Subscribe to this Blog
Today's Blogs
    The Checkup:

“The Brady Bunch” Revisited: Debating the Ideal Number of Children

By Vincent O'Keefe

So what word would you use to describe “The Brady Bunch”? Perhaps “corny”? “chaotic”? “classic”?

Well, imagine my surprise when I asked my nine-year-old daughter why she liked the show (on a whim we have been watching episodes on DVD). She replied: “I like it because it’s realistic.”

Her word hit me like a football to the nose. Realistic? She has only one sister, no brothers, a working mom, a stay-at-home dad, and—regrettably—no live-in housekeeper. Also, our family problems are rarely solved in just under thirty minutes.

As we talked further, however, it became clear that she identifies with the show for an unfortunate reason. She and her six-year-old sister have been fighting a lot lately, and she can identify with the bickering of Marcia vs. Jan, Bobby vs. Peter, etc. On the bright side, part of the reason they are fighting more is that they are actually becoming closer siblings with more in common.

I know this from personal experience, since I grew up as the youngest of six children. I was always closest to the brother nearest my age, but I also have a scar under my left eyebrow from a hockey stick swashbuckling incident with him decades ago. Fittingly, his name is “Mark.” I was also closest to the sister nearest my age. While she gave me no scars, she did manage to marry me off to two different neighbors by the time I was six years old. Sadly, I still have photos of the bigamy.

When I ask other parents about ideal family size, the answers vary widely. A woman who came from a large family swore she wanted only one child so she could “pay her the appropriate attention.” On the other extreme, my own mother grew up as an only child and always wanted many children. Fast forward a generation and none of my five siblings have ended up with more than three children.

In theory, I always thought three children would be an ideal number. In practice, our firstborn had colic, and it took us three long years to muster the courage for a second go-round. The second child was a dream baby, but soon I was too worn out as an at-home parent for a third child. In fact, I believe my exact melodramatic words to my wife were “I cannot be held responsible for another living thing in this house, including plants.” Fortunately, she didn’t want a third child either, so the negotiation was over.

Although I chose to have a relatively small family, it does seem that our society loses something when the size of the average family shrinks. Parents and children of large families learn so much from each other as they grow. And later in life, there is something invaluable and often therapeutic about reminiscing with multiple siblings about all the peaks and valleys of a family’s landscape. After all, only siblings (or maybe a rare lifelong friend) witness the many selves of our vast past.

For better or worse, my wife’s younger sister captured the deep quality of many sibling relationships when she said to my wife: “When I want the truth, I ask you.” Now that’s realistic.

So what do you think is the ideal number of children? Did you want your family to be larger, smaller, or the same size as the one you grew up in? Why?

Vincent has been a stay-at-home father for nine years. He previously wrote What Has Surpised You Most About Parenting for On Parenting.

By Stacey Garfinkle |  August 18, 2009; 7:00 AM ET
Previous: Hey Shorty ... | Next: Baby Firsts, Digitally Speaking

Comments


"So what do you think is the ideal number of children? Did you want your family to be larger, smaller, or the same size as the one you grew up in?"

There are no guarantees in life.

Posted by: jezebel3 | August 18, 2009 7:11 AM | Report abuse

There are no guarantees in life.

Posted by: jezebel3 | August 18, 2009 7:11 AM | Report abuse
-------------------------------

Well thanks, Jezebel, for stating the obvious. What would we do without your profound wisdom?

I grew up with one sibling, and feel that two children would be the right amount for my husband and me. I worry about the eventual overpopulation of the world, and feel that the possibility should be considered sooner rather than later. Seriously, what will happen when we run out of room?

My sister, on the other hand, being far more religious than I am, is open to as many children as God intends. Scary thought! And although I may not agree with it theoretically, or want it for myself, I know that any number of children will make her happy, and that she can handle it.

Posted by: falltillfly | August 18, 2009 7:49 AM | Report abuse

I worry about the eventual overpopulation of the world, and feel that the possibility should be considered sooner rather than later. Seriously, what will happen when we run out of room?


Posted by: falltillfly | August 18, 2009 7:49 AM | Report abuse

Bummer.


Posted by: jezebel3 | August 18, 2009 8:01 AM | Report abuse

I have two. DH is happy with this number. We had a surprise pregnancy that ended in an m/c, and then a planned pregnancy that ended in an m/c, and adoption proved to not be a route for us. I would love to have 3. I grew up as the youngest of 4 and I absolutely love getting together with my siblings, their spouses, and all of our kids together.

Posted by: MOMto2 | August 18, 2009 8:13 AM | Report abuse

I think the government should decide how large our families should be. I am sure Obama is smart enough to figure out the ideal size, and implement legislation...maybe by Christmas?

Posted by: 06902 | August 18, 2009 8:15 AM | Report abuse

When I wrote on balance about having one child, I was blasted as being too materialistic. Hmm.

Anyway, the answer is obviously different for each family. In the end, we had two children. My husband just could not accept the idea of an only child.

While we adore my son and the kids adore each other, raising two kids these days is no easy feat. The cost of day care, college, extra curriculars, and just the day to day costs are incredible. While he is worth every penny and more, it does seem financially, time wise, and attention wise some families might do better with one or two children versus a brood.

But this is America and of course we allow the freedom to choose your family size. "As long as you can feed em, you can breed em."

I do wonder about the large families and how they justify it enviromentally. I know for some Mormon families it is deeply in grained in their religion to have large families. And for a lot of of other religions birth control is an issue. But that still doesn't address the issue of the enviromental impact of large families and the ever increasing population growth.
I would think being a good "insert religious identity in here" also includes being a good steward of the Earth. By definition that would mean limiting your enviromental impact and the easiest way to do that is to have less children.

Oh it is important to note, some enviromentalists actually think Americans should have only one child because we use such a disproportionate amount of resources compared to other countries. But it is hard to convince Americans that they should reduce their population. Especially when it would lead to a further strain on public dollars when there are not enough young people to support medicare and social security.

I don't think my husband and I would have ever gone for more than two. Although in my husband's ideal world, I could afford to stay at home and there would have been a third child. But in the realistic world, when we have two working parents, long commutes, college tuition, looming retirement, two was right for us.

My doctor told me that having one child, he and his wife could be good parents, foster their own personal needs, continually invest in their marriage, and having successful careers. He felt that having a second child would mean stark compromises.

I think he is right. I just think the love that we have experienced with our son makes up for it. Eventually both our kids will grow up and leave the nest. Then we can have more time for marriage and personal life. Our careers have probably already taken a big hit by then. But I feel the kids are worth it.


Posted by: foamgnome | August 18, 2009 8:16 AM | Report abuse

There is a British lady pregnant with 12 fetuses, is that freaking foam and falltillfly?

People should have as many kids they want as long as they can care for them. Blasting large families for being environmentally unfriendly is the most pc pile of crap I have heard in a long time. I can imagine being a large family living next to foamy, she seems like the neighbor in Cheaper by the Dozen II - when asked, mom why don't I have any siblings? Because we wanted one perfect child!

I'm with 06902, the sheeple will start looking to the ONE for parenting advise soon. China one child policy - here we come - written into the crap and tax bill!

Posted by: cheekymonkey | August 18, 2009 8:39 AM | Report abuse

I'm an only child and it worked out fine. I'm close to my parents and they definitely had more time to do the things they wanted to do in life (though me being an only child wasn't the plan - it just worked out like that).

However, as an adult, I'm jealous of people with brothers and sisters. My fiance is close to his sister, my mother has seven (!) sisters, my dad and his brother are close. I want my (future) kids to have the opportunity for those kinds of relationships. While I'm close to my cousins, it's just not the same.

Childhood is just 18 years to make it through without siblings. Having those relationships for the next 60 years of adulthood is something worth thinking about.

Posted by: em15 | August 18, 2009 8:41 AM | Report abuse

It's horizontal -- there's not a platonic ideal of family, just as there isn't a platonic ideal of spaghetti sauce. What works for me, what works for you -- it's all good.

And frankly, you just play the cards you're dealt as best you can.

And frankly the idea that you always stay close to your siblings when you are grown is insane. ONLY have the children you can love and support RIGHT NOW and what happens in the future -- you just play the cards you are dealt.

There's no "perfect", there's no "right", just do your best, whatever that might be.

Posted by: Bear4 | August 18, 2009 8:55 AM | Report abuse

If you limit your number of children to save Mother Earth, and then use the money you save to buy a bigger house, replace your cars more frequently, take more airplane trips to see the world, dine out more often at fancy restaurants that import fancy and highly perishable foods every morning from around the world; and just generally allocate your resources to a higher level of per-capita consumption, you're not really as great a person as you think.

Posted by: rr321 | August 18, 2009 8:58 AM | Report abuse

cheeky: First of all, I have two children. It has nothing to do with wanting a perfect child. It is balancing other aspects of your life. Your marriage, your career, your own personal interests, as well as having enough time, money, and energy to invest in your children.

As far as PC, I don't know where you are coming from if you don't think people impact the enviroment. We, as a species, has the biggest impact on the enviroment. Whether you decide it is enviromentally responsible to have one child, two children (replace you and your spouse),no children, or more than two it is a personal choice between you and your spouse. I did not all imply that it is something that should be made mandatory. But it is something to think about.

