A colleague of mine mentioned something recently that I thought was fascinating: Along with his wife, they are only planning to have two kids, partly because the world is “designed” for 4-member families.
What an interesting way to look at how we design things, I thought, and what “normal” means in the world today. Have we self-imposed a limit on what it means to have a comfortably sized family?
In considering some of these scenarios, I’ll keep things simple and assume a two-parent family.
My friend started me off a good example—passenger cars. The standard “family sedan” is large enough to comfortably seat two adults and two children—you would be hard-pressed to fit a fifth person between two car seats or booster chairs.
Upgrading to an SUV only nets extra seats in some cases—the largest models claim to seat nine, but six more realistically, and typically command top dollar for the privilege.
Traveling with one child between the two of us has already been a challenge, though we’re getting better at it. Traveling with two kids means that each adult is responsible for a child, or means one person is taking care of the “traveling” bit while the other handles two kids.
Tack on a third child and things get interesting—someone is taking on at least two, and sometimes three, children under their care. In a busy airport, bus, or plane, multiple cranky kids can be a recipe for disaster.
The most common configuration of a home in our area is a 2-bedroom or, at best, a 3-bedroom, 2-bathroom house. Even if you should be so lucky to score four bedrooms, consider the typical use of such a configuration.
Mom and Dad take bedroom number one. By the time they’re teenagers (at the latest), Child 1 and Child 2 each take a room, and the last bedroom is converted into the obligatory office or a storage room to hold all the “stuff” you’ve been buying through the years.
My wife pointed out another downfall of larger families (she was part of a 2+3).
Most packaged deals—whether it’s yearly tickets to attractions like Universal Orlando, discounts for shows, movie passes, or the more “modern” Groupon, come in sets of two or four (or have controlled maximums that impose four as the limit).
Does life really get harder when you get to five?
How big was your family growing up? How big is your current or planned family? Have you observed the “rule of four” play itself out in your life? Share your thoughts in the comments.