Glamorous as always, Blake Lively let her baby bump speak for itself at her red-carpet pregnancy announcement in September 2022. Jaws dropped at the stunning mama in the glittering full-length gown with heels (which, fair—she is gorgeous!). But it wasn’t her look that stood out the most to me. It’s the fact that the Gossip Girl star is glowing and pregnant with her fourth baby, a feat that is doing so much to help normalize big families. Maybe, just maybe, her pregnancy might help make it OK for me to want a big family, too.
Lively is already a mom to three daughters with husband Ryan Reynolds, but that didn’t dim the excitement and congratulations that flowed in the wake of her announcement with baby number four. People were genuinely thrilled for the A-list couple. (We can even generously assume that the paparazzi she called out for camping outside her house were also totally psyched for her.)
And I felt an immense sense of relief. Could it finally be OK to want—and have!—a big family? I have three boys (ages 5, 3, and 9 months), and I want at least one more baby. However, ever since I got pregnant with my youngest last year, it’s been open season for invasive comments on my family.
Emboldened, possibly well-meaning and downright rude people love inserting their opinions on how hard boys are, whether or not I should have another, and how “full” my hands are. In the middle of the grocery store checkout line last week, a woman came up to my family to make sure I knew something very important: My kids are going to keep demanding food “until they grow into their feet.” The audacity!
How dare my children (*whisper*) Eat! Every! Day! For years! The problem wasn’t me buying them food or even her warning me that more kids equals more problems (which isn’t always true). Instead, it felt as though the only purpose of what she said was to make me feel bad about having three kids. And, well, there’s nothing I can do about that—so why even say it?
It’s not the endless diaper changes or simultaneous screaming in three different pitches that gets me down. OK, yes—sometimes it is. But more often, it’s the seemingly innocuous comments and the rude questions disguised as mild curiosity that is so exhausting.
Grandparents, friends, neighbors, churchgoers, internet trollers, random customers at Target… you name it. They all love to offer their two cents on my family— with a side of judgment and shame—on everything from bedtime routines to discipline styles.
For some reason, many people are extremely judgy about big families. Yes, I have three boys. No, they never stop eating. Yes, I actually do want another baby—thanks for asking.
If you do want a big family, that is OK.
It’s almost as if one baby’s a blessing, two are expected, and any other amount is: Were you trying for a girl? Was it an accident? You do know how that happens, right? (Can you tell my eyes are rolling through the screen?)
But people shouldn’t concern themselves with other’s reproductive choices, and that includes the choice to have several kids. My life might feel like a wild blur of runny noses, slobbery kisses and cold coffee—but it’s my life, and I love it. So why does anyone else care?
Lively and Reynolds aren’t the only ones deciding to have more kids right now. The U.S. birth rate is slowly rising, following a decline from the coronavirus pandemic. An August 2022 study from the National Center for Health Statistics found that the number of births increased 1% from 2020-2021, following a 4% decline from 2019-2020. It’s not a lot, but still.
Related: Why large families are so happy
According to research from Gallup, the mean number of Americans surveyed think approximately two kids is “ideal”, an average that hasn’t hit the elusive “three” kids since 1967. The last time a survey was done (in 2018), 15% of those surveyed thought four or more kids was the best number for their family—again, not too shabby.
Motherly’s 2022 State of Motherhood Survey found that millennial and Gen Z moms in 2022 are 9 points less likely to say they want another child than the year before (30% down from 39%) and way down (-13 points) from 2020’s survey of 43%. Reasons range from not wanting to be pregnant to feeling like their family is complete as is.
Part of the reason for the current baby bust right now could (understandably) be related to the cost of having kids. The U.S. Department of Agriculture recently released a report based on 2015 data that estimated the expense of raising a child in a middle-income home at $233,610 (CNBC adjusted the number for inflation, coming in at $286,000 in 2022). This number may rise even more if you factor in the cost of surrogacy, in-vitro fertilization, and/or adoption. Not to mention, we live in a country with a lack of medical and paid family leave, so obviously, the reasons for not wanting a baby are wide-ranging and valid.
But if you do want a big family, that is OK.
I may not be able to buy each of my children brand new cars on their 16th birthdays, but I’ll shower them with love and laughter their whole lives, just like my parents (who have six kids) did for me. My kids may not even want to pursue higher education, so I’m not too worried about putting my life’s savings away for that, either.
If I can give them full bellies and kiss their boo-boos and teach them to treat others with kindness, isn’t that good enough? It is for my husband and I, and that should be all that matters.
My kids will have the gifts of siblings—built-in friends who can help them through life’s toughest times and play with, read with, and learn with in the happiest times (and everything in between). So why does it seem that having three or more kids is considered a burden? Blake Lively is helping to break that stigma simply by being excitedly pregnant with her fourth—and I, for one, am totally here for it.
I’m hoping Lively’s pregnancy will go a long way in normalizing wanting a big family. Why should I apologize for trying to get pregnant again? I deserve to feel happiness and joy and excitement at each pregnancy I’m lucky enough to have—no matter how many other kids I’ve got.
Sure, Blake Lively and Ryan Reynolds can give their kids the world, but their favorite memories probably come from Taylor Swift dance parties and simple, silly days at home, anyway. We could all learn a thing or two from them.
Motherly Stories are first person, 500-1000 word stories, reflecting on the insights you’ve experienced in motherhood—and the wisdom you’ve gained along the way. They also help other women realize they’re not alone. Motherly Stories don’t judge. Instead, they inspire other mamas with stories of meaning, hope and a realization that “you’ve got this.” If you have a story, please submit it here: https://www.mother.ly/share-your-story/
Motherly designed and administered The State of Motherhood survey through Motherly’s subscribers list, social media and partner channels, resulting in more than 17,000 responses creating a clean, unweighted base of 10,001 responses. This report focuses on the Gen X cohort of 1197 respondents, Millennial cohort of 8,558 respondents, and a Gen Z cohort of 246 respondents. Edge Research weighted the data to reflect the racial and ethnic composition of the US female millennial cohort based on US Census data.