In an Era of Shrinking Broods, Larger Families Can Feel Attacked - NYTimes.com
THE comment from the photographer at Sears was typical. “Are these all yours?” she asked, surveying Kim Gunnip’s 12 children.
“No,” Mrs. Gunnip replied, “I picked some up at the food court.”
But it was harder to find a retort for the man in line at the supermarket, who said within earshot of her youngest children, “You must have a great sex life.”
Now her family, like other larger families, as they call themselves, is facing endless news coverage of the octupletsborn in California and a new round of scorn, slack jaws and stupid jokes.
Back when the average woman had more than three children, big families were the Kennedys of Hickory Hill and Hyannis Port, “Cheaper by the Dozen,” the Cosbys or “Eight is Enough” — lovable tumbles of offspring as all-American in their scrapes as in their smiles.
But as families have shrunk, and parents helicopter over broods tinier yet more precious, a vanload of children has taken on more of a freak show factor. The families know the stereotypes: they’re polygamists, religious zealots, reality-show hopefuls or Québécois in it for the per-child government bonus. And isn’t there something a little obsessive about Angelina Jolie’s quest for her own World Cup soccer team?
“Look at the three shows on TLC that have bigger families,” said Meagan Francis, the 31-year-old author of “Table for Eight,” which stems from her experience raising four children (she is expecting her fifth next month). “One is about religious fundamentalists, one has sextuplets, the other is a family of little people,” she said, referring to, respectively, the Duggars of “17 Kids and Counting,” “Jon and Kate Plus Eight” and “Little People, Big World,” about two dwarfs raising four children, three of average stature, on a pumpkin farm in Oregon.
“You get the feeling,” Ms. Francis added, “that anybody who has more than three kids is either doing it for bizarre reasons or there’s a medical anomaly.”