If you really believe that bringing a large number of children has no enviromental impact, than go forth. I am not stopping you.

Posted by: foamgnome | August 18, 2009 9:01 AM | Report abuse

People should have as many kids they want as long as they can care for them. Blasting large families for being environmentally unfriendly is the most pc pile of crap I have heard in a long time.
Posted by: cheekymonkey | August 18, 2009

----

Go read Harry Harrison's "Make Room! Make Room!" and let me know what you think about it.

One kid, one. Not everyone needs a replacement for when they die.

Posted by: thornwalker1 | August 18, 2009 9:06 AM | Report abuse

If you limit your number of children to save Mother Earth, and then use the money you save to buy a bigger house, replace your cars more frequently, take more airplane trips to see the world, dine out more often at fancy restaurants that import fancy and highly perishable foods every morning from around the world; and just generally allocate your resources to a higher level of per-capita consumption, you're not really as great a person as you think.

Posted by: rr321 | August 18, 2009 8:58 AM | Report abuse


Agreed. We live in a small three bedroom house, keep our cars as long as we can have them run reliably, hardly ever eat out, and try hard to not waste resources.

Don't assume because people limit their family size, they don't also try to limit other types of resources.

I think there has been studies done that showed that the largest impact enviromentally speaking was the sheer number of people. That even the basic resources that a typical American uses, causes the largest impact. It far outweighs any effect from recycling and other types of green energy conservation programs. If your interested in reading more about it, I think the title of the book was the Case for One. Or something like that.

Posted by: foamgnome | August 18, 2009 9:07 AM | Report abuse

My sister, on the other hand, being far more religious than I am, is open to as many children as God intends. Scary thought!
Posted by: falltillfly | August 18, 2009 7:49 AM |

I converted to Catholicism after marrying my husband. One of the things I like best about the religion is its openness to children. I actually find it very comforting and freeing in my marriage to know that we're both open to as many kids as God sends us. I know a number of people who fight costantly with their spouses about having more kids. It's lovely to know we'll never have that fight.

I think having a miscarriage with my first pregnancy hugely shaped my views on this subject. When you desperately want for your baby to be healthy, and it doesn't work out--it changes how you feel about pregnancy. The whole process seems like more of a miraculous gift. God might send us more children or he might not. It's in his hands.

I am one of six, and my siblings cover the whole spectrum--one is childless, one has six kids, and everything in between. As an adult, I am so grateful to have five siblings--no matter what I'm struggling with, one of them is always the right sounding board.

Posted by: newslinks1 | August 18, 2009 9:10 AM | Report abuse

I converted to Catholicism after marrying my husband. One of the things I like best about the religion is its openness to children. I actually find it very comforting and freeing in my marriage to know that we're both open to as many kids as God sends us.
Posted by: newslinks1 | August 18, 2009 9:10 AM

---

Seriously, you all need to read "Make Room! Make Room!".

Posted by: thornwalker1 | August 18, 2009 9:18 AM | Report abuse

DH and I are both one of three. Both of us have middle sisters who are, shall we say, unique.
So, we didn't want three. Well, I might have gone for three...so I thought: four, that sounds good...but that's A LOT of work. And I'm tired.
So we have two. DH wouldn't even discuss three. I think one thing to note would be to realize that there could be issues with three (the 'middle child syndrome' is not a myth) - but knowing is half the battle, I think. Just being aware.

Having lots of kids vs. a few is just a 'what kind of family do you want' kinda thing, I think. With fewer kids, the kids could be closer to the parents. With more, the siblings seem to be closer. And as Em said, well, in the end, the siblings will be around and probably (definitely?) the parents will eventually not.

As for the environmental impact...wow. First of all - there is PLENTY of room on this planet. Plenty of room right here in the good ole US of A - have you ever driven cross country? There's a whole lot of nothing.
And, seriously, the more people living together, well, you're using less per person of 'stuff.' Just sayin'.

Posted by: atlmom1234 | August 18, 2009 9:27 AM | Report abuse

As for the environmental impact...wow. First of all - there is PLENTY of room on this planet. Plenty of room right here in the good ole US of A - have you ever driven cross country?

---

Just because there is room doesn't mean there is adequate arable land to grow the food to feed the people in that space.

Posted by: thornwalker1 | August 18, 2009 9:30 AM | Report abuse

I'm going to guess that everyone saying "only one kid!" wasn't actually an only child themselves. Most only children can't ever imagine having only one because they are aware of how much they missed out on, and how much pressure lies solely on their shoulders. All parental geriatric care falls onto one person, they don't have the sibling support system that others have and it's much more of an impact when you only have two or three people in your family and one dies.

That's just adulthood, don't even get me started on childhood.

I understand the logic of having two children but please think long and hard about only having one by choice. I also think that the environmental impact on things has a lot more with our lifestyles then our amount of kids. Americans are just very wasteful in general, doesn't matter if you have zero, one or two (or more).

Posted by: kallieh | August 18, 2009 9:33 AM | Report abuse

Are some of you really so hung up on yourself that you really believe how many kids you have affects the planet? Really?

Stop drinking the liberal punch.

Walk away.

Posted by: sunflower571 | August 18, 2009 9:34 AM | Report abuse

altmom: It is not about physical space but all the resources needed to support these people and the enviromental impact; such as green house gases. It is also not so much a national issue as a world wide issue.

American are the largest natural resource consumers. Therefore cutting down in our population, has the largest impact world wide. Some may argue that we also are the inventors of the world, therefore we may develop techniques to compensate for our large energy consumption. So far the sum total of our energy saving techniques has only alotted to a fraction at solving the enviromental problems. Our consumption still far outweighs our saving measures.

Hopefully that will change one day.

Posted by: foamgnome | August 18, 2009 9:35 AM | Report abuse

On second thought maybe it is a good idea that you liberals have less kids!!

Keep up the good work!

Posted by: sunflower571 | August 18, 2009 9:37 AM | Report abuse

Seriously, you all need to read "Make Room! Make Room!".

Posted by: thornwalker1 | August 18, 2009 9:18 AM | Report abuse

Thorn, go play with the Malthusian doomers on The Oil Drum site.

Posted by: 06902 | August 18, 2009 9:37 AM | Report abuse

I'm going to guess that everyone saying "only one kid!" wasn't actually an only child themselves. Most only children can't ever imagine having only one because they are aware of how much they missed out on, and how much pressure lies solely on their shoulders. All parental geriatric care falls onto one person, they don't have the sibling support system that others have and it's much more of an impact when you only have two or three people in your family and one dies.

That's just adulthood, don't even get me started on childhood.

I understand the logic of having two children but please think long and hard about only having one by choice. I also think that the environmental impact on things has a lot more with our lifestyles then our amount of kids. Americans are just very wasteful in general, doesn't matter if you have zero, one or two (or more).

Posted by: kallieh | August 18, 2009 9:33 AM | Report abuse

Actually the author of the Case for One has a sibling and so does his wife.

BTW, I am not necessarily advocating one child. I have stated that I have two children myself. I am just saying it is a scientific based argument that has been made.

Also scientific studies show that the basic resources consumbed by one person in America is still impacts the enviroment more than the sum of any known conservation method.

Posted by: foamgnome | August 18, 2009 9:39 AM | Report abuse

I'm an only. I can assure people that I hardly feel as if I missed out on much. I am very close with my parents. Sometimes a little closer than I'd like to be, but I wouldn't trade our relationship for anything.

Are there times now that I wish I had siblings, if only to make it easier to deal with some of the issues that will be presented to me as my parents age? Sure. As a kid did I sometimes wish I wasn't given the sole attention of my parents, did I wish there was another kid to dflect some of that attention to? Sure. But from childhood to this day I have never ever felt alone.

As an only some people observed that I was better equipt than some other kids to focus inward, do things like read, paint, dance, play music. I could handle solitude and contemplation better than some other kids. My parents wanted more children but only I was in the cards. I know people who are close with their siblings, and people who don't talk to their siblings.

I currently have one daughter. If we can have a second child and work through the financial and logistical issues we will have one more. But if for any reason we can't and she is our only child, we remain blessed.

Posted by: claudlaw | August 18, 2009 9:49 AM | Report abuse

newslinks1 :
I just meant its a scary thought for me, to think of having 3+ kids. My sis feels much the same way you do.

rr321 :
Having fewer kids does not have a direct correlation with an increase in resource consumption. How arrogant to assume that one-child families are hoarding money so they can have more stuff.

sunflower571 :
I'm not saying that if I personally have 3 or more, the planet is doomed, but if everyone has 3+, and all of their kids have 3+, eventually we will run out of room. Room to grow food, raise animals, build housing. It is indisputable that more people take up more space and use more resources. Eventually, the planet will suffer for it.

Posted by: falltillfly | August 18, 2009 9:49 AM | Report abuse

don't worry about the planet. it'll take care of itself. when we overpopulate and use up the resources, it'll get rid of us.

the other side of the 'have as many kids as you want' argument, is the strain on the tax system. i'm generally not thrilled to be paying extra so you can send your six kids to public school.

