Firstly, this question is very subjective and completely based on individuals circumstances and values. You might ask why I’m writing about something so personal? Well the answer is, I’ve been subjected to so many people’s opinions and view points since becoming a parent myself, I thought I would share my thoughts with you.
My first response would be is that when we make the decision to have children, for most it is the least practical decision we will make. Instead, we make it because this is what we either long for, envision our future to be like, or we want to be part of something bigger than us.
Child-free families. I hate the term ‘child-less’, it’s just incredibly negative and judgemental. If someone feels like they don’t want to have children- why should they have to give anyone reasons for this, why do people feel the need to label someone ‘selfish’. Surely the amazing thing about being human, is that we are all so different and surely it is normal to have differences- let’s celebrate difference, instead of making someone feel bad about our own narrow-minded views. One size doesn’t fit all and I love that.
Then there’s the ‘only child’ reactions- why do we use the word ‘only’. How amazing is this little person in your life? Again people assume first of all that an individual or couple have been unable to have more and you know what, that is bloody hard but lets’ not make them feel like they are missing out. There are loads of advantages having one child- I spent my childhood being taken out by my best friend and I was so lucky. We had a great childhood together and her parents were able to give her everything they could and more than my parents and that’s ok. One of my children has also enjoyed many experiences with his good friend who has no siblings and he has made so many memories. There are also families that ‘choose’ to have one, so let’s stop responding with ‘are you trying for a sibling’, like it’s a buy one get one free transaction and you can’t have one without the other.
Then we move onto same sex families- well I could literally write a dissertation on this and if I had a pound for every time people have said to me ‘four boys, are you trying for your girl’- I’d be so rich. Like ‘my girl’ is at the end of a board game and I just need to make the right moves to get her. It’s hurtful and it disregards the children I have been fortunate to have. It’s not a ‘boys are better’, or girls, it’s you realise life is short and this is actually the life I was supposed to have.
More than three children, people think you’re ‘crazy’- how many times I have heard people reel off how you’ll have to get a bigger car, a bigger house- I’m actually laughing at them in my head at how narrowly they look at the world. Then there’s the response to more than four, you are referenced as ‘popping them out’. While I don’t fancy more than four myself, I actually look at larger families and think good for you. Why people feel so concerned about it baffles me.
For me, I always saw my life in a big family. I was one of four children and loved the fact that there was so much variety. I believe we either aim for what we know, or we try to avoid it completely. My situation was unusual in the fact that although I was part of a large family, I also knew what it felt like to live in a house as the single child. My siblings were a lot older than me and my sister left for university when I was only 5. I spent many years of just my mum, dad and I and I experienced a lot of loneliness. I loved Christmas when they would all return with their partners- the house was full and there was a lot going on, so I longed to create a family where loneliness wouldn’t exist.
There was also a part of me that was and still is, incredibly rebellious. Each of my siblings had 2 children each, most people have 2 children each and I wanted to be different to the nuclear family. Now you might argue that is a bit extreme to go to those lengths, but I also feel it was tied into being the youngest of 4- I needed to find ‘my thing’, my siblings were all incredibly successful in their own fields and I didn’t want to compete. I had longed to be a mummy ever since I was little- yes cliche I know but I was always a nurturer and I felt that being a good friend was such an important job- I had so much love for people.
Saying that, it really isn’t like the Brady bunch- being in a large family, you have to fight for your place and you have to compromise a lot more. My children are aware that there are many things we can’t always do, like lots of holidays, nights away, days out- it’s so expensive but I have made my personal choice and I’m happy to live with it. It took me a very long time to decide to have number 4 (my friends will vouch for that) but he has been such a miracle. I have witnessed the nurturing side of my older children and we laugh so much. Yes there is a lot of fighting, competition and it takes us an hour to choose a film to watch, but that’s OK- each children brings their own special something and no matter what happens, like my siblings, they will always have each other’s back.
At the end of the day, I believe we all get one shot and we don’t live perfect lives but we make the best decisions at the time, based on what we know at the time. Sometimes things don’t go how we expect and we take a different path but let’s learn to celebrate the differences, stop judging people and frankly mind our own business and focus within.