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Laura Perrins: A big family is not a luxury. It just requires some sacrifices


Eleanor Mills is cross. She is cross that The Duchess of Cambridge, who she refers to as a ‘classy brood mare’, is thinking of having a third child. Three of them – I think I need to sit down. It is an outrage, it is shocking that in this day and age a woman would think of having not just one, not just two, but three children and all before the age of 35. I need to sit down, oh no, hang on I need to sit down because I myself am expecting my third child before the age of 35. I know I am a selfish b….

In Ms Mills’s delightful piece in The Sunday Times, no one is spared, apart from the ‘working mothers’. Full-time mothers get the usual smack you expect from her – I have written before about how she treats them. Currently, Ms Mills is racing ahead in our award for motherist of the year (more on that to follow).

It seems, according to Ms Mills, only the very rich, or the very poor, can afford a large family – three now counts as large. We are told that often a third child will not only break a career, but also your marriage. Cheery.

The Duchess of Cambridge is a: ‘glutton for punishment’. Ms Mills doubts that “she will feel so enthusiastic about the prospect of No 3 once she is struggling to juggle two under-twos”. But she dismisses the struggle, as the Duchess of Cambridge will have ‘oodles of help’. So those three kids, please God, just don’t count.

In fact, Ms Mills enviously says: “In the upper echelons of our society there is no greater wealth signifier than a clan of at least four privately educated, Petit Bateau-clad offspring being ferried in a monstrous 4×4 by a non-working mother.” She is a working mother, Ms Mills, she works at home – do we need to speak about this again?

So here it is: fecundophobia, front and centre in a main Sunday national newspaper. Ms Mills looks back on her babyhood days as ‘manic’ and how a friend recalls her being ‘broken’. Be afraid middle-class career woman- your own children will ruin you.

Ms Mills tells us: “The impossibility of simultaneously fulfilling both children’s needs as they reproachfully wailed in stereo is not my happiest memory of motherhood.” I have been there – and it is tough, but pre-school years are tough. No one ever said it would be easy, I think we are all just less prepared for it now.

And I am sure your children’s needs were very well fulfilled. Just because the kids had to share you, does not mean they were not very happy to be with you, even if it was a struggle at times.

Fecundophobia and outright envy is dripping in the middle classes, according to Ms Mills. “Popping out lots of sprogs in quick succession is an indicator of cash not being an issue,” she tell us. Note the derogatory term sprogs.

She adds: “I have discussed this with friends who have sighed and said although they occasionally hanker after a third, they couldn’t afford a bigger house, or university fees, or the kind of life they would like to give their children if they had more of them.” Well, that is a matter for them and you Ms Mills, but it is no reason to cast aspirations on those who do have more than two children and make financial sacrifices to do so.

Not all middle-class families with more than two children go for the bigger house – the kids just bunk up. Many will not plan on paying the university fees – the kids can take out a loan like everyone else and pay for it themselves as they will be adults by then.

They probably do not take foreign holidays and of course private school is absolutely out of the question save for a very generous scholarship. We don’t have monstrous 4x4s, and we do not get the clothes in Petit Bateau. You may not know any of these women Ms Mills because you are too busy slagging them off in your column, but they are out there.

Ms Mills tells us that life for the double income family is tough: “As those of us doing the double shift — working and being parents — know, it is not easy.” I am sure it is not, which is one of the reasons that for now, I like being a full-time mother. Less stress and more time to care, educate and spend time with my children and husband.

But there is less cash. This is what is called ordering your life according to your what you value.

This does not mean we should be lifted up on high, but it is not the ‘ultimate life of luxury’ either. It is just life.

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