Posted by: interestingidea1234 | August 18, 2009 9:55 AM | Report abuse

nothing more barfy than people talking about saving the earth by having less children. If you are so concerned, then start with yourself and do you and your family in. otherwise STF up

Posted by: pwaa | August 18, 2009 9:58 AM | Report abuse

Two was it for us. Actually, 1.5 would have been about perfect, but since that wasn't possible, we rounded up. Three is right out.

I was fortunate to grow up with both sides of it -- I'm my mom's only child, but I have both step- and half-siblings who I lived with for parts of the year. And my life is much richer with them in it. So that's what I wanted for my kids. So far, it hasn't panned out as quite the warm fuzzy I'd hoped for; DS spends most of his time annoying DD, who promptly obliges by going through the roof.

I do love irony, though: after we had DD, my SIL was riding us about having a second; she knew I had been an only, and she was "worried" (her word) that I'd want to stop at one and deprive her niece of the joys of a sibling. Now we have two, and turns out SHE decided that one was enough (and now complains about all the people who won't leave her alone about having just one kid!). :-)

Posted by: laura33 | August 18, 2009 10:01 AM | Report abuse

Just one kid for me. I am too selfish and materialistic to divide more of my time, attention, and money among more children. I refer to having 3 or more children as having rodents in a house. Being around too many children fazzles me.

Posted by: Soguns1 | August 18, 2009 10:02 AM | Report abuse

I come from a family where I am the middle of 3 siblings, and DW: is the oldest of 5. Together we made 5 babies, 1 that resulted in miscarriage.

It's the perfect family for us as far as size goes, and I got exactly what I wanted with the 2 girls getting born before the 2 boys. Both the girls have a strong nurturing side to their personalities, so naturally they've enjoyed helping out with the care of the younger ones. The girls have also expressed a desire to have multiple children when the time comes, and even though this may be years into the future, it does factor into the type of guy they like to date.

Although I have to admit that raising 4 kids is a lot of work, it is definitely paying off at this point in my life. I get my laundry washed, folded, put away, dishes done, lawn mowed, gutters cleaned, trash taken out, cooked meals, hair cut, beer fetched, toenails trimmed, bedtime stories..., all from the effort of my kids. It's the life I tell ya and it looks like it'll remain like this for years into the future.

And as far as the environment goes, I never considered the environmental impact that having another baby would have on the planet. I just figure that those who want to save the planet from overpopulation are completely welcomed *NOT* to have kids. As for me, I like people, especially teenagers, kids and babies. In my neighborhood, the more the better!

Posted by: WhackyWeasel | August 18, 2009 10:09 AM | Report abuse

Are some of you really so hung up on yourself that you really believe how many kids you have affects the planet? Really?

Stop drinking the liberal punch.

Walk away.

Posted by: sunflower571 | August 18, 2009 9:34 AM

---

Let's put it this way.

Say you and your spouse live in a 30' x 30' room and you are not allowed to leave. This is your "Earth."

Your source of food and air is a small garden in the corner which grows fruit, veggies and some random trees. You are given 4 gallons of water each day. This is your "Earth's" carrying capacity. This is a closed system (except for sunlight) so you have to compost your waste. Now lets throw in some kids.

Let's say you have 5 kids. You now have to share your allotted 4 gallons of water among 6 people. Your little garden can only produce so much food, so your meals have gotten smaller. Also, you now have more crap (literally) to get rid of.

Now, let's say they grow up and have kids. Less water and food for each, more crap. Get it?

Posted by: thornwalker1 | August 18, 2009 10:09 AM | Report abuse

"Let's say you have 5 kids. You now have to share your allotted 4 gallons of water among 6 people. Your little garden can only produce so much food, so your meals have gotten smaller. Also, you now have more crap (literally) to get rid of.

Now, let's say they grow up and have kids. Less water and food for each, more crap. Get it?"


of course this excludes technical advancements, unknown discoveries, etc, typical liberal drivel

Posted by: pwaa | August 18, 2009 10:10 AM | Report abuse

Bah math, share among 7 people.

Posted by: thornwalker1 | August 18, 2009 10:11 AM | Report abuse

of course this excludes technical advancements, unknown discoveries, etc, typical liberal drivel

Posted by: pwaa | August 18, 2009 10:10 AM

---

Well, seeing as conservatism typically involves anti-intellectualism and anti-academic elitism, I don't expect you guys to come up with technological advances.

Posted by: thornwalker1 | August 18, 2009 10:13 AM | Report abuse

isn't being conscious of the how your actions impact the world around you the opposite of being "hung up on yourself"?

Posted by: interestingidea1234 | August 18, 2009 10:13 AM | Report abuse

Thornwalker1,

We are not in a socialist society (well, not yet but maybe in a few years the way things are headed) where we are each given a certain number of resources. I am not just given 4 gallons of water a day. My spouse and I can decide how hard to work and how many resources we want to buy. Your argument doesn't hold up.

Posted by: sunflower571 | August 18, 2009 10:15 AM | Report abuse

I just figure that those who want to save the planet from overpopulation are completely welcomed *NOT* to have kids.
-------------------------------------------
Haha. Exactly!

Posted by: Soguns1 | August 18, 2009 10:15 AM | Report abuse

I don't expect you guys to come up with technological advances.

Posted by: thornwalker1 | August 18, 2009 10:13 AM | Report abuse

But you probably do expect us to fund them...

Posted by: 06902 | August 18, 2009 10:17 AM | Report abuse

The girls have also expressed a desire to have multiple children when the time comes, and even though this may be years into the future, it does factor into the type of guy they like to date.


Posted by: WhackyWeasel | August 18, 2009 10:09 AM | Report abuse

Put these horny girls on B.C. stat!


Posted by: jezebel3 | August 18, 2009 10:19 AM | Report abuse

isn't being conscious of the how your actions impact the world around you the opposite of being "hung up on yourself"?


Posted by: interestingidea1234


There are many other ways to make a positive impact on the world other than just limiting the number of kids you have. I think people who get this hung up on environmental crap overestimate their own importance to the world. Also, haven't you heard of survival of the fittest? Some people naturally will gain and use more resources.

Posted by: sunflower571 | August 18, 2009 10:20 AM | Report abuse

Thornwalker1,

We are not in a socialist society (well, not yet but maybe in a few years the way things are headed) where we are each given a certain number of resources. I am not just given 4 gallons of water a day. My spouse and I can decide how hard to work and how many resources we want to buy. Your argument doesn't hold up.

Posted by: sunflower571 | August 18, 2009 10:15 AM

---

You failed to recognize that my argument was a miniature Earth simulation, not a socialism experiment. This wasn't a government or a economic style giving you food and water. This was your "planet."

Regardless of how much money you have or how hard you work, once we reach a certain population, there isn't going to be anything left to buy or work toward.

Posted by: thornwalker1 | August 18, 2009 10:20 AM | Report abuse

"You now have to share your allotted 4 gallons of water among 6 people"

The earth has been recycling the same gallons of water for billions of years. Or thousands of years, if you prefer.


"Having fewer kids does not have a direct correlation with an increase in resource consumption. How arrogant to assume that one-child families are hoarding money so they can have more stuff."

I don't have any research on this, nor do I presume that you do, but a general understanding of economics leads me to believe that people tend to spend the money they have. I don't think it's arrogant to form that hypothesis. Maybe you know a whole neighborhood of one child couples who live in tiny houses made of recycled materials and use all their spare income on purchasing carbon offsets, but that has not been my observation.

BTW, foamgnome I think was the original poster who raised this issue for me, and her response to my point was in cordial agreement, and she then pointed out that even with only two kids (and I presume a surplus of money) they make an effort to conserve resources.

Posted by: rr321 | August 18, 2009 10:30 AM | Report abuse

"You now have to share your allotted 4 gallons of water among 6 people"

The earth has been recycling the same gallons of water for billions of years. Or thousands of years, if you prefer.

----

I'll give you that one, good catch.

Still, the recycled water is getting dirtier and dirtier.

Posted by: thornwalker1 | August 18, 2009 10:34 AM | Report abuse

Growing up, I always said that I wanted to "have two and adopt one". I wanted to be done with kids by around 27 or 28 y.o. Well, I married at 32 to a man 10 years my senior, inherited a step-daughter (in my mind, that counts as my "adopt one"), and later gave birth to a daughter who is now 2 years old. Life does not always go as planned. I desperately want another. DH is not on board with that idea. There are 12 years between my step-daughter and my little one, and the oldest is only with us every other week. I grew up with just one sister, but as adults now, we talk every day and have irreplaceable memories of past family experiences together. I know that as my parents are aging, she and I will have each other to lean on, as we will likely care for them in their golden years. I hate to think that my little girl will not have similar ties growing up with a sibling. Any number greater than one (well, and less than 5) gets my vote.

Posted by: Luna2004 | August 18, 2009 10:34 AM | Report abuse

Still, the recycled water is getting dirtier and dirtier.

