Sunday, April 13, 2008

Children Are A Poor Man's Riches

I recently read a passing comment referring to the trend of status-symbol big families. You know, people showing off their wealth by having three or more children. (Does that make you do a double-take like it does me?) I think it was in a tax article about child-credits in our daily paper, but I couldn't find it later to quote or link to it. Likely, it's lining the puppy's living quarters now...

Anyway, you might remember that a year or two ago this trend was all the talk. MSNBC , Business Week, and NPR all got in on the discussion. And now, I guess the continuing press of celebrity births and adoptions has resulted in the big family hypothesis becoming a foregone conclusion. An article in the Washington Post this month confirms it, and the statistics bear out: the National Center for Health Statistics reports 12 percent of upper-income women had three children or more in 2002, compared with 3 percent in 1995. Yep, rich people, it seems, are inclined to show off their ability to support the expensive luxury of children these days.

It's strangely counter-counter, isn't it? Counter to popular perceptions. Counter-counter to Catholic perceptions. Since the advent of birth control, large families have belonged to the crowded quarters of the teeming lower classes, often in undeveloped countries. Or, of course, to the Catholics and Mormons. The fanatic ones. For the last fifty years or so, "cool folks," rich or not, have parented two-point-something, maybe three kids. In recent years, it's become less for reasons of a perceived economic necessity, and more a crusade to save the planet. Can't have too many carbon footprints littering up the place.

But, go figure. The informed elite are bucking worldly mores now and joining the Big Brood club. Why? Because they can.

If you're rich and cool enough, you can justify your carbon footprints, I suppose.

Who am I to complain? Catholics wear their numbers like ornaments, too, but for a different reason. They're more like baubles of obedience to the Divine Will, charms of the Faith.

Still, regardless of motivation, it ill behooves the likes of me to look down my nose at anyone bringing souls into the world. More power to 'em! Except...

I hope these greenhorns to the large family concept understand that it takes more than money to raise a "super family." It's more than just a concept.

I hope they understand that the ego which may be kickstarting some of their reasoning is poison to a family of any size.

I hope they understand that nannies and expensive schools do not a family make.

I hope they understand that love is not money; it's time and sacrifice and often heartache.

I hope they understand that the silver spoon, fishbowl lifestyle their children will likely take for granted is not the ideal environment for growing good character (Witness poor Paris Hilton).

And, unless they're really quite rich, these parents might find that their plan to show off their wealth with a quiverfull may backfire. Especially if they don't learn to moderate their lifestyles. My goodness, children are an expensive habit (blessing, luxury, whatever...), no matter how frugal you are!

You know, though, all in all, I seriously can't call this a bad trend. God loves His babies, no matter who their parents are, and He's pouring down the graces, if only people will pick them up and use them. Besides, many of these people may be rich in assets, and still poor in spirit. It happens sometimes. (Though I haven't heard of any camels getting through any eyes of needles lately...)

But, let's give them the benefit of the doubt. I don't want to come off as a Catholic snob here. These wealthy people may or may not start out with the right motives, but, if they figure it out ~ if they do it right ~ they may find out about the blessings of real parenthood. These wealthy people,God bless them, have the chance to find out what it is to be truly rich, indeed.

PS: Here's a recent article I just found on this phenomena ~ an excellent and well balanced one I thought.


Bia said...

Lisa, well written! I love big families, and I wish we could have had more children, but even though we may be "small" with just three boys, we celebrate family and all that it involves. And you are so right, children require a lot . . . and as parents we are given graces to give a lot. Bottom line, children are about God's love and have nothing to do with finances, or status symbols, or the earth's ozone layer.

Thanks for a great post. God bless.


Nicely done, Lisa. This is always what infuriates me about those "compassionate" souls who are working to reduce the population in third world countries: those poor people have lousy housing, lousy food, lousy standards of living -- and these #*%$$($( want to take away the one luxury they have: children.

Marie said...

Yeah I am soooo wealthy with my three (almost) kids. The 1985 station wagon is indeed a status symbol.