Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Enjoy the (Really) Big Family While You Can; with about 70 Children and Grandchildren, Naomi Watson's a Rarity

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Enjoy the (Really) Big Family While You Can; with about 70 Children and Grandchildren, Naomi Watson's a Rarity

Article excerpt

Byline: DEIRDRE CONNER

With nine children and more than 60 grandchildren and great-grandchildren, Naomi Watson never has to worry about spending a holiday alone.

Like many other mega-size families, they get together every year - especially during the holidays - for a reunion so big that it takes a church gymnasium to house them all. That doesn't mean that Watson loses track: At 87, the Jacksonville woman still remembers each birthday with a card or some token, keeping tabs on everyone with a calendar that's full of names and birth dates carefully penciled in over the years.

She needs a new one.

"Three of my granddaughters are currently expecting," she explained.

But the huge family holiday, at least on a Watson-size scale, is almost certain to become a thing of the past.

Chances are, Watson's grandchildren won't need to worry about their extended family outgrowing their house. Even if they outpace the average number of children - now two - their Christmases will involve perhaps just five or six grandchildren, and eight great-grandchildren.

So for those scrambling for an extra chair or perhaps an extra table: Take it all in while you can, because it's growing rarer by the day.

Just 30 years ago, having a brood of nine was unusual, but hardly extraordinary. In the mid-1970s, Watson had plenty of company: More than 20 percent of women had five or more children, making them as common as women with two children, according to figures from the U.S. Census Bureau.

By the late 1990s though, childbearing habits had changed dramatically. The number of people raising five or more children had dropped, making up just 3.5 percent of women in their early 40s. Birth control became more widely available, social norms changed and the expense of having more children grew.

Cars became a necessity, and most don't have room for more than three children. …

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