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Op Ed: In Response – Why I DON’T Have Multiple Children

Editors Note: When matters of physical and mental well-being are in question, it goes without saying that the advice of a physician and Rov should be sought, as each case is unique. This article in no way means to reflect the authors view that one should Chas V’Sholom not have children, rather another point of view of the challenges the author of this letter faces.

by A Mom of an only child

I read the recent op-ed article on CrownHeights.Info regarding the ease of having four or more children, and I’d like to dispel some of the myths presented.

You write about mothers of four or more children, (I will refer to them as multiples from here on out,) being seemingly more at ease and doing less hovering than the mothers of fewer children. Perhaps some of these mothers are more at ease, but at what cost to themselves and their children? True, I have 2 sisters that are mothers of multiples and are TG incredible parents- they truly love their kids and love being mothers, they give their kids individual attention, and they run their homes with apparent ease. But then I came along.

I have one child TG, and he is wonderful. He never gave me any issues from the moment he was born until now 8.5 years later. He has a tremendous amount of chen, learns well, and is so easygoing and friendly. So yes, now that I have described my paragon of virtue, let’s describe me: I am a child of a large family BH, and I truly enjoy having multiple siblings to talk to, and turn to for advice.

But there are other factors to having children.

I suffered from Postpartum Depression after giving birth, which morphed into clinical depression, anxiety and ADHD as the years have gone by. I would be nursing my son and thinking about harming myself. This went on for 2 years before getting help after I completely spiraled downward. Then, it took another year to figure out the correct dosages for my medications so that I could pretend to be a stable functioning adult.

Years went by before I could even contemplate a second child, and by the time I did, I was told it would take a minimum of a year to wean myself off of the medications (6 of them) so that I could begin to try to get pregnant.

To this day, the only memories I have of my son’s first 4-5 years of his life are in pictures and videos that were taken. His formative years were so traumatic for me, that my mind literally shut down the memories from that period in my life. I may have appeared to be a great mother from the outside, but I would be a wreck at home, begging my husband to just let me end it all, and escape the pain. Unfortunately, I lost both the bad and the good from that time in my life- I find it incredibly painful to speak or interact with people from that time in my life, they trigger thoughts that I do not want to be having now that I am thank G-d stable and happy.

I commend women (and their husbands) who have multiple children and manage it successfully, by I also commend women like me, who know their limits, and when to stop. I think it is crucial to know yourself and what you can handle. Did you know that nursing is its own form of birth control, though unfortunately nowadays it is very unreliable because of all of the hormones and chemicals found in our food? That I believe is why rabbanim will give heterim to women for birth control for up to two years- the amount of time that they would have been nursing, and therefore not getting pregnant. Those two years are a time to connect, and reflect- to see how you are managing, and whether or not you are able to make it work again with another child. They are also a time to heal and focus on the children they currently have.

Women are not meant to be baby making machines who just churn out kids one after the other and rely on their older children to care for the younger ones. It puts a huge strain on the older siblings when they are constantly in charge of the younger ones and does not give them the appropriate time to “grow up” themselves. As for ridding one’s self of the quintessential middle child who gets overlooked and ignored, as a younger middle, I can say that is a false premise as well. The oldest child will always be the oldest, and the youngest likewise, all other children are simply older middle, younger middle, or as my niece likes to say, the “middlest”.

Going back to my earlier discussion of my own child who is BH a wondrous child, I was chatting with my mother, and she mentioned something else that I had not considered- she said she would often ask her brother or her mother, why couldn’t we (myself and my siblings) be more like her sisters’ kids? And they both would remind her that my mother was raising multiple “leaders”, with none of my siblings, nor myself, being followers. Whereas most of my cousins are born followers- and so they did whatever sibling x did, while we always wanted to walk our own paths, and make our own discoveries.

So yes, it would be nice in a Utopian universe for all women to have multiple children, but this world is imperfectly perfect, and so it cannot be. And that’s not to mention the financial strain, which I did not even bring up at all. So let’s be happy with what we are able to handle, and with what we have, and ladies of fewer children, hold your heads up with pride- you are doing what Hashem wants you to do just like those mothers of multiples, who are also following Hashem’s will, albeit a little differently.

