Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Why Big Families are Better

Lately there seems to be a lot of competition about what kind of mothers produce the best kids. It first came up in January 2011 from Amy Chua and her book Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother about how mothers who raise their children in a strict "Chinese" way are superior. From the write up in the Wall Street Journal, Mrs. Chua shares that scholastic and musical achievement, make Chinese-raised kids the superior.  Her form of parenting excludes TV, computer games, selecting your own electives, playdates and sleepovers. Click here for full WSJ article

Then last week, the Wall Street Journal ran a book review of a new book titled Bringing up Bebe by Pamela Druckerman. Click here for the book review by Clare McHugh Mrs. Druckerman contends that she, an American living in France, observed that French mothers don't give between meal snacks and let their children "loose" on the playground while they have conversations with other parents. French mothers don't "obsess" about baby sleeping habits and overall expect more from their children. Her theory is that French moms have all the wisdom for raising children.

Since then I have learned that new books and articles are on the horizon about how Bolivian, Welsh, German and even Mothers from Fiji raise the best kids. Isn't it interesting that so many are stepping forward to speak up for Motherhood? I think most mothers have a crisis of how to raise children especially since babies are not born with an instruction manual and many mothers live far away from grandmothers, aunts and cousins, all traditional support systems. All mothers want to raise great kids and many are willing to search high and low for the "magic formula" of how to do so.

I have a proposition to make: If you want to become a better mother and if you want to raise better children, have another baby. It's not so much that "practice makes perfect" although practice sure does help, but what I have seen as a mother of six children is that having another baby makes you focus on what is really important, the child himself, and not the plethora of ideas on what to do or not to do with him.

Here are just a few ways that I see that workings of a large family contribute to making better kids and parents:

  • Sisters and Brothers are in house playmates,so playdates don't have to be arranged.
  • There is always someone to talk to.
  • Families as the "Domestic Church" are a school of holiness.
  • Parents of large family can't hover. Kids learn to do their own homework.
  • Kids learn independence (make their own meals.)
  • Children find solutions to their own problems.
  • Sports and activities are limited.
  • Parents learn humility and patience.
  • Large families live a sacrificial life.
  • Teenagers change diapers.
  • Kids share a room and learn how to get along.
  • Husband and wife value each other more because of all they do for each other and children
  • Spouses don't get tired of each other, because their time together is precious (and limited.)
  • Mom and dad aren't "outside" the home looking for someone else or something to do.
Many people never pray about how many children they should have or ask God His opinion. Marybeth Finster, mother of 5,  in St. Petersburg, FL describes the benefits of a big family in this way: "For every child that we are open to and God grants, we are given a unique chance and moment of grace in which to grow in our understanding of our eternal destiny."  Wow. Not every child brings a burden,but every child brings a grace!

Sometimes parents are just worn out, tired, financially strapped, mentally over the edge and can't see how they could make room for one more. Maybe God isn't calling us to another child right now. But be open to His Will down the road. Some parents make permanent decisions to limit family size in moments of trial and difficulty. Pray about a long range vision and be reminded how quickly things can change. 

Annie Esposito, a mother of 4 young children, in Niagara Falls, NY shared a great quote about  Catholic Motherhood as follows, "Motherhood implies from the beginning a special openness to the new person. In this openness, the woman discovers herself through a sincere gift of self. Motherhood means opening the heart in love to give life...and this happens with each new child. This opening of the heart usually causes a pain of expansion that moves the heart away from selfishness and towards making an option for love. Yes, motherhood requires not only the expansion of the body, but most of all, the expansion of the heart; as the prophet Isaiah writes, “Enlarge the space of your tent, spread out your tent clothes unsparingly…For you shall spread abroad to the right and to the left” (Is 54:2-3). 

God loves life and He can supply all that we lack. His grace is sufficient and His power is made perfect in weakness (see 2 Cor 12:9.)

Today thank God for each of the children He has blessed you with. And ask Him, if there might be another one He has in mind for you. Parents who have that kind of vision will ultimately raise the best kids.

1 comment:

  1. It is not always easy to be thankful about another baby when you are very fertile. The good news is that our God is very patient and very forgiving. He keeps sending me babies, I keep throwing a fit and then getting over it, and he keeps loving me anyway. 9 children on earth, 2 in heaven and 2 more to be born in 4 months I would tell you that I am very blessed. Any burdens have been self inflincted ones.