Cross-posted from Lightly Salted, by Peter Holmes a father of eight.

Today I was chatting with a friend who has a largish family. When I say ‘largish’, I mean five or more children. We don’t have to go back very far in history to see that families of ten or more children were much more common than today but, in the context of a modern Western society, where a single child two large cats counts as ‘having your hands full’, let us assume five is ‘largish’. Back to the story. My friend mentioned that a well meaning relative had raised that tired old fallacy that having more children means that the children will be less loved.

I have heard this fallacy many times before. Often from well meaning friends or family. It assumes that a) parents are the only people capable of love in a family and b) that parents have a finite amount of love to give.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

It was much harder to be a parent when we only had two children. We could certainly afford to buy them many more toys and treats when there were only two of them. But having more stuff’ does not equate to happiness. Yes, society refuses to acknowledge that families might have more than two children. Government agencies, assistance and recent tax laws are generally designed for two income families with one, or possibly two, children. So called ‘family’ cars fit two children comfortably, perhaps three uncomfortably (if you have small children). So called ‘family’ tickets to the movies, the zoo, or just about anywhere almost always include only two children. When out shopping or walking down a footpath, I can easily hold a hand of two children, or my wife and I take one child each. So it might seem to be easier. It is, of course, a complex issue. In many important ways, however, parenting was much more difficult when we only had two children.

When we had only two children, we did everything for them. It was just easier to dress them, tie their laces, clean their room, do the dishes, wash the clothes, change the nappies, and pander to their favourite foods and activities. As more children came, we had to change our parenting style. Try as you might, you cannot lead three or four children by the hand at the same time. Try as you might, you cannot serve up each child’s favourite food, favourite activity or TV show all the time. Try as you might, you simply cannot do everything for all of the children, all of the time. You have to change the way things are done.

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