Tina Fey may have said it best in her New Yorker article, “Confessions of a Juggler.” When asked if she was going to have more kids, she gave them this: “All over Manhattan, large families have become a status symbol. Four beautiful children named after kings and pieces of fruit are a way of saying, ‘I can afford a four-bedroom apartment and a hundred and fifty thousand dollars in elementary-school tuition fees each year. How you livin’?”
The truth is, the wealthy are beating the odds in more ways than one now, making more money and more children than the rest. The trend used to follow a predictable pattern. Way back before we went industrial, more kids meant more hands to work the land and earn wages to contribute to the family fund. Farm life doesn’t work as well with the standard 2.5 kids. All the other species on the planet tend to be more prolific only when safety and stability are well-established. They get to the top and then relax, secure in the knowledge that their offspring will thrive. We were the opposite, hoping more kids would bring that stability. “Stability” is not my word of choice when I think of life with children.
However, that trend is changing. With recent developments in fertility treatments and increased control over our own reproduction, more women are establishing careers before children and then having those children later in life when income is steady. The result? More kids born into families with more money.
This is where my brain stops computing, because I can’t make the numbers make sense with what I want as someone decidedly not in the top 2 percent. As a mother to three children, I’m contemplating a fourth and, apparently, I’m breaking the mold. I mean, I’m couponing it at the grocery store and using my Mapco app at the gas station, yet I still want more kids. Does that now place me on the fringe? If Tina Fey can rebel at the top by sticking with a singleton, I’ll rebel a little lower down with my own litter.
The baby boom for the rich has become a joke of sorts among Manhattanites. Wednesday Martin, author of the memoir, “Primates of Park Avenue,” claims that “[t]hree was the new two, something you just did in this habitat. Four was the new three – previously conversation stopping, but now nothing unusual. Five was no longer crazy or religious – it just meant you were rich. And six was apparently the new town house – or Gulfstream.”
Trust me when I tell you that I’m not having more children to keep up with the Joneses. I’d just buy some Lululemon gear and a Lexus SUV for that. I want another child for the same reason I wanted the first three. I want the chance to love some more people and bring them into our weird family so they can be weird too. I want them to have loads of siblings to fight over food at Thanksgiving and stand in honor at their weddings and be aunt and uncle to their own kids. I want a little place we can all converge on in summer – a knock-off Kennebunkport.
Maybe this is what everybody wants, rich and poor, to be connected forever with the ones we call family. They are, for better or worse, our people and who, rich or poor, wouldn’t want more of that?
How many kids to you have? How many do you want? What’s your idea of a “big” family?