April 12, 2010 in Features

Mr. Dad: Key factors can help set family size

Armin Brott
 

Dear Mr. Dad: It seems like every time I turn on the TV, there are the Duggars, with their 19 children, and Octomom with 14. How many kids are too many? What’s your take on it?

A: That’s a tough (and arbitrary) question, and the answer depends on whom you ask. The Duggars, for example, have made it clear that they’d like to have more kids, so in their opinion, 19 isn’t enough. I have a feeling that Octomom isn’t through either, and that the stars of the new show “9 by Design” are just getting warmed up.

Fortunately, we can all rest easy now that John and Kate stopped at eight. On the other hand, a lot of people, including Bill McKibben, author of “Maybe One,” believe that one is the ethically and environmentally responsible number. Most of us, though, fall somewhere in between (the average number of children per household with kids is about two).

When considering how many children to have, the best way to reach the conclusion that’s right for your family is to look at four factors: medical, financial, emotional, and practical.

•Medical. Women who have repeated and closely spaced pregnancies and births are more prone to premature labor, smaller babies, uterine rupture, postpartum bleeding, gallbladder disease, nutritional deficiencies, depression and a host of other complications.

•Financial. We all say that our children are priceless, but raising them is one of the most expensive things you’ll ever do. Government figures suggest that it cost an average of $185,000 and $285,000 to get one child from birth to young adulthood. For a lot of parents, raising a child involves a certain amount of sacrifice.

•Emotional. It’s true that only children can sometimes be lonely and lack social skills, while those growing up in large families will always have companionship and playmates, and will theoretically learn to share, foster a “team” spirit, and develop a strong sense of responsibility.

On the flip side, kids in large families may not get enough quality “me” time with mom and dad. Another disadvantage of really large families is that the older kids often end up raising younger ones, since mom and dad just can’t keep up with everyone’s needs.

•Logistics. Unless you live in a mansion, privacy and personal space are things you’ll only read about or see on TV, and don’t forget about the constant noise and clutter. Simple shopping trips could take hours, and can you imagine what it would be like to go on vacation? You’d have to rent a bus or charter an airplane and book an entire wing of a hotel.

Of course, the one thing that can trump all the disadvantages is love. I’m sure the Duggars and other parents of large families truly love and want the very best for their kids. And that’s what you need to focus on when deciding what’ll work best for your family.

Find resources for fathers at www.mrdad.com


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