What makes it so hard

May 15, 2006 | Birth Control, Motherhood | 101 comments

Thank you all for the great comments to my posts on contraception (here and here and here). I appreciate everyone’s honesty. This is especially relevant for me right now since I’m about to face family planning decisions for the first time in my life after my second baby gets here in July.

A lot of issues regarding contraception, NFP and large families have been brought up (for those of you who haven’t been keeping up with the discussion I encourage you to scan through the comments — great stuff). But the one that’s most interesting to me is the issue of the difficulty of raising children.

There’s a huge, HUGE problem in the world right now that is wreaking havoc on societies (particularly America) that isn’t given the credit it’s due: the breakdown of communities due to the mobilization of society. The 180-degree change in day to day life that’s happened since post-WWII advances in communication, economics and technology have made it commonplace for families to bounce around from place to place, often making moves of thousands of miles or more.

A book or two could be written about all the devastating effects it’s had on people, but let’s think for a moment just about how it affects women:

Pretty much all of our ancestors who lived before 60 years ago lived in the same geographically small communities their whole lives, as did their immediate and extended families. Your next door neighbor was your sister, your parents lived down the street, and cousins, nieces and nephews were constantly in and out of your house. Even your neighbors who weren’t relatives were people you’d known your whole life.

As a woman, having daily help was a given. Younger sisters, nieces and other mothers were constantly around. All throughout the day you had little breaks where you could take your eyes off the kids for a minute since there were trusted relatives or friends around to watch them.

Contrast that to today:

We mothers have no breaks. I liken being a stay-at-home mother today to being an air traffic control operator who works 12 hours a day, seven days a week, while being on call all night. You have NO mental break. Ten minutes to grab a quick shower? Not with a toddler in the house. Just take him into the bathroom with you? Fine, but be prepared to spend 15 minutes cleaning up after a wet toilet paper party. Having a bad day and need five minutes to collect yourself over a cup of coffee? Out of the question. And for those of us whose children don’t sleep well, don’t forget to throw chronic, often debilitating exhaustion into the mix. The theory of sleeping when the baby sleeps is nice, but nap time is your only time to pay bills, return phone calls and emails and have a moment to yourself.

To not even be able to turn your back long enough to brush your teeth, to not have a moment to yourself after hours and hours of being around a toddler who’s going through a “testing limits” phase, all while functioning on much less sleep than your body requires, is an incredibly stressful way to live. Throw in the needs of a new baby on top of that and it becomes borderline impossible. God designed us to live in close-knit communities and family groups; the modern situation of being on your own personal desert island, by yourself in a house all day where you are the sole person available to provide for your children’s safety, nutrition and entertainment, is totally unnatural. It tests the limits of psychological endurance.

On a personal note, I had this theory before I had children and have only found it to be more and more true the longer I am a mother. In fact, when my son was six months old I convinced my mother to sell her house (in a different city) and move to my town so that we could move in with her (I also wanted to save money since we were starting a business, but the main motivation was getting a support system in place for myself). Since my mom does have a job I used the money we save from living here to have a babysitter come a few hours a week to give me time to pay bills, plan dinner menus, go to midwife appointments, etc.

Sound luxurious? It is compared to the lives of most mothers today, yet it’s really just the historically “normal” way to live. And I have to say, the difference is night and day. It’s like a different life. I still find being a mother difficult, but it’s more of a healthy challenge than the “I think I would DIE if I had another child right now!” type of feeling I used to have when I was by myself all day, every day.

To drag poor ‘ol Steve G. into this and use the example he gave: If his wife lived in a traditional setting with sisters nearby and a bunch of little nieces and cousins in and out of the house all the time, arguing over who gets to hold the baby next and playing with his sons, I doubt she’d be “terrified” by the prospect of another baby right now. Yes, it would be something to try to avoid, but it wouldn’t feel like the end of the world if it did accidentally happen as it (rightfully so) probably would now.

I think this is part of the disconnect between people who are not/not yet parents and those who are. I can see how it seems like, “C’mon, it can’t be THAT hard to have kids, it’s what God designed us to do and what people have been doing for tens of thousands of years.” Or why so many mothers get depressed about their situation, feeling like “Why is it that women all throughout human history have been able to do this and be happy but somehow *I* can’t?! What’s wrong with me?”

The missing link here is that women have, up until very recently, never had to do it alone. And that makes all the difference in the world.

And I think this situation makes the case for NFP and openness to big families an uphill battle. Today’s mother of six is taking on a much, much greater challenge than the mother of six who lived 150 years ago. I’m not exactly sure what the solution is, but I think that addressing this issue is key to having a society that’s open to new life.

101 Comments

  1. SteveG

    OH JENNIFER! Thank You!

    This is the part of the discussion that we simply never got to in that last go round (there was so much else going back and forth).

    All day, I’ve been pondering making a comment on this very topic. I am glad you did so instead. 1) Because you are a mother and thus have more credibility on this and 2) because as usual you’ve done it far better than I could have hoped to do.

    I agree with your post 100%. This is exactly what’s going on with us, and I’d venture to say that we don’t even have it as bad as some folks.

    In addition, I do want to bring up what I mentioned earlier. That having a child every year and a half or so isn’t the norm for humans either (though of course that did and does naturally happen at times too).

    Living in a more ‘natural’ environment, where breastfeeding in an unrestricted manner for 3 or more years is the norm, causes the normal natural spacing of children to be about 3 to 4 years apart.

    Put that together with the more ‘normal’ extended family/support situation and you have describe, and you have something far different than the situation we have in modern Western society.

    In that case you have a mother, with an extensive support network, having a child roughly every 3.5 years. That’s still hard work, but it’s nothing like the current situation.

    Contrast it with a mother with a very limited support network (consisting mainly of her husband), and three (or more) little ones, and you’ve got a recipe for something far beyond what is ‘natural’.

    That’s much of what I was trying to drive at last go round. That it’s not unreasonable to use NFP to try to emulate the more normal and natural spacing that would occur in a pre-industrialized society. That doesn’t constitute a ‘contraceptive mentality’ in my estimation, but something very reasonable and prudent.

    And to point out that attempting to do that really can be a challenge. It’s a wonderful and blessed challenge, but a real one nonetheless.

    I don’t want to reopen the discussion from the last post, and I don’t feel right sharing all the nitty gritty details of my wife’s state of mind and challenges, but suffice it to say that to the best of my judgment, there really are serious reasons for waiting at present (and in the earlier case).

    Being accused of ‘arrogant use of abstinence’ was like a stake in my heart. It hit far too close to home. Abstinence is the very last thing I desire, and to have the sacrifice and pain that it’s involved characterized as prideful arrogance hurts far more than text on a screen should. But there it is.

    Nothing I said was meant as an attack on the culture of life (of which I count myself a proud member) or large families in the least. I loved your previous post and agreed with it wholeheartedly as well.

    I left that conversation feeling very burned, very unfairly judge, and have been in the dumps all day because of it. But you’ve made my day with this post.

    Sometimes it makes all the difference to know that other people ‘get it’. It doesn’t surprise me that you are one of the ones who does, as usual.

    From the bottom of my heart, thank you!

  2. Jennifer

    I’ve got more on my blog on this if anyone’s is interested.

    Jen you make excellent points about how difficult it is to raise children in today’s society.

    Steve and everyone else–this has really been a discussion about the
    manner in which the contraceptive culture speaks through even the language of faithful Catholics using NFP.

    If your particular cases are extraordinary cases I trust your discernment.

    I just don’t accept that it is your only option or that all the presumptions which you bring to it are true.

    I also don’t know if I’d be willing to sacrifice the unitive aspects to the extent you are to avoid a life happening. Even in your circumstances. But that’s me and my life. Not yours.

    Don’t take things like a stake to your heart–you offer your own personal choices and involve your specifics. We can’t give you absolution or condemnation.

    You know where that comes from.

    Peace–I’m sorry you feel so personally hurt in this discussion.

    It is a crucial discussion to have, however, and I will continue to present my case for life and tease out and attack the presumptions the undergird even scrupulous NFP talk.

    It’s an issue of theology and ethics–not of pesonal damnation or redemption.

    You know what’s right for you.

    ’nuff said.

    Peace to you and yours. I wish you nothing but continued blessings where you have already been so abundantly blessed–but only when you are ready to receive them.

  3. Jennifer

    Who accused of an arrogant use of abstinence, by the way?

    Was it me? LOL

    Sounds like me but I don’t think it was.

    There is arrogance in the presumption that just because you’ve experienced a small amount of fertility that you will continue to be so blessed and therefore should forgo all sex for months at a time to bar such blessings from continuing.

    But it can only be seen as such when you haven’t been so blessed.

    I think you miss a lot of what is being said by taking such a defensive posture but that is another story.

    I hope you can think about this less defensively but if you can’t apologies if it was me who staked your heart.

  4. SmartBlkWoman

    Wow Jen. This post was absolutely amazing. It’s as if you took the thoughts right out of my head and made explained them far better than I could.

    I’m a single mother and right now I think that if I became pregnant again-which there is absolutely no possibility of occuring at the present time-I would lose my mind. The only reason that I have a modicum of sanity left is because of my wonderful extended family that have fully supported me emotionally and financially. Not many single mothers get to go home and live with their parents and live BETTER than they did when they were single and childfree. Everything that my daughter needs, someone always made sure it was provided. The birth of my child really taught me just how important the extended family unit is and the monumental importance maintaining the nuclear family as the core of society.

  5. Julie D.

    Something that is as true today as it was back IN the day that you may be overlooking (or that I may have missed) is that it is so much easier to have more than one child. I cannot stress this enough. Once you have two children then they play with each other. That was a wonderful discovery for us. The more children that are in a family then the more the older ones help with the younger ones. Please don’t think that the amount of work and attention given to an only child is at all multiplied exponentially by extra children.

  6. Jennifer F.

    Julie D. – I’ve always thought your point is a great argument for homeschooling. When you send your children away all day just when they’re getting to the age when they can really be a help around the house you’re giving away a lot of the advantages of having multiple children.

  7. Ersza

    Great post, Jen! Like others, these are the things that were on my mind, too.

    Thanks, Steve, for making yourself vulnerable for the sake of discussion. I really don’t have a window into the NFP lifestyle, so I do appreciate it.

