Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Tuesday Topic: Family size

Ashley asks: Have any of you experienced a difference between your family size and the culturally average family size in your host country? Maybe you have 5 kids in a country where people usually only have 1, or maybe you have 2 kids in a place where families usually have 10? Our family is vastly outgrowing the average Russian family size and I am starting to get a number of comments and just feel like quite a bit more of a cultural outsider. On one hand it has been a great opportunity to talk about the value of life and of motherhood, but at the same time I'm experiencing some loss because I feel like the difference between my family and our host culture is becoming greatly highlighted, creating a new distance that I haven't felt in awhile. (In the past, relating to fellow moms on the issues of normal life has been one of the best ministry opportunities for me... now my friends just think we're totally "unique" and I feel less common ground.) Have any of you experienced this or has it affected your choice of family size? If you have experienced this, what has helped you to continue finding ways to relate? How have you dealt with frequent questions? Thanks, friends!

(If you have a “Tuesday Topic” question, please email it to me at fylliska@gmail.com. Provide your blog address if you would like to be linked to, or specify if you would like to remain anonymous. Thanks!)


  1. We're praying through this very issue. We have two boys (5 1/2 yo and 4 yo), and wondering if God has more in store for us... from my womb... through adoption... or if this is it. And there are more "shareholders" in our family than just us... more plane tickets each time we travel... spending our supporters' money on more education for our kids... it's tough! All that to say- yes, we're with you! And wondering!

  2. We're in the exact same situation! It is a little easier here in Ukraine than it was in Russia, but we're still really weird. There's also the point that Kelly mentioned: more plane tickets and such. I'm always telling people that it's really not that expensive to raise children, they don't need all new everything, even education isn't a big expense for us, etc, but it really is much more expensive to travel with them! There's no getting around that.

    Something else that can make us stand out is that it really isn't possible to raise more than one child in the Russian-Ukrainian way. (I almost said that it isn't possible to spoil more than one child like they do. :-) Sometimes it looks to them like we're neglecting them, even though we're not. They often have four adults--parents and grandparents--anticipating one child's every wish. Whereas I am going out most days, one adult with four children. Plus, there's this idea that big family = неблагополучно. (Sorry. Even Google translate isn't helping me with that word; it means not-turning-out-well, and it is often used to describe families where the parents drink and all.)

    And the isolation! Even at church I feel like people won't talk to me because I look like I have my hands full. Even if I have everyone calm and quiet, people just seem to skip right over me for conversation. Or when we do talk, they think I'm some kind of alien superhero. Like I said, it is a little easier in Ukraine than in Russia; I do find that the older generation often says that they had 5 or 6 children or were one of 10 themselves. :-) The flip side of this is that the bigger our family is, the bigger our circle of influence is or will be someday. I do get to talk to the new moms when I wait in the hospital for doctor appointments; since our baby was born here, he shares a pediatrician with all the babies in our neighborhood. Our oldest son goes to music school, so through him we have a whole group of acquaintances. Our next daughter makes friends with everyone, and is always introducing me to someone. So, there's hope. But the difference and the distance does hurt now.

    As far as the questions, I just try to keep answering pleasantly, "Yes, they're all mine." "Yes, we can keep up with them. My husband helps a lot." "No, we don't get the money." (Grr. That's the only one I really get tired of.)

    Oh, I do have this idea of waiting until someone stops in their tracks to stare at us, and then telling my whole family to stop and stare back with big eyes and open mouths, but I've never been brave enough to do it. :-D We always just keep walking and pretend that no one is watching.

  3. This last generation of families, esp. in the capital city we live in, only wants one or two children.

    We, too, get the looks and exclamations, "FOUR children!"

    Are they all yours?
    Don't they have birth control in your country?
    What a lot of children!
    Have you had enough?
    You've had enough!

    I'm a little tired of it, honestly. But, I try to make myself remember that even though I've heard these comments a bazillion times, they are meeting us, the anomaly, for the first time. I try to smile and be gracious.

    Lately my approach is to smile and ask them how many children their mother had. That usually makes them laugh when they admit that she had five or six or ten.

    When I was pregnant with our second, our house-helper gasped when I told her I was expecting, "But the first one is so little!" I reminded her that by the time the baby arrived, #1 would be two years old. In my mind that was great timing. When baby #3 was on her way, with another 2-year separation, I told our house-helper that I was expecting (the same house-helper), and she again gasped, "But it is so quick!" Before she could say anything else, I quickly added, "And we aren't done yet!" She kept all other comments to herself.

    Joy in Nepal (from the AO board)