23 Comments

  • 1. Montreal wrote:

    You are completely justified.

    Hashem should bentch you with all the good in the world.

    Only issue is right at the end. Money. Hashem can and does provide that.

    That being said, we (including pricey camps and schools) should help each other out more.

    Reply
  • 2. Perspective wrote:

    Gd wants to give us the most awesome gift on Earth!!!
    How can we close the door to that!!
    Granted, some exceptional cases cannot but for the most part are we using excuses to prevent precious life?!
    I am forever grateful to my parents for having a large family despite not having the finances , and other challenges. And I will forever cherish that they have given me so many siblings BH for us to take each other through life
    There are no better life-long friend than siblings BH!! Each one is an irreplaceable gift!!
    Don’t get distracted by the yetzer haras tactics!
    Life will not be easier with fewer children.
    We are each meant to go through a specific amount of challenges and attempting to reduce that won’t help ..the problems will come from other places. So why not invest in the greatest gifts, and welcome in the abundant brochos and joys that each child brings !!
    love your kids and give them the greatest gift of a large family!!
    Those that feel they not getting enough attention will feel that way in any size family.
    We are fooling ourselves to think we will be better parents to fewer children!
    The opposite is true, our experience grows as our family does!!

    May Hashem bench everyone with large families and the koach and help to raise them!

    Reply
    • 3. Appreciation wrote:

      Thank you for your wise words.
      Being able to appreciate the blessings and the challenges (hidden blessings) that Hashem gives us – is a blessing in itself.

  • 4. Shliach wrote:

    You started off with a very valid point and depression is unfortunately a very serious problem that is not always dealt with correctly. Then you lost the point when you put in your own (not Torah) view that children and parents NEED a certain amount of space/time between each child… Are there women who need a heter for emotional, physical or other reasons, absolutely! But who gave you the right to say such a thing for all women as a fact!?! People when you write such articles, remember you have the achroyis that you can be convincing a reader not to bring another neshama into this world! We need to be careful to separate health facts from our (sometimes media or secular driven) opinion…. (i won’t even get in to detail about the financial aspect that was snuck in) I wish you much nachas and health! I think it’s so important to have the discussion about health/depression but let’s remind ourselves that children are a brocha from hashem however little or lot of space there is…

    Reply
  • 6. do not judge wrote:

    It is very painful to see people knocking what others are going through. No one knows what each persons challenge in life is. I myself went through secondary infertility and people were very judgemental as to why I wasn’t having more. Every person has to know their situation and they do not have to answer to other people. Hashem gives each person their journey. Their is no race in how many children or grandchildren each person has. Each child is a brocha, Our gezunt is a brocha, and if we can’t have more because of it we have Rabbanim. Make no mistake, it is not anyone’s business to look at another persons life and judge. You will never know what goes on in their life

    Reply
  • 7. Clarification wrote:

    This was not meant to answer this specific authors situation. No one can judge anyone’s circumstances. But we each need to look within ourselves and filter out the right and wrong and reach good decisions.

    Reply
  • 8. Refua Shlaima wrote:

    In the opening paragraph of the previous article, it is made clear that the article is not speaking to families who – for whatever reason – are not blessed with being able to bear children.

    For some reason. The unnamed author of this article, did not realize that was referring to her – and the rest of the article was not.

    May Hashem bless her with a Refua Shlaima and much Nachas from her precious child, her husband and extended family.

