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THOSE HAPPY DAYS OF SEVEN IN A RENAULT 5

The census results from 2011 throw up some fascinating statistics about families in modern-day Ireland. I was interested in the fall in family sizes, which has been on the decrease for decades.

It was not unusual for my parents' generation to have had seven or eight siblings, with many families hitting double figures, whereas my peers rarely produce more then four children. Of all the families I know, and of all my friends who have had kids, I can think of only two couples with more than four children. One of these had five boys before their little girl arrived.



WORKLOAD

The other couple I know with five children only set out to have four. It was quite a shock when they learned their fourth pregnancy was twins. Most people worry about multiple births when they conceive, fearing double -- or triple -- the workload, so jumping from three to five kids must have been seriously hard work.

Of course larger families are less common for a number of reasons, not least society's move away from the Catholic Church's teachings on birth control. Nowadays most of us plan how many children we'd like.

In 1991, the average number of children per family was 2.0. This slowly fell to 1.4 in 2006 where it has stayed ever since. Cohabiting couples with children had an average of 1.74 children, while the figure for married couples was 2.09.

With my three children I'm a typical example of the married couple statistic, and the majority of my married friends also have two or three children.

I'd be willing to guess that logistics are a lot to do with decreasing family sizes.

We may have more money than ever before (bar the Celtic Tiger years), but so many of us claim we couldn't afford to have any more children.

Research has shown that the more kids you have the less they cost you (what with hand-me-downs, food, shared activities etc) but that's hardly an argument for producing additional offspring.



LOTTERY

A recent study calculated it costs €246,000 to take a child from birth to the end of their third-level education. I don't know about you, but that figure scares the hell out of me. Times it by three and we'd better all be praying we win the lottery.

And there's more to the issue than cold, hard cash. What about the logistics of fitting everyone into a car? Car-seat legislation meant the end of squeezing more than three across the back seat (my husband fondly recalls childhood trips to Galway where five kids and two dogs were squeezed into a Renault 5), so you can add a seven-seater MPV to the shopping list as well.

And what of the sleeping arrangements for expanding families? My three-bed semi-d is feeling awfully small these days, especially with the kids' stuff taking over every room in the house. There's no way we could fit another child in our home without going mad. Luckily I only ever wanted three children, so I'm not complaining. By census standards, we qualify as an average family, but, for once, being average feels just great.