There is one question that I get a lot as a mom that I always dread answering. It's a perfectly normal question, but when people casually ask, "How many kids do you have?" I always brace myself before giving the answer.
Because the answer is four. I have four kids, all of whom were born by the time I was 28.
To me, it's not shocking, because a lot of people I know have a similar number of children. It's also not shocking because my husband and I are open to having another child, if it's in the cards. But a lot of times, the person asking the question is shocked by my response. Frankly, it can get kind of annoying if the reaction isn't exactly positive: Yes, I'm serious. Yes, that's a lot. Yes, I know what causes that (forced laugh). And no, I'm not crazy (well, just normal mom crazy, but I think that's it).
Fortunately, not everyone reacts negatively when hearing about "large" families. And, soon enough, there might be an end to all of the shocked reactions, thanks to new data that reveals modern moms are actually having more kids.
According to a January 2018 report by the Pew Research Center, American women are waiting longer to have children (OK, so maybe I'm an anomaly there), but despite the delay they are going on to have even more children than in the previous decade.
The increase isn't huge—2006 was the lowest number of children on record, at 1.86 children per mother in the U.S.—and now, the numbers are at 2.07 average children per mother. The increase in number of children seems to be a trend after years of decline, a decrease experts attribute to overall economic depression and to women delaying marriage and motherhood in favor of pursuing education and career interests.
Now, it appears that modern-day moms are "settling" into their roles more. While even 10 years ago, women may have been pushing ahead in their careers and saying no to a family, modern moms might feel as if they can more readily expand their brood.
One theory is that the workforce and educational atmospheres have shifted in favor of family-friendly accommodations. With more talk of equal pay, paid leave and breastfeeding support, modern parents may feel more empowered to have their families and careers at the same time without fear that a baby could derail their plans.
With more talk of equal pay, paid leave and breastfeeding support, modern parents may feel more empowered to have their families and careers at the same time without fear that a baby could derail their plans.
Also, a larger number of women in their 40s who have never married or had kids are pursuing motherhood on their own terms and timeline. The report reveals that women with postgraduate degrees showed the biggest increase in motherhood. This could point to women who delayed motherhood to get established in their careers or who were possibly searching for a partner before deciding to have a baby.
Still another theory could indicate that because women are delaying motherhood across all races, ethnicities and educational levels, they are more likely to have more kids because they are on a faster timeline. A mother in her 40s, for example, who knows she wants more kids may be more inclined to pursue another pregnancy than a mother in her early 20s who feels she might have more time to have more children if she wants.
Still, we have a long way to go in our culture and on many work-life policies that would make it truly possible for men and women to have balanced family and work lives. As a mom who has four kids, though, I'm encouraged by this data that shows that maybe I'm not alone after all. Maybe having four or more kids doesn't have to seem like such a strange or crazy thing if I'm not the only mom out there having a large family.
It might not be for everyone, of course, but I'd like to think that this data is just a sign that moms, more than ever, know exactly what they want for their families and their careers—and they're not afraid to go for it, no matter how many kids that means for them.