An article in the NYTimes has me scratching my head, and I need some help.

The original article is a well written piece about large families. It defines a large family as one with more than three children (that made me giggle). It is, however, largely a positive piece on having a big brood.

The discussion going on after the article, however, has honestly shaken me by the shoulders. I’m realizing that I see the world SO DIFFERENTLY than a lot of other people on this planet. Over and over and over, parents of large families were called utterly selfish. We are selfish for overpopulating the earth, selfish for thinking our DNA is important enough to make 10 replicas, selfish for trying to birth our way into someone loving us, selfish for not providing just one or two children with an ivy league education, and (this is my favorite) selfish because I’m such a racist I’m just trying to perpetuate my own race.

Someone actually said that having 10 or 20 grandchildren was “disgusting”. She writes, “I suspect that the meaning of family is lost when a family is this large.”


Am I being selfish?

Because I’ll tell ya, giving up my career (and its salary, as meager as it was), forgoing a clean house, spending money on piano lessons, braces, extra furniture, and barrels of food does not sound like a wildly selfish and indulgent life. I realize that I am probably indeed selfish and prideful in many, many ways, I’d never consider that having children was one of those ways. And no one touched on the argument from an economic point of view. In 50 years, we are going to need at least a few people around to drive the economy forward.

Someone had actually suggested we institute a one-child policy like China.

Have they been to China recently? Have they noticed the enormous economic tsunami that is threatening to crest over the entire region because people aren’t having children? Or in Japan, where the government is creating enormous incentives to entice people to have children. Because as uncaring as it sounds, children are a future and vital resource for any economy.

I want my children to grow up and actively contribute to the society around them. I want them to become productive and caring members of a community. I want them to work to make the world around them better. I’m not trying to have children to perpetuate my own race, create people to love me, or because I don’t know how babies are made.

I am not an uneducated welfare mother. I am not selfish or stupid or indifferent to the individual love my children need and receive. I think that love can divide itself more than once or twice. I think there is value in that sacrifice. I am wealthy because of the rich relationships in my life. I might not buy each kid their own car, but I won’t ruin them by not.

Can’t we be at peace with our own choices and circumstances? Some people have a few children. Some people have a lot of children. Some people mourn they can’t have more. Some people can never get enough. And if someone makes a choice different from my own, I say be happy. Be happy and peaceful with all our own choices and circumstances. The Lord will direct us in the particulars of our lives. Our lives need not look alike to be rich and fulfilling.

I declare to all that my children are a gift from God, and I don’t see that as a selfish endeavor. We all must seek the Lord’s purpose for us individually.

But please don’t tell me that I’m narcissistic or egotistical or self-serving for having children. I want to be right with God, not the New York Times (Yet I still feel strangely compelled to argue with them anyway).

Tell me true, am I completely out of touch with the entire rest of the world?

February 23, 2009


  1. Roxie

    February 21, 2009

    Would it really be so bad to be out of touch with such a world though?

  2. m&m

    February 21, 2009

    Yeah, I echo Roxie’s thought.

    This is just to me another example of how white can be called black and black white.

    I’m not saying everyone has to have a large family, but to somehow make having children and grandchildren, family and posterity, selfish, wrong-headed pursuits?

    It just makes me think: “Wow, am I grateful to know prophets teach truth.”

    And what you are recounting from those comments is not what prophets are teaching, that’s for sure.

    I’m still sort of just in shock.

  3. Real Mom, Real Life

    February 21, 2009

    So here’s an idea… let’s take everyone who doesn’t want to over populate the earth and put them all on their own little island. After a couple generations, this hogwash would “die” out. The people making the arguements you mentioned are just being ridiculous. One day your’s or my child will be feeding them pudding in a home… then they won’t think we are selfish. They will tell that child what a good job his mother did raising him. And I agree with the first comment… being out of touch with the world isn’t so bad.

  4. c

    February 21, 2009

    i wonder if the article was prompted by a certain mother of now 14 children who has been consistently and purposefully having children she’s unable to care for and expecting everyone to take pity and give her free everything to care for them because SURPRISE! it’s a lot of money and work to have children, especially with special needs children.

    that, i think, is selfish.

    as long as the children are well loved and parents are able to give them clothes to wear, food to eat, and provide a safe home & are able to provide it on their own (not including circumstances where asking for help is necessary) there’s nothing wrong with large families. to keep having children when the ones already part of the family aren’t getting what they need & relying on the government to pay for it over & over is irresponsible and selfish.

  5. anon this time

    February 21, 2009

    (Oh, man. Don’t even get me started on the Octomom, and her doctors who ought to be prosecuted…}

    I have and also come from a very large family. Some of my extended family (who I love dearly) are not members or are inactive. They truly enjoy a good political fight (er, discussion.) I love them and I don’t think it’s worth any resulting bad feelings, so I just don’t engage. I let them rant it out. Every time they “go off” on this particular topic, in front of me and my children, mind you, I smile and love her and think to myself: My ___ # of children will cancel out the 2 that you have and the ones left over will be able perpetuate the value (and yes, necessity, i.e. caregivers, and “people driving the economy forward”, etc.)of large families.

  6. rebekah

    February 21, 2009

    yes, you are out of touch with a lot of the world, but a lot of the world is out of touch with God.

    this issue makes my blood boil! can people be so incredibly stupid and blind that they don’t see why, why, why we still need to have children?! it makes no sense to me, none at all.

  7. dalene

    February 21, 2009

    I think your children are gifts from God, too. And those naysayers really have no idea who will be supporting both them and the economy during their retirements (it will be our kids).

    My theory is that there are a lot of ignorant, disgruntled, and sometimes even hateful people with absolutely no lives sitting around writing nasty things on the comment threads of news articles all day long, which is why (despite my love of a good discussion) I can’t bring myself to read them anymore.

    Finally, I agree, for most people having (or adopting) and raising children is one of the most unselfish acts they can do.

  8. mela

    February 21, 2009

    I think a major origin of this division comes from having vastly different starting points. In LDS doctrine we have a premortal life, spirits who need to come to earth, and families are our most sacred responsibility.

    Contrast that with the secular view that a child springs into being upon conception (or even birth), a child is a lifestyle accessory somewhat like a pet, a child is a resource drain, etc. Different starting points entirely, different conclusions entirely. I don’t blame them, I feel sorry for them.

    BYE, I’m to primary to sing “I lived in Heaven a long time ago, it is true….”

  9. Erin

    February 21, 2009

    Some people think it “might be a neat experience to have a kid.” You know, right after they cross “skydiving” and “seeing the Grand Canyon” off of their bucket list.

  10. Justine

    February 21, 2009

    I don’t care that I’m out of touch, I guess I was just surprised by how out of touch I am. I keep thinking that the world is still a rational place — I still kind of hope that this is just a vocal minority.

    And you’re right Dalene, forums and news response lines probably aren’t the most reliable meter of public opinion.

    I think the article references those octomoms directly, and I agree that there are lots-o-problems with that entire situation. But I also know that if my husband and I had waited until we were completely financially ‘ready’ to have children, we still probably wouldn’t have any. The Lord has certainly qualified our decision.

    When we were first married, we, like so many others, were poor young things. And even after waiting almost three years to have our first, we were still in our ‘salad days’. So I do think that these decisions rely on a lot of prayer and faith.

