Tuesday Topic: Too Many Children?

This week’s Tuesday Topic comes from Campbell who wrote this in response to the earlier conflict over the Rockin’ Mama Challenge.  We have had a good exchange of emails and I suggested I post her question here.

Upon reading the difficulty you had in finding only 15 minutes in a day to spend with one of your children (GIMH Rockin’ Mama Challenge) I had to ask myself why a person would have so many children. I’ve always been of the mindset that people can have too many children and that when they do, it’s unfair to the children as they cannot possibly receive as much attention as they need, and deserve.

For context, I’m an adopted person who is not anti adoption. I am not religious and do not subscribe to adoption being any group’s God’s will and I do believe in hugging/cuddling children of any age that want it.

Campbell and I have had a nice email exchange and I think I can fairly say that this is a genuine question and not a mean-spirited barb.  I encourage you to answer with that in mind – let’s have a good discussion.  I would love to hear from you.

Do you have a Tuesday Topic you would like to ask? Please email it to me at:

lisa@onethankfulmom.com

If you put Tuesday Topic in the subject line it will help me a bit.  Also, if you’ve left a question in the comments that you would like to ask as a Tuesday Topic, feel free to send it to me via email and I’ll make sure to get it in the queue.

Encourage one another,

Lisa

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Let me introduce myself. Russ and I are the parents of twelve children by birth and adoption, and sometimes more through foster care. I'm the creator of One Thankful Mom which has been as much of a gift to me as to my readers. In 2011 I became a TBRI® Pracitioner* and have lived and breathed connected parenting ever since. I'm deeply honored to be the co-author, together with the late Dr. Karyn Purvis, of The Connected Parent; it is her final written work. I love speaking at events for adoptive and foster parents. I'm also the co-founder of The Adoption Connection, a podcast and resource site for adoptive moms. I mentor and encourage adoptive moms so you can find courage and hope in your journeys of loving your children well.

23 Comments

  1. kristen
    February 8, 2011

    i'm looking forward to the conversation. we have 4 right now. and after picking up our 4th from her orphanage (our first adoption), I knew I wanted to come back for at least another child who still needed a family. my heart was especially soft for those older children, who looked into our faces. They saw we were there for a baby, and they see so many families come for babies, and so many fewer families for older ones. It's not a given that they will have a family.

    at the same time, while our love feels limitless, our time is limited. for that reason, we are waiting to begin the process again. not closed to it, but just waiting for our littles to become a little more independent.

    Reply
  2. dorothy
    February 8, 2011

    I'll stick to Mother Theresa's "Too many children? That's like saying there are too many flowers." And add my own note that if we trust the Lord to build the families He will do it according to His plans and not our own….for some people two children are too many – for others it might be 15. it's not my place to judge or decide.

    Reply
  3. Lori
    February 8, 2011

    I can understand this person's concern. I have several friends with large families (one with seven and one with thirteen) and I used to wonder the same things. However! I have learned that God puts us all together differently. What I can handle and what my friend can handle are very different. I have seen the wonderful results of a large family as both of these families now have kids either married or graduated from or in college. There are beautiful lessons that the kids learn by being a part of a large family and I have often mourned the fact that my "small" family cannot learn those same lessons as easily. Over the years, I have learned not to judge others by my standard of the perfect family size. Lori (Mom of 2 biological kids (one in heaven), 2 adopted, and one adopted on the way. My oldest is 21 years old.)

    Reply
  4. Teresa F
    February 8, 2011

    I have a friend who grew up in a family of 13 kids. She was a middle kid and is now around 50 years of age. She says that she wouldn't change her experience for a moment. I think, given the choice, most kids in the foster system would prefer being adopted into a large family to remaining in a foster home and aging out with no one to support them in their young adult years.

    Reply
  5. Nancy
    February 8, 2011

    Hmmmm…
    I wonder what the orphaned child thinks of this reasoning? I wonder if the 10 year old boy, or the child with cerebral palsy, or the toddler born with congenital deformities thinks there is such a thing as "too many children" and that it would be better to live and grow up in an institution with no mother and father to call their own. I don't think they would think it would matter much.
    I also agree, there are many families that even 2 children seem to be too many. And others with 13 or 15 find a wonderful balance and could handle more. I believe that it is a decision each fmaily should take very very seriously. I have noticed that the large families that I have come across have been very intentional with their parenting and have taken their role of parenting very seriously, something that not all families do. As a member our the world community, I don't really care how many kiddos a family has, as long as they are bringing up members of our community with good character. Again, some families do this well with many children and other fail this obligation a few.
    Mama to 6

    Reply
    1. Melissa
      February 9, 2011

      No offense, Nancy, but this type of answer supposes we know how all orphaned children feel. Some may well rather stay where their roots are.