Posted by: thornwalker1 | August 18, 2009 10:34 AM | Report abuse

Actually, it's getting cleaner and cleaner, thanks to advances in wastewater treatment, (which I'll actually give a hat tip to govt. for - Clean Water Act)

Posted by: 06902 | August 18, 2009 10:37 AM | Report abuse

Why must we all be so judgmental about what is obviously a VERY personal decision? If you want to have lots of kids, and can handle it (physically and financially), go ahead. Please don't ask others to help pay for them.

If you are just not cut out for more than one, then stop after one. Or none - whatever works for you. Life would be very boring if we were all the same. Just stop the harsh judging!

Posted by: justme22 | August 18, 2009 10:38 AM | Report abuse

Actually, it's getting cleaner and cleaner, thanks to advances in wastewater treatment, (which I'll actually give a hat tip to govt. for - Clean Water Act)

Posted by: 06902 | August 18, 2009 10:37 AM

---

I'll share that tip.

Posted by: thornwalker1 | August 18, 2009 10:41 AM | Report abuse

We are both the youngest of 3. We have 2 and would like 3. We can afford them, they are loved, they are wanted. I'm not going to not have children because of the planet. Sorry. I realize they are resource sucks, but that just doesn't compete with wanting a family.

Posted by: atb2 | August 18, 2009 10:48 AM | Report abuse

I am an only child and i am currently struggling with a parent with alzheimers. Yes, I am the only person there to help my mother. Yes, all the logistics - attorneys, estate planners, bankers, etc - falls on my shoulders. And yes, i live 8 hours by car away from my folks. Is it difficult? of course it is. but having siblings does not mean that there will be others around to share the burden. my father is one of seven. when his parents were infirm - several of the siblings "checked out." now that he is ill, several of his remaining siblings refuse to help my mother (an only herself) with his care. and no - there is no underlying tension or family dispute behind this refusal. its just that peeople can be self-interested or fearful of dealign with reality. Noone wants to ssee a loved one suffer - and for many, their only response is to ignore the issue.
but we are not here to discuss the human condition. i would never change my life. I loved being an only and I feel the same way today. I have close, dear friends, who have offered time, a shoulder, and soemtimes even money - to help me in this difficult time. I am near to my parents, and have enjoyed that bond. beign an only is not as lonely or limiting as many people think. and then again having siblings does not necessarily mean a lifetime of family get togethers and bbqs.

Posted by: bundu1 | August 18, 2009 10:53 AM | Report abuse

When my daughters were 7 and 4, my husband and I talked about having a third child. We decided to go ahead and see what happened and to our shock and surprise we got twin boys. I would have never imagined having four kids but now I can't imagine life without them.

I have one brother (another died at 6 from cancer) and wish I had a few more siblings to help with the grandparents and parents in their old age, but that's just reality. My brother is an addict so he is not someone I can lean on or have a great relationship with, so that is sad.

Posted by: cdfromwa | August 18, 2009 11:01 AM | Report abuse

my father is one of seven. when his parents were infirm - several of the siblings "checked out." now that he is ill, several of his remaining siblings refuse to help my mother (an only herself) with his care.

Posted by: bundu1 | August 18, 2009 10:53 AM | Report abuse


Spread the word that your father has won the lottery. He'll have tons of folks willing to help.

Posted by: jezebel3 | August 18, 2009 11:02 AM | Report abuse

My mom was one of two (grandma wanted more, but didn't have them...).
Anyway, my mom died relatively young, altho all of us were grown. My mom's sister is pretty much taking care of her mom - even with five grandkids, well, she is the one who can make the decisions - and who wants to take a straw pole, when, in the end it all falls on her?
So she moved my grandmother, decided all care, made final care arrangements already.
It's been incredibly tough on her and thank goodness my uncle is there to help.
But, she might as well be an only (or, maybe it's worse, she maybe keeps thinking what my mom would have done and second guesses herself).
Nothing is ideal, ever. Do what works for you.

BTW there is more than plenty enough food in this world to feed it - much more. The problems are with distribution and political issues (we in the US send food all around the world - but it is never and will never be enough - we can't do it for everyone at all times, though.)

Posted by: atlmom1234 | August 18, 2009 11:13 AM | Report abuse

"Well, seeing as conservatism typically involves anti-intellectualism and anti-academic elitism, I don't expect you guys to come up with technological advances."

"if you mean empowering real people and reala companies an incentive to make money and come up with those advancements then guilty as charged, but the ivory tower shrill warnings and handwringing i leave to you as you are so good at it.....

Posted by: pwaa | August 18, 2009 11:19 AM | Report abuse

"Please don't ask others to help pay for them."

I'm more than willing to help pay for the birth of a child, but I'll do everything I can to prevent my tax money from funding contraceptive and abortion services.


Posted by: WhackyWeasel | August 18, 2009 11:30 AM | Report abuse

I'll do everything I can to prevent my tax money from funding contraceptive and abortion services.


Posted by: WhackyWeasel | August 18, 2009 11:30 AM | Report abuse

Such as?

Posted by: jezebel3 | August 18, 2009 11:33 AM | Report abuse

The original point of bringing up the enviromental impact of raising families had to do with religion. My original point was that having large families seems to be woven into a lot of religious traditions. But being good stewards of the earth does not seem to get the same press in that tradition.

As far as the Judeo Christian tradition, being a good steward of the earth is a biblical principal. But when they want to defend their lifestyle choice of having large families (or being open to children), they gloss over the biblical principal of being good stewards of god's creation (the earth).

I just find that funny that they use one religious principal but ignore another biblical principal.

I am not saying one is right and the other is wrong. I am just simply saying they use religion when it is convenient but disregard it when it does not fit their fancy.

Now there is an enviromental conservation movement around certain protestant groups. I would like to see more religious groups adopt such measures.

atlmom: We have enough food now but if the population grows infinitely, we will eventually have a problem providing food. But enviromentally speaking, we are not just talking about food and water and room to house ourselves. We do a lot of damage to the enviroment in terms of pollution of water, eco systems, green house gas emissions. Do you get it? It is not the problem of today but the problem of the future.

Posted by: foamgnome | August 18, 2009 11:36 AM | Report abuse

"We have enough food now but if the population grows infinitely, we will eventually have a problem providing food."

Infinite growth. Interesting. I would like to subscribe to your newsletter. You really seem to "get it".

Posted by: 06902 | August 18, 2009 11:44 AM | Report abuse

"I am just simply saying they use religion when it is convenient but disregard it when it does not fit
their fancy."

Foamy, your attempt to brand "large" Christian families as implementing a double standard when it comes to the practice of their religion in the context of being stuards of the planet is ludicrous. Your theory only holds up if you consider that humans are the enemy of the planet instead of the stuards of it. Not in my Bible!


Posted by: WhackyWeasel | August 18, 2009 11:51 AM | Report abuse

We have enough food now but if the population grows infinitely, we will eventually have a problem providing food."

Infinite growth. Interesting. I would like to subscribe to your newsletter. You really seem to "get it".

Posted by: 06902 | August 18, 2009 11:44 AM | Report abuse


OK, how about expontential growth?

The point is if we keep increasing the world's population, eventually we won't have enough natural resources to provide for the population.

Given that the enviromental conservation methods that are implemented today, has not had as large an impact as the negative impact caused by an increasing population, this is a reasonable theory.

Posted by: foamgnome | August 18, 2009 11:51 AM | Report abuse

foam: of course I get it - people have been saying the same thing for years. Yet somehow, us humans create the technology to get us by (in Israel they desalinate the ocean water to provide for the population).
Somehow, we figure it out.
If Gd didn't want us to have the kids, well, then, he wouldn't provide for them. But our drive to have and nurture kids is incredibly strong.
Also, society always adapts. Oddly enough - what has happened in the last 100 years? Life expectancy has gone from 65 or less to what? 80 now?
And we've somehow adapted...people start families later, have smaller ones, etc. Of course, there's no direct correlation...it just seemed to happen (divine intervention?).
Human beings seem to adapt one way or another. Strange but true - we figure out a way. We're using more electricity now than just a few years ago - and emissions are decreasing. We're getting more from less. We're figuring it out.

Posted by: atlmom1234 | August 18, 2009 11:52 AM | Report abuse

Foamy, your attempt to brand "large" Christian families as implementing a double standard when it comes to the practice of their religion in the context of being stuards of the planet is ludicrous. Your theory only holds up if you consider that humans are the enemy of the planet instead of the stuards of it. Not in my Bible!


Posted by: WhackyWeasel | August 18, 2009 11:51 AM | Report abuse


Wacky, humans have the largest negative impact on the planet. Now it might be counter acted, with we have the most positive impact as well. But scientifically speaking, our negative impact (enviromentally) is larger than our positive impact. I am not at all saying that we don't have a very positive human impact or social impact on the world. But that is not what we are talking about here.

I didn't call the human species the enemy. I am simply saying we do have the most negative impact on the world and yet the bible calls us to be good stewards of God's creation. Increasing our population is in direct conflict with being a good steward of that creation.

The reasonable argument would be either large families add so many other positive things in the world (non enviromentally) that it out weighs it or that it really doesn't matter because we believe in the after life.

