When I was growing up, there was a TV show called Eight is Enough. As the name implied, the sitcom centered around a Sacramento, California family with eight children (from oldest to youngest: David, Mary, Joanie, Susan, Nancy, Elizabeth, Tommy, and Nicholas). The father Tom Bradford (Dick Van Patten) was a widower and worked as a newspaper columnist.
Although it originally aired before Eight is Enough, the Brady Bunch was another show about a large blended family with six children. It ran in syndication for years capitalizing on the hilarity and hijinx that ensued because of Carol and Mike Brady’s unusually large family and their unique situation. Carol had three daughters and Mike had three sons from previous marriages.
Although fictional, both shows gave perspective on what it was like to raise a large family. There were boys and girls of all ages going through life’s trials and tribulations. There was a lot of laughter, a lot of bonding and a lot of fun. For someone like me with only one sibling, that had appeal.
As I got older, I always seemed to meet and date people with large families. I was drawn to them. Occasionally, I would realize that with more people in a household came more drama. During those times, I would be happy to return to the peace and quiet of my own home with just me, my sister, my mom and dad.
So this brings me to my point. How many is too many? Is eight enough? If you ask Jim Bob and Michelle Dugger, the real-life mom and dad on the TLC reality show “19 Kids and Counting!” they would disagree.
They aren’t alone. There are a number of others who have said bigger is better. From Jon and Kate Gosselin or OctoMom with eight children each, to the Jolie-Pitts, to the Hayes Family (stars of the TV show Table for Twelve,) large families are present everywhere.
Is it because people like me are fascinated by people like them? The shows are obviously aimed to those who didn’t grow up in that lifestyle. Are big families en vogue? Or, has it become a bit of a freak show?
I don’t know.
I always said that if money weren’t an issue, I would have four or maybe even five kids. Of course, it is an issue for our family, so most likely my family will remain of average size. According to the U.S Census, that means 2.59 per family.
Based on survey data analyzed by Steve Martin, a sociologist at the University of Maryland, he says it’s not so much that big families are back, as that they never disappeared in the first place. “Large families have consistently been common,” he points out. “Two is the norm, but for every 34 mothers who stop at two, there are 28 who have three, four, or more.”
It was found that 28 percent of women age 35 to 44, who are winding up their childbearing years, have three kids or more.
I have heard people say, “Well, now I have a boy and a girl; I am done.” Or, that “you just know” when you are done. Personally, I have not had that feeling yet. Or if I did, I missed it. Although my “done” status may be pending to date, I am pretty darn sure for me, eight is enough. (Heck, maybe two is enough.)
What’s your maximum capacity?