      For the record, orphans don't START at orphanages. We need to remember their first families and how many times they've been moved and LOST everything. Speak of them in love and respect instead of assuming what they are thinking.

      Personally, I only have one child and am a Single Mom by Choice (via adoption). I parent intentionally. I don't think large famiiles have the market on that either.

      And I really don't mean offense, but I just get tired of hearing how "orphans" feel. WE DON'T know how they feel. And they should NOT be grateful to have a family. That is a right.

      Reply
      1. Diane
        February 10, 2011

        Melissa,

        I agree, as an other single mother by choice with one Bio and one adopted child, I can not speak for either of my children's experiences. They are so very different. I just try and give them what they need, the hardest part of course is understanding what that is.

        Reply
  6. Dawn
    February 8, 2011

    I think this is a hard question. We have 8 children now and would not hesitate to have more. BUT if you are ragged and stressed all the time……obviously not a good thing. BUT in the same breath- there are many children who grow up in "big" families that have "big" families, but the other way around as well. Some people can't handle it- some can.

    If you are a person who LOVES your big family- I can't see how that is bad, unless you go by society's ways. There are people who only have 2 children who don't spend 15 minutes alone with them.

    Reply
  7. Jane
    February 8, 2011

    I think it depends a great deal on the emotional resources of the parents and the needs of the children in each family. The two I have are very much loved, but a family any larger would be too much for me and my husband.

    I am an only, raised by parents who came from relatively large families by today's standards (six and five children). They both chose not to have a large family because their parents were harried and stressed; both came from extremely poor farming backgrounds in the Midwest and were born during the Depression. Big families, to my parents, meant less of everything to go around, although both were loved.

    People always asked me if I longed for brothers or sisters. I honestly didn't. I had many friends and never had a problem with sharing. My parents took me around the world with them, and I was able to attend the college of my choice and have my parents' financial support through the first years of graduate school. I can't say that I hated having the resources.

    I think it's easy to look at another family's situation and say, "Oh, that's a shame." Mothers of large families probably think I had a sad, lonely, deprived childhood. I didn't. I look at enormous families like the Duggars and cannot fathom having an older child raise me instead of my parents. The "buddy" system freaks me out. For some here, that may seem normal and perfectly lovely. We know what we like, and we like what we know.

    The important thing in all of this is to make sure that children grow up feeling that they have adults who love them unconditionally and meet their emotional and physical needs. They should, IMO, feel secure and attached to at least one adult, preferably a parent, and spend regular, quality time (whether 15 minutes or more) with their parents most days of the week.

    Reply
  8. expressmom
    February 8, 2011

    I read your blog because I am filled with admiration and respect for you and the choices you have made.

    But, I must admit, like your earlier respondent, I too felt a twinge of discomfort hearing that finding 15 minutes of individual time with your child was difficult. I don't believe your children are neglected or lacking love in any capacity, but as a mom of only two, it is difficult to imagine that spending 15 minutes daily with one of my kids (especially if they were hurting) would be an event I didn't have time for.

    I think this is a simple case of culture clash. If you haven't lived it, perhaps it seems bizarre. No one can judge you that has not walked in your shoes. And personally, I don't think I could fill your shoes!

    Reply
  9. Jen
    February 8, 2011

    I feel that families come in all shapes and sizes. I grew up in a large family and while I didn't have the resources that I would have as an only child with my parents, I had the gift of siblings and the bond we share even as adults. When my youngest brother was born, he had severe health issues and my parents were stretched thin taking care of us and him in the hospital. He had to spend time alone more than a sick child should and we did without mom many times. And this was only one child with special needs. What would concern me is a family with many children with special needs, since ther are only two adults and so much need in the family. I know personally the want to adopt children with medical conditions as these are not the children that are often adopted, they wait for a family. As parents, our obligation is to all our children, not just the one(s) with special circumstances.

    My opinion is not directed at any family in particular, God knows some of us can handle extraordinary challenges and I truly pray for strength and energy for those moms and dads. There is no magic number of children that a family should have. It is easy to judge from the outside a families motive to have a large family, but God knows their heart.

