More windmills

You all know that I have very low tolerance for institutions (or people for that matter) who discriminate against my family solely because of the number of children we have. I have waged this particular war before, but am happy to report that particular institution is now far more equitable in their membership policies. I take no credit for the change, but I welcome it. It seems there are still Chicago area institutions who do not believe large families should have the same opportunities as smaller families. Here is a copy of the email which I sent yesterday. 


My family is planning on relocating to the western suburbs this summer, and I have been doing research on various places for us to investigate together. We are members of the Chicago Botanic Gardens, and enjoy visiting, so thought I would look at what the Morton Arboretum has to offer, seeing as how we will be too far to enjoy the gardens regularly. Imagine my dismay when I discover that my family is not welcome at your arboretum at all. Well, not welcome if I am not willing to pay either over $100 for one visit or if am I willing to splurge on a membership which would cost me $1500 in order to have my entire family all come at the same time.

We currently have nine children at home, which makes eleven people total if we wish to visit the arboretum as a family. Having this many children to raise means that we need to use our resources wisely, and I'm afraid that an outing that costs over $100 is out of our league much of the time. Because most area museum entrance fees are approximately the same, we usually choose to purchase a year's membership, which allows us to all enjoy the venue and make repeated visits. We belong to not only the Chicago Botanic Gardens, but also the Field Museum, the Lincoln Park Zoo, and the Museum of Science and Industry as well. All of these institutions have generous membership policies which allow us to bring all of our children at the same time when we come. If you are not aware of it, your institution has the single most punitive membership policy in the area that I have ever seen in regards to family size. 

I am sorry that we have more children than you deem acceptable. Based on your current membership options, it would seem that two children is the only acceptable number, but for those who choose to have three or four children, you impose a $35 fine. That fine jumps to $165 above the standard 4-person membership for those people having the gall to have up to six children. For those of us with higher numbers, well our only membership option is the very highest at $1500 per year. I like trees and growing things as much as the next person, but I'm pretty sure we can find trees elsewhere to look at for that price.

None of this actually makes a whole lot of sense to me. Do my seven extra children really use up over a thousand dollars worth of resources? I truly do not think so. I also cannot believe that there are that many large families who are trying to do you out of entry dollars to warrant your punitive policy. Instead, because I will not pay surcharges on my children, nor will I choose some to stay home, we all lose. My children lose the chance to learn from and enjoy your institution. You lose out on any money I would pay to you. This includes not only a reasonable membership fee, but any items purchased at your institution. Believe it or not, sometimes our children get hungry or thirsty and we will purchase them a snack (times 9, mind you), or sometimes we will treat them to something such as a tram ride. None of that income will be coming your way with your membership policy as it is currently structured. You will have missed out on creating a love for your institution in my children. You will actually have missed fulfilling your mission which is to share a love and appreciation of trees and nature. All because you cannot imagine anyone with a larger family wanting to come to your institution. Or is it more pernicious than that? Do you truly believe that larger families should be discouraged, and thus have your pricing structured accordingly. I'm not going to go so far as to believe that, but it is a little bit difficult not to feel that way.

There would be a simple fix for this difficulty. Create a family membership and allow the parents and all their under 18 children to enter, regardless of how many children that family has. Or do you not believe in families, either?

As I was looking for links to embed, look what I found. It seems that this is just an ongoing battle and not a new one. This post is from 2011. It would seem nothing has changed except the size of my little girls.


Anonymous said…
Bravo! Well put! Do keep us posted if the Arboretum changes its policy. Good luck with your move!
Anonymous said…
Perhaps you have a right to complain, but you didn't represent it fairly. Now, I am not associated with the institution nor am I against large families, but you can purchase the $500 membership and get you and your 9 kids in and then pay $5 for J if/when he comes along.
They probably didn't even consider that someone might have 9 kids and instead are thinking of daycare or other large groups. Have some perspective.
thecurryseven said…
Dear Anonymous,

Fair? Let's talk about fair. At the Museum of Science and Industry, I admit to buying a fairly high membership. This gets me free parking with every visit, free admission for my immediate family (no size limit) plus one guest every visit, free coat check, and a free IMAX movie for every person in my family. It's a great deal and we make a lot of use of it. Oh, and let's not forget the five free tickets to the special exhibits. I don't mind paying for the extra admissions in that case. And for all of this? I still pay half of that 'good deal' you mention above and DO NOT have to pay extra for the privilege of having my husband join us. AND MSI makes me a loyal booster for their institution.

Forgive me if I don't share your excitement for such a deal. Essentially, I am still paying a surcharge of over $350 just to be able to visit with my children, and that doesn't even get my husband in. Or, it would get my husband in, but we'd have to leave a child at home if we didn't want to pay a further fine.

And can we discuss the difference between a family and day care for a moment? You do realize that you are implying that my family is actually not that different from a day care... well at least not different enough that an institution cannot tell the difference between the two.

Actually, the Arboretum can distinguish between the two. They do have educational programs for children as young as pre-K. If you take a group of children, sign up for a class, then, once you do the math, the admission is a mere $3.50 per student, assuming a full group of 30 plus 2 chaperones. Before you ask, yes, we have done the school-group-thing when it is monetarily beneficial and someplace we really want to visit. In this case, it's not monetarily beneficial unless I dig up 21 more children to take along with us.

So that leaves us back where we began. From my perspective, the Arboretum (intentionally or unintentionally) views large families as a risk or waste of resources that warrants a punitive fee. If it's simply the case that no one in the Arboretum administration has ever met or imagined a family with more than four children, then I offer them this chance to remedy that oversight.
c smith said…
I have the same grit my teeth frustration over this issue as you do. I used to, reluctantly, feel that institutions have every right to charge for every single person who comes through their doors. Then I realized that's NOT what they're doing. Most places charge the same price for 1, 2, 3, or 4 children and then charge more for the fifth, sixth and so on. In effect they are creating a policy of what is an "acceptable" number of children for a family to have. And to me that is totally UNacceptable.
Donna said…

Have you been to Cantigny Park? That should be in striking distance of where you will be. No membership plan because the only cost is $5 parking fee. The gardens are beautiful and educational, and the many tanks around the grounds make for some good climbing fun. We got there too late for the museum last time but I believe that's free,too. There are tours and tons of kid activities. Enjoy!

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