    Reply
  • 9. Father of seven wrote:

    My dear, you ARE managing successfuly! Depression is a real serious medical condition and you are managing admirably. Keep it up and be there for your husband and your son and yourself. You are a grown adult doing the responsible thing and owe no excuse or explanation to anyone. May you go from strength to strength in good health and have much nachas from your husband and your son and most importantly, yourself
    – A father of seven, husband of one very patient lady and a man who has suffered from depression

    Reply
  • 10. Truth Breeds Victims wrote:

    This is an article that is explaining why a victim was created when an article voiced an opinion about growing up with siblings.
    The other article was not politically correct – that is why it created this victim who is displaying the details her victimhood in public.
    Is this a message that the readers of this website need a safe space? That truth makes some people uncomfortable. It makes them feel judged. And therefore truth should not be spoken?
    I have Ruchmonos on the author. She needs friends, family, community and therapists. I hope she has what she needs. But should her unfortunate situation influence discussion about relevant, healthy topics that others could benefit from?

    Reply
  • 11. Who Is Doing the Judging? wrote:

    This article is judgmental about another woman’s personal observations, opinions and encouragement to healthy young couples about having children… an extension of the Rebbe’s call to families to have more children.

    Reply
  • 12. Self Acceptance wrote:

    When I first became religious, I stopped going to restaurants like I used to. Some friends thought it was because I thought I was better than they were and by extension, that I was judging them.
    I think I see the same thing with this article because I don’t think women in our community are judgmental of others.
    It just might be that mothers who think they are being judged could work on their self-acceptance and appreciate what Hashem has given them. And then even if some people are judgmental, there will be no reason to be upset about it.

    Reply
  • 13. Take issue wrote:

    Is this the way to address the issue at hand. Clearly the initial article was addressing a particular issue without taking every situation into account.

    Or maybe that writer didn’t feel that this was an appropriate forum to address particular aspect.

    Either way does this warrant a response article slamming this person’s opinion with their emotions.

    It could be difficult but no one asked for the dirty laundry to be aired in public.

    Reply
    • 14. Exactly wrote:

      What is the benefit of reading this article? Other than, as you said, to share dirty laundry.
      The other article did mention that not all families are blessed with the opportunity to have children. No need to go into details. We all know there are reasons.

    • 15. Reply to "Take issue" & Exactly wrote:

      I think it was important to print this article. Because it will help reduce the Stigma. The more people who say they’ve experienced these problems, the less fear someone else will have to admit they need help in such a situation.

      Also, Reading these stories will convince other people to have more sympathy & do things to help people with these problems.

  • 16. A note on this subject wrote:

    Having children can be very fulfilling. Nothing can compare to the joy a parent has when a new Neshamah is brought into a family. But we cannot forget about all the not such joyful challenges that can sometimes accompany labor and child birth.
    I will not go into the details of what these challenges are. But anyone who has become a parent knows which parts were easy for them and which parts were challenging. I know form my personal experience, the difficult things that came along with child birth was all well worth it and was glad to accept the challenge when our second child was on the way.
    What I am trying to get at is that there is no one size fits all when it comes to building families. For one person (Whether said person believes she was raised as lieder or follower) having many children is only a blessing and is unfazed by the challenges that come along with it while another person finds the challenges more difficult.
    I don’t think it can be argued that having children is not a Mitzvah and the Torah commands us to do just that, Have children! But the same Torah also commands us to daven Shachris with a minyan. Does that mean that a man should run to shul to catch the minyan even in a case where his wife does not maintain the capacity to manage the house and the children on her own? In a case (Perhaps even most cases) where the wife can manage on her own. Go run to shul and daven with Kavanh. But in a case where she cannot, is it okay to go to shul, or do you stay home and help and daven without a minyan?
    Having children is a mitzvah but if having many children will cause foreseen challenges which you feel you cannot deal with; do you jump off an air plane without a parachute?
    For those who do not already know the outcome, someone who jumps off a flying air plane without a parachute will not have a happy ending. The same logic should apply when it comes to having children. If someone feels they are not up to the task. They should consult professionals, not advice from their neighbor who writes op eds online or posts their wisdom on Instagram. But form someone with experience and is trained to help guide you through these challenges and follow the advice the professionals believe will work best for you and your family. I should add also a COMPETENT rabbi who can help you implement the professional advice according to halacha.