  8. Amy Caroline

    Jennifer,

    This was truly meaningful for me as at the moment we have been trying to talk my mother and father in law into moving in with us, or at the very least nearer to us. My father in law is suffering from Parkinson’s and my mother in law can hardly take care of him. In fact, she has become terse and even cruel to him at times, as though his condition was his fault. Seeing how much trouble she was having between taking care of him and working, we tried to come to her with the idea of us all moving into together. We would add on to our house, since it is bigger, and we could help each other.

    My mother in law refused. She was afraid that it would be even more work for her… well, actually, wouldn’t it be more work for me? Being the only one at home all the time? Wouldn’t it be worth it to her to help with the kids if she would have help with my father in law? He is so lonely during the day and when ever we go over there he asks the kids for help and they jumped at the chance to help him… without complaint!

    Would it help us? You bet! It would lower our bills, since we would have help with utilities, etc. We would have someone to stay with the kids in case of an emergency, but considering my oldest dd is almost 12 she can baby-sit.

    Would it be hard on us? You bet! But all sacrifice would ultimately be worth it.

    So not only would this kind of living situation you talk about help those of us with large families, but also when our older family members grow older. Funny, isn’t it, that the younger generation sees this more clearly than our elders?

  9. Anonymous

    Jen,

    Amen, sister! I totally agree with you about not really even being able to compare the psychological difficulties of parenting today to that of mothers hundreds of years ago. Heck, even in my mother-in-law’s day (she had 11 children), the kids basically ran all over their small midwestern town all day long, and she called them in at night. They weren’t under her feet all day long like today’s children are….we parents simply can’t trust those who live around us enough to let our children run around so freely in today’s world. Moreover, society condemns us if we don’t personally supervise our children at all times. There is a WHOLE lot more pressure on mothers/parents today in that respect. I would actually love to write a book on this aspect of modern-day parenting, but with 6 kids and a full-time outside-the-home job as well, I highly doubt it will ever happen 🙂

    Not only did mothers of yesteryear have their mothers/sisters/cousins/etc nearby to help them, but many had maidservants and hired help as well. The middle-class/wealthy had nurses, governesses, nannies, etc. to help them out. I’m always struck by that verse of the bible which says something to the effect of “fathers, may you be blessed with many sons and may your daughters be brought to you in the arms of their nurses” WHAT?! They had nurses?! And one for each daughter?! Where’s MY nurse……or my SIX nurses, for that matter. Heck, I sure could use 6 extra sets of hands every now and then 🙂 Even in my grandmother’s generation, most middle-class women had hired help to come clean their houses once a week or so. These women weren’t expected to be able to do it all on their own, even as stay-at-home mothers and homemakers. It was recognized that we needed HELP.

    Kudos for a great post, Jen.

  10. Rosemary

    Hi Jennifer, Just wanted to say hello for the first time after reading all these posts about families. I really enjoy reading your blog. I want to read a bit more and then comment. But first I had something for steveg: Steve, obviously you’ve studied NFP really carefully. But I don’t think you mention the Creighton method. Given your difficult situation, I thought you might check into all avenues for help. The great thing about Creighton is that often a doctor is teaching you the method and helping you to interpret the signals, and I get the sense they might be able to help you even with the postpartum mixed signals you’re getting. Even if a doctor isn’t teaching you, you always have access to doctors who know Creighton very well and will consult with you. I find the Creighton people more helpful than the Couple to Couple people. http://www.fertilitycare.org/

    Good luck!

  11. Jennifer

    Thanks, Ro.

    Yes, Steve–that got lost in the argument a long time ago where you seemed to think that I was saying you needed an NFP doc to fix something–I just meant he could help you figure things out so you don’t have to be abstaining so long.

    CCL doesn’t do Creighton–its similar but a little different.

    I was making the suggestion because actually things like Creighton and Billings can provide extra information and a Creighton doc will even use sonograms and internal exam to get a better handle on where a woman is at in a post-partum cycle or while weaning.

    Thanks Rosemary for clearing that up, I forgot about that and sincerely wanted to offer it as help though I think Steve thought I was suggesting that there was something a doctor could “fix” or that there was something abnormal in what his wife’s cycles were like while weaning.

    (Jim is going to be a Creighton doc soon so that’s where I’m getting the info–)

  12. Ouiz

    Thank you for this discussion. I am a homeschooling mom of 6 little ones (all under 8) who just had to say goodbye to her parents this morning as they drive 11 hours back to their home. I have “phone friends,” but no other help. My prayer for years has been that my parents would move closer (they are retired) so that I could have help, they could be closer to their grandkids, etc…

    I must say, though, that it gets easier after 3 kids. That’s the last hurdle to overcome. After that, it’s just one more chair at the table! (my kids are 8, 7, 5, 4, 2, and 7 mths) They play with each other, and take care of each other, so that I actually have MORE free time than friends who have fewer children! (God’s amazing grace, or I’d go insane!)

  13. SteveG

    Rosemary,
    Thank you so much for the tip.

    I definitely am open to learning anything new that might help. I’ve checked out everything that I can get my hands out in that regard. At one point, I even purchased charting software to see if there was something I was missing.

    When I put in the six months worth of data I had at that point, things were so messed up (with her signs) that the program melted and my computer exploded. 😉

    Seriously though, it really was such a mess that the software which is generally held to be extremely reliable was not even able to determine when cycles occurred (do to regular spotting ever week or two), let alone phases.

    And all my research further indicated (despite claims that all of this time was most likely annovulatory) that spotting during this transitional phase while fertility returns often accompanies ovulation.

    Then again it could be the start of a new cycle, but you never know until after the fact. And by the time we were able to make a determination, there was spotting again, which could signal ovulation, or it could be the start of a new cycle.

    We simply could never get a bead on when a cycle started, what the spotting indicated, etc., etc., etc. It was really a mess. I didn’t lay down and accept abstinence without a fight, that’s for sure. 🙂

    Anyway, I had briefly looked at Billings and Creighton as well, but my initial research led me to think that methodology wise they didn’t offer anything significantly different from the CCL approach.

    In particular, Billings seemed a bad fit for us as my wife, even during her more ‘normal’ cycles, has constant background mucus that makes the mucus sign much less useful to us than I think is typical. We are forced to rely much more heavily on temperature shifts in order to determine fertility.

    I will definitely check out Creighton again though and give it another look.

    Thanks again for the resource.

  14. SteveG

    I just meant he could help you figure things out so you don’t have to be abstaining so long.

    CCL doesn’t do Creighton–its similar but a little different.

    Thank you for clarifying that.

    As I indicated to Rosemary, I didn’t see that Creighton was that different, but on that score I am perfectly willing to be corrected if it would help us.

    I was making the suggestion because actually things like Creighton and Billings can provide extra information and a Creighton doc will even use sonograms and internal exam to get a better handle on where a woman is at in a post-partum cycle or while weaning.

    But this really wasn’t a weaning issue as such. This is the sporadic return of fertility while breastfeeding continues.

    What happened first go round was that our 2nd got sick for a week or two, which really reduced his nursing, and then went back to nursing full force when he was well.

    So my wife’s body got this signal that weaning was beginning, and seemed to begin ramping back up for the return of fertility, and then all of the sudden, major nursing is going on again and the ‘suppressing’ hormones start kicking in.

    So now there was a hormonal ‘battle’ going on in her body as it tried to sort out what the heck was going on. 😉

    I am not saying that a Creighton doctor couldn’t help in such an instance, but as I described to Rosemary, this wasn’t just ambiguous fertility, it was an utter mess.

    Again, I’ll check out the resource again and see if it’s a better fit for our particular situation.

    Thanks again to both of you for the recommendation.

  15. SteveG

    Ouiz
    I must say, though, that it gets easier after 3 kids. That’s the last hurdle to overcome. After that, it’s just one more chair at the table! (my kids are 8, 7, 5, 4, 2, and 7 mths) They play with each other, and take care of each other, so that I actually have MORE free time than friends who have fewer children! (God’s amazing grace, or I’d go insane!)

    What a great point! I’ve always intuitively thought something like this was the case. Part of our own struggle is most likely due to the strain of getting over that last hurdle.

    We are in the midst of that phase with three pre-school age children at home (one of theme being a newborn) so we are feeling the full court press at present.

    Even at that it’s a wonderful blessing, and that’s not meant to come across as a complaint.

    There’s part of me that knows that it can’t get any tougher than this. 😉

    I won’t be in the least surprised if in 12 to 18 months; my wife and I are talking about the possibility of the next.

    Though, now approaching our late 30’s, I take to heart Jennifer’s warning that we can’t take that ‘ability’ for granted.

  16. Anonymous

    Steve,

    Just wanted to share that constant mucus has been my problem from day 1, and that’s why my husband I DIDN’T find that CCL worked very well for us. At least Creighton does have a method for addressing constant mucus and uses a yellow stamp-method for identifying it. Unfortunately, our cycles have puzzled even the Creighton-method instructors who have worked with us. (Indeed, one of my closest friends is a Creighton teacher, although we haven’t used her as our personal practitioner) This has meant we still have very long periods of abstinence if we want to be fairly certain of not achieving another pregnancy. My temps have always been all over the place, and never in any cycle I’ve ever charted with temps (not that there were THAT many, admittedly, since we quickly discovered CCL just wasn’t for us) have we seen a real shift of any sort.

    Anyway, I just wanted to add that Creighton does look at mucus totally differently, and it just might be worth a try for you. Plus I always found the 1:1 instruction/support from the Creighton practitioners very helpful.

  17. Julie D.

    When you send your children away all day just when they’re getting to the age when they can really be a help around the house you’re giving away a lot of the advantages of having multiple children.

    I’m sure I must be taking that the wrong way because I was shocked to read it … obviously, as I know that you know, the reason to homeschool is because you don’t trust the schools to give your child a good education (however, one defines good education). Not because they can finally help around the house…

    Perhaps I took the comment that way because I honestly have been looking in these comments for the idea of serving one’s family and following God’s will in humility here … but have mostly been struck by people wanting to sit down for a cup of coffee without having to watch the kids for a minute.

