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Why the size of my family is no one's business but mine
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A new study saying smaller families are better for children is just one more excuse for people to judge each other's reproductive lives. - photo by Erin Stewart
Experts seem to always weigh in on motherhood, telling us the best time to have children, if our kids will be smarter if we work or stay home, what spacing leads to well-adjusted children and how many children we should have.

The most recent study suggests children are better off in smaller families because with every additional kid born, the other siblings are more likely to suffer from lower cognitive abilities and more behavioral issues, and have worse outcomes later in life."

The study, done by two economists, found that "increases in family size decrease parental investment, decrease childhood cognitive abilities and increase behavioral problems."

I have my problems with this study, including that family size may not directly cause these outcomes, although it may be correlated with them. But besides the study itself, the most ridiculous parts were the comment sections of articles about the findings, where people judged each other and argued why their way of life is the best and everyone who disagrees is doing parenthood totally wrong.

In this case, commenters went to town saying how people with lots of kids were shirking their responsibilities to their children, while others argued that only children grow up to be anti-social egomaniacs.

I find these types of comments hilarious because they assume parents have some magical, ultimate control over how many children they have.

Yes, many parents have some choices over when and how children join their family. But many parents have little to no control over how big or small their family is. Like me, some mothers would love to have more children if they could. Others are surprised by an unexpected child when they thought their family was complete.

Wouldnt it be wonderful if we lived in an ideal world where we picked exactly when and how many children we have and make sure it lines up with all the research telling us exactly the best way to have a family?

But we dont live in a world like that.

We live in a world where people are judged for having too few children or too many. This is a society where people think they have a right to criticize other peoples reproductive choices, or to completely ignore the fact that some of us dont choose the number or the spacing or the anything of how our family turns out.

Before people lash out at a family for being too large or too small, I wish they could remember that not every family is what those parents envisioned. Most moms and dads are simply making the best of what theyve been given.

Yes, children in larger families may get less one-on-one parent time than children in smaller families. But that doesnt mean they are getting less love from their parents and from their siblings. And only children arent inevitably going to be self-centered loners.

So instead of defending our own families and attacking others, wouldnt it be great if everyone could focus a little less time and energy arguing over the ideal family situation, and a little more on how to make the most of the one they actually have.

Because whether its with one child, 10 or none, every family can be brimming with love.
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