How Many Kids Should You Have?

Large families - think Kate Gosselin’s crew of eight, the Duggars’ 19-kid-family and Nadya Suleman’s dozen+ - have been depicted by pop culture as old timey circus acts, something for which you’d pay admission at a county fair in order to enter a shadowy tent and marvel at this oddity. These families got reality shows and the attention of the media because you just don’t see families as large as theirs running around anymore, given that the average number of children families tend to have these days is about two.

 

 

So while the media and pop culture have been focusing on the usual nature of those super-sized families, we’ve been hearing environmentally activist folks warning about the negative impact that each new child has on the environment. Just recently, Toni Nagy wrote on The Huffington Post that she was having a hard time reconciling her eco-conscious life with having a child. “Now that I have a baby, I realize that every choice I make is a potential environmental catastrophe,” Nagy wrote. “How do I reconcile the fact that I am glad she is alive, but that every life is a budding threat to the health of the earth?” A quick perusal through the comments section yields a raft of babies-wreck-the-planet sentiments.

 

It was in this context that I read a new book urging those who already have children to have more. Many more. This seems to go against the “Hey isn’t that weird?” vibe of the extra-large family reality shows and the “green” mantra admonishing us to keep our family sizes small (although some extreme environmentalists would prefer that we not procreate at all), never mind that some feminists urge women with careers to limit the number of offspring to one, at the most, lest their maternity negatively affect their work.

 

George Mason University economics professor Bryan Caplan has stuck his neck out with his provocative treatise "Selfish Reasons to Have More Kids: Why Being a Great Parent is Less Work and More Fun Than You Think." On the cover, there’s a cartoon mom and a cartoon dad accompanied by six cartoon kids. Yeah, Caplan’s not playing around here. He wants American families to start gettin’ busy.

 

Why? How can he make this kind of recommendation given the strikes against having big families, chiefly the cost (including college costs which are rising exponentially), the impact of maternity on mothers’ careers and the environmental impact of adding more people to the planet? Caplan addressed those questions, most of ‘em anyway, though he didn’t really tackle the college issue to my satisfaction because for me, a mother of three, that’s a looming concern. Given that the conventional arguments are against him, Caplan took several objections to his “have more kids” axiom (except the paying for college issues) head-on:

 

Child-Rearing is Too Time-Consuming

 

“Modern parenting has turned kids into a heavy burden. But it’s not the kids that changed; it’s us.”