I want to clarify that the points I made in my last post were not meant to be an argument for not having big families. I just think that a lot more women would choose that option if we honestly addressed the fact that it’s more difficult without a support system. Once the issue is out on the table it can begin to be addressed. Right now most women I know feel like they’re having a much more difficult time raising kids than they should and have no idea why. They just blame themselves and get despondent and start thinking about going back to work. I felt that way for a while (except for the going back to work part), but once I realized what the problem was I got positive and proactive about it and got a good support system in place, and it made all the difference in the world. I just wanted to share that with other women in case it helps.
I agree wholeheartedly with Jennifer that openness to life is of dire importance demographically as well as morally (my dad is living in a Muslim country right now and every time he sends me email stories of life and culture there I think, “Oh, man, we’re screwed.”) My thinking is that we should try to figure out why women (even most Catholic women) are so opposed to having big families these days, address the issues openly, and come up with solutions.
My take is not, “It’s hard to be solely responsible for young children without help so therefore you should try not to have too many young children around at once.” The way I see it is, “Children are a blessing, new life is always a blessing. If you don’t feel that way it may be because you’re having a hard time being solely responsible for young children without help, so let’s sit down and try to figure out how you can hook up a support system.”
But while I enjoy brainstorming about the challenges of modern life with a big family (especially since I’ve never seen a big family in action so, personally, I’ll need all the tips I can get), it’s not worth it if I’m taking part in perpetuating the idea that having a lot of children is “just too hard”. We must keep the big picture in mind. As usual, Jennifer says it best:
Life is fragile. Life is transitory. And it is sacred. You do not control it–the Lord does. The womb, throughout scripture, is referenced as the conduit for grace, the most likely interface between God and the world. All of his prophets and saints have been sent through the womb. Even to women, I imagine that sometimes, felt less than up to the task and perhaps even a little tired–he saw fit to send his only son through the womb of a humble and willing woman, terrified and weak, with no protection accept the good grace of a working man named Joseph who, could have understandably and morally acceptably broke their engagement with her quietly. He did not.
Is it acceptable to use our knowledge of the human body to respect the conduit through which God interfaces with the world? Yes. Is it understandable? Absolutely. Is it ideal?—no it is not. We accept that we are all not made in the image of Joseph and Mary and that we struggle and fear and find very real limits to our capacity to give of ourselves. We cannot fault others for being human and having limits. Hey, sometimes the thought of another 9 months of physical discomfort and the responsibility of that life is just too much to handle and no one should blame a person for knowing their limits and acknowledging them frankly.
But don’t look at limits and call them virtues.
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