells high-end clothing at “Trunk Shows.” A few of the Country Club Ladies who are missing work as litigation attorneys billing 70-80 hours per week and bringing in over $250,000 a year. They, too, have two perfectly coiffed children who live in 5,000 square feet houses with a team of household employees performing the essential tasks of yard work, home repair, housecleaning, laundry, meal preparation and child rearing. Occasionally, you meet a mother who has a third child. Most often, you find a third child after two boys or two girls in an attempt to have one of the opposite gender. Or, you hear the story of failed birth control followed by a conclusive vasectomy.
Our 2004 Honda Odyssey, with scratches and dents in the side and French fries and graham crackers littering the interior, pulls into the parking lot of the country club. Inside are seated a ten year old boy, six and four year old girls, with a three and a two year old boy filling up the final two seats of the van. I am wearing the designer Calvin Klein suit I found on the Clearance Rack at TJ Maxx last week, except it took me three trips and a total of two hours scouring the racks of TJ Maxx (or “The Maxter” as I affectionately call it,) Marshalls and Ross to get the suit for $10 instead of $110; the amount the other ladies paid during their one leisurely trip to Macy’s. The kids file out of the car one-by-one wearing Wal-Mart’s finest swim-wear. I ask our ten year old son Billy to grab the snacks that were tossed into a Wal-Mart sack. (Think car-warmed peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and a bunch of bananas.) I grab the Aldi bag full of the water wings, goggles and floaties. We spend the afternoon splashing at the pool and having a grand old time and then sit down at the café tables to eat our home-brought snacks. The other children enjoy ordering $4.00 orders of chicken nuggets from the pool café with Kiddie Cocktails on the side. My four year old complains that we do not have drinks with cherry-lined spears in them so I hand her a banana and tell her to get a drink at the fountain.
While eating our snacks, Mimi and Kelly look over with disdain at our group. A few charitable “Hellos” are offered towards us and then the Country Club Women congregate amongst their own breed. Sometimes comments are offered to me calling me a “Saint” for having so many children followed by a quip emphasizing that they would never want to live my life. Two of our children are adopted, which makes those who oppose population growth take a kinder view towards our brood. Comments are often made alluding to my lack of personal time or career potential because of our family choices and some suggest that we cannot possibly commit enough time to each child on an individual basis and, consequently, are neglectful parents. Our family size has come to define me to the majority of the population as a woman who is glutton for punishment, somewhat saintly, probably uneducated, possibly a religious fanatic and definitely unable to be part of the “In-Crowd.”
I graduated from college with a high GPA in Math and Statistics from a top university. I went on to get my MS/MBA while giving birth to my first two children and then passed the CPA exam. I worked until our first child, our six year old girl, was 18 months old as an Auditor and found more excitement watching a co-workers left eyelid nervously twitch than reviewing changes in Accounts Receivable from May to June. Soon after my retirement, we had our second child, our four year old girl. We then adopted our ten year old son (who was six at the time,) then our three year old son (as a six-week old infant,) and then gave birth to our two and a half year old son. I would like to give birth three to four more times and adopt at least that many more children. My husband agrees to be the sole provider for our family at this time and I may go back to get my PhD and become a professor or I may not, depending on what is best for our family. Because of our family size, traveling is a nightmare, we cause a ruckus at restaurants and nothing is executed gracefully when the whole family is involved. I shop at Sam’s Club and Aldi primarily and go to the bread outlet once a week with my 50% off coupon so I can get twelve loaves of bread for $6. We live in a Country Club neighborhood, thanks to my husband’s irrepressible need to play golf during the one month of summer we have here in Wisconsin. We also present a great bargain as Country Club dues are assessed per family and not per child. My self-worth is primarily determined by how happy I made my children that day, how well they are learning essential life skills and the small steps of progress I see them make towards becoming a masterful adult. There are never times when I miss the workforce or regret not being able to pull in the large income. Trips to Disneyland with a tidy family of four are not missed when compared to the fun of having all the kids seated around the dinner table, talking at the same time about all the fun they had at school that day. The dynamic amongst the children is vital to their progress as emerging adults. They constantly keep each other on their toes with their bickering and age-appropriate jibing. We never have boring days where complaints of “I have nothing to do” are heard. Even if everyone is sick, there are still playmates in the house. The amount gained from lessons learned and relationships formed growing up in a large family, far outweighs any benefits derived from having constant one-on-one attention from a parent.
As for the arguments I hear about population control with menacing insinuations of irresponsibility on a parent’s part if they reproduce more than two human beings, I have my own answer. We have enough money to have a large family where each child is able to take piano, dance and sport lessons while they are young and obtain a college and graduate education. We stress education in our home and are constantly encouraging our children to make the most of their education and plan to contribute intellectually and socially to making this a better world. Our children may have problems and not lead perfect lives. However, we are raising them to contribute more to the world than they are taking away in excess oxygen used by their sheer existence as contributors to overpopulation.
To the critics who mistake us for religious zealots reproducing just to reproduce I also have an answer. Each child has come to us in an unmistakable way and there has been no doubt their place on earth and in our family, was planned and marked for them. There is absolutely no difference between the placement of our adopted children and our biological children. We are not more socially worthy because we adopted than if they were all biological. We have never begun the process of becoming parents again by saying, “Let’s just try for another girl” or “What the heck…let’s see if this works.” Each child’s placement was deliberate with the first child’s placement being just as important as the fifths. Will there be more? I certainly hope so. We will not know until Number Six’s unmistakable place in our family becomes evident and undeniable. If five are all we are given, we will be grateful for them every day. If we are given, fifteen, we will be that much more grateful. We believe the Lord does not make mistakes in placing His children on this earth and we will not let societies norms or daily conveniences influence the size of our family.
I will continue to try and befriend Mimi and Kelly. Underneath our first impressions and stereotypical assessments of each other’s life situations and choices are real human beings with different personalities. When I quit pre-judging Mimi for her perfectly manicured nails and long leisurely lunches and she stops looking at me like a Wal-Mart shopping welfare Mom we could end up the best of friends.
*This guest post is the second in a series from Louis from Wisconsin. She first contributed to IRF on the internal politics of The View and Barbara Walter’s agenda.