The Daily Signal

‘My Family Is Not the Product of Ignorance’: Harvard Grad and Mom of 8 Takes on French President

Part of Catherine Ruth Pakaluk’s family after Harvard’s commencement in 2010. Left to right: Lizzie (4), Nick (8), Joe (10), Blaise (6 months), Mark (2), Greg (6). Since the photo was taken, Pakaluk has had two more children, Valerie and Finnan, with her husband Michael. (Photo courtesy: Catherine Ruth Pakaluk)

The president of France shouldn’t speak for women—and certainly not on how many children they decide to have.

French President Emmanuel Macron recently said, “I always say: ‘Present me the woman who decided, being perfectly educated, to have seven, eight, or nine children.”

“Please present me with the young girl who decided to leave school at 10 in order to be married at 12,” he added during his remarks at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation’s “Goalkeepers” event, which was held last month in New York.

Of course, most women agree with Macron on child brides.

But it’s insulting to moms of large families to imply a big family is akin to marrying off children.

I spoke to one such woman, Catherine Ruth Pakaluk, an assistant professor of social research and economic thought at the Catholic University of America, who has eight children—and no regrets about that.

“When I saw [Macron’s] quotation, my first thought was, ‘Hey, wait a second, I exist, and I know lots of people like me that exist,’” Pakaluk, who received her bachelor’s degree at the University of Pennsylvania and her doctorate at Harvard University, told The Daily Signal in an interview.

She added that she thought plenty of moms of large families would share the reaction to Macron of thinking that, “Hey, wait, I exist, and my family is not the product of ignorance.”

Pakaluk also started a hashtag: #PostcardsforMacron, to showcase the big families some educated women choose to have.

“I thought let’s keep this simple and friendly—I am not interested in picking a fight with the president of France,” she said.

Pakaluk tweeted out a photo with some of her children, using the hashtag—and as it turns out, other women agree with her.

Macron’s stance that well-educated women choose not to have large families touched on a sore spot with some women, like Pakaluk.

“I know for myself how many times I get these offhand comments, ‘Oh, don’t you know where babies come from?’ or ‘Oh, what happened to you guys?’” she said, adding, “I think my choice deserves respect.”

Pakaluk, whose husband Michael is a professor of ethics and social philosophy, also at the Catholic University of America, said her response was “to seize the opportunity … to highlight … a group of people that are invisible currently and don’t need to be and are beautiful and interesting.”

The widespread response to #PostcardsforMacron show that women who have large families want to be heard and appreciated, not dismissed.

While women who pursue their education and go on to have large families are definitely admirable, there is a larger, all-encompassing discussion to be had to address the stigma perpetrated on women who choose to have more than several kids.

“It really isn’t about these high numbers and impressive degrees,” says Pakaluk. “It’s about pushing back on something instinctive in the progressive mind which doesn’t see that this behavior of choosing a large family can be an intentional choice for many, many reasons.”

And as the widespread response to her hashtag shows, she’s far from the only one who thinks that way.