    I know that being a mother is hard work, and, as I have said, in many ways it is hardest when one has only one child. However, I think that perhaps in harkening back to the olden days with all that suppport personnel the real point of having the servants is missed. It was because the work itself was hard, back breaking labor just to do laundry or wash the dishes. The only people with any leisure were the truly wealthy. In all the other cases, the mother and father were busy all the time with the basics of staying alive.

    That is why so often the grandmother was left to stir the stew and watch the kids. It was all she could do … she wasn’t retired and helping out. It was her share of service to the family.

    Anyway, my point is that perhaps rather than worrying about the hard work of having a family these days (which is truly equivalent to how the wealthy used to live back in the day what with dishwashers and all), it might be better to look for a support group from one’s church or community that can help when feeling overwhelmed. As Rose’s French teacher (and she is truly French) often tells them in class, “Any number of children over two is no extra work at all.”

  18. Ersza

    Spotting is not a very common indicator of ovulation. The opposite, actually. (Reporting in from the world of infertility, here.) Sounds like the reason you couldn’t chart the cycles was because she wasn’t cycling. I would ignore all of the spotting and proceed in whatever way your method prescribes for women who have not had their first postpartum period. A real period involves bright red bleeding. Light red, pink, or brown spotting is not a period. Hope that helps.

  19. SteveG

    Anon, Rosemary, Jennifer:

    Thanks again for all the helpful advice. I am seeing that maybe I discounted Creighton too quickly. I am definetely going to be investigating it more thoroughly.

    Anon,
    This is probably an utterly stupid suggestion, and I assume from all you’ve written that you’ve already thoroughly investigated it, but have to ask nonetheless.

    Have you approached this from a nutritional perspective?

  20. Anonymous

    I personally haven’t found family life to get easier the more we have had (it just gets different!!), although I will totally agree that when it comes the the number of children one has, the work does NOT grow exponentially. Good grief, imagine what it would be like if having six kids were six times harder!! LOL

    I found things got much harder AFTER #4, actually, and the transition from #5 to #6 was my very hardest, although this could very well have had to do with other circumstances going on at the time, and the spacing of my children (I had the biggest space between #5 and #6 and felt like I was just seeing the light at the end of the tunnel and would be getting out of diapers and moving on to the next stage when WHAM, I found out that light was just the next freight train coming) My older kids are boys, so that probably makes a difference, but they still spend an awful lot of time fighting and bickering and generally horseplaying and aren’t terrifically helpful, despite the fact we are fairly strict (probably absolutely tyrannical by today’s standards!!) and require them to participate in chores and such. My #4 child is my most helpful (8 yr old girl), and I always say, “Well, at least one out of the bunch can help out a bit!!” LOL My #3 (also a girl, 9) is rather ditsy and can’t be trusted to be a whole lot of help. I do think that a lot of how easy or how hard family is has to do with the personalities of all the people involved. I have one poor homeschooling friend who has six very active boys who are a total handful and require a LOT of discipline, on a fairly near-constant basis, while other large families I know have fairly easy-going, naturally cheerful and helpful children.

    I do believe (or at least hope, desperately!!) that it does get easier as they get older. People keep telling me it will, and I keep on keeping on.

  21. Jennifer

    Arwen told me yesterday that some Creighton docs will even scan your ovaries to see if you are ovulating or not if you have been having an extra long period of ambiguous signs.

    I still hold that seems extreme measures to be taking to prevent another one of those gorgeous kids you have but like I said.

    I have no objectivity here and fully admit it.

    I pray daily and nightly that you will have the chance to point at me and scream with devilish glee, I told you so.

    🙂

  22. SteveG

    Perhaps I took the comment that way because I honestly have been looking in these comments for the idea of serving one’s family and following God’s will in humility here … but have mostly been struck by people wanting to sit down for a cup of coffee without having to watch the kids for a minute.

    I think the idea of service to one’s family from the Catholic perspective goes without saying. That’s been discussed on this blog to great extent at other times. This discussion just happened to focus on something else.

    As to needing a break now and then, even our Lord had to withdraw from the crowd on occasion. That’s a totally normal human need. I don’t think we are talking about ‘me time’ and needing to fulfill ourselves. Just a chance to catch ones breath on occasion. We are called to service, but being the imperfect human beings we are, if we don’t occasionally recharge our batteries, we seem less able to serve.

    And part of raising children is teaching them to serve as well, no? Yes, primarily by example of course, but also by allowing them to actually serve at times as part of being a family.

    I know that being a mother is hard work, and, as I have said, in many ways it is hardest when one has only one child.

    I think anon explained it wonderfully. This has more to do with the temperaments of the people involved, among other things. I’ve heard people say going from 1 to 2 is a synch, and other say it’s the hardest transition. Likewise, I’ve heard people say that going from 2 to 3 is hardest, and other say, naw, it’s the easiest.

    While I agree that in ‘some’ ways, the first is hardest because it’s when you are the most clueless, I would say that in others, it’s by far the easiest. Physically anyway.

    When you go from playing 2 on 1, to playing man to man, to playing a zone defense (2 on 3), you certainly gain experience and wisdom, but the effort involved goes up significantly. 😉

  23. Jennifer F.

    Ouiz – you made my day. It really cheers me up to hear that. I always thought that that must be true, but then you hear so many bad things about having big families in today’s society that I figured that I must be missing something.

  24. Jennifer

    I think Julie, like me, is looking for at least some acknoweldgement of the IDEALS toward which we should all strive instead of everyone making the same argument over and over that it is hard to be open to life and unreasonable and unfair to expect that one should be able to do it.

    Julie is better equipped at making the argument here than I–I acknowledge I’m the worst kind of back seat driver in this situation, even if it isn’t by choice.

  25. SteveG

    I still hold that seems extreme measures to be taking to prevent another one of those gorgeous kids you have but like I said.

    Believe me, it feels extreme to me at times as well. 😉

    Given all that I’ve explained here now, and much more that I’ve refrained from sharing, I promise you, we are doing our best to ‘try’ to discern our course in a moral manner.

    Could we be mistaken in our choices? I take it for granted that is so.

    But we are doing the best we can given the circumstance we have. I’ve never offered my path as more virtuous, but only tried to honestly share my perspective and challenges as someone who seeks to live out this teaching.

    I pray daily and nightly that you will have the chance to point at me and scream with devilish glee, I told you so.

    I pray for you for that as well. When that day comes, the very last thing I would do is say ‘I told you so.’ I’ll offer nothing but a prayer and my congratulations.

  26. Jennifer F.

    Julie D. – I wrote that comment quickly, I should have thought it through more to more clearly express my views. Of course the main reason to choose homeschooling is because you believe it’s what’s best for your children and their education.

    I shouldn’t have used the phrase help around the house because that sounds like I’m only trying to figure out how I can get someone else to mop the floor once in a while. But what I was mentally picturing is a happy, bustling household where everyone helps everyone, and the children are very close to one another since they’re not away at school seven hours a day. Having a family dynamic where the children and the parents are eager to help one another out because our top priorities are God, love and family. And, yes, that would make it physically easier for me, but that wasn’t my primary concern. Sorry to phrase it that way.

    I was mentally contrasting it to the families I know where the priorities are standardized tests, sports, and what college you get into. Nobody helps with housework or younger siblings because they have better things to do. It’s so depressing to see.

    Also, I have kind of a nerdy, engineer’s mentality and I take my job as a housewife very seriously, so I’m always thinking of little systems I can come up with to make the household run smoothly and keep everyone happy. So I was just thinking off the top of my head that one of the many advantages to homeschooling is that I could create a cool little system like the one laid out in one of my favorite books, A Mother’s Rule of Life, where everyone helps out with the drudge work like cleaning so that we can all get back to the fun stuff like learning and spending time as a family.

  27. Nina

    As Rose’s French teacher (and she is truly French) often tells them in class, “Any number of children over two is no extra work at all.”

    Well…

    How old are Rose’s French teacher’s children? Because I’m on my way to pick up my fourth college student this week while my husband is in Singapore on business and, let me tell you, four round trips to various colleges is a heck of a lot harder than two. As are four college tuitions (our cheapest is $38K, our most expensive, $43K).

    When they’re small, the difference between two and four is not so great, especially if they’re really close in age like my kids are. But when they get older and you have to be in so many places at the same time, or when you’re educating them all at the same time, it’s very, very hard.

    This also comes at a time in your life when you’re older and have less energy, when you either have lost your own parents and therefore that line of support, or are caring for ailing, elderly parents and therefore are that much more tapped out emotionally and physically, and when you may be experiencing health issues of your own.

    In a 21st century world, where the time, attention and resources required to raise a childhood are extended far beyond what they were a century or so ago, I don’t think you can claim that it’s just as easy to have four as it is to have two. Maybe in the pre-school/grammar school years, but not so much after that.

  28. Nina

    *raise a child to adulthood

  29. Elena

    Hi Jen,

    I am enjoying your blog, having been referred there today from Julie D! Thanks Julie!

    Today’s mother of six is taking on a much, much greater challenge than the mother of six who lived 150 years ago.

    I’m not entirely sure I agree with that. I think the challenges are different for sure, but in someways I think my life is much easier than my great grandmother’s. For example, I at least know that there will be supper tonight, even if I’m not sure what I’m going to defrost. I am also reasonably sure that if the baby gets a fever or if one of my kids get strep throat (one of mine had scarlet fever two years ago!!) that they will survive it.

    That all said, I have given birth to 7 children. One was stillborn, the others are 16 to 11 months. The first two were the hardest. Once the oldest hit 6 or so, it did get easier. Now, it’s practially a piece of cake (except for the laundry part).

    When my kids were very tiny and I needed a break, I had a large kid-proof area that I could put them in and leave them to go to the bathroom or whatever. This actualy was a very large closet that I cleared up, put in a light and some toys. My toddlers would play in there during “quiet time” so that I could work. Many times they would fall asleep during play. I got tons of stuff done. Recently my 13-year-old son told me that was one of his fondest childhood memories, to be in that closet with his toys and his imagination. So I guess it worked out okay.

    We also homeschool. Finding a homeschool group of orthodox, practicing Catholic women was a blessing. I think as you grow in your faith Jen, like-minded women will come across your path. You’ll find each other and make new friends.

    Best of luck to you with your new lttle one!

  30. Julie D.

    Her children are high school and college age, as are mine.

