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Are Big Families the New "It" Family? Moms of Many Speak Out

Aug 31, 2011 at 5:06 PM Chime in now

Keystone Press


The Jolie-Pitts are doing it. Heidi Klum and Seal are doing it. Mark Wahlberg’s doing it. And now with the addition of little girl Harper to their brood, the Beckhams are doing it too.

It? Nah, not the latest oxygen-infused water/detox plan/cupcake recipe/you name it. “It” is having a big family, which these days means you’ve produced more than three children. Forget three is the new two. Four and five children are now the new three, don’t you know? So when exactly did we shift over to becoming a Walker-style family over, say, Beaver and Wally Cleaver?  

Take Karolle Screaton, the 33-year-old Ottawa-based mom of five children (Riley, 12; Spencer, 10; Carter, 7; Lily, 5; and Jacob, 3) for example. “We didn’t really set out to have a particular number of kids,” says Screaton, who interestingly grew up as an only child. While she wanted at least two children so her kids would have someone to share their childhoods with, five wasn’t the ultimate goal.  

But having their son Riley when Screaton was 21 years old made a difference. “It was important for me to be young enough to enjoy the kids,” she says. That decision was cemented by Screaton opting to become a stay at home mother shortly after her third child turned one year old. “Once that decision was made, everything else happened very quickly. There wasn't ever really a nagging question of "Should we have another baby?" We knew we would and we just went ahead.”
Another life-changing factor was that Lily was born critically ill. “She spent many weeks in hospital and her chances of survival were in question. It was horrifying,” Screaton says. “Going through that experience really shaped our perspective on life and on the importance of family.”
For Carolyn Guthrie, a Toronto mother of five boys, the growth of their family just happened. “Families with three children are usually the largest I see,” she says. “Most people comment about how busy we must be. On the rare occasion that we eat out we get a lot of stares as we parade through the restaurant to our table. The standard comment I hear is “Are you crazy?” 
But maybe are we returning to the days of status, where large families meant wealth—that you could actually afford to clothe and feed your big brood?  Perhaps. Guthrie’s family in fact just embarked on the search for a larger house. Their family’s growth has already meant adding one large bedroom to their house, which now consists of two sets of bunk beds in one room that the four older boys share and the baby in his own room. “Right now our house is big enough but as the boys get bigger we are going to need more space,” says Guthrie.  

Possible prestige aside, the larger the family, the more love…and kids to play with and grow up with, say moms like Guthrie and Screaton. And that’s the reasoning they remember when being challenged by strangers on the street or in grocery stores. “People react in generally two categories. The first is "Wow, you have five kids? You are so brave.’ I really dislike that.

The other response is usually ‘Who has 5 kids these days?’ Equally annoying response,” says Screaton. “I would never strike up a conversation with a complete stranger and make negative comments on their family size. Could you imagine: ‘Wow, you’re 40 and you have no kids? You are so brave!”

What's it like in your neighbourhood or at your park? Why are big families on the rise? Chime in below!

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