My four children aren't status symbols. But they do represent an opportunity to share love.
St. Joseph, Mich.
Over the past year or two, several news stories have suggested that in certain affluent circles, "four is the new two" and that it may be a new sort of keeping up with the Joneses: instead of a big-screen TV and expensive car, the new one-uppers just keep adding more kids to the fold.
While my husband and I have four stair-step boys ages 10, 9, 4, and 2, and I'm expecting another, we aren't part of that particular breed of breeders.
Our lives are nowhere near glamorous. We drive a 2001 Dodge Caravan. My husband works as a computer technician, while I earn the other half of our living as a freelance writer. And we frolic at the public beach, not a country-club pool.
The Jolie-Pitts – or even the Palins – we aren't.
We don't fit other large-family stereotypes, either. We aren't Roman Catholic, Mormon, or Orthodox Jewish, and have no religious opposition to birth control. While we aren't wealthy by any means, we aren't poor as church mice, either.
Four kids weren't always considered a "big" family. In 1976 – the year before I was born – an American woman had a 36 percent chance of giving birth to four or more children in her lifetime, and about 60 percent of women had families of three children or more.
But according to the latest census, the number of women who can expect to have three or more has been cut to 29 percent, while those with four or more children has dwindled to 10 percent. And as the number of mothers having more than a couple of kids has dwindled, so has understanding of families that don't fit the two-kid mold.
I'm frequently treated to comments like "Are you crazy?" and "Better you than me!" While I don't (usually) take them personally, it's easy to see that we've become a culture in which kids are seen as more burden than blessing.