MIDWAY: ‘Four’, the new two

With a mom of five firmly in the spotlight as a US VP candidate and Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt’s twins making tabloid headlines, big families seem to be once again making the news. Over the past year or two, several news stories have suggested that in certain affluent circles, “four is the new two”.

While my husband and I have four stair-step boys ages 10, 9, 4, and 2, and I’m expecting another, we aren’t part of that particular breed of breeders. Our lives are nowhere near glamorous. We drive a 2001 Dodge Caravan. My husband works as a computer technician, while I earn the other half of our living as a freelance writer.

And we frolic at the public beach, not a country-club pool. The Jolie-Pitts — or even the Palins — we aren’t.

We don’t fit other large-family stereotypes, either. We aren’t Roman Catholic, Mormon, or Orthodox Jewish, and have no religious opposition to birth control. While we aren’t wealthy by any means, we aren’t poor as church mice, either.

It’s true that I may never be able to provide all five of my kids with all the material comforts that I might have given one or two. But I happen to think there’s immense value in some of the lessons kids learn in larger families, like having to share, having to wait your turn, and realising that other people’s needs are just as important as your own.

I’ve heard the argument that children use up precious resources. But as far as I’m concerned, my children are a resource. When, later in life, we parents will be the ones who need constant care, it’s our children who will be providing it; let’s hope there are enough of them to go around.

Despite world population growth trend lines, birthrates are falling in Europe. Even here in the US, the number of births per woman hovers right around replacement rates. A relatively small number of couples choosing to have four or five or even 12 kids isn’t likely to skew those numbers much. My kids aren’t status symbols, but to me they are a symbol of sorts: Children represent opportunity for the love, compassion, and support that’s learned within families to be shared with the rest of us. It’s time our entire culture shifted its priority away from things and back toward people.