  11. courtney

    February 21, 2009

    I live in Utah so seeing large families is still normal. My sister, on the other hand, lives in the Bay Area. She has four kids, and she tells me that when she takes them all out, people stare at her as if she had two heads and a tail. She feels like she constantly has to defend her decision to have four children (like you said, YES– she knows where they come from.)
    But I think you hit on a really key point: people need to do what they feel is right and what makes them happy and let others do the same. Once you can care for your children emotionally and financially, how many you have is completely up to you! I think it is human nature to say “because I can handle only two kids means EVERYONE can handle only two kids.”
    But I also think it’s important for those who have large families to accept those who have small families. I plan on having two kids, and I’m sure I’ll receive some flack at some point for it. You just can’t win. 🙂

  12. cheryl

    February 21, 2009

    I agree with Mela. And I learned this the hard way –the difference between a belief system where there is no God and my own beliefs that God is everything.

    My husband’s step-father is an atheist and a member of the Green Party (he ran for Senate under that ticket). He’s a good man (very compassionate), but he sees things very differently than we do. In fact, last year, after we casually mentioned we wanted to have a fifth child, he wrote us an email explaining how he would be very upset with us if we had more children. He was astonished that we already had Four, and he couldn’t believe we would pollute the Earth with more.
    At first, my husband and I were taken aback. How dare he tell us how many children to have?! But then we thought about it from his PoV: He honestly believes that this is it. That there is no pre-Earth life. That there is no God, no heaven, no judgement, no Spirits waiting to be born. We tried to understand it from that PoV (not agreeing, of course) and so we were able to respond with respect and kindness. We told him that we understood his concerns, we appreciated his opinions, and we were grateful he felt close enough to us to express them. But we ended telling him we need to agree to disagree.

    Now I am pregnant with our fifth child. I don’t know how he will react (we haven’t spoken since the news was told, but we rarely speak more than three times a year), but I would just hope that he’ll show us the same respect we showed him.

    I guess my point is that I am just as frustrated as you Justine –but “the world” that we feel out of touch with is in my family. Even my MIL (who used to be a member of our Church) thinks we’re crazy. But it’s okay. I loved your last line:
    “I want to be right with God, not the New York Times”

    And it really does help to know why people react the way they do –it helps us all understand each other. (and yes, I’m guessing the silent majority –like on A LOT of issues –is just being silent. Again.).

  13. cheryl

    February 21, 2009

    I could have been your sister! I moved from UT to the Bay Area with four children and I had the same experiences as your sister did –I was daily accosted by baffled people. It got so bad I practiced deflecting comments with suprising ones of my own. Now that I’ve moved back to UT –nobody bats an eye. It’s kind of nice, in a way…

  14. Katie

    February 21, 2009

    Have you ever heard of the Shakers? They were a religious group that started in the 1840s that believed in strict celibacy for all of its members. They died for several reasons, but of course a big one was that they didn’t have any children. Contrast with the Mormons, who also started around the same time, but that generally believe in having many kids. Compare the two and you can see what happens to groups who don’t believe in having children in the long run.

  15. Dani M

    February 21, 2009

    I’m in my early 20’s, I have one beautiful little girl who I absolutely love and my husband and I are planning on at least 5 more. I don’t care if you have 1 kid or 15 kids, if you love them all, can care for them financially, and teach them whats right for them to govern themselves, then hey, I’m happy for you and you are doing great!
    I am the second of three. I was fine I love my family. Because of certain circumstances I was able to enjoy 6 step siblings for a time. Granted only 3 lived at home but I loved the chaos, and business of it all. To have so many different personalities, talents and likes and dislikes in one place was amazing to me. I loved it but I also recognize that it is not for everyone. Again that’s fine. Do what is best for you and your family.

  16. Genavee

    February 21, 2009

    I think part of the disconnect is that a lot of these people don’t have any examples of a loving, responsible and healthy large family. If you’ve never met a familly like that and your only examples of large families are people like Octomom or other families that really can’t afford or take care of all their kids, and quite frankly seem more than a little messed up, it makes sense that you would have a rather dim view of large families.

  17. Red

    February 21, 2009

    I’m going to play the devil’s advocate, even though I fundamentally believe that every family should have the right to determine their own best family size. And I like big families 🙂

    BUT… we’ve all seen those big families where it is clear that the youngest children are neglected and the oldest children are used as permanent babysitters and everyone is attention starved (my opinion is that this starts to happen somewhere around seven… there, I put it out there). Isn’t there a line when too much is too much, even in nice Mormon families? Because there is a price to be paid, and it is usually the children who pay it, not the parents.

  18. cheryl

    February 21, 2009

    True. But parents of two kids can just as easily neglect their kids as parents of 14 kids can. It isn’t about size –it’s about parental commitment. And honestly? I have never seen “those families” you are talking about. In fact, every big family I’ve encountered (more than 7 kids) has been amazing –and extremely well-adjusted. But maybe I’ve been lucky! 🙂

  19. Anon

    February 21, 2009

    I’m posting as “anon” not because I’m ashamed, but because I know people in my ward read this and I don’t want them to get their feelings hurt.

    That said, I think we’re kidding ourselves if we think that as Mormons we don’t also have our own culturally constructed ideas of “optimal” family size. There’s a woman in my ward who just had her ninth child–and her oldest just returned from a mission–and even though she’s a very nice woman and all their children are good kids, well-provided for, she’s relegated to the fringes of the ward socially. People see her as a little bit strange, and I know when she announced her last pregnancy there was an undercurrent of, “Oh no, not again! What is she thinking??” behind all the congratulations.

    Almost every Mormon woman I know uses birth control, and 60 years ago, a Mormon family of four might have been seen as small and selfish. Although it’s nice to pat ourselves on the back and say, “Yes, we’re multiplying and replenishing the Earth, just like God told us to!”, I think Mormons two or three generations back would have seen our widespread use of birth control as sinful and our families as much too small.

    I, for one, am all for birth control. My husband had a vasectomy after our fourth child was born. But I’m also very aware of the cultural significance of “four kids” in Mormonism and how that might have played a role in our decision. Three kids and people stop bugging you about having more but still silently think you have it in you for one more, if you’d put your shoulder to the wheel. Four kids, you’ve done your righteous Mormon duty–nuff said. Five kids, you’re really righteous, above and beyond! Six kids, you no longer fit in the minivan and people start looking at you sideways. Seven kids? Just as one commenter said above, many Mormons see that as the tipping point into chaos and start judging. And having kid after kid without using birth control at all? Just plum crazy! (I’m not saying I believe these things. I’m saying this is what our *culture* seems to believe.)

    So we’re just as influenced by cultural mores as anyone else out there in “the world,” it seems to me. It’s just that our cut-off points are maybe one or two kids more (four or five instead of two or three).

  20. Justine

    February 21, 2009

    That’s a great point, Anon. We do operate within social constructs just as much as anyone else. I guess it all boils down to being willing to stop judging each other. Isn’t that what almost every single issue we dissect here at Segullah boils down to? We’ve just got to be willing to accept that the Lord operates in each of our lives differently, but always for our own good.

    And Red, I have known a family like that, where neglect seemed to be not intentional, but out of sheer exhaustion. But I’ve also known families with upwards of 15 children where the parents and kids were all amazing. And all 15 of them have gone on to be successful adults in every way. I feel terrible for the mother’s who have 8,9,10 kids and they are marginalize for their choices. I’m upset that we are being marginalized by others, and yet too often we marginalize anyone that does something different than we do.

    Good stuff to think about.

  21. FoxyJ

    February 21, 2009

    Yeah, I’m with Dalene. Just don’t read the comments on any newspaper site–the ones on SL Trib will make your eyes fall out from shock. I thought the article itself was pretty fair and balanced, but the comments sound like they’re out of control. Par for the course with online forums.