    Reply
  10. Regina
    February 9, 2011

    Before I had teenagers, I would have thought it strange if someone had suggested that 15 minutes of one-on-one time was hard to come by. Sometimes it isn't just the size of our family but the makeup regarding age, sex, special needs, schooling, and jobs that makes life feel frazzled.

    Currently we have 4 girls and we are waiting to hear news of our 2 still in Ethiopia. I have often wondered how I would parent 6 children, but I wondered the same thing every time God blessed us with another child.

    Having a large family or a small family does not guarantee a great family. Families of all sizes require hard work and sacrifice. Philosophies of parenting often play a pretty big role in determining family size.

    Reply
  11. Teresa
    February 9, 2011

    Hi,
    I have 3 children and would like to adopt 2 more, one at a time.
    I think my children already compete for me and my attention, I already have to strech myself to have enough time for cuddles every day (yes with all of them), to make sure they know, they feel in their bones they are loved and valued, to spend a little everyday solving their little problems, to read with them and to help them with homework, take them to their activities.
    Before we add more children we need to make sure we can handle it in all areas, tiredness, extra-work, finances, time for each children, time for us, etc.
    It is simply not fair on the children we already have home to add and add more children.
    I already have a compromisse with the children I have, I promised to raise them to the best of my ability and they come first.
    My mom comes from a family of 9 children, she is number 5, and felt terribly unloved growing up.
    I'm not doing that mistake.
    I have a special cuddle with each of my children every day and that means a lot to me.
    And I still feel I fail them sometimes. 🙁
    Teresa

    Reply
  12. @mkgivler
    February 9, 2011

    Mom, I think it could be valuable to explain to people that The Rocking Chair is also in the middle of the busy family room, so before you can rock Honeybee, you have to make sure every child is engaged in an activity in another room that will keep them completely occupied for 15 minutes – no easy task!

    So it's not even just an issue of YOU finding 15 minutes. It's an issue of creating activities for all the other kiddos that will keep them happy, safe, and occupied for the full amount of time, without coming to you with questions/comments/concerns 🙂

    Mimi

    Reply
    1. Lauren
      February 9, 2011

      Thank you for pointing this out. I too feel that finding 15 minutes of uninterrupted time with one child is difficult. I have only 3 children at home, ages 5, 3.5, and 3, with a 1 yr old waiting in Ethiopia (hopefully home soon). Keeping them all occupied for 15 minutes, while I spend time with one is nearly impossible. And in a small house like mine, even harder. The point is, you are making it happen – as best you can.

      Reply
  13. Dana@AdoptionJourney
    February 9, 2011

    Such a tough question. I can't bring myself to criticize anyone for having a lot of kids because I believe that children are a blessing and that so many children both here and overseas need homes. I believe that many times the things that are the hardest and call for the greatest sacrifices reap the greatest blessings and rewards. I don't want an easy life. I want to invest my life.

    We just adopted an older child and that makes 4 kids – ages 7, 8, 8 and 11 in our small house. We aren't rich. I'm sure many people think we are crazy. Many people questioned the sacrifices our bio kids would have to make in order to adopt our new son. They have made sacrifices, but have gained a new brother whom they love. Our house is louder and crazier, but it is so full of love. My husband and I are exhausted, and yet our hearts are full and encouraged at the same time.

    I know 4 kids is not a lot compared to Lisa's family. But I think the issues we are dealing with are the same ones even larger kids deal with each time they add a child.

    Reply
  14. Mama Mia
    February 9, 2011

    Personally, I think that giving the decision of family size over to God is what we should aim for and do. Some tease me that I'd adopt 20 if I could, and they are right. But, I also believe God gives us limits. It is for us as individuals in our Relationship with God to figure out where that line is. Sometimes, we don't find it until it's too late. Sometimes we find it and we fall short. Sometimes we aren't "blessed" with what we think we should have. It's all relative.

    Making sure that you have enough time to really be *in relationship* with your children is the most important. It is what we were created for… being in relationships. So, if someone's limit is one, then that is OK. if it is 20, then that's ok too. But by being genuine and following the whispers of God, we'll be sure that we are giving our children what they need most – OUR LOVE. And if we can't do that, then no matter how many children we have, we ought to re-group and re-evaluate our expectations.

    Are we doing this truly and honestly because it is what God is in control? Or are we doing it as a savior complex of our own? Or to fix something that was in our own past? To me, we just need to be genuine in our answers and then, frankly, it's no one else's business how many children we do or don't have.

