Jumping off Darwin's post about whether "planning" is a dirty word: I've been thinking a lot lately about the myth of "What's one more?"
Some of you may have invoked this phrase as conversational protection. Someone makes a comment about the number of kids you have (or the one you're expecting), and you smile cheerfully and say, "Well, at this point, what's one more?" Short and pithy, this defense is intended to show that you're open to life, children are great, and that three aren't that much more difficult than two, four aren't that much more difficult than three, etc.
The trouble is, it's not exactly true. Here at chez Darwin, we're finding that four is a lot more than three. Baby's a treat; he's not that demanding (though he likes to be held most of the time) and he's at that delightfully gurgly three-month stage. But the addition of a baby changes the dynamic of the household, and highlights the behaviors of the under-7 crowd that are now more difficult to manage. It seemed like we were just getting to a point where everything was becoming manageable, but throw a newborn who needs the constant attention of one adult into the mix and suddenly all the parameters have shifted to some unknown point.
There's nothing wrong with acknowledging that -- except that since large families run against the cultural paradigm, it puts those parents into a constant propagandizing mode. In an arena in which most (though not all) families are consciously limited, the decision not to limit your family (or even proclaim a particular number as "it") stands out. Catholic parents don't want to seem as if we're participating in a contraceptive or limiting mentality, and so reflexively spin our answers to intrusive questions as positively as possible. (My current response to the "Are you done?" question is, "But every boy needs a brother!")
The truth is that families who have many children close together are taking the harder path. I don't use the phrase "choose", since not all parents who have children close together necessarily plan to do so. (We certainly didn't plan to have our first two so close.) Frankly, four seems as much as I can handle right now, though I expect that in the future I'll feel differently. For now, though, one more is an awful lot, and I won't make excuses for that-- in this friendly forum, anyway.