    There definitely some segments of “the world” that don’t value children. But “the world” is a very big place and there are a lot of different types of people out there, some more vocal than others. I also like the fact that a few people raised that sometimes within the church we have a tendency to judge others about their childbearing choices. Talking back to the shrill voices won’t help–the only attitude we can change is our own, and then we’ll have to see if that rubs off on anyone else.

  22. WendyP.

    February 21, 2009

    I have two kids (ages 9 and 12) and only want two kids and have been judged by my LDS family as being “selfish” for not having more. It goes both ways.

  23. Eileen

    February 21, 2009

    Aiy, yi,yi! This is a touchy issue, isn’t it? My husband is from a family of 8. He *thinks* he has around 50 first cousins–hard to keep track. When my father (a non-member) was visiting my in-laws home during our engagement, he saw a framed wide-angle photo of a family reunion and said, “Population control. We need it.” Yes, it was a fun first meeting of the families!

    I absolutely believe there are couples who can love, nurture, and support 8+ kids. I also know couples who probably shouldn’t be left in charge of a gerbil. It’s such a personal issue. Unfortunately, I think it’s sometimes hard to have the self-knowledge to realize what you and your spouse are capable of handling. It’s a decision that has got to involve lots of prayer.

    For us, when our third child was 4 years old, we had a strong feeling that someone else needed to come to our family. What was very surprising was the prompting that this child needed to be someone who wouldn’t have a family otherwise. We adopted our daughter from an orphanage in China and the joy that her spirit has added to our home has been one of the most faith-promoting experiences we’ve ever had.

    I absolutely believe that all children are gifts. More than the global need for children though, I feel that the world needs more PARENTS. I hear of the sometimes (think California) extreme measures people take to bear children, and I can’t help but feel sorrow for children already born who desperately want to be part of a family.

    It’s a supremely personal decision that unfortunately will be judged by others–inside the Church and out.

  24. martha

    February 21, 2009

    I can’t even read comments on the food network because I become frightened by all of the “crazies” out there.

    I think it boils down to your perspective and what you value. I am the oldest of 8 children. I grew up in Minnesota. When I was young(selfish, OK, I still am), I believed my parents to be horrible for torturing me with so many siblings. Now, I am grateful for the opportunity this family gave me to learn hard work, tolerance, sacrifice, and responsibility. As our lives continue to progress and change, my heart has had to expand in order to allow for more understanding and greater love. Each sibling brings something unique to table that I need to learn.
    I guess my point is, that this large family has taught me, little by little, to forsake selfishness and pride, and to expand my ability to love, regardless.

  25. Proud Daughter of Eve

    February 21, 2009

    “I want to be right with God, not the New York Times (Yet I still feel strangely compelled to argue with them anyway).”

    Ditto, xerox, fax and CC that!

    Feeling out of step with the world is why I started blogging. I wanted the chance to connect with people who were closer to my viewpoint. The bloggernacle is, generally speaking, still a little further left of me than I think I could wish. Then I run into things in the “outside” world like the comments Justine is talking about and my jaw just hits the floor.

    True story. My friend “L” and I were out shopping the other day and saw one of the gossip mags with a headline about Ms. Suleman. L told me that one of her friends had IM’d her with “Thank you for having just one!”

    I can’t find it now but I read an article the other day talking about Ms. Suleman, a group of career women in New York who’d all gotten together and decided to have kids without fathers, and a 22-year old married woman in the WNBA who’d recently announced her pregnancy. Three gueses who was getting castigated. The first two don’t count. (To be fair, the article was talking about this inequity, not creating in, and I’m not sure if it was written before or after everything blew up for Ms. Suleman.)

    All I can do really is second Roxie’s first comment. This world has its priorities completely turned around and if having our priorities straight means we’re not syncing with others around us — well, it’s sad and tough and not always fun, but the alternative is worse.

  26. CatherineWO

    February 21, 2009

    Whenever I see a discussion like this I am reminded of my mother’s comments to me when I was about to be married. In essance she said, “How many children you have and when you have them is entirely up to you and your husband, with the guidance of the Lord, and it will not now, nor ever, be a topic of discussion between you and me.” She was good to her word, and it made for a great mother/adult daughter relationship.

  27. Kaimi

    February 21, 2009

    To follow up on anon’s comment, it can be really interesting to trace the development of statements about birth control. A century ago, LDS women were told in no uncertain terms that they were expected to have 8 or 10 children, and that birth control was a sin.

    Over time, the rhetoric changed.

    Bored in Vernal has a good post tracing the shift in BC rhetoric over time, at .

    A lengthier, thorough, well-researched and thought-provoking analysis can be found in Melissa Proctor’s article, Bodies, Babies, and Birth Control, Dialogue 36 (3) Fall 2003: 159-175 . Melissa’s article can be accessed at the U’s (really annoying) online archives, at,29221 .

  28. Claudia

    February 21, 2009

    The average family has one and a half children, when memory serves. LDS families have two and a half or three. It looks like we are not that far out of the main stream. I figure all those people that are having one child or no children are not using as many resources as they would otherwise.

    All those hateful comments tell more about the persons who made them than about anyone else.

    No, your are not selfish.

  29. Ginger

    February 21, 2009

    I live in the Midwest, and there are plenty of families out here that have 3, 4, and even 5 children that are not Mormon. I really think it boils down to what you value, and in my community, people value family.

  30. Brenda

    February 21, 2009

    How many children someone has is definitely a choice that needs to be made responsibly. I may be unpopular for saying this, but I believe there is a point where people can have too many children. Maybe it’s just me; I don’t see how a parent can give 10 kids the attention that they need. Maybe because I grew up with seven other siblings and had to throw temper tantrums to get any attention at all. Maybe because I’ve seen my sister with her twelve kids, unbathed and wearing clothes that don’t fit. I don’t know. I chose to have two kids. I wouldn’t have minded three, but the third never came and I decided to let it be. I often feel criticized in the LDS community for not “breeding” more children, as if they are numbers and we’re in some kind of competition. Acceptance goes both ways.

  31. Heather O.

    February 21, 2009

    Population control arguments drive me batty. Seriously. I even read an article about women who were voluntarily sterilized before they had children because they didn’t want to waste resources. That, my friends, blows my mind.

    How many kids you have is between you, your spouse, and the Lord. And the idea that 20 grandchildren make you lose the meaning of family is ridiculous. My mother has 20 grandchildren, and she is still a loving grandmother to them all. We love getting together as a whole family. The logistics are trickier, that’s true, but we still manage it. And I still love it. I love that my kids know their cousins, and it sort of makes me sad that with only 2 kids, my grandchildren won’t have a passle of cousins the way my kids do. Cousins rock. Especially if you have 20 of them.

    Population control has some serious consequences long term. Look at Germany–they are practically paying moms to have kids. You can’t ask for good medical care, cure of disease, and extended life expectancy and also demand population control. Somebody has to take care (AND PAY FOR!) the aging population. Somebody has to pay the taxes.

  32. Justine

    February 21, 2009

    Brenda, you’re right that acceptance absolutely has to go both ways. I remember being at a dinner with a woman who has probably 25 years older than I was. We were talking about children, and I asked her how many children she had. She was silent for a moment, and then said, looking downward, “well, I only have three.”

    I felt horrible that she felt shamed or embarrassed or somehow belittled by a culture where she should have had “a bunch more”. And I was so surprised that this woman, who had already raised her children and was an empty nester, would still feel some sort of guilt or shame from the INCREDIBLY hard work of raising three children.

    We’ve got to get past that. There are too many tears shed for culturally-grown guilt. I’m sorry you’ve felt criticized. I think we all get hit from somewhere, eh?

