Ynet interviews Dr. Hanna Katan, religious Zionist mother of thirteen and gynecologist with a sub-specialty in fertility. Katan considers a large family to be the ideal and has served on a committe to encourage secular mothers to have more babies. Her own mother raised eight children and served as a role model for her.
When asked about combining a career with a large family, Katan responds:
“I wouldn’t recommend it. The list of priorities was always clear to me: My family comes before my career. When my daughter expressed an interest in medicine, I suggested that she study nursing and become a nurse. It’s very difficult having such a demanding profession as a woman: The unending duties on Shabbat and on holidays as well, the kindergarten birthday parties I missed.
She mentions that she did not advise any of her children, male or female, to study medicine.
Katan disagrees with the stereotype of an unhealthy, poor mother whose many children don’t get enough attention. According to Katan, studies that show disadvantages among children of large families are based on populations without the resources that Orthodox Jewish families enjoy. [My husband read somewhere that modern Orthodox Jews and fundamentalist Christians are the only educated, socio-economically stable population to raise large families.]
As a fertility specialist, Katan has helped families who struggled to get pregnant with their ninth child. When asked about lack of attention, she responds, “There is extra attention from the older siblings which smaller families lack, and it’s as important.”
For me, spacing of children is more of an issue than the number. Toddlers need their parents (ideally their mothers, if she is the primary caregiver) as much as they did when they were newborns, if not more. Couples who plan to try and conceive before their baby is a year or so need very strong support. Relationships with older siblings are wonderful but babies and toddlers are still the parents’ primary responsibility.
Of course, each family is different and spacing of children is only one factor in the success of a family.
Child Spacing Part 1: When Does Chinuch Begin
Child Spacing Part 2: Fertility and Parenting Styles
How Do Large Families Manage? Meet Tal and Talia, parents to a fictionalized large family.
Thanks to Jameel for sending the link.