Please read this entire post and respond to the question I ask at the end. I am very curious about something most profound…
Wendy and I were interviewed by Kevin Swanson a couple weeks ago, and we listened to it this morning. The conversation went well and Kevin, a skilled orator and radio host, brought out some interesting things. One was quite punctual. Kevin asked, “What do you think they [the camera crew] learned most about your family?” My answer was:
I think they learned that the stereotypes of a large family weren’t true. They envisioned a rigid family, a family without a lot of joy in it, one that was chaotic and out of control. What they witnessed instead was a family with a lot of love in it.
Consider what popular culture teaches our young children about large families. “There was an old lady who lives in a shoe, who had so many children she didn’t know what to do.” Old, poverty stricken, clueless. Surely mothers with many children will resemble the old lady in the shoe. How can she not? She has so many children she doesn’t know what to do!
Like many stereotypes, the reality is quite different. We know many large families and, more commonly, these mothers keep their youth and are admired for their agility and confidence. They aren’t controlled by the chaos. Quite the contrary, they are sometimes observed in public leading their many children like a kindergarten teacher leading a classroom of kids. They’re happy and confident. There is not the presumed unruliness and chaos.
The old lady in the shoe begs a question: where is the father? Parenting as a team covers many shortcomings, as most married couples would agree. Whenever Wendy is at the “end of her rope,” I will perhaps come home from work, take the kids from her care, and give her a break. Earlier this year we together decided that bringing the school-aged kids to my office would be a good idea. I school them for 8 hours every week (two mornings a week). Perhaps the old lady not knowing what to do is because there isn’t a dad around to help out.
Wendy and I spend a good deal of time addressing the stereotypes that people have of large families in our book Love in the House.
There is a common stereotype of a woman who has had many children. Her body is falling apartâskin and stomach muscles sagging, barefoot, overweight, and careworn as she chases several unkempt and unruly children. Hardly the picture of vibrant health and beauty. Perhaps this image is partly responsible for the fear many women harbor about having children. They are afraid of how they may come to look, disappointing to themselves and unattractive to their husbands. In stark contradiction, all three mothers featured on âKids by the Dozenâ? were beautiful, thin and radiant. Between the three of them, they gave birth to 43 children.
So, where does this stereotype come from if it doesn’t come from real families that have many children? Before I try to give an answer, I would like to hear from you. Fill out a response in the box below, and answer to this simple question…”Why do people have a negative opinion of families with many children?” I am most curious, and it would be interesting to read each other’s opinions.