Bigger families are gaining in popularity
By David Crary, ASSOCIATED PRESS
NEW YORK, Oct. 9, 2006 (www.washtimes.com) - Laura Bennett isn't bound by convention. Professionally, at 42, she's pursuing a midcareer switch into big-time fashion design. At home, she's a mother of five -- with No. 6 due next month.
"It was nothing that we planned ahead of time," Mrs. Bennett says. "It's more that we were enjoying all the kids. We have a happy home. Why not have as many children as we can?"
It's barely a blip on the nation's demographic radar -- 11 percent of U.S. births in 2004 were to women who already had three children, up from 10 percent in 1995. But there seems to be a growing openness to having more than two children, in some case more than four.
The reasons are diverse -- from religious to, as Mrs. Bennett reasons, "Why not?"
These families cut across economic lines, though a sizable part of the increase is attributed to a baby boom in affluent suburbs, with more upper-middle-class couples deciding that a three- or four-child household can be both affordable and fun.
The Bennetts still stand out. Among other well-off families in Manhattan, three children is generally the maximum -- one or two is much more common as parents contemplate private-school tuition of $25,000 a year even for kindergarten, and a real estate market that is far from family-friendly.
Mrs. Bennett's husband, Peter Shelton, is a successful architect, and the family can afford child-care help while Mrs. Bennett -- also an architect by training -- pursues her fashion-design aspirations as a finalist on the TV reality show "Project Runway." But their motives sound similar to those of other, less wealthy parents nationwide who have opted for five or more children.
Dr. Jeff Brown, a pediatrician affiliated with Greenwich Hospital in Connecticut's wealthy southwestern suburbs, has noticed a clear trend in recent years.
"I don't hear people say, 'We'll have two and then we're done,' where I used to hear that before," he said. "People are much more open to three-children families than they were 10 years ago."