By Karen Green
The decision for me and my husband to stop at two kids was one that we came to early and earnestly in our relationship. We both come from families of four kids, and though we had very different experiences growing up in a relatively large family, both of us had at times felt acutely that the world was simply not designed for families of six.
We grew up before minivans were popular and can each recollect being squished into the backs of bucket seats, sitting on the floors of station wagon boots, and travelling on homemade extra seating in standard-sized vans—you know, the ones with no windows (or seatbelts) in the back.
But getting there was just half the challenge—whatever our destination, chances are it would be a tight squeeze once we arrived as well, not to mention a great expense. Eating out was a rare occasion, as the places we could afford generally only offered booths for four to sit in, and at finer establishments we were often greeted with a scowl as the wait staff hurried to push enough tables together to seat us. Vacations were pretty much non-existent by time the last two kids were born. My husband’s family spent their vacations camping, as a tent for six is much cheaper than two hotel rooms. I grew up in the city, of city-born parents who were not the camping type, so we just stayed home.
But just because automobiles can now more readily contain a larger crowd does not mean that society has embraced the larger family. My feeling is that, even though the rate at which people are having larger families has not actually changed all that much in recent decades, there seems to be even less cause for commercial accommodation for larger families.
There are ways around the limitations, of course—vacation plans can be adjusted to include a cottage getaway rather than a resort, or a road trip rather than a flight, but that’s assuming you are fortunate enough to be able to afford any vacation at all.
It was my lack of patience, and not the world’s lack of empathy towards large families that ultimately became the deciding factor in how large we would allow our family to become, but I have to admit that my little family of four seems to run more smoothly, more calmly, more easily than the relative chaos I grew up in. And part of the reason for that perceived ease is that we never have to make those “extra” plans when leaving the house. Or even staying in it. A family of four is always accommodated.
Of course, I can’t say that all that chaos I grew up in wasn’t a really, really good time.
What do you think? Is there a “magic number” when it comes to family size?
Karen Green recently traded life in the biggest city in Canada for life in the biggest cornfield in Canada. Freed from her full-time job as a writer and editor, Karen now spends her time…writing and editing. And frolicking in the leaves with her two small girls. Karen is a speaker, the founder of Mom The Vote and the author of the blog, The Kids Are Alright, where she has been writing about the humorous and poignant moments of family life since 2005. She is thrilled to be a part of canadianfamily.ca.