  33. wendy

    February 21, 2009

    Justine, I keep thinking about your question about being out of touch with the rest of the world. I like the ideas about not being out of touch with God. I also am glad somebody mentioned non-lds with bigger families also exist and are plentiful. Where we live makes a difference in what we see and hear. I think I’m kind of rambling . . . I think you aren’t out of touch with the rest of the world at all, but you live in a community where it’s “good” to have larger families, and we don’t hear a lot of criticism for it. Not associating with people against big families does not make you out of touch. I hope that made sense.

  34. Jennie

    February 21, 2009

    I am raising six wonderful children. These are the future leaders of our community, if not our country. I should be getting a standing ovation, not criticism!!!

  35. Karen

    February 21, 2009

    I find it ironic that you complain of feeling criticized for not having more children, but criticize others for having large families. You “choose” to have two kids, but having more is “breeding”.

    It seems to me you are judging others without even knowing them. Yes, you have your own personal experiences with your extended family. But that is not enough to judge all others by.

    If you don’t want me to judge you for choosing to have “only two” then don’t judge others who choose to have more. No matter how many more it is

    Not every mother of a large family is neglectful. Not every child in a large family feels the need to have tantrums to get attention.

    Most women I know with larger families put lots of thoughts and prayers into their decision.

  36. Mother of 3

    February 21, 2009

    I am a mother of 3. I would have loved more but don’t for a number of reasons. In fact I have begged for the last four years to have another child and my husband just won’t agree, again for a number of reasons. This is my one issue at church for which I feel judged. I feel guilty for only having three. I admit guilt is one of the reasons I would like to have number four. Church culture isn’t always as supportive and non judgemental as we would all like.

    I am all for large families if, and it is a big if, they are loved, well looked after and the family can support them financially. It does do my head in when I see some families in my ward who have never worked but carry on having children which the rest of us support. I don’t get it. Then again, here I am being judgemental. Sorry.

  37. Laura Craner

    February 21, 2009

    I’m late to this discussion and I haven’t read all the comments, but I have a couple thoughts. I hear that kind of stuff all the time because where we live (near Boulder, CO) people would rather have dogs than children. If I’m feeling bold (or snarky! whee!), here’s what I say:

    “I know. It sure is a shame that I’m raising a good upstanding citizen who will not do drugs or live off the goverment. But I guess it all evens out when you consider the fact that THESE CHILDREN are your future social security payment.”

    Also, a thought on China: Many Chinese choose to have more than one child. They just leave the country right before the woman is ready to give birth. From what I understand, Canada is great place to go for labor. A lot of children are abandoned. There are a lot of abortions. The policy doesn’t necessarily limit family size. Often, it simply puts people in dangerous and difficult situations.

  38. Laura Craner

    February 21, 2009

    Another thought: do you think that a lot of the spleen you came across was misdirected anger because of the high emotions that the octuplets brought on?

  39. Proud Daughter of Eve

    February 21, 2009

    All this talk of four children being the “golden Mormon mean” is interesting. It was a small focus of the book “A Cage of Stars,” which was written about a LDS family by a non-LDS author. In it, the mom had a goal for herself of four children and the character treated it as a desire both internally and externally imposed. I wondered where the author had gotten this idea of four being the “magic” number. In most other aspects her research was good. I guess in this aspect her research was better than I’d thought.

  40. Courtney

    February 21, 2009

    Like most people, I believe the octo-mom made irresponsible decisions in creating her family. I also believe her doctor acted irresponsibly. What has me concerned is the talk that the doctor should not have “let” her have more children when she already had six. These are not crazy people commenting online but statements by board certified fertility specialists. The idea that anyone outside of the marriage relationship can govern how many children a couple has is scary – maybe it’s because I have five children, four of whom were conceived with medical intervention. These things hit close to home.

    I recently moved to the east coast from Arizona. Our family definitely stands out more here and is much more frequently commented on. However, I have heard fewer negative comments here than anywhere else I have lived. Most of the comments I receive are along the lines of “Are they all yours? God bless you.” or “You have a beautiful family.” In the western states, we heard a lot more, “I’d shoot myself if I were you.”

  41. Camille

    February 21, 2009

    I thought I heard a quote from Joseph Smith that stated that there would come a time where the only women wanting to have children were members of the church. Don’t quote me, but I’m pretty sure that I heard that quote was from him.

  42. jendoop

    February 21, 2009

    I’d like to go back to a couple of the starting comments about being OK with being out of touch with the world, letting everyone else wallow in their lack of understanding. This attitude bothers me for many reasons.

    First of all others that don’t share your opinions about family size vote. They could just vote to limit your right to procreate. Especially if we keep having Octo-moms get alot of press. Anyone want to go through a qualification process before they can have another child?

    Second of all- We, as members of the church in the last days, are supposed to be sharing with others the beautiful plan of the gospel. Which includes, “I lived in heaven a long time ago..” that someone mentioned previously. We should not have an attitude of ‘oh, well they’re mean to me, let them rot.’ Call me crazy but in some ways letting others see my happy family of six is just another way I can let others see a facet of the gospel. No, we don’t go around carrying BOMs and missionary tags. But our influence, of being a happy intact family in a community where that is rarely found, makes a difference. My attitude when confronted will go along way towards changing people’s opinions of large families.

    My example- We live in the Northeast where I go to a book discussion group at the local library. Most of the participants are women, liberal and from the East. One day I took all four of my children to the library and ran into 3 people from the book discussion group, it was a scene. “Are all these children yours!” One woman just stared with a frown. I have tried my utmost to be friendly with that woman ever since (all of them really). I want her to see my children more, I want her to see that we love each other; that they aren’t just bodies taking up resources. They live and breathe and learn and love books just like her. And yes, one day, one of them could just be her doctor on her dying day.

  43. Anon2

    February 21, 2009

    I think there are definitely instances in which people have children for VERY selfish reasons. This could be having one child or having 15. Not knowing specifically what your reasons were, I wouldn’t necessarily jump to that conclusion in your case. I wonder though at what point having more and more children becomes irresponsible. I wouldn’t say that it’s critical to send every child to an ivy league school. But, each additional child does decrease the resources available to the previous children, a parents individual love and attention being the most important of those resources. I don’t know what the upper limit should be. But, I know people who have more kids than they can care for, financially or emotionally.

    One other thought: How are you supposed to know how many children you can handle? When there are all young children and babies, you might have no idea what you are getting yourself into. What if those angelic little kids become pre-teens and teens with serious emotional and behavioral issues and need much more individual attention than you can possibly afford to each? I’ve seen this happen first hand. When I started dating my husband, the oldest of 7, his younger siblings were just entering the dreaded teen years. Three of the youngest four spiraled into chaos. There was shoplifting, breaking and entering, drug use, teenage pregnancy, etc. His parents at that point just seemed too overwhelmed and exhausted to deal with it and discipline. But, I don’t think his parents could have seen that coming when they were making the decisions to have babies 4-7. I know my husband didn’t get enough attention growing up.

  44. m&m

    February 22, 2009


    I think you raise a really good point, and that is that we need to overcome the anger/frustration/disdain enough to have love and compassion in our hearts. If we did, maybe we could find more ways to share the plan (verbally or nonverbally) and have our own attitudes reflect joy in the concepts of family and posterity and love for others, in and out of the Church (regardless of their decisions).

    Having just read Elder Hales’ talk on Christian courage and how we should respond to those who accuse (and I think this could generalize to this kind of issue), your comment really gives me pause here.

    So, now I’m wanting to go another way. Maybe the next time one of us runs into these kinds of attitudes, we could pray for the right thing to say (read Elder Hales’ talk…really can apply, imo), and maybe have an opportunity to bring the Spirit of God’s plan into their lives.

