A culture that values abundance everywhere but in fertility
Having announced a pregnancy or two myself, I’ve witnessed the shifting attitude towards new life firsthand. First though, let me acknowledge my immense privilege, for not to do so would be disingenuous; Dave and I have tremendous family support, a vibrant community of friends who share our values and relate to our grocery budget woes, and a solid parish home where our kids are welcomed and treasured, no matter how loud and numerous they be.
I want so badly for everyone to have that level of support and the kind of thick, reliable community that makes being open to life not only possible, but dare I say enjoyable? To be surrounded, perhaps not at every moment, but at least emotionally and relationally surrounded, by love, acceptance, and solidarity.
That is my big hope for my new venture, Off the Charts. Not that it’ll be the most polished and professional source of information for using NFP (because you have instructors for that), or that it will become wildly popular and successful, but that the women who find their way here will find welcome here, and rest.
Because you are not crazy for opening yourself up to life.
You are not crazy for “making your life harder” or “having more kids than you can reasonably afford” or “failing to plan for college.”
Almost all the things our culture tells us – and believes – about children are rooted in an understanding of persons as either assets or liabilities, examining the size and shape of our families through the lens of a sort of cost/benefit analysis.
That’s how you get comments like “better you than me,” or “ are you saving for college?” and “how do you ever take them all on vacation?” instead of the only appropriate response to the existence of new life: congratulations!
Because we as a culture tend to view persons through this lens of suspicion, and to frame our relationships around terms like cost and inconvenience, many, many people struggle to see other human beings – particularly small ones – as incomparable blessings.
It is strange, though, if you pull back for a minute and examine every other area of life in the 21st century; is there any other area where we don’t applaud abundance and welcome it eagerly?
Health, material acquisitions, money, fitness, real estate, travel experiences, vehicles, clothing, career accomplishments, even pets…in every other area of life, we are encouraged and expected to acquire, to expand, to improve.
Don’t misunderstand where I’m going with this as a foray into providentialism – I’m not a pop ‘em till you drop kind of gal (even though I’m half convinced this current pregnancy is the hardest by far, whew!) I’m just trying to point out how ironic it is that in one of the wealthiest and most privileged cultures in the history of humankind, new humans have suddenly been recast as a dangerous liability and an impediment to happiness.
We value abundance everywhere except in fertility.
We rack up marathon medals, travel conquests, promotions, and even pieces of real estate, but try telling someone you’re expecting kid number 4 and you might be greeted with blank stares, dumbfounded incredulity, and even open hostility on occasion.
It makes little sense.
But you have an inkling of this deeper truth, a truth that much of the world has either forgotten or failed to internalize; you know that life is good. That you are good. That God is delighted by every single human person He has ever created, and ever will create. That becoming a parent is one of the most radical acts of trust and humility and self actualization possible, and it will only cost you everything.
And that no matter what the world says, the life we’ve chosen and the life we’re open to is a life of deep, deep joy. Not absent suffering or sorrow or tremendous sacrifice, but home to an ocean of joy.
I want so much for every couple to experience that depth of joy, which is why I’ve created this unique community to support, encourage, and inspire couples on their NFP journeys with faithful Catholic teaching, solid content, relatable workshops and interviews with guest experts, and most of all, a welcoming environment.
In honor of NFP Awareness Week, I’ve opened up membership for a 24 hour flash sale – we won’t open again until Fall 2019. If you’ve been thinking about joining Off the Charts or sitting on the waitlist, now’s your chance.
You don’t have to hide your messiness, your struggles, or your pain, and you don’t have to bury your joy, either.
You are most welcome here.
For more information or to register click here.
Learn more about Off the Charts here.
A parishioner was shopping with all her kids. A stranger told her in front of the kids how irresponsible it was of her to bring five kids into the world. Her four-year-old spoke up indignantly: “There are six of us. Five of us live with Mom and Dad, and we have a brother in heaven.” The stranger suddenly remembered something she needed in frozen foods and she disappeared quickly.
Take that, Mrs. Buttinsky!
Greetings from England !
It’s a wonderful article and I only wish that you had been around when I had my family.
We have very blessed with 11 children; 5 Sons and 6 daughters. We have been married for 37 years now and don’t have any regrets about being open to life.
God has richly blessed us it has been difficult at times but always he looked after and provided for us.
Our eldest son Dominic was ordained a Deacon for the church recently in Rome and God willing a priest next year.
Wishing you every success and every blessing in your family life and in this new ministry.
Tina Jenkinson xxx
So many consider children to be either an extravagance, or a an avoidable accident by all but the most ignorant and unemancipated women.
Or they says things like, a church run by men has no right to impose on women as though couples were incapable of deciding for themselves whether OR NOT to abide by church teaching. – I have had to point out on more than one occasion that the Parish Priest was never in our bedroom forcing us to conceive the 8 beautiful people who are the next Lessore generation.
And yet when you ask these people who have swallowed these secular tropes who they prefer – their new car every 5 years or their children; their holiday abroad or their children; their evenings at the restaurant or their children; etc. they rightly baulk at the absurdity of the question.
Occasionally you find someone who preferred these material things and left the home (and then got clobbered with child maintenance bills) but usually all of these people would lay down their OWN lives for their children in an instant. Their one or two children are rightly the most cherished part of their lives.
None think that their second child made their first child less loved or less happy – but they incoherently believe that a 3rd child would be a disaster for the first two and for the entire family.
