In A Nutshell
In The Large Family: A Blessing and a Challenge, Dr. Eugene F. Diamond presents a defense of large family living from both a professional and a personal perspective. Dr. Diamond has practiced pediatrics for over forty years and he and his wife are the parents of thirteen children. Large families are not common today and thus the joys and benefits of living in a large family are less known. In addition, as our culture has adapted itself to smaller families, there are increasing social and financial pressures on young couples to limit their family size. Yet the Catechism of the Catholic Church encourages couples to look beyond these social and economic difficulties: "human life and the duty of transmitting it are not limited by the horizons of this life only: their true evaluation and full significance can be understood only in reference to man's eternal destiny" (CCC, 2371). The Large Family: A Blessing and a Challenge discredits common misconceptions about living in a larger family and underlines some of the forgotten benefits. This informative book provides a strong motivation to families and leaders in society to rethink their notions of the ideal family size.
The Large Family: A Blessing and a Challenge opens with an introduction that answers the question: Why does a married couple have a large family? Diamond says that the ultimate answer is "for the greater glory of God." The introduction continues with an analysis of some of the more immediate considerations couples face when choosing a larger family.
The first chapter of this book, "The Mother of a Large Family," details the many characteristics a mother of many children often displays. This is a beautiful portrait of motherhood and a great compliment to all mothers.
The second chapter considers the father of a large family and the unique characteristics he displays. This is an insightful and beautiful account of fatherhood. These first two chapters alone make this book well worth reading.
Chapter 3 looks at the art of child rearing and the day-in, day-out dynamics of a larger family that teach its members to revere and honor every person and to better appreciate the gift of life.
Chapter 4 considers some of the qualities exhibited by larger families and the vices that are avoided by having many children. It also warns against certain tendencies in larger families that may have negative effects, especially upon the youngest children.
Chapter 5 treats the "preservation of the large family" and presents an historical overview of American attitudes towards larger families as well as the recent decay of strong and happy family life in America.
The last several chapters in this book consider such things as the inviolable right to choose a larger family, the economics of the large family, the adolescent in the large family, the preservation of individuality, the priorities of the large family, and society's preoccupation with overpopulation. These chapters are more scientific than personal in their outlook and present a clear and reasoned account that the large family is a good to be valued by larger society.
The book closes by returning to a more personal perspective. In the epilogue, Dr. Diamond looks back at having raised his thirteen children through the school and graduate school years and makes some remarkable observations. First, that the hardest part of it all was not economic hardship as some may suppose, but the hardship of watching his children struggle to find their places in adult life and fearing their disappointments. Second, as the children are grown and grandchildren increase in number, Diamond's life and that of his wife are enriched exponentially. Diamond writes, "The metamorphoses of a large family into a circle of friendship composed of adults with a common history is unquestionably one of the most rewarding by-products of the culture of a large family" (pg. 164).
The Large Family: A Blessing and a Challenge is a fine combination of warmth and objectivity. The family that has long ago decided to rear a large family and picks up this book for encouragement may be disappointed after the first two chapters, however, as Diamond's primary audience is the young couple or leader in society that has no experience of larger families. Despite this, there is much in this work to encourage young couples that have already chosen a larger family. Diamond's insights and observations are invaluable. Furthermore, Diamond does not so much preach about the larger family as he presents a defense of it and its contribution to larger society. He does not make an issue of faith, but considers the societal benefits of larger families as well as smaller families.
I recommend this book to anyone in a leadership position within society and within the Church. This is no feel-good, sentimentally charged work. Rather, it is an informative book that fills a great need: that of educating society to be more accepting of larger families.