    Imagine if someone ‘out there’ read our discussion (and I am thinking of my own comment as well). Would they want to know more about the plan of salvation from reading what we have said? Hm.

    Maybe we can talk about things we can say to turn something like this around, in real life, or even here, right now. 🙂

  45. Jennie

    February 22, 2009

    I know a lot of parents who can barely give their two children any attention. They’re too busy with their own lives. Sometimes it’s work, sometimes it’s busy hobbies. Obviously just having fewer children isn’t the answer. You see plenty of troubled kids from families of three and four.

  46. cindy baldwin

    February 22, 2009

    This morning my little sisters are watching “Saturday’s Warrior” – pardon the cheesy example, but as I was watching the scene about overpopulation and the dangers of big families, I thought of this post. It’s not a new problem – it’s just growing. It’s kind of disheartening, when you think about it.

  47. Justine

    February 22, 2009

    anon2, I think that emotional neglect and the like can happen with 1 or 20 children, and I honestly believe that family size is something requiring careful consideration and consultation with the Lord.

    I think the only way to know, “how many children we can handle” is to get answer to prayer. And I really do testify that it works. The Lord has very specifically helped my husband and I through some of these questions, as well as questions and frustrations about raising all these uniquely individual people. My husband comes from a family of 8 children, and every last one of them is a strong, capable, outstanding individual. Their parents I’m sure struggled through a lot of painful moments and phases, but I don’t think it requires anything more than what’s asked of all of us: nothing less than everything we have to give.

    I’m really fascinated recently about the Mormon norm of 4-5 children. I admit that I feel culturally acceptable because we have five children (here in Utah). But each child was a prayerful and deliberate decision. And now I fell very strongly that the Lord has closed that chapter of our lives. I wonder how much I have been influenced by cultural norms instead of answer to prayer.

  48. Anony

    February 22, 2009

    “Can’t we be at peace with our own choices and circumstances? Some people have a few children. Some people have a lot of children. Some people mourn they can’t have more. Some people can never get enough.”

    I know this is about having children. I know I am a male writing on a female blog. However, this comment caught my attention because of something that is missing. Some people in the LDS Church mourn because they can’t have any children. For those who might then comment that there is always adoption, that isn’t always possible because of cost and legal issues.

  49. Camille

    February 22, 2009

    ok I found the quote, yes it is from Joseph Smith “the time would come when none but the women of the Latter-day Saints would be willing to bear children.”
    I’m sure it sounded strange when he prophesied.

  50. Justine

    February 22, 2009

    Anony, that’s a great point. I have beloved people in my life that feel the silent scorn around them for not having any children at all, when it is one of the greatest desires of their hearts. That is a quiet and painful struggle, to be certain.

    And Camille, I’m sure it sounded totally strange back then! It still sounds a little strange even now. I just can’t imagine that reality, although it seems to be creeping ever closer.

  51. Latter-day Guy

    February 22, 2009

    Djinn, I’m not sure I understand. Could you clarify your first comment about the gay son. I’m missing it.

  52. in Japan

    February 22, 2009

    re OT “Or in Japan, where the government is creating enormous incentives to entice people to have children.”

    yes, but a lot of the “incentives” stop around the time your kids enter school here, so it doesn`t really seem to help increase the number of children people are having because we know that the realy expense is going to start in once your children reach high school (not compulsory education, so it starts getting expensive, even in public schools) and university (generally paid for totally by parents)- for example, it was really, really nice having pre-school for my youngest paid for by the government, but there is nothing to help out this year as my eldest starts hs and is going to cost around $400/month for the next 3 years (yes, public hs)

  53. Childless by choice

    February 22, 2009

    In the thread, this was the comment I found most annoying and wrong-headed, thanks to “Anon this time” weighing in at 8:07 AM:

    “I smile and love her and think to myself: My ___ # of children will cancel out the 2 that you have and the ones left over will be able perpetuate the value (and yes, necessity, i.e. caregivers, and “people driving the economy forward”, etc.)of large families.”

    That’s the exact point the writer of the initial article was making. Some people who have large families do it out of a misguided sense of moral superiority. In her (assuming Anon is a female) comment, she shows that exact selfishness and egotism to which the NYTimes writer refers. “My children will cancel out yours.” NICE! Because you’re right and anyone who thinks differently is wrong? That exact attitude is why Mormons so often get a bad rapd among the larger populace.

    When I see people who are excellent parents, I am glad that are having children. Some of the commenters have made the unsupported leap that the writer of the original article is saying that no one should have kids. And I don’t think at all that was the intended tone of the article. However, human overpopulation is a fact. And we in the US are very “NIMBY” about it. We think that because we have plenty of food and clean water that it has nothing to do with us. Yet large swaths of the American west don’t have the water to support their populations. Agriculture is being negatively impacted, and that will ultimately hit our food supply.

    I think you have to make very conscious choices about the impact your lifestyle and your children will have on the world. These billions of plastic water bottles laying in landfills for the next several thousand years? All that packaging from single serve yogurt cups and pudding snacks, etc., etc.? It all has an impact that will long outlast your and your children’s and their children’s lives. So think about your actions in the larger context. I’m not at all saying “don’t have them,” but I sure hope you are really thinking about the impact of your lifestyle and of your actions.

    I know I thought long and hard about my choices.

    And don’t dismiss me because I don’t have biological children. I currently number among my ‘unbioligical’ children the oldest daughter of a family of 9. The poor child is so starved for adult attention that she has totally latched onto me – because I have the time her parents don’t. And they seem to be fine people, but I don’t even think they are done having children (#9 is only months old), yet they are blind to the impact their continued procreation is having on their older children. Included in that impact is the lack of money to send their kids to college – and I agonize over that. How much can I offer without overstepping? It seems a shame that this girl won’t have the chance when she so clearly wants to go to college and is a bright girl. Aside from not having the money to send her, her parents want her to stay home to help with the younger ones. Now, I ask you, is that fair to her? Who is the selfish one there?

  54. oh my goodness

    February 22, 2009

    C. by Choice:
    Kudos on your exemplary life.
    And sincerely, thank you for the concern you show for the poor oldest daughter of nine children. We are all strengthened when we help each other.

    However, I choose my beautiful, inspiring, intelligent, funny, brave, caring childREN over water bottles in a land fill.

  55. Justine

    February 22, 2009

    hey ladies, this is a respect zone. I’ve been so fascinated and interested to read all these wonderful (and oft differing) opinions. I’m happy that there are numerous successful ways to navigate our lives here.

    Let’s keep the discussion that way, ‘kay?

    We are all strengthened when we help each other, and we are strengthened when we can figure out how to understand each other more. I’m grateful to hear from you, childless by choice and djinn. I want to understand the motivations behind our choices without condemning each other. Our choices are between us individually and the Lord, and I have no place to draw down condemnation, for I am just as certainly open to the wrath of others.

    We are all mothers to the people around us. We mother in significant ways and in small ways. This discussion, in my mind, is about getting past the idea that others should decide for me what is a personal and very spiritual decision.

    I have five children, and find that the sacrifice required for their proper care and attention is a great blessing to me. Coming to know them and helping them to find and foster their unique talents has brought me something that I could not have found without them.

    I know there are terrible examples of parenting and neglect in some large families. There are terrible examples of indulgence and greed in childless couples. Transcending those to find the heart of an individual person is difficult — but mandatory.

  56. JKS

    February 22, 2009

    There are bad parents with many children and bad parents with only one or two. The number of children affects your parenting in many ways (some good, some bad) and you can either counteract that or make it worse).
    We live in an area where many people think us having four children is more than eccentric, it is wrong.

