A friend posted this on Facebook, and I thought I'd pass it along.
(No, my last name isn't Beaven, and I don't go by "Matt")
The How & Why of Large Families
by Matt Beaven on MAY 28, 2012 in CULTURE
My wife recently passed on to me something she came across on the Internet, a blog where the author asked how anyone can afford large families and why they would want one. This was my reply:
You asked two questions:
1. How the non-wealthy afford large numbers of children?
2. Why would someone want a large number of children?
I am the father of six children, the oldest being seven. We live in a middle-income suburb of a city approx. 3 mil in population. Most of the households on my street have two people. Some have fewer and the largest, other than my family, has three children (but the father is gone in Afghanistan). I have noticed that, every week, our garbage container is only about half full. Everyone else maxes out their garbage and sometimes goes over, having to pay for an extra bag.
What I have noticed is that families of moderate means and large numbers are more efficient (in total and per capita) in their use of resources. Food is prepared in bulk. Clothes are passed from person to person or shared. The number of toys needed to keep two children busy are the exact number of toys that six children need to keep busy. And we have a lot of costs that do not go up automatically when adding a child. Our house is the same house, so our mortgage is the same. Our utilities are almost exactly the same, maybe slightly more on the water bill, which is next-to-nothing anyhow. We don’t do any extra driving just because we have another child.
So this answers how we afford our children — having six just doesn’t cost much more than having three. So why have so many children? This, I suspect, is a bigger answer, in that each family will have reasons which can be entirely different from the next family.
For me, there are several reasons — which include:
A. Cultural. Large families have a distinct culture unique only to large families. This culture teaches cooperation, sharing, and value to differences among us.
B. Security. Large families cast wide safety nets. As we age, our children will become adults. If one falls on hard times, we won’t need to turn to the government for help because we can pitch in to help each other out. Also, elderly parents who have many children don’t have to worry about being a burden because the energy taking care of mom & dad is distributed.
C. Religious. We are Catholic and do not believe in use of contraception and have no reason to use natural family planning.
D. Social. Children connect people. I can go into the grocery store by myself and nobody will say a word to me. If I take two of my children, people will smile and say something brief. If I come with my wife and all six children, we can have a fifteen minute conversation. Having large families also means meeting my kids friends’ parents, being involved with new people and new things. People, by nature, are meant to be socially connected. For some reason, this comes easily with children. And as children age, they bring into our lives their extended social network of people who enrich our lives.
I would also like to state, that in the big picture, more people is a good thing, not a bad thing. We have never had so many people on this planet and we have record low levels of starvation. We have better health, more toys, greater access to resources than ever. That is because people create more than they consume and the more minds we have working on our problems, the better off we are. Population isn’t the only factor in our well-being but it is significant.