Is 4 the magic number?
There is a clear trend towards having more children, so Anna Coogan asks if four makes the ideal family
Is four children the new magic number for modern families?
Victoria Beckham seems to think so and, in spite of reports of morning sickness and a pregnancy craving for marmalade, is said to be thrilled to be expecting her fourth child. It has been speculated that this is Victoria and her footballer husband David’s last-ditch attempt to have a daughter. And with three boys already — Brooklyn (11), Romeo (8) and Cruz (5) — why wouldn’t the couple be keen to add a daughter to their brood, even if they haven’t publically admitted to any such hope?
Having a fourth child, even if you are a celebrity, may seem mad and a challenge too far for many people. Yet a bigger family, and a trend for having more than two children, is increasingly the choice of many parents.
Other celebrities who reflect the larger families we are seeing include supermodel Heidi Klum. She has one daughter, Leni (6), with her former boyfriend and Formula One boss Flavio Briatore and sons, Henry (5) and Johan Riley (4), and daughter Lou Sulola (15 months) with her husband and musician Seal. The daily struggle of raising four children makes such a large family not for the faint-hearted.
Moya O’Brien is a clinical psychologist with more than 20 years’ experience specialising in children and family. “How many children you have is a personal choice; a family is like a mobile hanging over a child’s cot, and when a person is added, or a person is taken away, it takes a while for the family to balance out again.”
There are many examples of Irish celebrity mums-of-four who are succeeding in mixing demanding motherhood with their professional careers of choice.
RTE broadcaster Mary Kennedy juggles a busy media career along with being mum to her four grown-up children, Eva (26), Tom (23), Eoin (20) and Lucy (18). Her TV colleague and All Ireland Talent Show judge Blathnaid Ni Chofaigh is also a mumof-four, as is rock-star’s wife and designer Ali Hewson, who always makes motherhood look effortless.
In spite of all the extra work involved, the modern family appears to be in the process of changing from the neat package of a boy and a girl into a more organic, and some might say oldfashioned, model of a bigger brood.
It could be argued that it’s easier for well-off folk, such as Jools Oliver, the wife of celebrity chef Jamie, who welcomed her fourth child and first son, Buddy Bear, last September.
Psychologist Moya O’Brien admits she is surprised by the re-emerging trend for larger families, yet not because of the financial demands that four children might place on parents.
“If a couple feels they can accommodate four children, finances are not the issue. Meeting the emotional demands of four children is hard work.
“Each child is different: one might need support in how they structure their life and getting from one activity to another, and another might need support in how they interact with their peers.
“An advantage of there being four children is that children are exposed to lots of different interests because of the activities their siblings are involved in,” she says. “There is more sibling rivalry in the house, not to mention much more noise!
“If a growing trend for more children is there, more parents must feel up to this challenge,” adds Moya. However, deciding to have a large family, even if you are a celebrity, may raise some eyebrows among those who have chosen to have smaller families.
The veteran psychologist says: “If a couple is 100pc confident that four children is for them, then other peoples’ responses are irrelevant.”