Archive for March 17th, 2009

Recently, in response to viewer requests, food shows on Japanese TV ,cut down the size of the meals they showed being prepared. Previously they used to prepare meals for four; now they prepare meals for two since that is closer to the size of most Japanese households. More and more Japanese are opting to marry later and later, if at all,and the women are reluctant to have children. As a result, the Japanese population has fallen for the third year in a row since 2005 as the average number of children per family has fallen to a low of 1.34.

The tendency to have smaller families is not new and is continuation of a century long trend. I’m sure all of us have seen sepia toned family photographs showing a proud patrariarch and his mate surrounded by their brood . Six , seven or more children in a family were not uncommon then; today, the norm is two or even one.

A good illustration of this trend is my wife’s family. My father-in-law ( born 1910) was one of eight children, 6 boys and 2 girls.  He himself had 5 children , 4 girls and 1 boy. All of them have exactly 2 children each. Some have two boys, others a boy and a girl but none of them had more than two children. Their children, those who are married, have either two kids or one . If I were to draw a graph showing the number of children by generation, it would look like a straight line sloping down steeply to the right.

This trend is easily verifiable if one looks at one’s friends and neighbors and their families. All our friends and neighbors,except 2 out of maybe 50 or 60, have two children or fewer. In the case of those two, one couple had a set of twins  after they already had one child ; the other couple tried for a boy after they’d had two girls. ( No, they got another girl). Perhaps in rural areas, families are larger but I’m sure they’re still smaller than they were a generation ago. All of us are only too aware of what it takes to bring up children. With that in mind, responsible parents limit the size of their families. and provide for them properly, espescially for their education. On the global stage , it is a good idea as the world gets ever more crowded. I read recently that the world population has just passed the 7 billion mark.

Which is why the story of that California woman giving birth to octuplets was so distasteful. It’s not as if she was an unfulfilled mother; she already had 6 children all through artificial insemination. As an unemployed grad student, it is impossible for her to provide for her family. What was she thinking ? What was the doctor who assisted in the in vitro process thinking ? It was the height of irresponsibility and I hope it results in the suspension of his license.

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