    Our oldest is getting ready to begin college and yes indeedy it is going to be expensive. However, it is what our parents did for us and we are happy to do it for our kids. The costs are higher now but my parents got a loan to put me through college … no fun but it is the sacrifice we are ready to make for her.

    So we haven’t been through the round trips to college but have thoroughly investigated buses. Oh, how she will not enjoy learning about public transportation but that is just one more way that college will be good for her.

    Our kids have already been watching us scrimp to get them through Catholic high school and in their cases it has turned out well. Not only because the school is exceptional in passing on Catholic identity as well as education but because they understand working together to support the entire family. Our husband has been getting ready to take Rose on her turn for the traditional “father-daughter” 16th birthday trip. She was listening to us talk about plans and suddenly said, “You know, I know that money is really tight right now. We can skip my trip if you want. I am so glad that I am at my high school … it is enough.” That is a level of recognition of sacrifice for the common good that I was both stunned and pleased to have come out of the blue. (And lucky for her that Frequent Flyer Miles come from credit card use and then can be used to pay for so many things … their trip will be practically cost free.)

    Maybe we are unusually blessed but I have been having a total blast with my teenagers and their friends … long may it last. (Of course my husband isn’t in Singapore but few people have identical circumstances…)

  31. Shannon

    Whenever I start thinking about this subject I dig up this response from Fr. Bob Levis of EWTN to a mother who had written in describing all these difficulties as well as how she was concerned about having more children because of what people would think of her having a large family. He sums it up in a most eloquent and loving manner.

    “My dear wonderful Mother, God has smothered you with blessings – a great and loving husband, good health, enough finances at present, a holy sense of the dignity of motherhood, and courage among your many gifts and graces from God. You have borne six wonderful eternal beings in America at a time when the culture of death is becoming daily more and more the accepted custom and policy. Some decades ago, you would be the typical mother, happily at home with your growing family but in this new and militant culture of death, you are exceptional, you stand out, your children shine against a dark background, many people notice if they don’t stare when the whole family appears. Then there is that rising sense of not being accepted by your peers, especilly mothers who are content with artificially limiting their family to two, maybe three, children. Some are jealous of your achievement, others have bought into the culture and look at children as thieves of their own resources, comfort, time, and future. Still others criticize you and your husband for stealing the growing shortage of natural food and other resources from a shrinking world. Dear Mother, you are a very brilliant spotlight in a darkening world, you are a real woman like another New Eve so proud of your almost divine ability to give new life to children. You and your husband are eminent Christians proclaiming every day your cooperation with the divine Creator and Provider. I am sure that you are happy, with a share in the loving openness to new life. Thank God that you are you, a loving witness to the Culture of LIfe. Have courage and let every negative envious comment bounce off of your joyful mothering self. I bless you and pray for you and your dear husband and all your children born and unborn. God bless you all. Fr. Bob Levis

  32. Nina

    You can’t use public transportation the day you go up to college for the year, and the day you come home for the summer. How can anyone carry and load all the stuff the average college student requires these days? Clothes, bedding, furniture, carpets, computer, stereo, fridge, TV – no one can carry that onto a bus, much less carry it all by themselves!

    Our kids have witness us sacrifice and save for their Catholic educations, too. They’ve been raised to never incur debt if one can help it, and they’ve seen how we’ve paid into their college accounts all their lives so they won’t be saddled with debt right after school and so we won’t be working until we’re ninety trying to pay the loans off.

    We also consider our children a blessing and enjoy their company (as increasingly rare as it is these days), too.

    I think it’s irresponsible to imply that there’s very little difference for the average family between raising two children to adulthood and raising four to adulthood.

    When they’re little, it might seem that way, but things change when they get older. If we only had two, we’d only have about 80K in tuition payments this year as opposed to 160K. The difference represents a lot of work hours.

  33. Jennifer

    Um, I paid my way through college and the world didn’t fall down around me.

    Who says kids are entitled to a paid for college education?

    Nice if you can do it but if you can’t it isn’t the end of the world if even a 21st century kid has to earn scholarships and work to get a good education.

    It did me a world of good and taught me the value of education.

    There is something VERY different about registering for a course that YOU’VE paid for than daddy does.

    I’d say BETTER if I were wanting to be inflammatory.

    To argue against having children because of the cost of college lacks a certain sense of priority and values.

    Better to have no life at all than have to work at friendly’s as a waitress and maintain a 3.6 GPA to keep your full scholarship, hmmm..

    I’d wish I’d known my life was not worth living before I wore that stupid uniform and went to class with hot fudge smeared across my chest.

  34. Kate

    I just moved away from a wonderful extended family and community in Michigan because my husband couldn’t find work, and honestly, I don’t know which is harder – poverty with support or self-sufficiency with none. It has definately added a note of uncertainty to our discussions of when to have the next child. I think Jennifer raised an excellent point in this post that is worth discussing. If we want to be open to life (which we do, believe me), how can we create the sort of communities that make large families more manageable?

  35. Jennifer

    SHANNON and ELENA

    Rock on ladies. you’re my heros.

  36. Jennifer F.

    Nina – Wow, those numbers are insane!! Ugh. I try not to even think about it considering that we haven’t even been able to save one dollar for our children’s college education. And I agree that there’s nothing wrong with honestly addressing the additional challenges that come with additional children.

    But I think that those figures, as astounding as they are, are irrelevant to the discussion. Because surely nobody would argue that you should base your openness to new life on the current cost of college tuition.

    To me it’s like saying you shouldn’t work because taxes are too high. Working and providing for your family is a given, and if taxes are high the solution is to get a good CPA and take some sort of political action rather than not work. I wish more people would take a similar view with children and college tuition: openness to life and a big family is a given, and if that makes college expenses crushing then we need to get good savings plans and take political action to try to make college education available to those with big families.

    I know quite a few people who are so concerned about this that they space their children so that they won’t all be in college at the same time. My husband and I are very pro-education (we have four degrees between us) but college costs are trivial in comparison to the value of bringing a new life into the world. Even if it means not being able to send our kids to college because we can’t afford it, the “tradeoff” is well worth it.

  37. Nina

    I was NOT implying that one shouldn’t have children because college is expensive.

    I was pointing out that it’s foolish to say there’s no difference when there is. It’s an untruth to imply that you’ll never feel the difference between having two and four, or four and six, etc.

    That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have children. It only means that you shouldn’t paint a false picture of the realities of raising children in a 21st century world.

    People who have very small children haven’t felt those realities yet. But they lie ahead, and it doesn’t serve anyone to bury your head in the sand and pretend they don’t exist.

  38. Jennifer

    Paying for college is your decision. That’s nice.

    It’s an accessory option not a neccessity for raising kids in the 21st century and has no bearing on this conversation other than to vent your own complaints.

    Goes to show what a position of abundance from which we all argue in the first place.

    CONTEXT and PERSPECTIVE.

  39. Julie D.

    People who have very small children haven’t felt those realities yet. But they lie ahead, and it doesn’t serve anyone to bury your head in the sand and pretend they don’t exist.

    Very true. However, to dwell on them unnecessarily when those realities are quite a long way away is also to scare people about something that may never happen. All their darling children may be so super smart that they win full scholarships (as perhaps Rose may do, fingers crossed). Or they may show a talent for something like being a mechanic which requires a good apprenticeship under a master who knows his trade but not college.

    One can’t worry too much about those far away things. If we did worry like that about all those things then we’d never get married, move away from home, change jobs, etc. To scare ourselves because of one example is not practical.

  40. Nina

    Responsible parenthood means you plan ahead and prepare for what one can reasonably expect. Education costs are but one example. There are plenty of others – medical expenses, job loss, costs of supporting elderly and ailing parents, etc. We can all expect to be affected by one or more (probably more) of those situations during our forties and fifties – and even sixties.

    It is not a scare tactic to encourage people to look down the road and anticipate what one’s responsibilities will be and to plan accordingly.

    People are not going to stop getting married and having children if they’re raised to be responsible, self-supporting adults. The opposite, actually, is what cultivates a society in which endless childishness and selfishness are rampant.

    The original post is entitled “what makes it so hard”.

    One of the things that makes it so hard is the increasing cost of raising a child to adulthood and the stress that puts on marriage.

    To ignore this is foolishness.

    To impy that I’m trying to scare people into not having children or that I’m advocating not having children is false.

    This all reminds me of the fable of the ant and the grasshopper:

    In a field one summer’s day a Grasshopper was hopping about, chirping and singing to its heart’s content. An Ant passed by, bearing along with great toil an ear of corn he was taking to the nest.

    “Why not come and chat with me,” said the Grasshopper, “instead of toiling and moiling in that way?”

    “I am helping to lay up food for the winter,” said the Ant, “and recommend you to do the same.”

    “Why bother about winter?” said the Grasshopper; we have got plenty of food at present.” But the Ant went on its way and continued its toil. When the winter came the Grasshopper had no food and found itself dying of hunger, while it saw the ants distributing every day corn and grain from the stores they had collected in the summer. Then the Grasshopper knew:

    It is best to prepare for the days of necessity.

  41. Elena

    I’m not worried about college either. I don’t even think every one is cut out for college. Give your kids the tools to reason, think and problem solve and that will serve them well in this life.

    Two of my favorite pieces of scripture are:

    Proverbs 31: 25 Strength and dignity are her clothing. She laughs at the time to come.

    and of course Jesus in the book of Matthew:

    Matthew 6:25-34
    25 “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? 26 Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? 27 Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life? 28 “And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. 29 Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. 30 If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? 31 So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

  42. Nina

    One can counter that with the parable of the lamps, and one can liken preparing to educate one’s children to the fullest of their potential to the parable of the talents.

    If living in debt, being a borrower, and never having anything stashed away for a rainy day serve you well, go for it.

    Laughing at the times to come isn’t going to fly with most credit card companies or electric companies or mortgage holders. Besides, if you’re truly wise, you prepare so that you may enjoy the years to come without fear of disaster. That’s the crux of the parable, too. Prepare now so that one may relax and enjoy later.

    We prefer not to rely on handouts from others should an emergency arise and we are not so selfish we would refuse our children the same opportunities afforded us by our parnts just so we can win a “who had the most babies” contest on the internet.