    Peace,
    Melissa

    Reply
    1. One Thankful Mom
      February 9, 2011

      The key for me is listening to the Lord, listening to Russ, prayerfully considering the needs of the children we have right now, and then laying it all down in willingness to serve in whatever way Jesus asks me to serve. We have to be so clear that it is not about us – you said it well.

      Reply
      1. Melissa
        February 10, 2011

        Thanks OneThankfulMom! 🙂 It is key for me, too. It's hard to listen sometimes, isn't it, without putting our own expectations and spin on it.

        That being said, sometimes God seems to be OK with us taking some risks and making choices on our own. And in those times, we need to really consider how much we *truly* can handle. I struggle with this… as I'd love to save the world, too. 😀

        Peace,
        Melissa

        Reply
  15. gloria
    February 9, 2011

    I agree with many of the previous comments and do not feel that I can judge other's choices when it comes to family size. One point that hasn't been made is that while of course it is important to meet our children's emotional and physical needs, a lot of today's children and young adults seem to be "over-parented" (e.g. the "helicopter parents")… In these circumstances, it seems that children come to beieve that their every whim and emotion should be centre stage and catered to, to the point that they have a sense of entitlement. I am seeing this more and more in the workplace with young adults, who grew up in a parenting culture that promoted self-focus vs a broader perspective of the world. I'm not saying that families with one or two children are all like this, but I can see how it would be easier as a parent to fall into this pattern. Just a thought about the other end of the continuum.

    Reply
  16. Jessica Rudder
    February 10, 2011

    Over the years, I've heard many conversations about large families (it's one of the by-products of being a member of a faith that encourages large families). Something I find interesting is that most (though certainly not all) of the people that are concerned about time usually focus on there being too many children rather than too many obligations.

    I have rarely heard someone say, "If you're having trouble finding time for all the kids, perhaps you should find someone to take over your obligations with the scout troop or this committee or that organization." The thought that most often gets said (though, usually not directly to the mother) is that there are too many children.

    I think it's possible that U.S. culture as a whole has fallen into a trap of thinking that properly raising a child requires piano lessons, soccer matches and unlimited attention or you're just not doing it right. However, I've known many people that grew up in large families (6+ children) and none of them feel they were neglected. They are certainly aware that there was less time and there were fewer resources available to go around, but, they do not doubt that they were loved and supported by their parents.

    For many of us, more than 2 kids might seem like "too much" because we've made the whole process too complicated.

    Reply
    1. charity
      February 11, 2011

      well said, jessica. i hadn't even thought of that in my earlier reply…but it is something we tell people first when they ask how we are managing with so many children (only 7!) it is much easier to manage, when you aren't coordinating so much extra for each child. we have a family policy, that if you aren't learning it at home from a parent, you can only sign up for one major commitment each year. and if i can work it right, multiple kids are enrolled for the same commitment and time and place at once…all the littles in the same gymnastics class, or two close in age siblings on the same team for sports

      Reply
  17. kristine
    February 27, 2011

    I appreciate this conversation but it does perplex me a bit. I was raised Christian but am now not a Christian. I believe my mother felt that God would not ask her to parent too many children and she had many responses to my questions growing up that were centered on God's will. She had four children and it was too many for her. That's my feeling as her child and she would disagree I am sure. Four children would not be too many for other parents however and I don't think there is a perfect size family. I do worry about our need to help the world's neediest children and our ability to square that need with what our own limits actually are. I believe many disruptions stem from this conflict of the sincere desire to lessen the suffering in the world with the very real issue of what we, as parents, are capable of. This is individual and I don't think can be decided by anyone other than the parents. It would be nice if there were more discussion out there of what time children with troubled pasts really do require. By time I do mean, how much individual time is needed each day to begin to see some healing. I love your blog because you discuss the nitty gritty and you are not trying to impress anyone but rather (it seems to me) foster very important discussions whether we have one child or 13. Large families come with some built in advantages which can be healing but no doubt there are some children that would do better in smaller families. What can you do? I did read the 15 minute challenge and wonder about it. My son and I spend an hour to an hour and a half each night, talking, reading and cuddling. However, there is nothing to say that is necessarily even good for him. Personally I don't see one life style as better or worse than another, they are just different. Period. In a sense, I have to spend that time with him because, for the moment, he is an only child and I am making up for the fact he doesn't have siblings. That will change shortly because we will be bringing home a 4 year old little boy in the next few weeks. Things will be different around here for sure. Different, not better, or worse.

    Reply

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