Posted by: foamgnome | August 18, 2009 11:56 AM | Report abuse

Oh Foamgnome, apparently you have not been reading Sarah's blog. We are going to have death panels to take care of all these isssues. 10 billion will never be a problem. And if the death panels don't take care of this, well, there's always the second coming to look forward to. Don't you know that God will provide! Apparently he's already given enough miracle labotomies to keep FoxNews and Rush in business for decades. There's nothing to worry about but you annoying liberals with your freedom hating facts and programs... You just want to destroy my country and take over my ovaries, you evil socialist.

Posted by: pinkoleander | August 18, 2009 11:58 AM | Report abuse

If Gd didn't want us to have the kids, well, then, he wouldn't provide for them.

Posted by: atlmom1234 | August 18, 2009 11:52 AM | Report abuse

Does Gd provide for ALL kids?

Posted by: jezebel3 | August 18, 2009 11:59 AM | Report abuse

If we get too bad for the planet, the planet will kill us, somehow, some way. Meteors, hurricanes, whatever. Man plans, Gd laughs.

Posted by: atlmom1234 | August 18, 2009 11:59 AM | Report abuse

atlmom: I don't think most people are saying stop having children or that these calculations don't need to be altered from time to time. The point I was trying to make is that these were some arguments being made.

In fact countries like Viet Nam, do alter these calculations. They had a two child policy for a few decades, then relaxed it and when the population became a problem again, they reverted back to enforcing the two child policy. Of course Viet Nam is a communist country and such mandatory policies on child bearing would not work here. In the US, we have to depend on people just being enviromentally considerate.

The funny thing about all of this is I am not even a die hard enviromentalist at all. I am just saying that their arguments have merit and should be weighed into the decisions.

Posted by: foamgnome | August 18, 2009 12:01 PM | Report abuse

Foamgnome - In your rant on the hypocrisy of christians, you forget that you are actually advocating exactly what you are critizing: you would prefer if people ignore the bible's call for a large family in favor of being better stewards of the earth. So it is okay if people ignore what YOU think is wrong and accept what YOU think is important, but if they disagree with your take they are just doing what is "convenient".

Posted by: JJ321 | August 18, 2009 12:08 PM | Report abuse

P.S. Please explain how it is more convenient to have five children than it is to have one and recycle?

Posted by: JJ321 | August 18, 2009 12:09 PM | Report abuse

I married later in life (age 37) and we had our son when I was 38 and our daughter when I was 41. She was born after my husband was treated for testicular cancer, so we are grateful that she's healthy and feisty, as is her brother. My sister has 5 kids, and my brother has one, and all of the cousins live nearby and are close, so you could say we have the best of both worlds.

It's good to be able to look at the choices and opportunities that life has given you and make do and be happy with them. I was a kid when the Brady Bunch was on (Friday nights!) and of course if was all idealized and wonderful. I was one of three kids in a family that did the usual fighting and squabbling. I remember loving the Von Trapp family on The Sound of Music, and seeing another movie in the 1960s called 'Your Mine and Ours' that featured a widow with 10 kids marrying a widower with 8. It all seemed like one big adventure, where everyday was like a camping jamboree and there was plenty of food. Today, movies like 'Cheaper By the Dozen' also celebrate the lighter side of a bigger family. Real life, even reality TV is far more complicated.

All children should be wanted and loved, whether the parents chose to have just one or several. There are many happily childless couples, as well as those who have struggled with infertility before moving on. There is joy and peace in accepting what IS. The size of your family is a deeply personal choice. Why give that choice to an outside force, whether it is your faith or the whims and pressures of family, your judgemental neighbors or society?

Weighing in on the population/resources debate, I'd have to say that while I am very committed to the envirnoment, it never impacted my decision as to how many kids we would have. Seems at age, budget, my energy level and my husband were more of an influence. But I believe that being good stewards of the planet is an important value that should trump all politics, and I'm sorry to see the name calling between conservatives and liberals cloud this discussion, with each side resorting to hurling insults at the other.

LOVED the comment that referred to one sister being able to go to the other whenever she needed to hear the truth. So true!

Posted by: HuckleberryFriend | August 18, 2009 12:13 PM | Report abuse

Foamgnome - In your rant on the hypocrisy of christians, you forget that you are actually advocating exactly what you are critizing: you would prefer if people ignore the bible's call for a large family in favor of being better stewards of the earth. So it is okay if people ignore what YOU think is wrong and accept what YOU think is important, but if they disagree with your take they are just doing what is "convenient".

Posted by: JJ321 | August 18, 2009 12:08 PM | Report abuse

OK, I am not saying they should ignore it the call to have large families. I originally said I wanted to know how they justify that as well as following God's call to be good stewards.

I think a logical solution would be I was called to have a large family and I am doing anything within my power to conserve resources to off set my large families consumption of natural resources.

Like I said, some religous traditions are trying to create an eco friendly movement with in their denomination.

I don't think they always have to be in direct conflict. I just think as of now the two calls are in direct conflict. The point is as a religious person, let's not ignore God's call to be good Stewards of the earth. Let's try to work within our religious tradition to at least compensate for our large family. Is that really so hard to imagine?

P.S. Please explain how it is more convenient to have five children than it is to have one and recycle?

Posted by: JJ321 | August 18, 2009 12:09 PM | Report abuse


I was talking about a "convenient" argument.

Posted by: foamgnome | August 18, 2009 12:18 PM | Report abuse

"Foamgnome - In your rant on the hypocrisy of christians"

Hypocrisy of chistians? Shocking, simply shocking.

Posted by: jezebel3 | August 18, 2009 12:27 PM | Report abuse

I came from a family with five kids and remember watching the Brady Bunch on TV. It seemed so sad that the bunch was formed after one of the parents in each birth family had died (not sure if that was actually true). I also remember thinking they were really loaded with money; the huge house, nice clothes, lots of toys and a maid.

Posted by: KS100H | August 18, 2009 12:27 PM | Report abuse

Correction: Hypocrisy of christians? Shocking, simply shocking.


And I'm still waiting for Whackoff to tell me how he is going to stop the state from paying for my B.C.

Posted by: jezebel3 | August 18, 2009 12:31 PM | Report abuse

"OK, how about expontential growth?" - foam

Try again, Malthus. I thought you were some kind of statistician? Think logs...

Posted by: 06902 | August 18, 2009 12:36 PM | Report abuse

Posted by: pinkoleander | August 18, 2009 11:58 AM | Report abuse


I can't wait until some peon bureaucrat denies your claim because the government thinks it is too expensive. "But,but,but i voted for Obama, he said it would be okay, i still have the change we can believe in sticker on my car....

Posted by: pwaa | August 18, 2009 12:40 PM | Report abuse

jezebel: why is the state paying for your BC in the first place?

Posted by: atlmom1234 | August 18, 2009 12:40 PM | Report abuse

It seemed so sad that the bunch was formed after one of the parents in each birth family had died (not sure if that was actually true). I also remember thinking they were really loaded with money; the huge house, nice clothes, lots of toys and a maid.

Posted by: KS100H | August 18, 2009 12:27 PM | Report abuse


The dead parents were heavily insured, and/or had jobs that yielded decent SS benefits or Carol's ex was paying a lot of child support. Or they both came from money.

Posted by: jezebel3 | August 18, 2009 12:42 PM | Report abuse

jezebel: why is the state paying for your BC in the first place?


Posted by: atlmom1234 | August 18, 2009 12:40 PM | Report abuse


I'm a fed employee.

Posted by: jezebel3 | August 18, 2009 12:44 PM | Report abuse

“The world has been chilling sharply for about twenty years. If present trends continue, the world will be about four degrees colder for the global mean temperature in 1990, but eleven degrees colder in the year 2000. This is about twice what it would take to put us into an ice age.”
• Kenneth Watt, Ecologist

“Civilization will end within 15 or 30 years unless immediate action is taken against problems facing mankind.”
• George Wald, Harvard Biologist

Posted by: pwaa | August 18, 2009 12:47 PM | Report abuse

MORE KNEESLAPPERS FROM THE IVORY TOWERS-
“Population will inevitably and completely outstrip whatever small increases in food supplies we make. The death rate will increase until at least 100-200 million people per year will be starving to death during the next ten years.”
• Paul Ehrlich, Stanford University biologist

“It is already too late to avoid mass starvation.”
• Denis Hayes, chief organizer for Earth Day


Posted by: pwaa | August 18, 2009 12:48 PM | Report abuse

I think determining the number of kids that is right for a family is a very personal choice, but in my book, these are the questions that trump all other questions:

Can I afford to give these kids decent lives and educations?
Do I have the emotional stability and nurturing capacity to be a decent parent?
Is my marriage stable?
Do I have enough energy to take on the extra workload?

After that, sure, I will consider other things, like overpopulation, etc. But I don't think the issue of overpopulation would stop me from having a second or third child if I thought I could do it decently. And I don't think I would ever go as high as 6 because I don't think I could manage with so many. So in reality, the issue of overpopulation does not really play a part in my calculus. But if it does for other people, that does not bother me.

Posted by: emily8 | August 18, 2009 12:48 PM | Report abuse

By the way, these were made in 1970, after the first earth day...

