What is the “perfect” family size?
Today, I had my first look of total disapproval regarding my third pregnancy.
The boys and I were in Tim Horton’s for “Donut Day” which is our Tuesday morning ritual. As we got our food and began looking for a seat, we passed by a gentleman, probably in his forties having coffee. He watched amused, as Grant stumbled around and Truman chattered to me about where we should sit. His eyes caught mine and he smiled before glancing down where he noticed… my belly.
His smile disappeared and he asked loudly, “Are you expecting again?” I answered, “Yes! Another boy!” excitedly. My excitement faded considerably when he sat back in his chair, audibly sighed and shook his head slowly from side to side. He pressed his lips together and looked down at his coffee, disgusted. Clearly we didn’t fall into the “perfect” category as far as this man was concerned. I continued to smile as we kept moving and sat down. I got the boys’ food and drinks set up before taking a moment to absorb what had just happened.
Aside from being shocked by his rude behavior and a little embarrassed, I was mostly surprised because I have never considered three children to be an especially large family. Yet, without knowing one other thing about me beside the fact that I already have two boys, that man was bothered by my choice to have another child.
I began thinking about what the “perfect” family might be. Who gets to decide? Society as a whole or the couple actually caring for the children? Can you tell who is deserving just by catching a glimpse of them at Tim Horton’s?
One child families hear about how their only child NEEDS a sibling. How only children are selfish, spoiled, pampered and have no idea how to relate to other children. That they will be left all alone when their parents die… because only children never make friends, get married, or have children of their own? Wait…what? Not “perfect”.
Two child families hear about how perfect their family is… but only if there is one boy and one girl. Not “perfect”. God forbid you have two girls or two boys. You will forever hear about how you NEED to have one of the opposite:
- “Two boys? Well, now you have to have a girl!”
- “Two girls? Don’t worry, your next one will be a boy.”
Three kids seems acceptable (but not “perfect”) as long as you have a mix of sexes. THREE of one sex? Oh, poor you! I remember it growing up in my family of three girls. “Poor Johnny, surrounded by women… even the dog is female.” (Little did they know, my Dad never minded that he didn’t have a son.) When people ask what I’m having now there is such disappointment. “Three Boys? Oh, I bet you were hoping for a girl.” The idea that someone may be thrilled with three girls or three boys seems foreign to most people.
Four children is encroaching on “large family” territory. Definitely not “perfect”:
- If you have three of one sex and the last one is the opposite, you will be looked at as the couple who tried until they got that boy/girl; no matter that you always wanted four children.
- If you have all boys or all girls, you’ll hear encouragement to keep trying for the other sex from half of the crowd.
- The other half will say nothing, secretly hoping you’ll give up. “Four is enough for crying out loud…”
People lose their minds (and manners!) when they see a family with five or more children. This is beyond “perfect” territory. It suddenly becomes acceptable to ask about completely private matters, such as the children’s paternity, if you “know what causes” them, if they were all planned, are biologically yours, and if it is a “religious thing.” You’ll undoubtedly be shamed for contributing to overpopulation and draining the world’s resources; even though as of 2014*, a record high of 47.6 percent of women between 15 and 44 were childless in the US. Only 6.8% of women the same age had four or more children.
Obviously, the only “perfect” family is one with two children, a boy and a girl. Unfortunately, the odds of achieving that family dynamic – even if you wanted to – are fairly slim. Looking at my own friends and family, only 22 out of 100 randomly selected women have the coveted one-boy-one-girl combo.
The good news? Most of us are in good company with our imperfect families! So, have as many children as you are able and willing to care for and love. The decision is deeply personal, different for everyone and no one else’s business.
My perfect family is MY family. Your perfect family is YOUR family. However you build it, no matter how many members. Take that, Tim Horton’s guy!