The game is life. The crime? Having a large family. Modern culture isn’t particularly family friendly, in a whole host of ways, and in the shuffle between living and surviving, large families are getting “benched” because they can’t perform up to standard…or worse, because their behavior is considered a crime.
Why? Why do we penalize those who replace themselves? My husband sat down one day and looked at an average family (his own) for a couple of generations, looking at the natural tendency in a family for only one or two of the children to have several children of their own. Through three generations, he found that the family basically replaced itself with only a small surplus–if he hadn’t been one of nine, there would actually have been an overall Mazzara deficit! Again, this is a natural thing, not a criticism. Some siblings don’t marry, some marry late and only have one child, etc. (In my own family, counting both sides, we have four grandparents, eight children (fifteen if you count spouses), and seven grandchildren. See the problem?)
For my mother-in-law, the penalty she paid for over half her life mainly consisted of funny looks, unasked-for commentary, and snarky doctors who assured her if she kept having babies they’d all have Down Syndrome. (They didn’t.) But that was then. Large families were unusual, but most adults remembered growing up around large families, or had come from one themselves. The family discount still existed, hand-me-downs were cool, and driving a vehicle large enough to hold your entire family didn’t require a second income to pay for gas.
Today the average family size been “small” for over a decade (fewer than 10% of all households had more than two whole people living in them in 2004). Today, the penalties for falling outside the norm are more extreme than a generation ago. They’re starting to become institutionalized.
Over the last three years, we’ve watched close friends go through the ordeal of losing a job and being forced to move to a new home in order to start life over. With five children, moving far from friends and family ended up being the only option–affordable housing was rare, and what was available was refused to them because they had so many children. Legally, landlords are prevented from evicting families with young children from their property. So what do the landlords do? They won’t rent to families in the first place. In New Jersey (where our friends started out) it’s illegal to place more than two persons in a room, so our friends were forced to look for a four bedroom home. Catching the drift? For a family in that kind of desperate situation, it amounts to breaking the law if you’re simultaneously poor and open to life. There’s no way to live within the system.
In my own life, we’re insulated from the trials of losing our income and also enjoy living in a community where the average number of children is slightly higher than the national average (3.5 according to this site). That doesn’t protect us from modernity or society’s malaise in general regarding children. Have a child? Why isn’t he in childcare? Having another? Ready to quit?
You want to accompany your wife to a doctor’s appointment? Too bad.
You decide to give someone leeway when they’ve got a troublesome family issue at home? What a pushover.
It’s time to move and you elect to live where your family is happy, rather than where it’s convenient for work? Kiss your career goodbye, buddy.
I’m getting sick and tired of the “progressive” attitude in life that penalizes families for being, well, families. It feels like being in high school, where the cool kids ignored you if your jeans were the wrong brand. I have no idea where I read it, but sometime in the last week I heard “we never really leave high school” and it feels so true. Now the cool kids are the ones who either (a) don’t have a family at all or (b) put their family a distant second behind job, career, image, etc. We aren’t playing the game their way, and we’re suffering for it. Our friends are surviving now, but they’re living dangerously in debt and it will take years before “comfortable” is a word in their vocabulary. They’re beyond being benched–their family was just about carried off the field unconscious. Who else do you know that’s been sidelined, penalized, criticized, and hurt just because they have a family they care about?