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Kylie Orr

Large misconceptions about large families

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Kylie Orr

A couple of generations ago, a family of six would have been the norm and certainly not referred to as a “large” family. According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, in 1961, Australia's total fertility rate (TFR) was 3.5 babies per woman. I often wonder about that poor 0.5 child who only got half his body. In 2011, this figure was 1.88 babies per woman (don’t start me on the 0.88 child).

 

Those statistics confirm that these days our family is a walking freak show – and we don’t have any fractional children. When out and about with our kids we attract commentary around the number of children we chose to have.

 

It’s time to break down the misconceptions about large families.

 

We’re poor, uneducated & live off government benefits

 

People assume because we have SO MANY kids we have no money. I’ve been known to joke that we survive on 2-minute noodles, but the fact is, we made informed decisions about our family size and how that would impact our budget and lifestyle. All our children were planned; no “oopsies” and no medical anomalies.

 

My husband and I both hold university degrees, we work and pay taxes.

 

We’re rich

 

Opposing those accusations of scumming off the poor tax-payers, is the gang who deduce we “must be rich” to have ALL THOSE kids! In global terms, we’re affluent. By relative Western-society definitions, we’re not. We budget, just like every other family, and we make sacrifices. We eat well, our kids have access to opportunities and we live a full life. It’s not gold-filled, more gold-plated, but we work hard and do alright.

 

We are devoid of environmental conscience

 

Unless you choose to only replace yourselves (i.e. have two children), then you can be accused of having no environmental conscience. Large families are often targeted in debates about limited resources and the environmental impact of overpopulation.

 

I counter this argument with an economy of scale reasoning. One lightbulb lights a room irrelevant of the number of people. On a personal level, our family shares resources; we use handmedown clothes, toys and books. Our children take shorter showers (when we pound on the door) and learn to coexist in smaller spaces. We have solar panels, free range chickens and a veggie patch.

 

We’re Catholic

 

It seems the only people crazy enough to embark on a life with more than two children do so because it was God’s intention. We’re not Catholic so they’ll have to invent a new cliché.

 

We’re superhuman

 

Apparently, Mother Earth types are the only ones willing and able to have large families because they are a special breed of super-patient angels. If this is the case, I’m not the poster woman for large families. I have calm and patient moments (usually when I’m out with my girlfriends, child-free). I also have many anxious moments that climax to exhausted rants. The one superpower I do hold is the ability to say no.

 

We’re time-poor

 

The catch-cry of our generation is that we’re all “time-poor”. More kids equals less time. Or does it? People with large families don’t experience proportionate growth in time-consuming activities just because they have more children. The activities our children participate in are predominantly in the same location (swimming lessons, weekend sports). There’s no doubt that I’m a permanent fixture at some of these places but so are plenty of my friends with two children.

 

Being time poor has everything to do with your lifestyle, the job you hold, the duties you have and the commitments you make. Number of children certainly puts pressure on time but there are plenty of smaller families who rush around like headless chooks.

 

Kids from large families miss out

 

In addition to poverty of time, money, and patience, holidays, love and attention all make the shortlist of things my kids apparently miss out on because they belong to a large family.

 

Holidays: We don’t take expensive overseas holidays instead we camp, rent holiday houses for a week or visit interstate relatives. They all qualify as “holidays” – a break from the norm and a fresh perspective offering the same relief whether it’s inside Disneyland or lying on a towel on the closest beach.

 

Love: I’m not sure about you, but my heart is not filled with finite love. More children does not mean the love runs out quicker than my wine collection.

 

Attention: I will concede that with four children, there are times when the attention given to each child is stretched. When they all simultaneously shout “Mum”, my two ears and two hands are not always capable of attending immediately. And that is the virtue of patience; a value learnt very quickly in a large family.

 

What I’ve realised as our family has grown, is that to criticise people’s family choices is ill-informed and elitist. Stamping out the stereotypes placed upon large families – any families for that matter - is vital.

 

So when you next fall in line behind a parent in the supermarket with more kids than you have, don’t ask, “Are these all yours?” Instead, smile and say, “What a lovely family you have there.” You’ll make their week. Possibly their year.

 

What misconception about large families drives you bonkers?

Edited by Kylie Orr
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Burro

That im interested in them.

 

Never seen the attraction of those shows about large families. Boring.

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qak

Not intending to derail your thread, but 1961 would be closer to two generations ago, surely? I thought 1 generation = about 30 years.

 

I am happy to have my misconceptions corrected though!

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Kylie Orr

You're right, qak. Have updated.

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Sixx

 

So when you next fall in line behind a parent in the supermarket with more kids than you have, don’t ask, “Are these all yours?” Instead, smile and say, “What a lovely family you have there.” You’ll make their week. Possibly their year.

 

What misconception about large families drives you bonkers?

 

Or just mind your own business lol

 

Great post op, And things I can relate with in real life, but one thing has changed for me this year, joining EB hearing funny/mean point of views on this, I realised just how people who chose to have one or two children do not need to justify their choice, either do large families

 

As long as children's needs are met, they are safe and they are loved the number of children in a family is irrelavant.

 

There are all sorts of assumptions out there and I'm learning to say meh whatever.

It was ok when I was a working mum and seeing my very young children two hours a day but suddenly when I became a full time stay at home parent(which is until they are all in school) and added to my family I suddenly am selfish and couldn't possible have time for my children.

 

(It's not people's place to criticise working mums it's also not people's place to criticise large families just because')

 

Meh to that, I work very hard to be there for each of my children, when I was a working mum and now being a stay at home parent.

 

One comment that makes my blood boil that I hear every few months from someone I know

"I only have the two I can't afford for anything to happen to them like people who have more" that is so shocking!

Parents do not run out of space in their heart for their children!

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Soontobegran

An oldie but goldie that was said way too often to be even slightly amusing.

 

"You musn't have a TV " :sick:

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Bam1

I am sick of beng told I am a supermum because I work F/T with 5 kids - funny my husband never gets told that!

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FiveAus

Hahaha to the gov benefits. Oh yes, I used to get that all the time when I was raising my 4 kids as a single mum.

I think I disappointed a lot of people when I told them I worked a full-time job to support my family.

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