  43. Nina

    10 [c] A wife of noble character who can find?
    She is worth far more than rubies.

    11 Her husband has full confidence in her
    and lacks nothing of value.

    12 She brings him good, not harm,
    all the days of her life.

    13 She selects wool and flax
    and works with eager hands.

    14 She is like the merchant ships,
    bringing her food from afar.

    15 She gets up while it is still dark;
    she provides food for her family
    and portions for her servant girls.

    16 She considers a field and buys it;
    out of her earnings she plants a vineyard.

    17 She sets about her work vigorously;
    her arms are strong for her tasks.

    18 She sees that her trading is profitable,
    and her lamp does not go out at night.

    19 In her hand she holds the distaff
    and grasps the spindle with her fingers.

    20 She opens her arms to the poor
    and extends her hands to the needy.

    21 When it snows, she has no fear for her household;
    for all of them are clothed in scarlet.

    22 She makes coverings for her bed;
    she is clothed in fine linen and purple.

    23 Her husband is respected at the city gate,
    where he takes his seat among the elders of the land.

    24 She makes linen garments and sells them,
    and supplies the merchants with sashes.

    25 She is clothed with strength and dignity;
    she can laugh at the days to come.

    26 She speaks with wisdom,
    and faithful instruction is on her tongue.

    27 She watches over the affairs of her household
    and does not eat the bread of idleness.

    28 Her children arise and call her blessed;
    her husband also, and he praises her:

    29 “Many women do noble things,
    but you surpass them all.”

    30 Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting;
    but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised.

    31 Give her the reward she has earned,
    and let her works bring her praise at the city gate

    That is the whole text of the section about good wives and wise women in proverbs. It’s not about disregarding responsibility and laughing at reality. It’s about hard work and preparation and the rewards of responsibility.

  44. Julie D.

    Nina, I am not trying at all to imply that we should all go feckless into the future like the grasshopper. I am quite sorry that you took it that way.

    However, to dwell too much on the responsibilities and possible trials that will come in the future often brings too much worry and trouble. It makes me think of the Churchill quote about the man who on his deathbed said that he’d had a lot of trouble in his lifetime, most of which had never happened.

    Of course, we should try to save for college and against emergencies. But beyond doing what we reasonably can, we also must have trust that God will help us through what we can’t foresee … such as business going bad unexpectedly, having to use the savings to keep the family going, and not having the “secure” future that we might have expected (just to mention a personal item).

    With all our plans and striving and struggles to do the right thing, plan, and have things go right, there often is a monkeywrench thrown in the works. That is the point that I was trying to make.

    Yes, we must do the best we can to prepare for the future but we can’t really count on how things will go … and that is why we can’t worry about such things too much. As per Elena’s excellent remarks.

  45. rach

    Oh my goodness. THank you for this post. WOW. You articulated how I feel about some of this stuff. SO well.

  46. Nina

    I was never not open to another baby, either, but apparently having planned for the children I was able to have makes me some kind of monster. I had four children in less than six years and then I was no longer able to have any.

    I guess that makes me a terrible, terrible person.

    For at least the third time, I did not, I repeat, I DID NOT say that people should stop having children because college is expensive. Please stop saying I said that. If you’re going to continue to say that, please quote me and show me where I said that at all.

    I also didn’t say we should freak out over every possible little thing that might crop up in the future and let it paralyze us. Stop putting words in my mouth. I merely pointed out that the la-di-dah attitude of it’s all easy, no matter how many you have, no worries, laugh away is an irresponsible attitude for a parent and that we are expected to prepare wisely. Even the Church reiterates this when they speak of marriage and parenthood. We are not to be irresponsible.

    I just picked up my son and I looked around and saw good, decent people who’ve worked hard to give their children the gift of education picking up their bright, beautiful kids, and I was proud – proud of my own wonderful children, proud of my husband for having worked so hard for all of us, and proud for the other parents and their kids and what they’ve accomplished.

    I’m not just a banker. I’m a mother, too. I resent the implication that I just threw money at my kids and ignored them from the moment they were born. I was a stay at home mom when it was sneered at and looked down upon by most of the other women of my generation. I have put my kids first every minute of every day of my life, and I still do. I have sorrow and joys I’ve shared with my sisters and friends, too.

    My children are more than degrees. They’re human beings. They’re strong, beautiful, smart, good kids who have bright futures in this world and I love them dearly. They are a constant source of joy for me. Why would anyone think that having a degree means you stop being human?

    It’s not a numbers game. Having more children doesn’t make you a better parent or mean you feel things more deeply. Nor does being poor. These things do not make you better than anyone else, or earn you more points with God.

    You do what you’re called to do and you use what you’ve been given wisely. That’s what my husband and I have done and are continuing to do.

    I’m sorry that upsets people so much. I’m sorry I seem to have offended everyone by not frittering away money on stupid, senseless things and having saved it instead. I’m sorry that I don’t think that there’s absolutely no difference between having two or four or six and that you’ll never even notice, it’s all such a cakewalk. I imagine I’m older than all of you, and I can see that my children are older than all of yours. I might know a thing or two you don’t, but I guess if I’m not parroting the party line, what I know is worthless.

    Perhaps I should tell my sons and daughters to abandond their education, get jobs at McDonald’s, get married, have a dozen kids, and try to raise them all on minimum wage. That would probably make me an excellent parent in your eyes.

  47. Elena

    “The lady doth protest too much me thinks.”

  48. rach

    Nina, I could not agree more. Thank you for your insight. So much. You bring up a point that many don’t want to touch… yes, children are a gift. But, we also need to make sure we have the resources and time to care for them properly. Doing anything less than that is doing a huge disservice to our families.

    Elena, I can’t see why you would write that, other than to further stir the pot.

    Thank you, Nina.

  49. Nina

    Thank you, Rach.

    Elena, at this point you only sound jealous and bitter.

    In your eyes, I am wrong because I can provide my children with something you cannot or will not. In order to justify your choices to yourself, you have to insinuate that there’s something wrong with mine.

    I’m sorry that you feel so inferior that you have to try to make responsible parenthood, sacrifice and hard work a negative thing. I’m sorry that the only way you can feel worthy as a mother is to insinuate that I’m not a mother and that my children aren’t anything more than pieces of paper. That’s your self-esteem issue, though, and there isn’t anything I can do about that.

  50. Kate

    Whew….cool down ladies!

    I probably know less than any of you. I only have one child, and have been married less than 2 years. But this is what I’ve learned in the last year about parenting:

    ALWAYS, always always be charitable when discussing parenting techniques, philosophy, and standards, whether it has to do with how many children you have, how close together, how much you spend, or how they are raised. Nothing gets a woman (and a lot of men) going as fast as parenting discussions.

    Why? Because we are all doing the best we know how, and when someone else is doing it differently – and defends what they are doing – it is easy to take it as an attack. Because you know the other person believes they are doing the best they can. And you’re not doing it like them. So maybe they think you’re not doing the best thing. And so on….

    Each of us has different circumstances, priorities, and backgrounds. It would be utterly bizarre if we did agree about all of these things. Take college educations, for example. I would never let theoretical discussions of my ability to pay for college affect the decision to have another child, and I don’t think it is necessary to have figured that out in order to be a responsible parent (My parents didn’t pay for any of us to go to college. But somehow, all 6 of the grown children have gone). But I agree that responsible parenthood is important and we should always be looking for ways to improve our childs lot.

    Elena, who I know from her blog and her comments on other blogs, regularily enters the fray on websites that are distinctly hostile to large families. Perhaps this has made her a little sensitive to charges of irresponsibility. Nina, I know not at all. But she has written beautifully here about her children. She also seems a bit sensitive. I’m sure she resents what she perceives to be the implication that the only way to be a good catholic family is to be a large poor catholic family. But I don’t think anybody, let alone Elena, is trying to say that. Am I right, Elena?

    So before this goes any further, perhaps we all need to stop, pray for charity and clarity of mind, and continue with the assumption (implicit in the Church’s teachings) that we are each attempting to do God’s will in our own families, and need all the support from each other that we can get.

  51. SteveG

    Kate,
    Where were you in the last go round? We could all have used that same reminder. 😀

    Excellent post!

    Parenting, procreating, fertility…I think we all forget at times how touchy these subjects are.

    They touch our very essence and by extension we are very sensitive about them.

    We all need to be very careful how we approach one another on these subjects (I am not in the least exempting myself from that).

    Thanks for being a voice of reason Kate.

  52. Zola

    I’ve read the comments with interest, but there seems to be a nostalgic thread that idealizes the “old days” when relatives were nearby to pitch in and majestic herds of free-range children ran freely throughout safe neighbourhoods. I agree that because there were big famliies, there were grandparents, uncles, aunts and cousins galore to look out for the the youngsters. Unrelated people were good neighbours because, despite being migrants from other places or immigrants, they had the common goal of raising families. Also, those kids didn’t freely run the neighbourhood – they had chores to do and elderly people to holler at them.

    But reading through microfiche of old newspapers from 1880-1930 will contradict the notion that somehow parenting today is more psychologically difficult. Servants and nannies? Perhaps for the rich, but if you were a farmer or a fisherman, you spent your money for hired hands. Moving a thousand miles is tough today? Imagine immigrating with your husband, supposedly to meet up with your in-laws, only to find that they’d moved during the recent influenza epidemic (in which two relatives died), and now the only thing you can do is send out inquiries? Or losing your house and six children in a fire that spread through your neighbourhood, then having to send your remaining children via railroad to temporarily live with relatives in another state (“temporarily” being 10 months while you took care of another woman’s children and your husband found work in another city).

    If anything, it’s psychologically EASIER to be a parent. I didn’t know until shortly before her death that my grandmother’s first child only lived a few days. One did not talk of such things, and even relatives expected them to grieve privately. Today she’d be able to call her sisters and grieve or join a support group.

    Not to mention, many of the psychological stress we bring on ourselves. We have so much more leisure time then our parents and grandparents had. Even with seven kids, my husband and I have more time to ourselves than our grandparents and parents ever did! My mom was lucky if she got a chance to read a library book while my father took us woodcutting. My husband’s mother and father ran a restaurant, lived in a 2-bedroom apartment with their five children, and his mother even worked as a seamstress during “nonrush” times. My grandmother recalled preparing lunch immediately after the breakfast dishes were clean – at least until some of the boys were old enough to help out once in a while. And that’s not even taking into account “laundry day” (complete with the iron heated on the woodstove) or “spring cleaning” (to get the coal smudge off the windows and furniture). I’ve got so many conveniences (including electricity, which my grandparents got in the ’50s). We’ve got phone, fax, Internet, and two vehicles.

