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

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, which is below the replacement rate of 2.1. The replacement rate refers to the number of children each woman needs to have to maintain current population levels, or zero population growth.

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 are 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 and 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 Icertainly 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 , 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.

By KathleenMD


13 thoughts on ““Are You Done Yet?” In Defence of my 5th Child

  1. Tom Leykis says:

    You’re an idiot. A delusional, mouthbreathing, uneducated moron.

    • Cara says:

      Wow. If you’re so intelligent (as clearly this is what you’re alluding too—you seem to believe that you “know better” than KathleenMD) why don’t you provide some facts or statistics instead of resorting to fallacious “ad hominem” attacks? Or are you SO intelligent, perhaps, that you have absolutely no obligation to actually SOUND intelligent and thus have the right to simply engage in virtual mudslinging?

      • Kris says:

        This is likely a troll. While Tom Leykis has a “colorful” attitude toward women, I doubt even he would simply respond with an insult completely unrelated to the debate. Ignore and he will go away.

      • Jerry Hughes says:

        Well, at least he’s intelligent enough to not go out of his way to sound overly pompous.

  2. Matt says:

    You clearly do not understand the world overpopulation problem.

    • Lily says:

      Ditto to this

      The population may slow eventually, and is actually predicted to, but currently it’s still on the increase and will be for some time. At this rate we’re going to have a mass food crisis in 200 odd years. This is a global issue, not just your nations particular birth rate (because, spoiler, worldwide birth rates will affect everyone), and needs to be looked at as such.

      Your ‘low birth problem’ in your country is a human construct (economics, in particular, and that working base class supporting the rest) on how society is run and not an actual reflection on the issues the current population has on the earth and our sustainability long term. It also does not reflect advances in automation and sciences that make us less reliant in human labours (and hence allows us to have smaller working classes)

      While I am glad you enjoy your kids and what not, the ‘low birth rate’ thing is not a good point of defence. The rest of your points are personal enjoyment, and the whole ‘benefit to society thing’ is generally counterweighted by the burdens on resources a new life brings.

      TL;DR- if you enjoy having a large brood, great, but none of this really justifies it.

  3. Kai says:

    Here’s my question: why can’t we look at children as future contributors to society, not burdens on society?

    Because they are BURDENS. Up until 18, you’re expected to provide for these brats. And you think all your precious kids are going to be doctors and productive when in reality, the more you pop out, the less successful they’ll be. I’ve seen the type of families that have a lot of kids. Where are the eldest?

    Taking care of the youngest because the parents are too busy opening their legs for another child (each one bringing a higher risk for deformities or disabilities…) to give a shit about the fact that if they’d decide to stop at a certain number, they’d actually have the time and resources to raise their children properly instead of just doing the “Breed, force older child to raise, repeat.” cycle.

  4. Kris says:

    While I consider myself childfree, I understand that you can make your own life decisions and support your right to do it. However, I would argue that your argument about the falling birth rate is b.s. Look at any population projection from anywhere and you will see the world population skyrocketing. While you might be tempted to state a regional decline, this is relatively unimportant when dealing with a world only a few hours away by flight. The simple math and logic indicates that there are finite resources on this planet and that is not even factoring in all the other things that need those like animals and plants. Look at all animal population graphs and you will see a J shaped curve, followed by a sine wave. The birth rate isn’t declining, the death rate is rising. The human graph looks the same. In addition, our increasingly automated society no longer needs as many people… we should be looking forward to a decrease in population, instead of dreading it. So while I support your right to chose to have a large family, the only gripe I have is if you use the government (which is NOT your friend by the way, and would gladly devour you and your kids to further its own goals) to confiscate resources from people who have no or few children to support your own children. This occurs in myriad ways, from tax breaks to flat out higher taxes on single people with no kids. I don’t mind paying some things, like education and preventative health care, both of which I took advantage of as a kid. Even some interest on that “debt” is fine. But at a certain point enough is enough, and I don’t want this to become like Sweden (or anywhere else in the tax hellhole called the EU), where they tax the hell out of singles (and men) to fund single mommies. Just remember that with increased automation, society needs your children less and less, and your not doing it any favors by having large numbers of children. Yours is a lifestyle choice, and I do not want to subsidize it. Other than that, do what you want and have fun! (I come from a large family, so I understand the siblings thing, but my parents worked their asses off to pay for us, so I completely support your position if you are in that camp)

  5. Elliot says:

    I’m glad you’re happy with the amount of kids you have BUT all the reasons you’ve listed seem INCREDIBLY selfish to me as all your reasons for having them are about you.I also find it very sad that you think you’re only contribution to society will be your children.