  57. Zina

    February 22, 2009

    Justine, if you’re looking for an antidote to New York Times commenters, you might enjoy the book “America Alone” by Mark Steyn (here’s a link to the book on Amazon). The book is all about worldwide demographics and birth rate patterns. Among other arguments, he makes a strong case for why the western world as we know it (particularly the limited-population liberal crowd) is going to have to make a change in how we think about repopulating the planet if we don’t want to end up under Sharia (the same point djinn was making when she mentioned Yemen, I assume,) since with current birth patterns it will only take a few more generations before there’s an Islamic majority in most Western European countries — and so far, European Islamic populations have shown little interest in integrating to their local cultures. (Mormons do get a couple of mentions in the book — in spite of our families being smaller than a couple of generations ago, we still lead the United States in birth rates.)

    Childless by choice, my large(ish) family is often more efficient than smaller families in our use of resources — we use fewer individual pudding cups, for example, since we can buy bulk in a large container (not that we’re big pudding eaters, though.) And our car is almost always at near-max capacity of passengers, qualifying us for the carpool lane and making more efficient use of fuel. My family by no means sets a gold standard for conservation, but there are certainly ways in which we can be more efficient than other families. Ultimately, though, my reasons for wanting and having a large(ish) family are more spiritual than practical — but there ARE practical arguments to be made, including those others have pointed out such as our children being tomorrow’s caregivers and taxpayers. And you can see the above-referenced book for many more examples.

    Oh, and C-b-c, while I truly feel for the neglected daughter you’ve befriended (and agree it’s not fair for her parents to stand in her way of her starting on her own road to adulthood) as the 2nd of nine kids in a family that was pretty chaotic and dysfunctional, I still derived some strengths from my challenges. My parents could offer me nothing in the way of funding for college, but, aside from some money from my grandparents, I was able to pay my own way through college with scholarships and working part-time jobs. This left me very motivated to do well in school and not waste what I had worked so hard for, and I don’t regret the challenge, although I did often have to do without in ways that some of my fellow students might not have understood or ever experienced. It really wasn’t a bad introduction to the responsibilities of adulthood. I’d like to be able to offer my own kids much more support, but I also have personal experience in how good for them it will be if I also expect them to do as much as they can to fend for themselves.


    When I lived in the Bay Area and had two kids, I got scornful glances from the white liberal college crowd around the Berkeley campus — and VERY warm receptions when I traveled a half-hour north to a more ethnically diverse area (which I did regularly for the cheaper groceries.) When I moved back to Utah (and had more kids,) sometimes it was a relief to blend in so easily with all the other moms with more than one kid riding in their cart, but other times I kind of missed getting attention and feeling special.

  58. Laylu

    February 23, 2009

    Um, wow. Where to start?
    I’m one of 10 and my mother was both physically and verbally abusive. I feel like my mother had 10 kids because she felt like that’s what good mormon women do. It was not a happy home. Pretty horrible actually. While I would never want to go through it again, I’m grateful for the lessons I learned and who I am because of that. I have holes and weaknesses b/c of my upbringing BUT I am responsible for who I am as an adult. That’s what it comes down to in all of this. There are good parents and bad parents. Just because some bad parents have 10 kids doesn’t mean that the kids will all be bad. We still have agency and choice. We can rise above it. There’s a book called “Bad Childhood: Good Life” by Dr. Laura. (Not that I’m promoting it.) I’m just saying that we can move forward and decide for ourselves how we want to live regardless of how our parents treated us. My BILs father was a pedophile. He used his children as props. And yet my BIL is an amazing guy. Not to say that we don’t carry scars. We do. But nevertheless we can move forward and choose a different path and choose to be happy and at peace. You never know as a parent how your children will turn out and you try to do your best and hope they choose to be a positive member of society.
    BTW CbyC: My parents told us if we wanted to go to college we were on our own. So far 8 HS graduates, all went on to college 5 college grads, 3 post grad. We can make our own future if we choose.

  59. Michelle L.

    February 23, 2009

    Several comments were removed for violating commenting guidelines— please preserve Segullah as a forum for thoughtful, heartfelt, empathetic discussion.

    1. The aim of Blog Segullah is to highlight a variety of women’s perspectives within a framework of shared beliefs and values. Commenters need not be members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, but a general respect for religious belief is required.

    2. No insults. Please critique the argument, not the person.

    3. No excessive diversion (or creating a threadjack) from the intended subject of the author.

    3. Comments which violate these standards may be removed at the discretion of the Editorial Board.

  60. Justine

    February 23, 2009

    djinn, I know the statistics you are speaking of, and I can only say that while some of that is parental responsibility, we all have agency and can choose for ourselves. The negative dogma that sometimes creeps into the culture of the church is not what we’re striving for.

    I can only say to you that I love my children regardless of their choices because my parent’s showed me that same love and because I have powerful feelings for each of my childrens’ personalities. I don’t know anyone that dismisses their children as easily as you suggest, dear.

    I’m honestly not interested in a statistical debate, but a personal discussion. I think we see this discussion as two very different things. There is strength to be gained in sharing these personal experiences, and while they certainly fit into the larger statistical model that we all influence, I want to visit together and understand how we all fit together.

    I find value in hearing of your experiences and pain. I have friends who have left the church because of painful dogma that IS NOT doctrine. I know the quiet pain and suffering of some of my gay friends, for instance. But to assume that, on a widespread scale, gay children are shunned by their families is disingenuous.

    There are private struggles with these issues going on all over the world. Parent’s are grappling with these issues with as much fervency as their struggling children. I think we have to respect that these issues are complex and take time to accept. It is always difficult to lose an expectation for our lives. And it’s fair to say that as Mormon parents, we expect that our families will ‘look’ and turn out a certain way.

    This mourning of lost expectations does not signify a lack of love or compassion for our children, it signifies a normal part of the learning process. I have not ever known a parent to ‘throw the kid under the bus’ because of a child’s choice to leave the church or walk a different path, although I’m sure it happens. I do, however, know parents that mourn those choices. And mourning them is not wrong.

    I’m sorry you have had such painful things happen to you and around you. There can be a lot of hope in the gospel. I have seen it work in my own life. I pray everyone can find hope, whatever path it is they choose to walk in this life.

  61. Justine

    February 23, 2009

    Oh, and thanks Zina for the book recommendation. I’ve read a little about this demographic shift, and I worry that the argument could easily be framed in a kind of racist way, like anglo-white is competing with Muslims Hispanics or something. I find it an interesting concept, though (from the sociological perspective, of course, not the racist one), and have been looking for more information about it, so thanks!

  62. Tiffany W.

    February 23, 2009

    Childless by choice, I thought you brought up some excellent questions and points. I wanted to respond to those. This is certainly a volatile subject, especially for women with large families. Many of us feel very negatively judged for having large families. When we read articles and see such vile comments about us, it is extremely disturbing and offensive. Often we react the wrong way by getting defensive and angry about people who choose to have smaller families or no children at all. Such a reaction is not Christlike. But we are all human and we need to be more respectful to one another.

    You have made a good point about resources and the strain that population can have on those resources. This is a good question. However, I would like to contend that the waste of those resources and the lack of food is not coming from large families, but rather corporate resources and government stipulations which misuse the amounts of water and dictate agriculture uses. The vast numbers of golf courses and casinos surely misuse resources such as water, electricity, food and alcohol far more than every large family combined. Should large families be concerned about their impact upon the environment? Absolutely. But I would also contend that most of these families are more likely to reduce, reuse and recycle. I am a SAHM mother to four children. We live in New York and the cost of living is extremely high. This means that I have to budget very carefully. I make most of our meals from scratch. And items that I buy that are already prepared, I usually reuse the containers. We buy juice in bottles. I take those bottles, clean them and then fill them with water. I am not contributing to landfill problems. I recycle paper, glass, cans, etc. I find it interesting that on my block, I have the largest family and yet we have the smallest amount of garbage–only one can per week.