  53. Jennifer F.

    There are definitely things that are easier today. But if you look around at society, something huge has been happening since about the 1950’s. Why is it that women are so reluctant to stay home with children these days? Why is it that women, after thousands of years of being cool with staying home with kids, can’t get enough of sitting in cublicles instead of being with their children? That’s not the way it used to be. All of the mothers in my social circle are counting the seconds until they can get back to work (and none of them have glamorous jobs). They constantly bitch about having to stay home and how bored and lonely they are. And just by taking a look at the media I don’t think these women are too far out of the ordinary.

    What would you suggest the cause of this newfound dislike of being a housewife if not the breakdown of women’s social networks? (I don’t mean that to be pissy, it’s an honest question).

  54. rhonda lugari

    Very good comments, Zola.

    I am wondering why a mother can’t stand to be around her kids so much that she would prefer some cubicle.
    That’s bizarre.

    I’m not sorry for a second that I gave up a career for being “just a mom”. I like my children.

    I could comment on those of you who are complaining about not having any help with your one or two children, but I can’t think of a way of doing it without causing bad feelings.

    As women, we’re paying the price for what we’ve demanded. Total autonomy.

  55. rach

    As women, we’re paying the price for what we’ve demanded. Total autonomy.

    I don’t think anything sums it up better than that statement, Rhonda.

    Also, Kate, you are SO right. I was thinking about this all last night and it was starting to tick me off. I’ve written about this before; if there’s one thing that gets my goat more than anything else, it’s people making judgements about others: fertility, family size, nursing, spanking, co-sleeping, blah, blah, blah, etc., etc., etc… my feeling is that it’s very easy to criticize until you’re in that situation yourself.

    Boy, have I learned that the hard way.

  56. Julie D.

    I merely pointed out that the la-di-dah attitude of it’s all easy, no matter how many you have, no worries, laugh away is an irresponsible attitude for a parent and that we are expected to prepare wisely… Perhaps I should tell my sons and daughters to abandond their education, get jobs at McDonald’s, get married, have a dozen kids, and try to raise them all on minimum wage. That would probably make me an excellent parent in your eyes.

    I think if you look, Nina, you’ll see that no one said anything like that comment either. So it is clear that all parties are all are guilty of interpreting things in their own way and of getting all het up about this subject.

    Actually, in this case, it seems to me that being “all het up” is a good thing because it shows how passsionately we care about our families and the welfare of our children. And no matter how we may agree or disagree over which paths to take in that journey, it can only come to good if we care passionately.

    Nina, I wanted to write an email to make sure there were no hard feelings but didn’t see an address anywhere … so will say it here.

    Cheers to all…

  57. Nina

    I think, JulieD., that I can see a series of direct personal attacks made by one particular person and that’s enough for me.

    Do as you wish. I don’t have to justify myself to you, nor you to me. We both have to answer to God and God alone.

    I’ve always believed “thou shalt mind thine own damned business” should have been the the first commandment, anyway.

  58. Julie D.

    Wow, I guess the whole “no hard feelings thing” cut no ice with you my dear girl.

    To get into such a state over an internet conversation … which I admit I have done myself … but so much so that one is turning away an olive branch (however poorly offered?).

    Wow. Very interesting.

  59. Julie D.

    Oops, hit return too soon.

    I think I’ll hang with SteveG who takes and makes apologies like a real gentleman, no matter how acrimonious an exchange may have been.

  60. Nina

    You can’t apologize for other people. You weren’t the one who insulted me, therefore you shouldn’t have to do that person’s dirty work for them.

    Your final comment shows exactly how genuine your “olive branch” was. Wow. Very Interesting.

  61. Julie D.

    Your final comment shows exactly how genuine your “olive branch” was. Wow. Very Interesting.

    ????

    It isn’t the first time I have been too slow to understand what people are referring to.

    BTW, I wasn’t apologizing for anyone else. Some of your ire seemed to be aimed in my direction but perhaps it was just a “drive-by” splatter that hit me. So I was apologizing for unintentionally upsetting you. However, if it wasn’t needed then forget the whole thing, hon. Obviously we are at cross-purposes, communications-wise, and I will leave it at that, quite thankfully.

  62. Kate

    Wow, that was graceless. Nina, your passion is great, but your manners could use some improvement.

    Julie, as always you are one classy lady.

  63. Jennifer

    I wonder if it is possible to exchange ideas on moral issues without people feeling personally attacked?

    Our ideas and our moral codes are not our SELVES, though we may feel passionate about them.

    100% true yet so difficult to remember in the heat of the moment.

    I’ll take the ire and the heat because the fruits of the exchange far outweigh the temporary discomforts of being challenged from within by other passionate souls.

    Thanks everyone.

  64. Elena

    Nina, I made four comments on this thread

    http://et-tu.blogspot.com/2006/05/what-makes-it-so-hard.html#114780000056603184

    http://et-tu.blogspot.com/2006/05/what-makes-it-so-hard.html#114780586807204464

    http://et-tu.blogspot.com/2006/05/what-makes-it-so-hard.html#114781334982292404

    http://et-tu.blogspot.com/2006/05/what-makes-it-so-hard.html#114782504660562599

    I definitely disagreed with your position and opposed it, but where exactly did I say anything about insulting you personally? As a student of internet discussions I am very interested in this. Pleae be very specific. I would like to see the exact ad hominem attacks that you feel I used to attack and insult you personally, and not to just counter a debate point.

    Thanks in advance.

  65. Elena

    I wonder if it is possible to exchange ideas on moral issues without people feeling personally attacked?

    Yes it is. The trick is to avoid logical fallacy and keep focused on the ideas at hand. Julie D and I both have the comment policies outlined by the Harris brothers linked on our blogs. Those seem like good guidelines to use to be hard on ideas, but soft on people.

  66. Zola

    “What would you suggest the cause of this newfound dislike of being a housewife if not the breakdown of women’s social networks?”

    I don’t think it’s newfound. It began before the ’50s, and it probably began rather innocuously. Look at the popular magazines of the late ’30s, and you’ll run into articles about the problem of “still being an interesting woman” after children. All the ads for modern conveniences pitch the product as a way to escape the dulling routine of household duties – when one’s time can be better spent elsewhere. Again, this was a popular magazine aimed at the middle class families, so it was easy to compare it to similar magazines on microfiche. She noticed that the articles and ads of the period had a distinct image of the “modern family”: no more than three children, mothers who belonged to purely social groups like a bridge club, and living away from one’s parents.

    This didn’t reflect the realities of the average middle class family’s life, but it’s was an attractive ideal. Honestly, I think people were reacting to the Depression Era life of multi-generational families living in close proximity (if not in the same house) and having the enormous list of daily chores that go with it. I’m thinking here of my father’s stories of grandfather coming home from the mine and taking over the laundry for grandmother – including scrubbing diapers against a washboard – until grandmother was done feeding the children and could assist with the laundry again. (I notice that previous generations of MEN didn’t discount the value of being a wife and mother like they do today.)

    At any rate, I think the distaste for housekeeping (or is it “housewifery”) is merely more obvious in the ’50s. That decade saw the exodus to new tract housing, moderately-priced and more abundant appliances, and more women attending university (if only for an MRS degree). Then, of course, there’s the hyperbole of feminist writers (e.g. the comparison between being a housewife and living in a “comfortable concentration camp”) that began to equate being “only” a mother as synonymous with being unfulfilled -or worse, useless.

    And, let’s face it, if people have a choice between “drudgery” and “fulfillment” (or washing the dishes or watching “Lost” reruns), which would most choose?

    It just occurred to me that the same thing has happened with manufacturing and service work. See how many people look down on “shoprats” who work in factories, landscapers, pest control, etc.

    Not to glide off-topic, but there are darker veins of this “dislike of being a housewife”. Complete strangers have made rude comments to us about our children when we travel en masse – and the majority were women. I’ve lost track of the number of times co-workers have remarked on my staying home with a sick child – although I work via Internet and these are the self-same people who think “bad hair” or a hangover consistutes a reasonable absence. My sister has run into single women who refer to mothers with ANY children as “breeding cows” and who call babies “meatbags”. In decades past, such behaviour would mark a woman as a deviant, if not in need of psychiatric help. But they act as if my sister, being single and childless herself, automatically has this mindset. Creepy, no?

  67. Zola

    Ugh, my cutting and pasting needs work. This part is about how my sister did a media project on advertising in the ’20s and ’30s:

    “Again, this was a popular magazine aimed at the middle class families, so it was easy to compare it to similar magazines on microfiche. She noticed that the articles and ads of the period had a distinct image of the “modern family”: no more than three children, mothers who belonged to purely social groups like a bridge club, and living away from one’s parents.”

  68. Nina

    Elena-

    “I’m a mother, not a banker”, and “the lady methinks doth protest too much” are both insulting and inflammatory.

    The first implies that I’m not a mother and does not counter any point. Providing for a child’s education doesn’t make you a banker. I am not a glorified ATM machine. I am a mother, and my husband and I provided wisely for our children. You try to make it sound like something dirty.

    The second comment was completely unnecessary and inflammatory in nature. It was insulting, demeaning and rude. You cannot find one single quote to support the strawman you’ve built and claimed to be me, so you toss in a rude and antagonistic comment in order to bully and inflame.

    That was a direct personal attack.

    Jennifer-

    You ask this:

    I wonder if it is possible to exchange ideas on moral issues without people feeling personally attacked?

    Yet your response to my original post was, in part, and at the end of a rude diatribe rife with implied ad hominems:

    To argue against having children because of the cost of college lacks a certain sense of priority and values.

    Better to have no life at all than have to work at friendly’s as a waitress and maintain a 3.6 GPA to keep your full scholarship, hmmm..

    I’d wish I’d known my life was not worth living before I wore that stupid uniform and went to class with hot fudge smeared across my chest.