  6. Hana says:

    If children are the greatest gift you can give to society, I honestly feel sorry for you. They’re not even a great gift. The world is full, almost at its bursting point. We don’t need people manning armies from their bedroom, we need people ACTIVELY making a difference. Sure, one of your kids could grow up to cure cancer. One of your kids could also become a drug addict or criminal, putting more pressure on an already overburdened system

  7. Sarah K. says:

    It’s awesome that you enjoy looking after your children and it sounds like they have a really loving and supportive environment, which is great. But you need to realise: IT IS NOT FOR EVERYONE.

    “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.”

    Everyone has a different motivation in life. Not everyone needs children to work hard. My personal motivation is to grow and improve as a person and to make a positive impact to those around me.

    I find it really rude and ignorant that you would imply people are selfish for not having children. Making the choice to conceive a child is self-interest, not altruism – as much as you would like to believe for the sake of your ego. And that’s fine, but don’t accuse people of self-absorption because they choose a different pathway to you.

    “There is nothing like parenthood to keep you humble.”

    I don’t think you are humble at all. I found this incredibly sanctimonious, actually.

  8. B says:

    I’m going to leave a reply because I agree with what a lot of other people have said about overpopulation and how your children ARE a burden on society…. I’m also the oldest of 6. I was 12 years old and the oldest of 3 when my auntie passed away. My mum then adopted her 3 children to prevent them going into care and being split up. Although I can’t fault my mum for making this choice, our lifestyle certainly changed dramatically. The obvious was when we had to cut back on luxury items and each received far less at Christmas… But it didn’t just stop there. Weekends that we would have once gone to the cinema or for a treat were now spent at home as it was just impossible to pay for that many of us. We got by but it was a struggle week to week.
    When I was 21 I met my partner who i have now been with for 4 years. He Also comes from a big family and like me is the oldest of 6. All his brothers and sister are the result of a religious family who wanted lots of kids. He also understands how difficult it can be financially and how hard it is to find peace and quite with that many children around. From the age of 15 he was often working the family business to keep it afloat and missed out on a lot of formal education because of this.

    We both now do not want children. I would go as far to say that I actively dislike them and find them an intolerable pain, my partner just doesn’t want any and values his time and peace and quite far too much. Most people coo over babies, we both find no joy in looking at them and find them repulsive at best.

    The really shocking part is that both of my sisters and all of my partners siblings do not ever want children either. They have no interest in parenting and feel as though they have done their bit,

    I highly doubt your kids are as happy as you think they are with the situation. and they will express this more as they get older and things become increasingly difficult for them.

  9. kellyeparish says:

    I support the right of people to have as many kids as they can reasonably afford without government assistance, but to insinuate that childfree people are selfish for not wanting to make the same life choices as you makes you come off as an extremely “holier-than-thou” sort of person. Also, to insinuate that you somehow work harder than someone who doesn’t have children isn’t necessarily true. Many people work demanding jobs with strange hours that don’t allow them the time to give children the attention they need to develop into productive members of society.

    Some folks don’t want to play with babies and children all day. They don’t want their belongings damaged, not even by someone they love. They don’t want to leave contributions to society to their children, contributions which may or may not manifest – they want to contribute something for *themselves*, something concrete that they can attain themselves, and acknowledge that raising children would not allow them the time, energy, or resources to do so.

    As far as your overpopulation argument goes, other commenters have already stated why that’s fallacious. U.S. overpopulation isn’t the issue. *World* overpopulation is the issue.

    Also, I’m not even going to address the inappropriateness of you taking your small child to an anti-abortion rally. Your kid is NOT a political prop and you should be ashamed to treat him like one. Instead of teaching the love of Christ for the supposedly lost, you are teaching judgment and cruelty towards women whose situations you don’t even know, some of whom are probably in the most vulnerable and desperate point in their lives.

    You’re not pro-life, you’re pro-birth. And there is a HUGE difference.

    (23:15) Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you compass sea and land to make one proselyte, and when he is made, you make him twofold more the child of hell than yourselves.

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