    No one here on this board wants children to be neglected either in a large family or a small family. But frankly, most families I know, small or large, DO consider the impact of their family and DO think about what is best for all. It is a tragedy when a child feels negelected or overworked in her family. I agree. I’m grateful that you are willing to be a mentor to that girl. Parents of large families do have to walk a fine line.

    I don’t agree that the job of the parents is to provide a college education. My parents did everything in their power to help me obtain my degree, but in the end, I worked for it. I worked full-time in the summer, often forgoing leisure activities so I could pay my tuition and fees. During the school year, I had a part-time job to pay for my living expenses. I value my education so much. I didn’t waste time or money because it was MY time and money. I intend to work hard with my children to help them develop their study skills and talents. I intend to help them learn how to apply for scholarships. I intend to help them learn how to work hard, save money and budget. I will also assist with college as much as I can. But I want my children to value to their schooling. I don’t want it to be handed to them on a silver platter.

  63. Childless by choice (or C-B-C as I am now known!)

    February 23, 2009

    Ladies – I meant no disrepect to anyone, and I am not passing judgement on anyone. Regarding my young friend (second of nine we’ll call her), I don’t think she’d be better off if someone handed her the money to go to college – I had some money from my parents, some scholarships, loans, and worked to pay for my own undergrad, and I paid myself for my graduate degrees. (Ah, now you are starting to see some of the trade-offs I have chosen.) But what really upsets me is that her parents want her to stay at home – their home – after high school to care for THEIR younger children. Her parents are fine people and dedicated parents – I said that already – and I know she loves them and her younger brothers and sisters very much. But I know she really wants to go away to school. She wants to visit me in the city. She wants to see the world. I am afraid that she is going to miss her chances.

    I am not saying that kids have a right to expect parents to pay for them to go to school. I’m not saying that!

    As for the resources issue, some good points made with respect to large families and their practice of and need for conservation. I just see examples of greedy behavior every day – and often it single people, small suburban families, older people (Ever heard one of your own parents or an older person say, “Why should I care? I’m not going to be around anyway.”) I’m just saying that all of us – as Americans and as citizens of the world – need to be responsible and conscious about our own choices. And I never said I was a saint. I made my choices, and I “own” them, both bad and good.

  64. Justine

    February 23, 2009

    Childless, I find that so sad that a child would be short-changed and not allowed or encouraged to grow and learn and continue in education. I think we can certainly agree that loving our children means allowing them the space to grow beyond us.

    And while I think we disagree about having children, I really, really, want to know and understand more about your decisions. I think I (and probably most people) have a tendency to think that our own choices are the correct ones, which leads to condemnation of choices that stray from our own. I don’t want to be that person.

    I’m fascinated by the differences I see around me. I want to sit at a restaurant table with you and come to understand (while eating a lot of food, of course!) Those kinds of intimate connections are things that I value very much. Because understanding our differences can only make us stronger people, I believe.

    What do you feel comfortable sharing with me about your choice?

  65. Tiffany W.

    February 23, 2009

    Childless by choice, thanks for your respectful response. You have made a really important point about your young friend missing out on opportunities because of what her parents expect of her. I can certainly understand and agree with your comments about her.

  66. Zina

    February 23, 2009

    Justine, I’ll be interested to hear what you think of the book — it is politically conservative and “provocative” (although no more so (or, in my opinion, much less so,) than the comments you read at the New York Times,) but it is also (in my opinion) based on sound reasoning, and is carefully researched and referenced. It’s probably a good one to get at the library rather than buying, since it may well bother you that the author DOES frame the issue as a culture competition, in the sense that whichever populations reproduce best will eventually dominate politically and culturally by virtue of having the most voters and human resources. And he makes the point that most of Europe is well on its way to losing the culture war because they’re not having enough babies to pay the costs for the expensive social programs they politically support, whereas heavily-reproducing immigrant populations have so far shown little interest in maintaining the type of liberal democratic government that Western civilization has been built on. (Yes, that’s painting with a broad brush, but I think accurately describes the message of the book.)

    As I said before, my own desires for as many children as I could healthily have and care for (still an unanswered question/work-in-progress — I’m very close to the end of my 5th pregnancy and am on semi-bedrest for gestational hypertension) are almost entirely personal and spiritual, but I still really enjoyed Steyn’s book since there are those such as you encountered who would and do attack my personal choices on political and cultural grounds, so it’s nice to have a clear-thinking defender to point out the obvious fact that limited-population movements will die out on their own lack of demographic steam.

    (As you may have by now guessed, I’m politically conservative on a lot of issues, and also strongly believe in the value of preserving what I called “liberal democratic government,” by which I mean things such as freedom of speech, freedom of religion, trial by jury, etc. — none of which have been the traditional underpinnings of Islamic governments to this point, nor are there many Islamic/Middle Eastern leaders really pushing for that kind of liberalization. To put it mildly.)

    Anyway, I do still highly recommend the book, but now you’re perhaps more fully warned of its nature. 🙂

    By the way, one of my most dramatic exposures to the kind of hostility you encountered from the New York Times commenters was when I was reading a (randomly-found) blog a few years ago whose author said she didn’t want children herself, but didn’t fault those who did — and then went on, a few lines later, to refer to children as “crotch-droppings.” I thought that vulgar expression gave the lie to her previously-expressed tolerant attitude — and it definitely also motivated me to click away from her blog immediately.

  67. Zina

    February 23, 2009

    (Not that I would want someone who feels that way about children to *have* children, mind you.)

  68. Justine

    February 23, 2009

    Zina, thanks for the briefing. I’m not bothered by the conversation of cultural competitions, but the few conversations I’ve happened into that frame it as a racial preservation issue. It felt very WASP-y to me. And I agree with you about the governmental foundation that a republic brings as opposed to a strict and oppressive theocracy, but I get uncomfortable when the issue is framed as one of “my race” being better or more worth saving. Although truth be told, it seems as if the anglo population is choosing itself for extinction.

    I’ll check it out, thanks!

  69. Emily U

    February 23, 2009

    I’m a little surprised that people think that people in developed countries having large families is a problem – it’s really an outdated throwback to Malthus. Family size is not a problem in terms of food security, or land use, or economic growth. Perhaps you could argue it’s bad because of the carbon footprint, but even that is a stretch, I think. The reason there is hunger in the world is because of poverty, not food production – this is very much agreed upon by economists.

    Lots of research has shown that the more educated a woman is, the fewer children she has (this is a trend, not a value judgment). As economic development continues throughout the world, family sizes will get smaller. I think the last I read is that the world’s population will top off at 9 or 10 billion, then start to decrease. Many researchers think the world can support that many people.

    Obviously, some people don’t like large families. But invoking a “you’re hogging the world’s resources” argument doesn’t hold water. I know this is a sensitive issue with Mormons, because even if you don’t have a large family, you either came from one or have a friend or family member with one. Rather than get angry about criticism, arm yourself with information and prove their arguments wrong.