They prefer their future comforts to their future children, when they already know that their existing children outweigh infinitely in importance their existing comforts.
The world just does not make sense.
This is exactly it: “That becoming a parent is one of the most radical acts of trust and humility and self actualization possible, and it will only cost you everything. ”
The question is, who wants to sacrifice, who wants to be generous? A parent. Who wants the chance to love, and love unconditionally and be loved in return? A parent. Who wants to struggle with their own personal weaknesses while at the same time trying to model what it is to love someone? A parent.
The odd question is, if you already are a parent, and you already love being one, why would you limit it? Money? Energy? What? It’s the idea that we have something very limited to give, or that our life is very limiting. I don’t think it is so much that the child is the reason for the limitation. I think it is the person who feel their own limitations. So the cure for that is to be optimistic about your human capacity to care for every new child that your are blessed to have.
I think when you are optimistic about your capacity to parent many children, the other things, the vacations, the material benefits, time to oneself, etc. don’t seem to matter nearly as much as they did before this new child blesses your life. As you watch each child unfold into a unique person, and know that you get to be part of that process, it is really pretty exciting, even when it is difficult.
I think that when people talk about the negatives of having another child, you really can just share the highlights of what it is to be a parent, to show them that there really are other things in life to care about, and that people are perhaps the most important. And children are people. They might turn up their nose at your idea of happiness, but maybe they will really believe you enough to question their own understanding of happiness.
“The odd question is, if you already are a parent, and you already love being one, why would you limit it? Money? Energy? What?”
Optimistic thinking isn’t a cure-all. We have no local support. None. A few weeks ago, I finally was able, courtesy of a random happenstance, to see a doctor for a serious (indeed, if left untreated, potentially life-threatening) condition that’s been an issue for *ten months*. It took that long because I wasn’t able to arrange childcare. I shudder to think what finding childcare for regular high-risk prenatal visits would be like! It’s all well and good to say that God will provide, but bluntly, in my experience, He doesn’t: He expects us to sort these things out ourselves.
Neither energy nor money can be totally ignored, either. I know one family right now who are putting thousands of medical debt on a high-interest credit card while the heavily pregnant mom is working many hours in a physically demanding job to pay what she can off; they’re too well off for assistance, but too poor to afford another baby otherwise. Insofar as energy–if I’m too emotionally drained now to give my kids the attention they deserve, how would adding another baby, with the negative health implications plus the constant care and attention a newborn requires, do anything but reduce the amount of time and attention I can give to my existing children? Don’t misunderstand me: I love my kids, and would even like more, but the practicalities of raising a young family with little help are enough to make even yours truly, who originally wanted eight or nine kids, put the brakes on hard and fast.
PS–I wanted to add for clarity that we do have good friends and better family; we aren’t entirely alone! But family is far away, and friends are (understandably) overwhelmed at the thought of adding three more small people to their own broods of little folk for a morning.
Thanks for writing. I am a Catholic seminarian studying to be a priest. I don’t know what inspired me to write to you, but I have to ask: you said that there could be even “open hostility” to someone announcing, for example, that they are having child #4. Could you shed some more light on this for me? It just seems…wild that someone would be hostile to many children. After all, THEY’RE not the one having the child, amiright??
I guess I am curious as to your opinion as to why do you think the reactions are so visceral? I can understand that sentiment of “it’s not for me” (although I think it IS selfish), and even the “good for you” comments. But hostility? I believe your answer will help me understand better my friends attitudes towards children – I know at least three couples that are close friends who are delaying children to pursue their life at the moment.
Thanks in advance, and God Bless!
Please bear in mind that some of those stares, some of those looks, some of those people who you think are judging you are really thinking – why not me? Why does she get 4 or 5 or 6 or 12 and my doctor says another child is impossible? Maybe she’s thinking, if all my pregnancies survived, that’s what my family would look like…
I think it’s wonderful that God has given you the grace of a large family. But I think it’s a mistake to assume think you know what all these other women you meet really think of you. I bet you’d be really suprised how much of what you see is really pain. Instead of closing yourself off in your own community, maybe try reaching out to them?
Just a thought from a mother of one child and multiple angels…
I’ve just read an article about “inter-species families” (think humans with pet children)which was a link in an article about “pet-friendly” hotels where pets are welcome to sleep on hotel beds and have hotel made food delivered room service style and served on a table.
What has our culture become?
I felt this piece to be so thought provoking and sadly, true. The insight is so accurate and leaves me with much to reflect on. Someone should do a documentary on the topic, including what Jean C has shared.
This is a beautiful article followed by some worthy comments
Articles like these always cause pangs of sadness for me, along with a heart that aches for the children that I never had. I have two kids, (of course) ages 35 and 39. I thought I ‘knew it all’ long ago, and agreed to my husband’s vasectomy.
This is what we all did in those days. Although I had seven siblings, and dozens of cousins, I bought in to the culture’s attitudes and have regretted it tremendously ever since.I have always wondered how many children God had planned for my husband and I.
Thank you for what you are doing to help others enrich their lives by being open to life.
I will pray for it’s success!
My parents had five children – and ALL 13 of their 13 grandchildren came from their last two children!…Neither I (#1) nor #2 were blessed with children, and #3 was tragically killed in an accident….SO: When anyone comments on the 5 children that #4 had, or the 8 children that #5 had, I say “YES!!!…She had 2 for me, 2 for my sister, and 2 for my late brother!!!”. GREAT reply, I think! 🙂