    Reply
  • 17. Attitude and Determination wrote:

    With the exception of the author of this article, and similar unfortunate women, Jewish women can cope! They may not have everything exactly how they want it to be, but coping, they can do. It is not easy to cope. It is not easy to realize your house might not be as tidy as your neighbor’s, but you can cope. A healthy attitude and determination helps you cope.
    Once you have a few kids, the older ones can chip in. A three year old can bring a diaper, can pick up what has dropped and can sing to the baby. And more.
    Barbra Corcoran is a successful business woman. She wrote a book called Shark Tales. She writes about growing up in a family with ten children and very little money. Living in a tiny apartment. But with a positive attitude, her mother coped.
    I understand there are extreme cases like the article above. But other than those extremes, I am not convinced that young Jewish mothers can’t cope.
    Open discussion is about the majority in the hill of the Bell Curve. The exceptions should be respected, but not given control of the narrative, except in platforms suited to their needs.

    Reply
  • 18. A Mommy wrote:

    Thosr who are blessed with large families have no reason to look down on those who don’t and those who are blessed with smaller families shouldn’t be jealous or look down on those who have large families.
    Imagine if Miriam had told her mother that she didn’t want the responsibility of watching baby Moshe. It’s a privilege to be able to help own’s own mother, although the mother perhaps shouldn’t be too demanding.

    Reply
  • 19. Gman wrote:

    B”H we have a very large blessed family. Its not easy, its hard, very hard.

    We had 5 kids all under 6 ( 1 set of twins ).

    B”H we manage with the money, i work hard and so is my wife.

    The one thing that its really hard on us is the cost of kosher food & education.

    Some schools will give you a discount some will not look at you.

    I will never forget when we had a meeting with one of the principals of a Israeli Chabad school ( $16000/year)and we explain our very special situation.
    She know we just lost our jobs and i was who about 3 months salary with no opportunity in our small town to get a another job, she told us: we don’t give a discount to no one.

    I will never forget all the schools & yeshivas that rejected our kids bcs we didn’t have enough money.

    My wife told one of the principals , You are punishing as for having a big family, this is what the rebbe wanted?

    Of course all this happened after Gimmel Tamuz.

    Any way, B”H we are doing ok, we have grandkids and we are all healthy.

    Reply
    • 20. Positive Attitude wrote:

      Your story shows that with a positive attitude, even hardships do not out way having all your children.
      Kol HaKavod

  • 21. Just a little editing wrote:

    Shame, an article that starts with a very valid and important point and story ends with the paragraph starting “Women are not meant to be baby making machines who just churn out kids one after the other and” and then throws an aside about finances. Those points are counter to the Rebbe. With just a little editing, this article could have stayed 100% in accordance with the Rebbe and Halachah.

    Reply
  • 22. Machines Churn Out wrote:

    “Women are not meant to be baby making machines who just churn out kids one after the other and rely on their older children to care for the younger ones. It puts a huge strain on the older siblings when they are constantly in charge of the younger ones and does not give them the appropriate time to “grow up” themselves.”

    With an attitude like the one expressed above, it is no wonder the author has problems associated with being a mother.

    Taking care of younger siblings teaches competence, kindness, and responsibility. Can it be taken to an extreme? Yes, but in the average family it is a factor that helps the older sibling “grow up” to live conscientious, responsible lives. What else should they be doing?

    Reply
  • 23. Been there done that. wrote:

    As someone who can “check off” All of the above… Im from a large family, suffered postpartum depression, infertility and a nervous breakdown during my last pregnancy that caused me to have panic attacks and anxiety I can say that NO ONE can judge ANYONE! To say we are closing the door by taking birth control when we cant even take care of ourselves? On the other hand to limit the number of children for financial reasons? I’ve walked the walk. Been there, done that and there is never a “one size fits all”. These experiences made me realize that we have to strengthen our emunah and bitachon. Consult with a Rav and mashpia and know you are doing the best you can with the tools Hashem gave you. Give yourself a hug and go be the amazing mother and person you are be it a mother of 1 or a mother of 10.

    Reply

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