I want to tell you all about what I've been doing these past few weeks, both on the housekeeping and homeschooling fronts. Getting to the computer upstairs is harder than it might seem. We purchased a small laptop for downstairs to ease the congestion on the main computer and to allow me to access the Interwebz without leaving the main scene of action in the house. Behold!
I will tell you all about these things we have learned and discovered soon enough. For example, it is bad idea to eek out a few more days of school right before Christmas when nobody on the street is doing it and all the kids are playing outside all day long. Note to self. But sometimes a post unrelated to anything going on grabs your attention and demands to be written. This is one of those times.
My maternal grandmother* had four children. In order for those four children to be replaced, she would need to have eight grandchildren and sixteen great-grandchildren.
This people math is the basics behind zero population growth theories. The idea is that you shouldn't have more children than are necessary to replace the people who already exist. Of course, proponents would probably be happy if you never reached that number. Even though I reject the philosophy behind ZPG, I was essentially raised with these ideas. My parents, for whatever reason, were very conscious about not exceeding their "limit." My brother exists, in some small part, because there were open slots available from cousins who did not exist. I am repulsed by the idea that my brother might not exist if the quota had already been filled.
My maternal grandmother had nine grandchildren, which replaces her children plus one--the open slots enabling my brother were on my father's side of the family--and it just so happens I fall exactly in the middle. There are four grandchildren older than I am and four grandchildren younger than I am. Assessing the state of our extended family as I enter the final likely years of my fertility, I am distressed. She should have sixteen great-grandchildren, but as of now, she has eleven.
My oldest four cousins produced one child between them. I have four children. My sister has three children. My brother has zero children. My youngest two cousins have three children between them. It does not seem likely that any of my cousins will have any more children. It isn't that they all suffer from infertility. There is a lot of sterilization going on here. I know because they tell me.
So here we are at eleven. We have five missing people, at a minimum, on my mother's side of the family. Our family tree is inverting.
On my father's side of the family, the situation is much the same. My paternal grandmother had 7 children which would require 14 grandchildren and 28 great-grandchildren to hit replacement numbers. She had 13 grandchildren--close--and thus far eleven great-grandchildren, seven of whom belong to me and my sister. Since I am one of older cousins in this group instead of in the middle, it is harder to make long term pronouncements on how many children there will eventually be. I can say that as of right now, my four oldest cousins have four children between them. Twenty-eight does not seem likely at all.
Since the concept of replacing yourself was near growing up, I have thought a lot about replacement numbers and how many children are required to achieve it. I have also wondered if I personally have an obligation--in the best sense--to have more children since no one else seems willing to do it.
I know I cannot carry the weight of my entire family. Even if I had a goal of making sure the numbers were at replacement minimums, it would be impossible. I don't have that much fertility (or energy). If I felt like we were DONE, done, I doubt I would be worried too much about it. You can only do so much.
But here I am at age 38. I will be 40 in 18 months. It feels like a deadline. As I sit here discerning my unenthusiasm for pregnancy along with all the other factors of life, I wonder if the abysmal number of children in my extended family should play any role in our decisions.
Since I am willing to love and raise a baby, despite my hatred of pregnancy, do I have any obligation to do it again in light of the fact that my cousins, as a rule, won't? Does anyone else think about these things? Am I the only one?
*My grandmother died in 1999, but I wasn't sure how to treat the verb tenses so just bear with me here.