Posted by: pwaa | August 18, 2009 12:49 PM | Report abuse

jez: then the ins. company is paying, not the feds. A fine line, sure, but the feds have ins. companies that pay for it - it's not some federal program giving you birth control.
Whacky was referring to that, I would suspect.

Posted by: atlmom1234 | August 18, 2009 12:52 PM | Report abuse

We just had our second child, six weeks old Friday, and I am already asking my wife about a third. We have two sons and I've love to try for a daughter. But my wife had two rough pregnancies and I don't think she's up for a possible third. And I can't ask her to go through this again, if she doesn't want to. So sadly we may stay at third. But I know that physically we are both up for it.

Posted by: Dadat39 | August 18, 2009 12:54 PM | Report abuse

I am puzzled by Whacky's reluctance to provide birth control. Abortions I can certainly understand. But birth control???

Too many people are out there having children that they don't adequately care for, support, nurture, educate, or love. Surely these people should be afforded as much birth control as necessary to keep them from producing children who will not get the proper start in life.

Posted by: emily8 | August 18, 2009 12:57 PM | Report abuse

Robert Novak, RIP

Posted by: pwaa | August 18, 2009 1:04 PM | Report abuse

"I think a logical solution would be I was called to have a large family and I am doing anything within my power to conserve resources to off set my large
families consumption of natural resources."

Consider the fact that my 4 kids share the same resources such as space, heating, lighting, material and manufactured goods, and you will discover that it is a rare child that will make it to adulthood with less of a carbon footprint than any one of my kids.

Sure, go ahead, take your kid to Disney World, buy airline tickets to visit family half-way around the world and burn more fossil fuel in a 2 week vacation than my entire family will burn in a year, but spare me the decent Christians can't have large families because of the environmental impact crap.

Limiting family size based on the environment is more of an issue for the politically active than the Christian.
BTW, What is the maximum number of children a parent can have and still be considered a good liberal? One or two? Obviously, I make a very poor liberal. LOL!


Posted by: WhackyWeasel | August 18, 2009 1:05 PM | Report abuse

WHACKY, liberals have to have a cause. It is like business card to show other liberals. "Hi I am Bob", "Hi Bob what cause do you support?" " Global warming" oh great drinks on the left, ice in the freezer. NEXT!

Posted by: pwaa | August 18, 2009 1:10 PM | Report abuse

Consider the fact that my 4 kids share the same resources such as space, heating, lighting, material and manufactured goods, and you will discover that it is a rare child that will make it to adulthood with less of a carbon footprint than any one of my kids.

Posted by: WhackyWeasel | August 18, 2009 1:05 PM | Report abuse

Are you kidding? Is this Bozo for real?


Posted by: jezebel3 | August 18, 2009 1:13 PM | Report abuse

I'm an only. I loved it growing up, I loved it as a young adult and came to dislike it when my dad was ill a few years ago and there was no one but my mom and me to help. Still, as someone noted, even if I had siblings there's no guarantee they'd be there. My mom's sister was less than no help while my grandparents were in their declining years.

Posted by: ally75 | August 18, 2009 1:17 PM | Report abuse

jezebel: why is the state paying for your BC in the first place?


Posted by: atlmom1234 | August 18, 2009 12:40 PM | Report abuse


I'm a fed employee.

Posted by: jezebel3 | August 18, 2009 12:44 PM | Report abuse

I would pay for her BC, one jezebel is one too many already.....

Posted by: pwaa | August 18, 2009 1:19 PM | Report abuse

I would pay for her BC, one jezebel is one too many already.....

Posted by: pwaa | August 18, 2009 1:19 PM | Report abuse


Bless you.

Posted by: jezebel3 | August 18, 2009 1:21 PM | Report abuse

Whacky - I have no bone to pick about your family. Four really isn't so many, in the scheme of things, and you seem to be able to handle it just fine.

I'd have a third if I weren't so old.

Posted by: emily8 | August 18, 2009 1:24 PM | Report abuse

Whacky - I have no bone to pick about your family. Four really isn't so many, in the scheme of things, and you seem to be able to handle it just fine.

Posted by: emily8 | August 18, 2009 1:24 PM | Report abuse

How do you know?


Posted by: jezebel3 | August 18, 2009 1:26 PM | Report abuse

"I am puzzled by Whacky's reluctance to provide birth control."

Emily, for the record, I'm not against the use of birth control, as I think it is a very good thing for couples to practice.

However, I did use the term "contraception", and though unfortunately it is used interchangeably with "birth control", there is a distinction between the terms that makes all the difference. Intrinsically, when contraception fails, the result is an unwanted pregnancy. When birth control fails, the result is an unexpected blessing and a change of plans.

Posted by: WhackyWeasel | August 18, 2009 1:28 PM | Report abuse

"When birth control fails, the result is an unwanted pregnancy."

Fixed.

Posted by: thornwalker1 | August 18, 2009 1:37 PM | Report abuse

newslinks1 - you know whats really freeing? That my husband got a vasectomy a year after we got married! Now we never have to worry about how many children we might be forced to provide for at some point, since we decided to take responsibility for our own actions and not blame it all on God if we end up over our heads.

Personally, if there is one thing I want my tax dollars going to its population control. I believe everyone should have access to free birth control. It will definitely save money in the long run for all of us taxpayers. The other thing we really must do to encourage people to limit the number of people they have is start making sure people pay for them. The idea that you pay less in taxes with each child you have is ludicrous, considering your kids are using the resources those tax dollars pay for!

For all of you people who are trying to act like overpopulation is silly - you just don't want to have to admit your actions affect everyone and want to just continue selfishly doing whatever you want.

Posted by: EAR0614 | August 18, 2009 1:38 PM | Report abuse

When birth control fails, the result is an unexpected blessing and a change of plans.

Whacky - I get it. Which to me, is even more reason to support contraception. Too many children are born into dire circumstances because they started out as unwanted pregnancies.

Jez - How do I know? Well, I guess I don't know for sure. But I have been blogging with Whacky for about 4 years now. As far as parents go, I think he is better than most.

Posted by: emily8 | August 18, 2009 1:38 PM | Report abuse

Jez - How do I know? Well, I guess I don't know for sure. But I have been blogging with Whacky for about 4 years now. As far as parents go, I think he is better than most.

Posted by: emily8 | August 18, 2009 1:38 PM | Report abuse

This cyber perv is better than most??? Gd help us all.

Posted by: jezebel3 | August 18, 2009 1:43 PM | Report abuse

I have 3, somewhat by accident (second pregnancy turned out to be twins). I like having 3 so much more than having 1- the kids add so much to each other's lives. I was an only child and didn't mind it as a kid, but I do feel sad not to have any siblings as an adult.

Posted by: floof | August 18, 2009 1:46 PM | Report abuse

"The idea that you pay less in taxes with each child you have is ludicrous, considering your kids are using the resources those tax dollars pay for!"

While I don't disagree with the idea that people should be responsible for their reproductive choices, I also think we should not downplay the contribution that responsible people make by having children and raising them to be good, tax-paying citizens who contribute to society. Raising a child is hard work, but the pay-off is significant to society. We do, after all, need doctors, engineers, scientists, nurses, technicians, lawyers, writers, teachers, etc. to carry on after we are too old and decrepit to do these things ourselves. So people who raise children do deserve to be rewarded by tax breaks and such. They are contributing to society.


Posted by: emily8 | August 18, 2009 1:46 PM | Report abuse

This cyber perv is better than most??? Gd help us all.

Posted by: jezebel3 | August 18, 2009 1:43 PM | Report abuse

God help you, Jez. As funny as you can be at times, you seem quite unhappy.

Posted by: emily8 | August 18, 2009 1:48 PM | Report abuse

Pwaa, I know, we're talking about replacing legions of loving, caring, insurance claim agents, who stay up at night, sleepless worrying about the well-being of the American people with evil, no good beaurocrats who want to see other Americans suffer. You've got me there, I forgot, there's a black democrat in the white house, we have a congress that is actually trying to solve our domestic problems for a change, and the sky is falling. Oh God help us all...

Posted by: pinkoleander | August 18, 2009 1:50 PM | Report abuse

This cyber perv is better than most??? Gd help us all.

Posted by: jezebel3 | August 18, 2009 1:43 PM | Report abuse

God help you, Jez. As funny as you can be at times, you seem quite unhappy.


Posted by: emily8 | August 18, 2009 1:48 PM | Report abuse

You fell for this perv's con?

Posted by: jezebel3 | August 18, 2009 1:55 PM | Report abuse

The population in many countries is already dropping because fewer couples are having children and having fewer of them. Perhaps better for the environment but it has serious implications for the rest of us. Our economy, our system for providing for the aged etc. is predicated on having more young than old people -- not to mention young people become our doctors, estate planners and nursing home workers. Demographics affects a lot of things -- not just carbon footprints.

Posted by: annenh | August 18, 2009 1:59 PM | Report abuse

You fell for this perv's con?

Posted by: jezebel3 | August 18, 2009 1:55 PM | Report abuse

I like to see the good in people. Heck, I even see a light in you, on that rare occasion when you let it through.

