Do we live in an anti-child society?

7 Nov

There is a lot out there to suggest we live in a society that is hostile to children. Child-free restaurants and flights. Travel companies for people who want to vacation to places where there are no children. All the Duggar hating. And, certainly worst of all, over the last 40 years millions of children have been conceived, have lived for a few weeks or months in the comfort of the womb, and have then been killed at the hands of those who are meant to protect them above all else–their mommas, their often scared, desperate, hopeless mommas.

With all that anecdotal evidence, you’d be justified in sensing an air of hostility toward the littlest among us. However, over the past few months, I’ve had strangers engage me in ways that would suggest the contrary.

Back in September when Charles, Natalie, and I were traveling home from North Carolina, an older man in a nice blazer struck up a conversation while we were waiting to board. After I told him Natalie was 6 months old, he said, “Well, it’s about time for another one, right?” I was not ready for another one at that point, so I took his comment as a joke. But then in all seriousness, this stranger told me that the single biggest regret in his life is that he only had two children. His wife had wanted more, but he was too worried about finances to grow their family. “Turns out, we could have raised and educated ten kids!” he told me. “Have another one.”

And just a few days ago, as I was packing Natalie into her car seat after a jog along the greenway, another older gentleman parked and got out of his car to take a walk. “Looks like you’ll have the place to yourself!” I said as I finished tightening up Natalie’s straps. We chit-chatted a bit, and over the course of a few minutes he told me about his two children and four sweet grandchildren. “The sleep you’re losing now is more than made up for in joy for the rest of your life. Children are the greatest gift anyone could be given.” I thanked him for his encouragement as he tuned to hit the trail. “Don’t stop now! Have some more!” he called out, as we parted ways.

_____________________________________

Children are noisy. They have sticky hands. They’ll embarrass you in the grocery store. You’ll never go out to a nice dinner again. You’ll never get to be spontaneous. They’re just too much work.

These are the messages that are often pushed on us. This is why there are so many shrill voices out there demanding tax payer-provided birth control. This is why 3,000 abortions are carried out every day. But it’s not the whole story.
Of course children are a huge commitment and parenting takes everything you’ve got to give. But these two strangers, along with the people in my life who have heroically chosen to be open to children no matter the cost, remind me that it is all worth it. We are called, like Christ, to carry our cross and to die for the good of others. In sacrificing for our spouse and children, we are able to break free from the hell of selfishness and to embrace a life of love.

John 12:24 -

Amen, amen, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains just a grain of wheat; but if it dies, it produces much fruit.

20121109-111444.jpg

She is so worth it.

Love,

Erica
__________

Edit: After re-reading this post and reader Annie’s comment below, I find it necessary to acknowledge the fact that there are some pregnant women who are truly destitute and absolutely cannot afford to raise the child they are carrying. It is certainly not enough to tell those women, “Oh, you’ll get through it! Don’t worry!” That’s exactly what we are told not to do in James 2:15-16. We are our brother’s keeper, and we must help the poor and needy. I am all for charities that help women in crisis pregnancies and for passing laws that better protect pregnant women’s rights to employment. However, nothing justifies taking innocent life, no matter how dire a pregnant mother’s circumstances. My point here was mainly to encourage anyone who hears the message of “Children require too much of us” and to counter it with the encouragement I’ve received lately–the message of “Children do require much of us, but they are worth all of it.”

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9 Responses to “Do we live in an anti-child society?”

  1. Annie November 9, 2012 at 12:20 pm #

    “Children are noisy. They have sticky hands. They’ll embarrass you in the grocery store. You’ll never go out to a nice dinner again. You’ll never get to be spontaneous. They’re just too much work.

    These are the messages that are often pushed on us. This is why there are so many shrill voices out their demanding tax payer-provided birth control. This is why 3,000 abortions are carried out every day.”

    This is one of the most ignorant, offensive statements I’ve read in a long time. It is simply naive to suggest that most women get abortions because they fear not being able to go out to a nice dinner or don’t want to be embarrassed in the grocery store. Has this author had an open conversation with a woman who’s had an abortion? How about the millions of women who can’t afford prenatal care or afford to take the time off that prenatal care and giving birth requires–and potentially lose their jobs in the process? These are the same women who can’t afford birth control and frequently don’t have access to sex education. Regardless of whether you think abortions are wrong in all cases or not, at least have the decency to educate yourself about why abortions are performed. Most women who have an abortion go on to have children later in life, so this idea that women are having abortions because they think children are icky is just so incredibly ignorant. And I’m not going to even get started on the completely inaccurate idea that this is the reason people want birth control. This is amazingly naive.

    Now I’ll try to move past that statement and address the actual premise of the article. Not so long ago, women were told we are worthless if we don’t have children. In college, AT VANDERBILT, I had a male peer tell me that women who don’t raise children serve no purpose. Think on that one for a minute. I wonder if he would have repeated that to a woman who can’t conceive (and, as far as I know, I may be a woman who can’t conceive.) Being a modern woman means believing that whether you have children or not, you have the freedom to choose the life you want and find value in that regardless. We’re not a society that’s becoming hostile to children. We’re a society that’s beginning to recognize that having children is not the right choice for everyone, and respecting those who choose not to.

    • ericapage November 9, 2012 at 12:48 pm #

      Hi Annie-

      Thank you for taking the time to read and respond to my blog.

      I very much agree with some of your ideas, and I’m shocked that one of our Vanderbilt peers suggested a woman’s worth is somehow tied to anything other than her innate dignity as a member of the human community. That is also why I speak up for the unborn. They, too, deserve to be treated with dignity, and to not have their lives taken from them.

