A few months after Becky was born, some friends and I were talking online about this question of “the next child”. We were pretty evenly spread, with a handful eager to start trying as soon as possible, a handful joyfully planning their husband’s vasectomy, and the rest of us in the middle, covering our ears and shouting “I can’t hear you, LALALALALALA.” Obviously in the months since I’ve come to the “big is beautiful” side of the family size debate, but at the time I was still struggling with feeling like the family we “should” have (two replacements humans, with an extra for good measure) was not the family we were meant to have. Sara, (whose blog you should be reading if you are interested in the journey to becoming a midwife) said something then that I immediately brought to Tom, and have thought about nearly daily since. I wish I had saved her exact wording, but in essence it was this: At Thanksgiving dinner in 2031, who is at the table?
At our table, there are more than three children.
Over the last few months I have started to embrace this family at the table, but then an article comes out that gives me pause. According to Bounty.com, families with four children (and more specifically four girls) are less happy than smaller families. According to their survey, we’ve already passed optimum happiness when we grew from two girls to three, and possibly adding another girl is asking for a lifetime of drudgery and misery. I will admit that, just for a moment, I thought “What have we done?!” I looked over the negatives of having four daughters list, and thought, we do struggle to get the girls into bed some nights. We did have to buy a larger car. When they are sick it is impossible to keep up with them all, and oh they are loud and whiny and picky and and *deep breaths with my head between my legs*
Of course, then I read through the positives of having two daughters and recognized my children in each of those criteria as well. Looking over just this list is almost as laughable as the quote “Two girls rarely annoy their parents with too much noise, confide in their parents and are unlikely to wind each other up or ignore each other,” because this family does not exist. Every family has moments of harmony, but every family also has the chaotic, frenzied, “WHAT HAVE WE WROUGHT” moments, and the claim that the key to harmony is the right combination of children (something that we have no real control over) is at best laughable, and at worst cruel. Where is the accountability for parents, the compassion that not all children are “typical”, the joy in the unexpected?
I don’t claim to know the key to family happiness, but I have a very good idea that it doesn’t have to do with the number or sex of my children. For me, it has to do with the strength of my marriage, with the supportive friendships were are fortunate to have, and with our daily habits of gratitude, curiosity and faith. Having four children (even four daughters) will have its challenges, but I can not even fathom the joys it will bring.
Of course, if we go nuts and decide to have a fifth eventually Bounty.com seems unable to quantify our torment and suffering. *wink*