  70. CbC

    February 23, 2009

    Justine –

    What can I tell you??? I always knew WITH CERTAINTY that I did not want children. I loved “Barbie” – changing her clothes, doing her hair, rearranging her house – but I never even had much interest in traditional baby dolls, playing house, etc. I absolutely never thought I would have children. And, honestly, I never had any interest in babies or toddlers or small children. I always said that if they could be born at about 5th grade, I’d be interested. (Except perhaps the labor and delivery of a 5th-grader!) Every one says, “it’s different when they are your own,” and perhaps that’s true. But it’s not a chance I was going to take.

    Rightly or wrongly, I have always privately attributed some of that to the fact that I had twin brothers come along 16 months after me. I’m sure I was very challenged by sibling rivalry! I have a sister who is much older too – my mother always said that I was the “middlest of all middle children.” Maybe that’s part of it; maybe it’s just me.

    I think if I’d lived in a different era – one not quite so ‘navel-gazing,’ I’d probably have had a number of children and been just fine with it. But academic pursuits came easily to me and were very important to me. I started looking at colleges when I was 10 (although it was years before I went!) And I had a lot of opportunities because of the era into which I was born.

    I honestly never thought I would get married, but I did. He didn’t want children either, which is a good thing for us both.

    Interestingly, we never got any grief from his mother or mine about not having children. And please understand me – what I knew about myself not wanting children was something I privately knew. It wasn’t anything I had discussions about with my mother, my sister, or my friends. I am a VERY private person. I guess my husband and I must have talked about it at some point before we got married, but I really don’t remember that. I always braced myself for the question from other people about when we were having children and wondered how I would answer it, but I was always busy with jobs that required a lot of travel, and back in and out of grad school, and off climbing mountains in Peru – and nobody every really asked!

    Do we have regrets? I’m not sure. Some small ones occasionally perhaps, but none like thinking we ruined our lives or anything like that.

    After my first nephew came along (my sister’s child), I loved him unequivocally (still didn’t want to have to raise him myself), and thought I could never love any other niece or nephew as well. Others did come along, and I do love them all equally and without reservation. That surprised me! But, it didn’t change my mind about the decision we made for ourselves.

    And if you love irony, I currently work in an educational field with some emphasis on early childhood and child development.

    Thank you Justine for your respectful inquiry. I have a very hard time “putting myself out there.” Like I said, I am very, very private about personal things. It’s something that amazes me about so many of the bloggers – that ability and willingness to lay themselves out there. And I know people feel free to pass judgements and make some really crappy comments in the blogosphere.

    And Emily, some good and interesting points about poverty, world population, and economic development. I’ll be interested to look for some of those sources myself. Personally, I’m glad some people still have large families. I just want to know that they have been very disciplined about their choices and priorities. After all, if everybody made the same decisions I did, that ultimately wouldn’t turn out very well, would it??!!

  71. Justine

    February 23, 2009

    Thank you for being candid. It’s most interesting to me, particularly because I never thought I would have children, either. I was on the fast track to a successful career in law when the Lord surprised me with a quiet prompting to get married; to have children. I am immensely glad that I listened.

    And I am glad that you have listened to the Lord’s purposes for you. That really is the only way we can ever be at peace, isn’t it?

  72. jendoop

    February 23, 2009

    Cbc, thank you for sharing your side of the story with us. As an artist that has had to lay some dreams aside, for now, I can see myself as Cbc if I had made slightly different choices at specific times in my life.
    I think our whole world works better when we open our eyes to the multitude of possibilities available for good in individual lives.

  73. Childless, Not By Choice

    February 24, 2009

    It was interesting to learn that I grew up in a “mega-family,” according to the New York Times (there are eight children in our family).

    And, yeah, growing up in the San Francisco Bay Area our family did stick out. All the cashiers at the grocery store knew my mom by name because she was the most frequent shopper with a filled cart, but it wasn’t that uncomfortable. The only time I remember my mom being offended by a large-family comment was when someone at K-Mart called us “The Brady Bunch” because, at that time, we were three girls and three boys. But my mom was only offended because the Brady Bunch is a blended family and my mom had done all the work to bring each one of us into the world.

    I guess this is easily said than done, but I don’t think it’s anyone’s right to judge anyone else. We all have to reckon with our own conscience and with God, right? So shouldn’t we leave it up to individuals to make their own choices?

    But there are important issues here. Letting everyone have their own choice means respecting them, but it doesn’t mean that there aren’t fundamental truths that both side have to concede. For example, it’s true that children are gifts from God and having them can bring great happiness. It’s also true that raising them takes sincere sacrifice, selflessness, and commitment, all of which are hard things. It’s also certainly true that having children is part of the natural course of life.

    I think sharing our feelings about our decisions and exploring differences is great, helpful, and wonderful, but I don’t judging is okay. I can’t tell you how many hints about having children I get every month from people who make assumptions and judgments about being childless, and I couldn’t begin to express how hurtful they are.

    When I was ten my parents told us that we were going have another baby in our family. I remember that day distinctly. For at least a week things had seemed a little different because my mom wasn’t tucking her blouses into her pants anymore, so I knew something was up.

    It seemed such a strange idea to me when my parents told us that Mom was pregnant. We had been seven for three years, which is a lot when you’re ten, and I thought we would always be that way. But I am so grateful that my parents made our family what it was.

    I can’t imagine my life growing up or my life now without any one of my siblings–even though I had to work and get scholarships to get through college, even though we didn’t go on huge vacations every year, even though sometimes I felt lonely in a small house full of people. I couldn’t be who I was today if my parents hadn’t made the choice of how to rear their family the way that God wanted them to–and isn’t that the goal we all want to strive for, eight children or not?

  74. Justine

    February 24, 2009

    I like what you said about fundamental truths being all around us. We all have to learn to accept reality in God’s terms. I can’t have my five children without bearing an enormous responsibility for their love and care. I like very much the way you put your thoughts. Thanks for taking the time to share.

    And I’m always so sad to know people are hurt by ‘childless’ comments. I’m sure I’ve been guilty of those comments at some point. But now knowing several people suffering with infertility, I have a deep respect for the struggle they are going through. I’ve often wondered what the great lesson we are taught from not being granted the deepest desires of our hearts — I think of my single, middle-aged friends too. There is something in that loss that has made them strong and resilient. It’s just so heart wrenching to watch.

  75. Tori

    February 27, 2009

    Have not read your previous and numerous comments. But I wanted to put my 2 cents in anyway.

    As in the BoM, the things of the Spirit are foolishness to the understanding of “world-wisdom”. I think that this issue CERTAINLY falls into the category of spirituality considering the direct attack the Deceiver is making on the Family! I mean, what better way to attack Family than to prevent them from from establishing and growing. Right? Nothing to break if there’s nothing built.

  76. Tiffany W.

    February 28, 2009

    I just read a talk by President Henry B. Eyring and found the following quote that I feel is very applicable to the discussion.

    “A child could see that Heavenly Father would not command men and women to marry and multiply and to replenish the earth the earth if the children they invited into mortality would deplete the earth. Since there is enough and to spare, the enemy of human happiness as well as the cause of poverty and starvation is not the birth of children. It is the failure of people to do with the earth what God could teach them to do, if only they would ask and then obey, for they are agents unto themselves.” (To Draw Closer to God, Deseret Book, 1997, pg. 164)

  77. Julie

    February 28, 2009

    No one’s mentioned the Octuplet’s mom, so I will. I think a lot of the discussion regarding this issue has arisen from the notoriety of this mother. On TV recently, someone recently called her “selfishly delusional.” I agree, thought I hate to judge someone on the size of their family. She is clearly bringing in more children when she cannot adequately care for them. That is irresponsible parenting. There are irresponsible parents who have one child, and there are irresonpsible parents who have 10 children. It’s not the number of children that matters here, it’s the situation of the parents that determines good or bad.

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