Posted by: emily8 | August 18, 2009 1:59 PM | Report abuse

Wacky, let's start off that you know I love you.

I never said you can't be a decent Christian and have a large family. I said the two religious principals are in direct conflict with each other. And I wanted to know how religious people justify it. In other words, how do you they deal with two conflicting principals?

I also tried hard not to pin point it to Christians only. I think my original post is was insert religious identity because I don't think just Christians and Jews feel that way.

I tried hard not use inflammatory words like enemy or decency because I just gets people all stirred up.


I think you can agree that all Christians (as we both are), are called to be in the world and not of the world. Our spiritual journey is and should be a constant struggle to maintain our Christian lifestyle in the midst of the secular culture.

My point was I applauded the religious groups that have taken up the eco friendly agenda as a Christian prinicpal that needs revival. A way off setting other Christian principals as well as just being good stewards of the earth.

BTW, my kids have never been on a two week vacation and have never traveled half way around the world to visit family. Do I dream of taking my kids to Viet Nam one day? Sure but it hasn't happened yet. And I don't have the time to an analysis on fuel usage but I doubt three plane tickets from VA to FL amounts to the fuel usage that your four kids use in a single year. But since I don't have the time to do that calculation, I will just say we don't know the answer to that one.

BTW, again, I am not all saying that I believe the end of the world is coming , or that we are currently on a path of destruction (Malthus), I was just saying population growth trends is one thing to think about in weighing out the pros and the cons of the decision to have more children. I also firmly stated I did not think the US should or could reasonably mandate family size. I did say it was a decision that can only be made between the two parents.

Posted by: foamgnome | August 18, 2009 2:02 PM | Report abuse

The population in many countries is already dropping because fewer couples are having children and having fewer of them. Perhaps better for the environment but it has serious implications for the rest of us. Our economy, our system for providing for the aged etc. is predicated on having more young than old people -- not to mention young people become our doctors, estate planners and nursing home workers. Demographics affects a lot of things -- not just carbon footprints.

Posted by: annenh | August 18, 2009 1:59 PM | Report abuse


I mentioned the affect on public programs but some how this has gotten tagged as I think the population trend is going to lead to the end of the world.

Posted by: foamgnome | August 18, 2009 2:03 PM | Report abuse

annen: True - in Europe they pay people to have more kids, cause the pop decline is hurting them immensely. Here, tho, no problems, people keep coming here!

Pink: I don't see anyone anywhere solving anyone's problems. Not in our government. Not to say anyone was doing it before. I just see people who are trying to upstage each other, push their agenda even if it's not the way most people want it, and want to, above all, keep their power and their jobs (both sides).

Posted by: atlmom1234 | August 18, 2009 2:20 PM | Report abuse

I had a feeling that this topic would bring on the March of the Malthusians. The reproduction rate of Americans is right around the equilibrium rate.
I think the actual number to keep a static population is somewhere around 2.2 kids per family. (Some folks never have kids, some kids die early.) And if foaming and others want to do something about overpopulation, promote education in the third world. There's a clear inverse correlation between education and family size.

Me, I felt that having at least two was important as a sibling relationship is unique. I have a soft spot for 3 kids, but since I wasn't going to be pregnant, it wasn't my call. As it happens, we got the first two in one go.

BB

Posted by: FairlingtonBlade | August 18, 2009 2:39 PM | Report abuse

whackyweasel, I was not referring to childbirth itself, but the feeling of entitlement that some people have that the government (and by extension, we the taxpayers) have to pay for them to raise more kids. I am a democrat, but not in favor of people having as many kids as they want and the rest of us having to pay.

My former SIL had a friend with 12 kids - her family was on food stamps, and I resent having to pay for HER (and her husband's) choice. If you cannot afford to feed them, don't have them.

Posted by: justme22 | August 18, 2009 2:50 PM | Report abuse

BB: you missed my point. I said Americans use a disproportionate amount of resources compared to the other countries. Therefore limiting our population has a larger impact on the world.

Certainly you bring up an interesting point that education does correlate to family size and another approach is investing in educating the third world.


As far as the over population of the world, I was simply trying to explain the relationship between population and the world's resources. I never said that the world's population was leading to a doomsday. Or that I believed that the population is growing infinitely, expotentially, or lograthmically. I simply trying to explain the argument to atlmom who said she thought the issue was geographic land size. I did say in my first post that some enviromentalist believe.... I never said I believe this.

What I said was enviromental impact is something to consider in making that decision to add to your family.

My whole other argument was about religion.

Posted by: foamgnome | August 18, 2009 2:52 PM | Report abuse

"Pwaa, I know, we're talking about replacing legions of loving, caring, insurance claim agents, who stay up at night, sleepless worrying about the well-being of the American people with evil, no good beaurocrats who want to see other Americans suffer. You've got me there, I forgot, there's a black democrat in the white house, we have a congress that is actually trying to solve our domestic problems for a change, and the sky is falling. Oh God help us all... "

as usual you get it wrong. We now have entities that can be sued, are chosen by companies and can be regulated. Not perfect by a long shot. You want us to trust bureacrats on behalf of a broke, inefficient, bloated, uncaring government to spend trillions of our dollars deciding what is appropriate care. Anyone who has dealt with a government agency knows that they could give less than a rat's behind whether you are happy with their service or if you live or die. Now you want that bunch deciding on what treatment your kid receives? by the way this was so ridiculous , i could't wipe away the tears of laughter enough to respond -"we have a congress that is actually trying to solve our domestic problems for a change"BWAAAAAAAAAAAAA!!

Posted by: pwaa | August 18, 2009 2:53 PM | Report abuse

If you cannot afford to feed them, don't have them.


I have to agree with that. Unfortunately, it seems sometimes that the people who have the most kids are the ones that think the least about the long term consequences of these choices. I have a friend who recently adopted a child from a couple that though married, cannot afford more kids (already has 5). So they give their last one up for adoption and a year later inform my friend that they are pregnant again. Why do people keep making the same mistake over and over again? Do they learn nothing from experience?

Posted by: emily8 | August 18, 2009 2:55 PM | Report abuse

"BTW, What is the maximum number of children a parent can have and still be considered a good liberal? One or two? Obviously, I make a very poor liberal. LOL!"

Eleven. (See: Kennedy, Robert Francis)

Posted by: ArmyBrat1 | August 18, 2009 2:56 PM | Report abuse

btw, having large families isn't restricted to "good Christians." My SIL's friend is a chasidic Jew, her husband is a rabbi, and they educate their children in religious schools - but they're more than happy to take the US govt's food stamps (for kosher food which of course costs more than non-kosher).

before you accuse me of antisemitism, I am Jewish myself.

Posted by: justme22 | August 18, 2009 2:56 PM | Report abuse

Family history:

My father was younger of two brothers - not a choice, grandma just never conceived again after my dad was born.

My mother was one of three sisters. Two other girls were born into their family but died in early childhood.

All my granparents, aunts and uncles married only once, and stayed married until the death of the husband. My parents are both still living and still married after 51 years.

My dad's older brother had three children.

My dad and mom had four kids.

My mother's older sister had eight kids. Mom's younger sister had eleven.

There were some pretty serious problems in my aunt's families. Among the eight cousins there were a couple of drug-abusers, and one girl got married at 19 because she was pregnant. Another got on birth control, but didn't marry until she was over forty. Among the eleven cousins, one girl had serious drug abuse, an abortion and a miscarriage by the time she was 15, then she went on the pill. I don't think she was ever caught shoplifting - except by me, and I was 18 and scared out of my wits that she was going to get *me* arrested. One of her siblings had brain tumors, and he's among the rare 10% who survived. In his late 30's he's still living with his mom and has never been able to support himself. There's at least one or two more who didn't turn out so well - alcohol/drug problems or promiscuity/failed relationships or marriages.

Based on my anecdotal experience, a smaller number of children means the parents have enough time to devote to meeting each kid's needs, but a larger number means not enough time and attention, and at least some of the kids are more likely to have messed up lives.

Posted by: SueMc | August 18, 2009 2:59 PM | Report abuse

"Go read Harry Harrison's "Make Room! Make Room!" and let me know what you think about it."

I think it's decent fiction. I used to be really into those dystopic-society types of novels; my favorite for a while was "Love Among the Ruins" by Evelyn Waugh. Among the trashier works I was partial to "The Tomorrow File" by Lawrence Sanders, when the state not only told you whether you could or could not have a child, it also told you whether you could have an em or an ef. But none ever matched Orwell's "1984".

But so what? You do understand, thornwalker, that this is "fiction". As is "not real", "made up". It's an exaggeration for effect; entertainment in exchange for a buck. "Make Room!" is mostly known for being the inspiration for "Soylent Green". (Spoiler alert: in the book, "soylent" is a name for a combination of "soya" and "lentils" - soy + lent = soylent. It got changed to people in the movie because using vegetable protein in place of beef wasn't deemed scary enough.)

Compare the book to the real world, and then carm down.

Posted by: ArmyBrat1 | August 18, 2009 3:02 PM | Report abuse

I personally would be worried that I would not be a decent parent if I had too many kids. Not saying other people can't do it. Maybe they can. But there are certainly those who shouldn't even have one. Unfortunately, those are the same people who seem to be the most prolific procreators.

