I read an article last week about how the Über rich in New York are increasing their status among friends. The article waxed eloquently on the symbols of the young rich and how they communicate their wealth to others through various symbols such as clothing, cars, large apartments, friends they hang with, and celebrity. But social status for the wealthiest is taking a new form. The number of children a power couple has is now the new status symbol. That’s right. The more children, the bigger their (assumed) status and bank account. And Lordy, Lordy, Lordy, you know what that makes me? A virtual Vanderbilt. Yes indeed, with my eight children, I am floating along in the upper stratosphere of the wealthy and I didn’t even realize it.
I always thought the children themselves were the wealth. Apparently I am wrong. The article pointed to the fact that the larger the family, the more money that is required. More money for private schools, and larger cars, and day care, and playing on every sports team that comes along, and nannies and housekeepers. Add in larger homes full of stuff for kids and a MUCH, much busier schedule than the other mommies in the neighborhood. In other words, more children equals more wealth and a person gets to stick their nose a little higher in the air. Nowhere in the article is there a mention that the young rich enjoy their larger families or that having a large family was a dream of theirs. Not a word about having children because it made them a family or that children made them complete in a larger way that can’t be explained in a short article.
Only a week or so ago, I discussed a different article with my young adult daughter. This article was about a couple who were not monetarily wealthy but were expecting their thirteenth child. The remarkable thing about the pregnancy was that the other twelve children were ALL BOYS. The article went into depth about how the couple were childhood sweethearts and wanted a large family. The mom was quoted several times saying how much she loved being a mom and how much her boys meant to her. Both parents said that it did not matter if the newest one was a boy or a girl, but that a girl might be nice (they got another boy). A beautiful picture of the twelve boys with their pregnant mom accompanied the article.
I loved the article and so did my daughter. It was a positive and upbeat commentary about families in America. Unfortunately, the comments after the article were vicious and unkind. The persons commenting were nasty and mean and judgmental. Some said that they were socially irresponsible and others said that they needed to give some of them away. Seriously? Give your children away just because you have several? Which one? Number three? Number eight? Number thirteen? Since when did having a large family equate to social irresponsibility?
What angers me the most, with the help of social media, is that children are being portrayed as a commodity rather than as a blessing. They are something to own and establish wealth. Someone to exploit. Someone who feeds a new story. In the time frame between the two articles already mentioned, numerous pictures of a popular media family with their new baby were flashed about on screens. Instead of being delighted that a young couple had a new child, the media practically crucified this new dad for holding the baby incorrectly in the body sling. Did they mention that it was nice that a young dad was holding the baby so the mom could rest? Did they mention that it was nice for the baby to be up close and have two loving, doting parents? Did they mention that the baby had no clue that he was being held at the wrong angle? No. No. No they did not. They crucified child and parent alike for the sake of a story.
What the media, and others, have forgotten is that each child is unique. Not part of a herd cobbled clumsily together. Not part of a social structure that enhances the invitations that their parents might receive. Their feelings, emotions, processing, loving, hating, forgiving mechanisms are all theirs. No one else’s. A child is a blessing, not a piece of corn to be traded or stacked up for social valuations. Children are entrusted to us for a few short years and during those years, they need to be valued and treasured because they are exactly who they should be, themselves.
While I have never been a big fan of social status, I do float along on the upper stratosphere of true wealth. I have eight children. I am more than wealthy. My quiver is full.