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Is having more than two children the ultimate status symbol?

In a generation we have reduced the number of average children we are having.

The Office for National Statistics said in December that we are now having an average 1.9 children compared to 2.4 children in our parent’s generation.

When you consider that the cost of raising a child to age 21 has risen to an eye watering £201,809 presumably having more than one child become something of a luxury?

Especially when you consider that average annual earnings are £25,900.

So by my calculations, even if you spent on nothing else you’d have to work for nearly eight years to afford one child.

Has having a large family now become part of the great class divide?

Showing that you are either uber rich a la Beckhams, who are currently expecting their fourth child, or part of a Shameless-style tribe?  But most definitely not the usual bog standard middle class, doing their best and trying to cope family.

Given that families have already reduced in size, what impact will the current austerity measures and the economic pressure have on the bog standard families?  Are they going to be squeezed even more and have to reduce their family size down to what they may not feel is ‘complete’ for them?  Are there a generation of families with fewer siblings?  Are there a generation of parents with the ghosts of the children they would like but can’t afford quietly haunting them in the quiet spaces of life?

Has having a third or a fourth symbol now become a nappy valley symbol of a life where you can buy in sufficient help through nannies and maternity nurses to ensure you get enough sleep to ensure you have the urge to procreate?  Is it the preserve of the hedge fund wives, the banker bonuses, the rich and the shameless?

Have the only people who are going to be willing to breed are those outside the alarm clock class that Nick Clegg identified this week those who don’t have to wake horribly early to get to work, who don’t find themselves already squeezed to pay bills and who are not looking at having to volunteer to fill the gaps that our Big Society can no longer fill?

In fact is it now going to be some kind of status symbol to have multiple children?  In some areas in having only the one or two going to be seen as some kind of admission that actually you’re a bit of an underachiever?   And then what happens to those families where infertility means their family is smaller than they would like?

And you know what, whilst I don’t think my family is complete at two, I certainly don’t envy the Beckhams and their brood to be of four – imagine if its a boy child there will be four small boys rampaging through that house and Victoria and David are going to have their hands properly full.

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16 comments to Is having more than two children the ultimate status symbol?

  • I totally agree with your post. There is a huge divide. I live in a very middle class area, four of my children were in private schools…I have never seen so many large families. Less than 3, barely any. 4 pretty normal, 5 a few, as well as 6 children and all in private schools. We had a large family because we could afford to…haha that’s now a joke but i won’t go into that here.
    By the way I didn’t have a maternity nurse ever, did have a nanny once but hated it! 😉
    It’s sad that people cannot afford to have children…I think it’s going to get harder.

  • That said, there are also the Daily Mail families, often with double-digit kids who boast that they get £98,000 in benefits per year. They are unlikely to ever go back to work because their children effectively provide for them. That I wholeheartedly disapprove of. But I do find it very sad that couples are putting off having much-wanted children until they can afford it.

  • […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Hannah. Hannah said: Blogging – is having more than two children the ultimate status symbol? http://j.mp/fZIjiZ […]

  • Large families are incredibly rare in Spain, not sure that it’s entirely down to finances but it just isn’t the done thing.

    I remember talking to a couple of mums and we were speculating as to whether another mum was pregnant with what would have been her 4th child, the other two were absolutely incredulous that should would have 4 kids, it is so unusual.

    The only mums with 3 kids in the village have all got twins.

  • You have hit the nail on the head here, 3 is definitely a new middle class status symbol.
    Or … and I have discussed with some of my friends … 3 is not average, not the same as everyone else, a way of feeling just a little different and unusual.

  • Couldn’t agree with you more, it’s a sad old time isn’t it? I would love four but could never afford it, or not to do it well (in my eyes anyway.)We have two, a girl and a boy but if I could have written it down on paper before it happened I would have picked having four boys! ( I know am probably nuts!)So I don’t pity VB if she gets another!

  • Short answer – yes. I believe it is a status symbol to have more than the one or two child family. But what’s even more of a status symbol? When the Mother of those children ‘doesn’t need to work’. Want, doesn’t come into it. For many women and a stack of women, it’s when she doesn’t ‘need’ to work that really counts. Scary huh?

  • You know, until a couple of years ago, I would have totally disagreed with this – I used to always feel that in less affluent families, it was more common to have more than two children. I’m not really sure I can explain the reason for this without sounding really offensive but its something along the lines of the more money you have, the more you fully understand the costs of bringing up a child so you’re less likely to have lots of kids. I apologise now for that awful generalism, but it seemed to ring true in the town where I lived.

    Over the past few years I really have noticed things change. Maybe its because I myself have moved to a more affluent town and am no more aware that the larger families are often from the wealthiest areas of town?

    I’ve been doing some research for parentwheels.co.uk this week into car economy and as a result, I can confirm that there is no way you can afford to have more than 2 children unless you can also afford a mahoosive car to put them in!

  • I laughed out loud at your last sentence and you might be absolutely right 😉

  • Modern Dilemma

    I totally agree that 3+ kids seems to be a status symbol in some areas but understand what Emma says above too. As for the cost, all I can say is since number 3 arrived 3years ago our kid costs appear to have doubled & then some. Currently planning summer holiday & the cost makes me weep. Feel like all I do is worry about money, don’t even get me started on cost of footwear 4 kids…..

    MD xxx

  • Hi,
    I read through your post yesterday and it really fired me up to write something in response….I’ve had to put it up on my blog as I didn’t want to clog your comments bit with it (it’s fairly long, lol!). Thanks for writing such an interesting and thought provoking post! 🙂

  • Lani

    Having studied development for a while now, I can tell you that the more educated a women is, the less likely she is to have children. It’s just a fact. That’s not to say that reproduction is an ill-informed choice (!) Well, not always. I merely ask how this fits in with your argument when it tends to be the richer of our society that can afford more years of education? An interesting contradiction of statistics, no?

  • I know what you mean but I don’t think that it is. I think that most people still see having children as growing their family but then again I haven’t thought about it for as much as you! Maybe next week when I have thought on it some more I will think differently lol

    • Muddling Along

      I think that there are those that consider it about growing their family and then some of us that worry endlessly about paying mortgages, having enough money to protect if you lose your job and so on and so forth – I guess I value financial security enormously (a relic of my childhood) and therefore for me there is a financial equation that I have to consider

  • Gosh I had never even considered this point. It does seem that people (famous people) are having more children. I do think there is still the other view, whereby people thing that families are just having more children to squeeze money out of the state – not so in the Beckhams’ case, obviously!

    • Hannah Brewer

      Actualy that’s a really good point – funny how there seems to be different attitudes all the way up and down society

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