Posted by: emily8 | August 18, 2009 3:06 PM | Report abuse

AB: I read 1984 in HS in 1987. I always thought it was pretty funny because it did not come true. But I loved the book.

Posted by: foamgnome | August 18, 2009 3:07 PM | Report abuse

"I remember loving the Von Trapp family on The Sound of Music, and seeing another movie in the 1960s called 'Your Mine and Ours' that featured a widow with 10 kids marrying a widower with 8."

Somewhat off topic, but both movies were based on true stories. The von Trapp story is well documented. "Yours, Mine and Ours" was based on the story of Helen Brandmeier North, a widow of a Naval officer with eight children; and Frank Beardsley, a Naval CWO who was a widower with ten children of his own. Helen and Frank married and had two additional kids, giving them a total of 20. If reality TV had existed in the '60s you'd have seen more than just the movie. :-)

Posted by: ArmyBrat1 | August 18, 2009 3:08 PM | Report abuse

On second thought maybe it is a good idea that you liberals have less kids!!

Keep up the good work!

Posted by: sunflower571 | August 18, 2009 9:37 AM | Report abuse


Best post of the day! Foamy and thorny, please stop procreating.

Posted by: cheekymonkey | August 18, 2009 3:09 PM | Report abuse

Best post of the day! Foamy and thorny, please stop procreating.

Posted by: cheekymonkey | August 18, 2009 3:09 PM | Report abuse

Duh! We already have. :)

Posted by: foamgnome | August 18, 2009 3:11 PM | Report abuse

Duh! We already have. :)

Posted by: foamgnome | August 18, 2009 3:11 PM | Report abuse

DUH - GOOD! Just like good little liberals, do exactly as your dear leaders teach!

Posted by: cheekymonkey | August 18, 2009 3:21 PM | Report abuse

Yes, there is a correlation between population and environmental impact, but there's a much STRONGER correlation between standard/style of living and environmental impact. For example, the population of the PRC is more than four times that of the US (1.33 billion to 307 million), but the US emits more than double the total CO2 of China. The amount of CO2 per person in the US is roughly 8 times what it is in China. So the biggest impact on the environment is not so much reducing the US population; it's changing the impact of each US citizen. Of course, most US residents don't want the standard of living of the average Chinese, so that's a problem.

(For India, the ratio is more like 18:1, so even though India's population is almost 4 times the US's, we emit more than five times as much CO2.)

Posted by: ArmyBrat1 | August 18, 2009 3:24 PM | Report abuse

(Target-rich environment today. :-)

"The idea that you pay less in taxes with each child you have is ludicrous, considering your kids are using the resources those tax dollars pay for!"

This shows a total lack of understanding of how the US tax system is designed to work.

You don't pay based on what you use.

You pay based on your ability; on how much you can afford to pay.

If you have more kids, you have more expenses, so you can afford less, so you pay less.

No kids? Fewer family expenses equals more available for taxes.

This is elementary civics, folks. It's called a "progressive" tax system.

Don't like it? Don't think that's how it should be? Fine, try to change the WHOLE tax system away from "ability to pay" to "pay for what you use". Don't just bee-yotch about one part of it.

Posted by: ArmyBrat1 | August 18, 2009 3:29 PM | Report abuse

Best post of the day! Foamy and thorny, please stop procreating.

Posted by: cheekymonkey | August 18, 2009 3:09 PM | Report abuse

AB: That was my specific point. That Americans impact the enviroment more therefore limiting our population (Americas) has a larger impact on the world, than say Africa limiting it's population.

Of course you bring up the lifestyle issue of all Americans. But the problem is whether you have one kid, no kid, three or more kids, it is hard for Americans to change their basic habits.

I thought one of the most disheartening pieces of news are the studies that show even all the energy conservation techniques that we are now implementing has not had as much of a positive effect on the enviroment compared to our negative effect.

I did say that I hoped that one day that will change.

I don't know where everyone keeps saying that I believe in doomsday and over population.

I guess you have to follow the whole blog from start to finish to really understand where the discussion has gone.

Posted by: foamgnome | August 18, 2009 3:32 PM | Report abuse

WASHINGTON — China has overtaken the USA to become the world's No. 1 industrial source of carbon dioxide, the most important global-warming pollutant, according to a scientific study to be published today.
The study and two others — one recently published and another coming — agree that China's carbon-dioxide emissions surpassed those in the USA in 2006. That's decades earlier than had been predicted by the International Energy Agency four years ago.

All three studies examine emissions of carbon dioxide from the burning of fossil fuels such as coal. Energy usage is the most significant man-made source of carbon dioxide, which accumulates in the atmosphere and traps heat.

Unless China sharply cuts its emissions, "the situation is pretty bleak," says Richard Carson of the University of California, co-author of a study in today's Journal of Environmental Economics and Management. "There's a lot less time to do something than people previously thought."

China's total emissions in 2006 roughly tied U.S. emissions, according to another study in the April 24 issue of Geophysical Research Letters. But China's monthly production of carbon dioxide overtook the USA's in mid-2006, the study says. "Nobody could anticipate the rate of growth that's taken place in the last six or eight years in China," says Gregg Marland of Oak Ridge National Laboratory, one of the authors of that study.

A rare fumble by the armybrat.......

Posted by: pwaa | August 18, 2009 3:36 PM | Report abuse

pwaa: Maybe the only every other chinese family should have one child. :)

Posted by: foamgnome | August 18, 2009 3:38 PM | Report abuse

DUH - GOOD! Just like good little liberals, do exactly as your dear leaders teach!

Posted by: cheekymonkey | August 18, 2009 3:21 PM | Report abuse


Monkeybutt, why so charming today?

Posted by: emily8 | August 18, 2009 3:42 PM | Report abuse

AB: I read 1984 in HS in 1987. I always thought it was pretty funny because it did not come true. But I loved the book.

But it has come true. Don't you see some of the things in there coming true? Like trying to change the language? Like political correctness? Like the white house setting up an email so you can 'report' your neighbors?

And...well...re: co2, you'd have to believe that that is what is 'changing the climate.' Me, I don't see it.
Of course, I completely agree with foam that we citizens should decrease our impact, which would mean using less of everything. But doing it because it's creating something made up? so that we can all get hysterical? Please....

Posted by: atlmom1234 | August 18, 2009 3:48 PM | Report abuse

"You pay based on your ability; on how much you can afford to pay."

That's mostly accurate. but my definition of what I can afford to pay and what the IRS thinks I can afford to pay are widely different. Progressive, indeed.

Posted by: NoVAHockey | August 18, 2009 4:20 PM | Report abuse

Armybrat 3:29

I completely understand how our tax system works and am very supportive of a progressive system. What I do not support, though, is the idea that you pay less based on how many children you have. I disagree that having kids means you have more expenses and therefore can pay less in taxes. Having kids is 100% a choice, so to say that means you can afford less is like saying because I bought a more expensive house, I should pay less in taxes! Kids are not some right and I most certainly should not be forced to pay for your extravagant lifestyle (having children is just as extravagant as buying cars and houses to me, because they sure cost more!) As for wanting to change the whole tax system, its not really a problem with our tax system I have - its a problem with uncontrolled population growth and I believe we should do everything to discourage people from having mutliple children. That one change to the tax system would definitely help.

Posted by: EAR0614 | August 19, 2009 10:59 AM | Report abuse

@gnome - I got the point. Americans use 23% of the resources and have 5% of the population (adjust the numbers, but that's the basic argument). Taken to its logical conclusion, the ideal family size is zero. If you absolutely have to experience parenting, you should adopt. But not a child from the third world, because then your child would use many more resources than had he/she stayed in Guatemigeria.

Then we can get into how many resources a vegetarian family of five who lives in a townhouse and drives rarely use vs. a family of three who has a large house in the suburbs and drives SUVs to the nearest store instead of walking. Yes, I'm using reduction to absurdity, but I don't find the argument very interesting. And I'm perfectly capable of arguing both sides of it.

What I do find interesting is people's experiences and one is the right family size for their family. Not Gaea. Their family. It's why I come to On Parenting.

BB

Posted by: FairlingtonBlade | August 20, 2009 10:44 AM | Report abuse

"so to say that means you can afford less is like saying because I bought a more expensive house, I should pay less in taxes!"

Actually, this is the case- if your mortgage is bigger, your write-off is bigger.

Posted by: floof | August 20, 2009 11:04 AM | Report abuse

@ atlmom1234 - Of course you can't see it. CO2 is invisible!

Sorry, couldn't resist. I'm a scientist and have come to a conclusion. If your work doesn't affect people directly, then you're doing brilliant work. In my case, organic light-emitting diodes and solar cells. If you're doing something that has broader implications, like say ozone depletion, then you're a liberal idealogue trying to destroy our way of life. Or, in the case of evolution, a godless heathen trying to destroy religious belief. You can't see atoms either, but somehow believe in those.

BB

Posted by: FairlingtonBlade | August 21, 2009 1:06 AM | Report abuse

The comments to this entry are closed.

 
 

© 2010 The Washington Post Company