In the days after my fourth child was born, I remember telling my girlfriends, “It really feels like we leveled up here. This is different, this is a lot of kids.” I’m a member of a Facebook group for parents raising large families, and the benchmark for admission is four kids or more. That’s when an American family goes into “large” territory in this day and age.
Few celebrities clear that bar, and when they do, their admission into the club is sometimes cringe-worthy. Rapper and comedian Nick Cannon just announced the birth of his ninth child, his first with model Lanisha Cole. The star practices what he calls “consensual non-monogamy,” and he has three children just this year: one in July and one in August, in addition to the latest birth.
Then there’s Tesla founder Elon Musk, who has 10 children, three of whom were born last year.
And so, when celebrities welcome children in a more traditional way, as Blake Lively and Ryan Reynolds do, it’s cause for celebration.
Lively made headlines late last week after appearing at the Forbes Power Women Summit in New York visibly pregnant. This was just days after posting an apparently old bikini-clad photo in which she was very much not visibly pregnant. That led to an influx of paparazzi, which she tried to stave off by posting pregnancy.pictures on social media.
It’s unclear when the actress is due, but Women’s Health magazine speculated that the due date is likely in January or February.
In having a fourth child, Lively and Reynolds are joining an ever-shrinking pool — not just of celebrities, but also of Americans generally — who are raising more than three children. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the average family size in the U.S. was 3.31 persons in 2021, down from 3.7 in the 1960s.
Writing for Plough a few years ago, New York Times columnist Ross Douthat made the case for “one more kid” despite the “car seat economics” that work to restrict or delay child-bearing. “(B)ecause normal backseats won’t hold three car seats, so you basically can’t have a third young kid in America unless you upgrade to a minivan.”
As a mother about to grow out of a minivan and into a literal van, I can attest that Douthat is on the money, especially in the post-COVID-19 supply chain that makes buying a car nearly as painful as childbirth.
Obviously, celebrities like Lively and Reynolds aren’t bound by the same economic questions the rest of us are when it comes to deciding on whether we should have another child or two or four.
So why should more Americans opt for a fourth, as Lively and Reynolds have, even without Hollywood resources? The best argument I can make sounds trivial: There’s something about even numbers.
In our family, as in many others, our kids pair off; in our case with our oldest four, the girls and the boys play together consistently, despite the fact that my oldest and fourth are the girls, and are five years apart (versus my sons, who are just two years apart).
Moving into “big family” territory is an adjustment, but a fun one. The most common comment I get from those with one or two kids is, “I can hardly handle what we have, I can’t imagine having double the number of kids!”
But four kids isn’t twice as hard as two; in a lot of ways, they’re easier. I was discussing this with two mom friends recently — one with two children; the other with six. With four (or five or six) kids, the onus is off the parents to be a playmate; everyone always has someone with whom they can play, and there’s always a sibling to torment or throw a ball with.
For sure, there are moments when a large family has its downsides: When it’s time to buy plane tickets or when there’s a stomach virus running around the household. But, as I’ve written before, more children bring more joy, which makes the occasional stressors more bearable.
In a time in which celebrities behaving badly often dominate the headlines, it’s interesting to see a media frenzy about a celebrity’s fourth child with her first husband. Hollywood isn’t usually a place we look to for “family values,” so we should applaud celebrity couples that break from the ordinary and root for their family’s success.
Bethany Mandel is a contributing writer for Deseret News. She is a home-schooling mother of five and a widely published writer on politics, culture and Judaism. She is an editor for the children’s book series “Heroes of Liberty.”