Is a fourth child a status symbol?

Generic pic of four children swimming.
Generic pic of four children swimming. 

I’m not a good Catholic, dole bludger nor a sex addict but if the number of children I have says anything, I’m a social climber. That’s if you believe Geraldine Bedell’s take on the fourth child as a status symbol.

The Beckhams have just joined the list of “parents of four” including Jamie Oliver, Gordon Ramsay and other random celebrities who have nothing to do with us but remarkably, have four children. Doesn’t take much to make it onto a list these days.

As we know, celebrities set the benchmark for how we all hope to live our lives so I’m sure there are countless families out there obediently following the latest trend by planning a fourth child. Seriously?

Bedell’s wisdom begins here:

The only couples who have four children these days aren’t really couples at all... they’re brands, selling thousands of cookbooks faster than you can boil an egg (see also Jamie and Jools Oliver)…. They’re the people who can afford not to be bothered about the fact that children are extremely expensive and time-consuming and keep you up half the night, thus preventing you from earning the £193,772 of disposable income they’re going to cost you until they’re 21 – and that’s without educating them privately.

You’re right on the money, Geraldine. Before the Homebrand husband and I jumped into the sack to recklessly conceive our fourth child, we whipped out the calculator and did the sums. Could we afford this child or would we fall into a miserable financial hole? Were we being responsible or were we just desperate to improve our social standing at any cost?

I absolutely understand there is a limit to how many children you can have, often from a financial perspective. Common sense usually prevails with extra mouths to feed, bodies to clothe, bedrooms to house them and carseats to transport them. These are all reasonable considerations and each family finds their own personal maximum (sometimes not by their own choosing).

But status?

Apart from crazy status, I didn’t realise that hitting number four took me to a whole new level of parenting.

Ignoring how ludicrous and offensive a statement it is, to see a child as a status symbol is intrinsically flawed. A status symbol has to improve your social or economic prestige. Help you climb to a higher, worthier place.

Since when has having children improved status? And status as what? A breeder?

More children could be a sign of affluence perhaps? Someone who can afford a 4WD to transport all those children. Following that logic, having four children must also be a sign of power because who else can afford to pay for that many children unless they command a position of influence? Maybe in Hollywood, Ms Bedell but certainly not in suburban Australia.

Unfortunately the author seems to have confused her argument, as she continues with,

The truth is that those of us who sensibly have two children, and those who have chaotically and unaffordably had four, all wish it could have been easier.

Surely if you were looking to improve your social status, then undertaking it in an unaffordable manner would contradict the aim?

We are by no means rolling in a pool of cash but we did not “unaffordably” have four children.

We don’t bombard our kids with all the latest gadgets just because their friends have them. We don’t take lengthy family holidays every year. Our children do not participate in every extra curricular activity they ask for because we don’t have the money or the time. We gratefully accept hand-me-down clothes and then pass them down the line.

On the flip side, our children do not miss out. They play sports, learn to swim and have the option of music lessons when they reach a certain age. They receive nice gifts on special occasions and earn pocket money each week.

We have hopefully taught them some self-restraint, some patience and the ability to save up for things they desire. But this is not the territory of parents of large families, rather a value set that many families hold, irrespective of the number of children.

Bedell keeps trying and keeps failing, clutching at straws with:

A friend of mine who has two children consoles herself with the fact that most of the people she knows who have four children are married to 'no-life bankers.’ Having lots of children may look like an advertisement for a great relationship, but in practice it probably means that at least one of you is so busy earning bonuses that you can’t be there much and when you are, you’re rather dull.

What happened to having to be a celebrity chef or famous footballer to afford a fourth child? Now you must have to be a boring workaholic if you choose to have four children. Would it be that unfathomable to have more children simply because you enjoy kids and are content living a more frugal life? Or maybe you can afford all the children you chose to have without working unreasonable hours to achieve that. And who’s to say anyone with only one or two children are in a better financial position? Wouldn’t that be a completely individual circumstance?

Here I was thinking that, as the parent to four children, it was refreshing to be seen in a less derogatory light, but I think the accusation of a good Catholic, dole bludger or sex addict trumps being accused of having a fourth child as a status symbol…

What do you think? How many kids do you have and what does it say about you? Comment on Kylie's blog.