    I never once argued against having children for ANY reason let along tuition expenses.

    I never once said it was better to have no life at all than be a waitress working your way through college.

    I never once said that the life of anyone who had to work their way their way through college was not worth living.

    Yet when I am understandably and justifiably offended and insulted by this treatment and by these strawmen and ad hominems, I’m graceless and classless because I feel I am owed an apology by the people who went out of their way to be rude and insulting. Why these two people felt they needed to be this way is still a mystery to me. Either I haven’t produced the requisite number of babies needed to fill the current quota for salvation or their jealous. There really isn’t any other discernable reason why Elena and Jennifer would have gone out of their way to be as rude as they’ve been.

  69. Nina

    This has gone beyond the point of apologies.

    JulieD. is right. There is no point at all to continue to communicate with people who not only don’t share my values, but also attempt to denigrate them.

    Fine. You think quantity is more important than quality and that babies are merely stones with which to pave the way for your own personal salvation. I see my children as unique and whole human beings in their own right, each with special talents and gifts and personalities, and I see my duty as a mother to encourage and support those gifts and talents. There really is no common ground at all here.

  70. SteveG

    *peeks head up over rim of trench to see if all’s clear*

    Ehem, yes, well, back to the original topic. I wanted to ever most humbly offer something to think about that may, or may not, be pertinent in all this (probably not).:-)

    We’ve all mostly been focusing on harder vs. easier and quantifying that in term of physical effort. I think that there’s a pretty strong argument to be made that all our modern conveniences indeed do make it easier on us from a purely physical standpoint. Let’s concede that for the moment in any case.

    Now if that were really what was being complained about, I think it would be fair to call it whining. But I don’t think it is what is really at the heart of the complaining, I really don’t.

    What I think is really causing the ‘complaining’ can start to be unpacked from this comment from Jennifer F…

    They constantly bitch about having to stay home and how bored and lonely they are.

    …which somehow got me to thinking about this quote from Mother Teresa…

    In the developed countries there is a poverty of intimacy, a poverty of spirit, of loneliness, of lack of love. There is no greater sickness in the world today than that one.

    …And I think that is REALLY what is being felt and offered as ‘harder’. And I think that an argument can be made that in this regard we are far worse off today then in bygone eras.

    We’ve discussed on this blog some of the effects of that poverty of spirit in some of our own lives, and upbringing. About how some of the wives in the discussions have been attacked not only by the culture, but with hard core anti-family attacks from our very mothers and father.

    You can see here and here for some of what I am referring too.

    I’d like to offer that it is this poverty of spirit, and the anti-family, and child spirit, which seems to me to be tied to the breakdown of the social structures women relied on to support one another (emotionally, spiritually, etc., rather than physically), that makes it feel so difficult for some of us who were raised in families where this poverty was a way of life.

    Some of you are clearly far more spiritually mature, and can perhaps handle this with more resilience than others (perhaps because of the crosses you’ve suffered), but please be patient and gentle with those of us who are still children in the faith. Those of us who live this new and beautiful ethic out in fits and starts as we try to integrate it into our very essence.

  71. Elena

    “I’m a mother, not a banker”, and

    I’m not sure why you find that to be insulting and inflammatory. It wasn’t a direct attack or a personal ad hominem. It’s a contrast/comparison topic.

    “the lady methinks doth protest too much”

    Sorry. I wasn’t sure what else to say in response to such a long, off topic, fallacious and inflammatory comment which preceded it. The quote is from Shakespear’s MacBeth spoken by Queen Getrude. Apparently you want to dish it but you can’t take a little bit back..

    The first implies that I’m not a mother and does not counter any point.

    It implies no such thing. I am speaking purely of what I see as the duties of motherhood. I simply do not see providing funds at the level you are speaking of to be among those duties. You disagree. So what. We are both entitled to our opinions.

    Providing for a child’s education doesn’t make you a banker.

    It was a figure of speech. But even so, is there something wrong with being a banker? Why is the reference to being a banker so insulting?

    I am not a glorified ATM machine.

    Never said you were. In fact I wasn’t speaking of you at all.

    I am a mother, and my husband and I provided wisely for our children. You try to make it sound like something dirty.

    No Nina, you are reading into it things that simply were not there period.

    The second comment was completely unnecessary and inflammatory in nature.

    Well perhaps you should re-read your comment that preceded it. THAT actually WAS competely unnecessary and inflammatory in nature. By comparison the Shakespearean quote was remarkably controlled.

    It was insulting, demeaning and rude. You cannot find one single quote to support the strawman you’ve built and claimed to be me,

    I haven’t claimed anything to be you. In fact I never referred to you directly at all Nina. Hint: It’s not all about YOU. This isn’t even your blog.

    That was a direct personal attack

    Nonsense. Here are some examples of some direct unnecessary, inflammatory, ad hominem, personal attacks:

    1. just so we can win a “who had the most babies” contest on the internet.

    2. but apparently having planned for the children I was able to have makes me some kind of monster.

    I never implied any such thing. Didn’t even think it. That remark is totally off the wall.

    3. I guess that makes me a terrible, terrible person.

    No body said or implied that either but by this time you’re on a roll.

    4. I’m sorry that upsets people so much. I’m sorry I seem to have offended everyone by not frittering away money on stupid, senseless things and having saved it instead.

    Another implication that wasn’t there, although it’s noted that you are implying that anyone who can’t pay $160/year for college must have frittered on “stupid and senseless things.”

    and finally this which was just one big huge personal attack:

    Elena, at this point you only sound jealous and bitter.

    I can’t find anything I said that was remotely jealous or bitter.

    In your eyes, I am wrong because I can provide my children with something you cannot or will not.

    How could you possibly know how you look in my eyes? I never said any such thing.

    In order to justify your choices to yourself, you have to insinuate that there’s something wrong with mine.

    And apparently in order to “win” a discussion you have to make it personal and take everything as a personal attack. We can agree to disagree without making it personal.

    I’m sorry that you feel so inferior that you have to try to make responsible parenthood, sacrifice and hard work a negative thing.

    A classic ad hominem fallacy.

    I’m sorry that the only way you can feel worthy as a mother is to insinuate that I’m not a mother and that my children aren’t anything more than pieces of paper. That’s your self-esteem issue, though, and there isn’t anything I can do about that.

    As is that.

    Plank /eye and all of that, Nina. You’ve got issues.

  72. rhonda lugari

    Father Corapi has been on EWTN this past month speaking about American families and how they are under “attack”.

    All of the issues on this thread are addressed by him.
    He’s very insightful and I think most would benefit tremendously from it. I know everyone who watched it would come away with a whole different perspective about their own families.

    Anyway, you can order his tapes from EWTN (I’m not sure if they are only audio or not).
    Father Corapi is an excellent speaker, and he is never boring.

    I know it’s not likely that anyone will do it, but I had to throw it out there.

  73. rhonda lugari

    But now I feel the need to add to the college tuition conversation.

    I am from a family of seven children. All but two went to college. My parents are not poor, but they didn’t pay for our college.

    They bought us our first car, bought us our college books the first year, and helped us plan the best way to get the education/degrees we wanted.

    It’s the best thing they could have done for us. We didn’t take our education for granted by partying or slacking off. We were paying for it ourselves and it made us a lot more responsible.

    Not one of us has had to pay off our college loans for a lengthy amount of time. In fact, my brother’s first employer paid his college loans for him (8 years worth) as part of his contract.

    I don’t think college tuition needs to be a top priority or consideration when you’re thinking about whether or not you should have more children.

  74. Nina

    You know, I could respond to that revolting display of dishonest on Elena’s part, or to Rhonda’s continued insistance that I have claimed that people should not have children because college tuition is expensive, but at this point it’s obvious that you’re not going to be honest about what I said and that this is really all about grouping together and attacking me for whatever petty reasons you’ve cooked up in your heads. You’re very sad people, all of you.

    May God have mercy on you all.

  75. Elena

    at this point it’s obvious that you’re not going to be honest about what I said

    Oh for cryin out loud – I cut and pasted EXACTLY what you said!

    and that this is really all about grouping together and attacking me for whatever petty reasons you’ve cooked up in your heads.

    Yea, that’s it Nina. We’ve all come together for the sole purpose of persecuting you because when we’re not frittering away money on “stupid senseless things,” we’re all about YOU! Does that chip on your shoulder ever give you a back ache?

    You’re very sad people, all of you.

    Whatever

    May God have mercy on you all.

    don’t let the screen door…

  76. Jennifer

    I thought I was done here but I want to say something about argument and posting–because I believe arguments, even heated ones where tempers flare are EXTREMELY valuable when we can keep our hurt feelings in check.

    I will concede that I use flippancy, sarcasm, and irony all of which are not necessarily useful (though highly entertaining for me and wins me brownie points at academic conferences where we argue PROFESSIONALLY–we think this is FUN) so I apologize for my flippancy on all of these posts.

    But I can safely say that it is an objective fact that I used no ad hominem attacks.

    I think Elena has done a good job in explaining what an ad hominem attack is.

    When I attack I attack ideas and attitudes and maybe even language but never people.

    I never say Nina, you lack values and a sense of priority and you are going to hell because of it.

    But I will say that I think an IDEA lacks values and a sense of priority.

    For after all what is the only “fair” fight? A moral relativist love fest where everyone gets strokes because all ideas and attiudes are equal? BLEUGH. that makes me want to vomit just thinking about it.

    Arguing is thinking out loud and is a valuable activity beyond winning and being proven right.

    In philosophy we talk about ideas as propositions and we are taught to break down ideas into propositions so they can be debated.

    My comment on being a waitress in Friendly’s was a good example of how being flip or ironic is totally unhelpful and for that I apologize–if you had seen my face you would have seen the glint in my eye, that I was teasing and taking the argument that one should limit family size so that one can afford to pay for college to its logical conclusion–that in deciding against brining another child into the world BECAUSE of the cost of college tuition is saying that it is better not to be given life at all than to have to pay your way through college.

    In philosophy, we call this a reductio ad absurdum and it is not rude–it is a valuable rhetorical device employed in argument.

    In healthy and productive argument, propositions, attitudes, and values are free to be dismantled, deconstructed and even made to look foolish (in philosophy and rhetoric this is the purpose of using a reductio ad absurdum) but it doesn’t mean that YOU, the arguer, are being attacked.