      And yes, I have had conversations with women who have had abortions. One in particular was so riddled with guilt and regret–for decades–that it wasn’t until she sought healing and counseling at a Rachel’s Vineyard retreat that she was finally able to forgive herself and fully live her life. She is definitely not the only one.

      To address your initial objections that it’s ludicrous to think that the reason a woman might have an abortion is because she’s be unable to go out to dinner as often– that wasn’t the point I intended to make. I was trying to express that it’s the message that we’re often confronted with–that children require too much of our time, money, and lives–that often pushes mothers to abort their children. I recognize that children are a tremendous responsibility, but that those who have lived through the struggle of raising children have expressed to me that it is worth it.

      Finally, I absolutely agree that there need to be more services that help women who cannot afford to care for the children they find themselves pregnant with. That’s why I donate money and supplies to crisis pregnancy centers.

      • Laura November 9, 2012 at 8:41 pm #

        Hi Annie,

        I’m Erica’s mother-in-law, and I think I recognize myself as the one whom she referenced as having lived for decades with the guilt of a collegiate abortion decision. Yes, I went on to have two children several years later, one of whom was blessed to marry her!

        As a new mom, Erica donates money and supplies. I do likewise, and also volunteer my time. If there were crisis pregnancy centers where I lived in 1978, I had never heard of such places; all I knew of was Planned Parenthood. I now serve as a counselor for pregnant women and lead a support group/Bible study for post-abortive women. Our hope is to start a similar group soon for post-abortive men. I don’t do this out of guilt–that’s long gone–but to make sure that, at least in my little corner of the world, other young girls don’t feel as bereft of options as I did.

        You’re right, this isn’t the forum for debating the morality or social validity of abortion, but since you refer to the reasons that women (men are legally excluded) make this decision, I went to the Guttmacher Institute’s website (Planned Parenthood’s research arm) for info, and the abstract below was the first hit, dated 2005. The website is provided at the bottom for your convenience.

        “Reasons U.S. Women Have Abortions: Quantitative and Qualitative Perspectives
        By Lawrence B. Finer, Lori F. Frohwirth, Lindsay A. Dauphinee, Susheela Singh and Ann M. Moore

        CONTEXT: Understanding women’s reasons for having abortions can inform public debate and policy regarding abortion and unwanted pregnancy. Demographic changes over the last two decades highlight the need for a reassessment of why women decide to have abortions.

        METHODS: In 2004, a structured survey was completed by 1,209 abortion patients at 11 large providers, and in-depth interviews were conducted with 38 women at four sites. Bivariate analyses examined differences in the reasons for abortion across subgroups, and multivariate logistic regression models assessed associations between respondent characteristics and reported reasons.

        RESULTS: The reasons most frequently cited were that having a child would interfere with a woman’s education, work or ability to care for dependents (74%); that she could not afford a baby now (73%); and that she did not want to be a single mother or was having relationship problems (48%). Nearly four in 10 women said they had completed their childbearing, and almost one-third were not ready to have a child. Fewer than 1% said their parents’ or partners’ desire for them to have an abortion was the most important reason. Younger women often reported that they were unprepared for the transition to motherhood, while older women regularly cited their responsibility to dependents.

        CONCLUSIONS: The decision to have an abortion is typically motivated by multiple, diverse and interrelated reasons. The themes of responsibility to others and resource limitations, such as financial constraints and lack of partner support, recurred throughout the study.”
        http://www.guttmacher.org/pubs/journals/3711005.html

        Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health, 2005, 37(3):110–118

    • ericapage November 9, 2012 at 3:09 pm #

      Annie- I’ve added an update at the bottom of my post to hopefully clarify my message. Thank you for encouraging me to re-think how I came across in parts of this post.

      • Annie November 9, 2012 at 3:25 pm #

        Thank you so much for your clarifications, they do a lot to advance your message. I support much of what you said initially, but the implication in the quoted text (which comes across as frivolous) can be really offensive to women who have been in really desolate situations when they chose an abortion.

        I disagree with your stance on abortion (and I don’t think this is the appropriate place for that discussion!), but I applaud you for your work with agencies who provide services to pregnant women. I think the best thing we can do to decrease the number of abortions is to provide access to sexual education and birth control, and to provide services for women who are pregnant to allow them to carry a baby to term if they choose to do so. Unfortunately, most women who get abortions are lower or middle class, and raising a child (or even carrying a baby to term) isn’t a question of personal freedoms so much as it is a question of economic ability. Again, I appreciate you adding something to acknowledge this!

        And I hope to be a woman with a career who’s also lucky enough to have kids one day. I’m always glad to hear the message that it’s worth it.

  2. Titus November 9, 2012 at 6:28 pm #

    Erica, I am inclined to say that your anecdotes demonstrate that there are ordinary, sane people in the world, not that our culture isn’t irretrievably corrupted. I’m sure there were nice people in third- and fourth-century Rome, too. The evidence of that is all around us: on the street, on the television, in the Federal Register, and in blog comments.

    The most our children can hope for is good and decent parents.

    • ericapage November 9, 2012 at 6:41 pm #

      Titus-

      Thank you for taking the time to read and comment.

      Let us be those sane, ordinary people and always exercise our freedom to chose the good.

  3. Stacy November 12, 2012 at 2:16 pm #

    So heart warming :).

  4. Leanne@ Life Happens When November 12, 2012 at 8:59 pm #

    I personally think this was absolutely beautiful! Children are messy and a LOT of work, but so incredibly worth it. They are the best thing I’ve EVER done!! Beautiful!

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