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    Contentment is the Real Thing

    October 2, 2007 by Brandy Vencel

    I get uncomfortable when people ask us how many children we want. I know that, culturally, this is a normal question. But I never know how to answer. If I say something like, “However many God gives us,” it tends to sound trite. There is some sort of holier-than-thou quality to an answer like that.

    But then, giving a number never seems to be the right thing. For instance, if I say that I want x number of children, and then we end up not being blessed with another child ever again, it seems like I’d be upset about that. Or if we have a number of children greater than x, again, might I be upset?

    Oh, there are stories behind why my mind performs great gymnastic feats while pondering my answer to this question. After all, I remember, when I only had one child, a woman I knew told me how terrible it had been that a friend had convinced her husband to have a fourth child because they “accidently” conceived twins and this was quite upsetting. Pity the one delivered second, I suppose.

    Or there was another friend of mine who only had four children when her two best friends had six and seven children apiece. She often reminded me how an emergency hysterectomy after her fourth pregnancy had limited their family size. Did she feel that four wasn’t enough?

    Now, don’t get me wrong. I understand that some people really do have a number in their heads. And these same people really do struggle if they don’t reach that number. We have met people with many children whose arms are still aching for one more baby.

    However, comma…

    It has been my observation that there is a bit of a competitive spirit out there. It appears that, to some folks, having a large family proves something to the world. It makes a statement. It might even mean the parents are more spiritual.

    But does it?

    It seems to me that, within the community of folks who believe that God should plan the family, that there should be room for all variety of family sizes. Some might have seventeen children, while others might have one or two. If God deems this so, who am I to criticize and suggest that a family have more or less?

    I think that contentment with God’s plan for the family is the real issue here. Yes, there are crucial issues within the culture out there regarding birth rates and such. And, to some extent, those issues really are important. But, at the end of the day, resting in God’s plan reigns supreme.

    This blog got a hit the other day from a search engine. The key words were “unable to have a large family.” This is why I wrote all of this. My heart ached for this person, though I doubt they are still reading this blog. I wanted to pat her hand and tell her that having the family God has for her is all that matters. Numerous or few, every child she has is God’s precious gift to her, a stewardship from above.

    So. How many children do we want? In all honesty, we always want one more. When we had one, we wanted two. When we had two, we wanted three. We have three, and we want four. And so on. But we know, what with three C-sections already, a day will come when the doctor says, “No more.” And we are ready to accept that as God’s limit for us. And I feel we can embrace it as part of His plan.

    A family with less people in it is not less of a family.

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  • Reply Brandy October 3, 2007 at 9:14 pm

    I agree in theory that there should be nothing wrong with saying something like this, but I have received a bad review of this answer in a past, so perhaps I’m a bit jaded.

    I think, in 20 years, I will be like you. Or, at least, I hope to be. I try to hold the future with an open hand.

  • Reply Anonymous October 3, 2007 at 7:35 pm

    When people ask us about having seven children….like, Why do you have so many?…..I always say, “well, we always wanted one more!” Now we are 48 and 49 years old and probably won’t be getting one more, but we are so happy for the seven we have. I enjoy your blog. Kim

  • Reply Rahime October 2, 2007 at 7:34 pm

    I think saying “we’re happy to be blessed with as many children as God gives us,” is completely appropriate and not at all trite. Our culture is hugely deficient in contentment (which is why I love that it’s a regular focus on your blog). Why is it wrong to say, “I’m happy with 3 right now (or in my case none), but I’d be happy with a dozen too”? Or, something like, “I don’t know yet, we’ll see how many God gives us.”

    Its so funny to see how much one’s circle of friends influences attitudes about these issues. In certain groups you’re perceived as “more holy” if you have a large family. In others, small families with only one, two or even no children are the “right” way to go. In reality, the size of one’s family is not a reflection of one’s spirituality, strength or any other virtue/vice. It seems we humans will use any qualitative or quantitative characteristic we can to judge one another.

    I like your answer at the end…”so far, we always want one more.”

    Let me know if you find a good answer. One of these days I’ll come up with a better answer to: “are you going to have any kids?” than “I don’t know.”

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