“Are You Done Yet?” In Defense of my 5th Child

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This week my husband and I announced our big news: we’re expecting our 5th child in September.  “Really?”  is the most common reply.  Here are some of the other zingers we have heard:

“Do you hate money?”

“Are you done now?”

“Are you crazy?”

“Was this planned?”

“Don’t you know there are things you can do to prevent this?”

“Do they all have the same father?”

“You must be Catholic or Mormon.”

“Is the quiver full of arrows?”

Critics of large families mention the burden that our children will be on society and the Earth.  We hear about the health care costs our children will generate and the size of our family carbon footprint.  Others simply express concern for my husband and me, that we will be too tired, have financial stress, or not have enough time for each other.

Here’s my question: why can’t we look at children as future contributors to society, not burdens on society?  My children are the best gift I have for society.  Children bring hope for the future and model unconditional love.  Have we forgotten?  It is the sign of a dying society when we see our children as burdens rather than beacons of hope, future innovators.

The National Center for Health Statistics says the over all birth rate in 2011 is the lowest in this country since 1920. As a college-educated Caucasian female, I am predicted to have 1.6 children per 2011 statistics.  America’s overall fertility rate is 1.96, below replacement rate of 2.1.  We do not have an overpopulation problem in the United States, we have a low-birth-rate problem.  Experts predict that global population is also slowing.  This trend is likely to continue as contraception becomes increasing availability in the developing world.  When birth rates fall below replacement rates societies suffer.  The average age of the population increases, creating a top-heavy society with heavy health-care and resource needs.   Children are the answer to this problem—our future workers, innovators, and supporters.  Children are our hope and future, not our burden.

But I’m not having kids to re-populate the Earth, I’m having kids because I love them.  Yes, I will have a few more years of diapers and crying babies at night, but the rewards are many.  Here are my favorites:

  • Children keep me young and joyful.  I have to turn my anxiety off and play pretend with my 4-year-old, I rest every few hours and breastfeed my baby, and I share my six-year-old’s delight in drawing a dream-house with fifteen stories.  They get me to eat home-made snow cones and play in the rain.  I play outside almost every day.  Do you?
  • Younger kids bring joy out of my older kids, no matter how grumpy they get.  My son can have a terrible attitude, but when his baby sister wants to play with him, he always smiles and obliges her.  And then I smile, too.
  • Life is never boring!  Our kids each so unique, so different from the others.  And they keep growing and changing.  We never know what to expect.
  • I don’t sweat the small stuff anymore.  I used to clean polish away every nick in my wooden furniture and keep my bathroom spotless.  These days I figure a few marks in my furniture adds to their antique value.  I find fingerprints on my bathroom mirror endearing.
  • Parenthood makes me work hard.  Without kids, I’m sure I’d watch more TV, drink more wine, and become a more selfish individual.  With kids, I’m forced to think of others and avoid self-absorption.
  • Kids make me realize how ridiculous I can be.   One of my kids complains about dinner almost every night.  It’s really annoying.  Then I realize there are things I complain about too much, too…
  • There is nothing like parenthood to keep you humble.  Just when you think you have it all figured out, they throw you another curve ball.
  • I want less stuff.  I keep thinking, if we had fewer kids and more disposable income, what would I do with it?  Drive a fancier car, live in a bigger house?  I don’t want a fancier car and I certainly don’t want to clean or care for a bigger house. 

Some people worry that we won’t be able to give each of our kids the one-on-one attention that they need.  Because we homeschool [link to this blog post], our kids get plenty of individual attention every day.

A new baby is perhaps the best gift you can give to your other children.  A 14 year-old from a family of five told me, “I can’t imagine not having siblings.  That would be my worst nightmare.  It would be lonely.”

My four year-old said it best, “Can we have as many kids as the Duggars?” Umm… maybe not that many.

Copyright 2013 Kathleen Berchelmann, MD

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6 Comments

  1. Good for you! Every child is indeed a blessing, a joy and an opportunity to grow in holiness. May you and your husband have lots of opportunities and joy!

  2. Thank you for the article!
    Would you please post the numbers associated with the 1977, 2000, & 2002 studies or links to studies themselves.
    Thank you & God Bless!!
    J.

  3. I have one thing to say…CONGRATULATIONS! Again and again. The greatest gift of our lives is a child. Congratulations to you, your husband, and to your children. May the hugs and laughing continue always!

  4. First, Congratulations. I am so happy for you. I remember when our 5th Child was born. Well I remember the day that it happened, as it turned out I was traveling for work and could not get home but I was there in every way that I could be. The Poor babysitter, when I called back to ask my wife a question… Anyway

    As a Father of ten I get asked this question all the time. Honestly I found it annoying when we had 4 and I find it annoying now. I know that people are not trying to be rude, but it still hurts. I do my best to not be rude in return. Children are a gift. As an NFP teacher, I try to explain that to people. The Catholic Church does not say you should have as many children as you can, instead it says say yes to God. Sometimes God gives you a gift.

    And when I am feeling less charitable I tell them that my children will make sure that Social Security will still be available when they retire.

    Thank you for the wonderful post.

  5. Congratulations! A child is always – ALWAYS – a blessing. People only become a burden to society when they are taught to make themselves one. I was 30 when I had our first and 37 when we had our fourth (and potentially last). We always say another child would be unplanned but not unwelcomed nor unloved. Blessings to you and yours.

  6. Congratulations! The following phrase is attributed to Mother Teresa: “How can there be too many children? That is like saying there are too many flowers.” Whether she said it or not, I fully agree!

    After using Washington University Center for Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility to conceive our 2nd child, (we also needed help conceiving our 1st), I would welcome more gifts from God! Both of our children are precious miracles (thank you, Dr. Ratts!). While I will not do further infertility treatments (it’s expensive and emotionally draining), who knows what God has in store for me? He makes miracles everyday! I am thrilled you are having your 5th- I wish you a healthy pregnancy and many blessings.

    I love your posts- thanks for sharing!

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