    You are NOT your ideas and attitudes even though you may identify so strongly with them it feels that way.

    For instance, I can think SteveG is a great husband and father, a strong Catholic, and a brilliant apologist for the culture of life—but I can still attack an attiude or a presumption and even get frustrated, and angry when I encounter his ideas or arguments and STILL not change my original opinion of SteveG the PERSON.

    (This is NOT an invitation to reopen any arguments Steve! I love ya, man, but I can’t go there anymore!)

    We shouldn’t take these arguments so bloody personally–as Steve mentioned to me in one of his more heated comments most of us are on the same side here.

    We are just arguing the finer points and challenging each other which is a form of group think that is extremely productive.

    If we aren’t free to do that, than what is the point of posting in the first place? Congratulating ourselves on our insular brilliance? Mental masturbation?

    (Now PLEASE–no comments on how I accused someone of being a mental masturbater and that is an ad hominem attack.)

  77. Nina

    Jennifer, lovely thoughts, but the problem is that the idea you’re claiming is mine and that you’re arguing against is not an idea I promoted at all.

    I don’t know how many times I have to say this until it finally gets through to you: I NEVER SAID NOT TO HAVE CHILDREN BECAUSE OF FUTURE COSTS!

    Really, this is so pointless it’s beyond ridiculous. You’ve all set up a strawman and are insisting that I defend something I never claimed. How this is any kind of intelligent discourse, I don’t know, but obviously you think so.

    BTW – people with integrity are indeed their values. When you attack my values, you attack me. When those values involve my husband and my children, you attack them. If you were a parent, you might understand this, but you’re not, so you can’t possibly.

  78. Anonymous

    Jennifer F.,

    So I guess this proves that the answer to your original question about where Catholics stand on this issue of limiting family size is…….all over the place! 🙂 And this is among traditional Catholics, most of whom are genuinely trying to discern God’s Will in their lives.

    I think this is where the Church really shows Her wisdom in allowing and encouraging each couple to discern for themselves what is ideal for their family as far as child-spacing/family size goes, as long as it is done using moral methods.

    We all come from very different places and experiences, and if we are ever to get anywhere as far as understanding each other goes, then we have to realize that just because we “feel” something strongly or have had a particular kind of experience with parenting or mothering or family size (or any other number of such hot-button issues) doesn’t mean the next person has.

    I am personally very glad that God has NOT given us each the task of figuring out what everyone else should do (although I must admit it’s very tempting and so much more fun to sit around figuring out solutions to everyone ELSE’s problems), as I find it is more than enough of a challenge just to get my own act together and figure out what is best for our little (or not so little!) domestic church.

  79. Jennifer

    God Bless You, Nina.

    Your values and the ideas your reprsent on a blog comment box are NOT you. How small we would all be if that were true.

    You will feel a lot of unnecessary anguish if you remain unable to separate an idea from your self.

    At the very least, you should probably avoid comment boxes on blogs.

    I’d imagine they are quite painful for you and shudder to think of it.

    God bless.

  80. Nina

    The values and ideas I have built my life around and raised my children to respect and live by are very much who I am.

    There is no integrity in a value that’s merely something we take out and play with for discussion’s sake or when it suits our purpose in a debate. Values that aren’t lived are meaningless. People who don’t live values are shallow.

    If we are not our values, beliefs and ideas, what are we other than a walking collection of physical matter? How are we different from a dog or a cat or plant?

    My children are real. I can’t separate myself from them willy-nilly as suits YOUR purposes for this discussion.

    Yours are theoretical. It’s easy for you to separate yourself from these things because you don’t know what it is to love, nurture and raise a child and then have someone treat the sacrifices and hard work you’ve put into it as merely some theoretical concept that they’re entitled to denigrate and twist and sneer at.

    And how empty, shallow and lifeless we would all be if our values, ideas and beliefs dind’t come from who we are?

    I can’t make myself un-human enough and robotic enough to give you what you feel you are entitled to from this discussion.

    I’m not really sure, too, why you think you have the right to ask people to alter themselves or turn off their feelings to suit your personal wishes.

    I can’t imagine anything more horrific going through life without feelings or emotions or real, lived values or ideas that come from knowing who oneself is. You can’t harden your heart or go through life blowing with the winds. You have to be somebody, stand for something, and live who you are and what you believe.

    At least that’s the way I see it. I don’t think any other kind of life is really worth living.

  81. Julie D.

    I also thought I was done here but wanted to jump back in with one last thing as there is so much … let’s call it “passionate discussion.”

    As Christians we are all called upon to forgive … whether we “feel like it” or not. I have gotten a lot of good from this commentary by Mother Angelica so I offer it here:

    If someone has wronged you, you are not required to think they’re wonderful for doing it. You can despise what they did to you, and tell them so. You can tell them it was lousy and that you feel lousy and that you forgive them in spite of all that. The Lord asked us to forgive, but He never asked us to feel like forgiving. You must decide to forgive, just like you decide to love. None of this has to come naturally, and if you are expecting to develop the natural inclination to forgive, you’re going to wait a long time.

    As Christians, we don’t forgive someone because it makes us feel like a nice person or because its sweet, but because its hard. The very difficulty we have in summoning true forgiveness out of our hearts makes us resemble Jesus.

  82. Jennifer

    Nina,

    I’m sincerely glad that you have such passion in your heart concerning your children.

    I am sincerely sorry you find the tradition of debate so painful and experience having your ideas and values challenged as being sneered at and derided. I’ll avoid engaging you in the future.

    BTW my dead children are not theoretical.

    It would be more correct to say I have no LIVING children.

    I have, in fact, five children in heaven.

    Peace be with you.

    Take the last word, if you must.

    It is finished for me.

  83. Rick Lugari

    …or to Rhonda’s continued insistance that I have claimed that people should not have children because college tuition is expensive…

    Nina, Rhonda didn’t even come close to mentioning you or attributing anything to you. She was discussing the college tuition conversation and nothing more.

    Jennifer F was the first to introduce that thread when she said, “I was mentally contrasting it to the families I know where the priorities are standardized tests, sports, and what college you get into.”

    The subject of college had coincidently also entered the conversation when you and Julie were discussing what Rose’s teacher had said.

    Rhonda and I both know that you didn’t claim that someone should limit family size because of the expense of college. We read the thread. We know your initial comments about college were regarding the “difference between 2 or more kids” thing. You have a valid argument in that regard.

    The problem is that anybody who expresses their opinion about parenting priorites and college tuition or family size is accused by you of having attacked you. You made it stated very clearly that you don’t believe that families should be limited in favor of providing a college education, yet instead of adding to anyone’s comments concerning it (or even remaining silent), you jump in and “defend yourself”. When you first started doing that, every person who was participating in that aspect told you that they weren’t addressing you, just the issue (which this isn’t the first time the issue has been debated) By your own defensiveness, you have put yourself at odds with those who agree with you, and have carried it over to the point of putting others on the defensive – to which they react.

    So to be clear. I BELIEVE you Nina. You’re not a heartless monster. You don’t advocate only having one or two children just because college is expensive.

    If I dare enter this conversation again, and comment about how I believe that there are more important things to raising a good family than providing a college education (which is a desirable thing), I am not insisting that you are claiming otherwise. Based on what I read, I think everybody else here would agree with that statement.

    Peace…

  84. Rick Lugari

    Oh, (I just read some more recent posts) and in fairness, Nina. I think the misunderstandings have gone the other way too. Recently you wrote: Yours are theoretical. It’s easy for you to separate yourself from these things because you don’t know what it is to love,… and Jennifer replied with: BTW my dead children are not theoretical.

    Jennifer, truly, I don’t believe that Nina was referring to micarried children or even families with no children. She was countering what she perceives to be an attitude of other parents (regardless of family size). I don’t think it is fair or an accurate characterization, but I’m 98% sure it wasn’t meant the way you took it. But Nina will have to clarify, if she wishes.

    I had just forgotten to add how there was misunderstandings on both sides and that example presented itself.

  85. Jennifer

    Rick:

    I think Nina means that I do not have any children and cannot understand her point of view.

    That’s how I took it. I’m pretty sure that’s what she meant. She’s said it several times. Pretty clear she thinks that having no children makes it easier for me to talk about this in theoretical terms. A valid point. Maybe.

    It is another example of me being unnecessarily flip. It wasn’t useful to the discussion.

    Thanks for pointing it out.

    I do have to guard against my tendency to be biting and flip.

    Lesson learned.

  86. rhonda lugari

    Ok, my last comment now. I swear. Truly, I wasn’t addressing anybody when I talked about college tuition. I was taking a very small piece of the conversation (which really never was one) and put in my thoughts.

    Nina, I absolutely agree with what you said in your last comment about our values and who we are. They should not be put aside when we are speaking to others, otherwise we’re nothing more than wishy-washy idiots. I respect a person who is passionate and wrong more than a person who is wishy-washy and doesn’t have any opinions of their own.

    However, I don’t ever take it as a personal slam when someone disagrees with me. It can actually be an enjoyable discussion. I rarely see anyone who is mean-spirited about it and I don’t believe it was meant to be that way here.

    I think it worth reminding that it’s hard to “say” things in comment boxes because we don’t have the benefit of facial expressions, tones of voices, and we usually don’t know the person enough to realize when they are joking or teasing (or just being a smart-ass).

    🙂

  87. Rick Lugari

    Jennifer,

    In light of that, I reread it and see what you mean. Indeed; perhaps I was the one who misinterpreted it. The post wasn’t specifically addressed to anyone so I assumed it was a blanket address rather than directed specifically to you and your situation. Again, that’s for Nina to clarify if she desires.

  88. Jennifer

    Grade A Smart Ass Here —->

  89. rach

    I vote for a wrestling match between Elena and Nina. Seriously. Are we in 3rd grade, children? No one is going to convince the “other side” of anything. I can see how both felt attacked. Whether I decide to have 2 children or 10 is really between my husband and I, not for anyone else to discuss….

    Well, I suppose if they want to discuss it, they could…but it’s really not going to change what I’m going to do.

    I see Nina and Elena as both very sensitive about defending their parenting choices. Nothing wrong with that, I think it’s just important to remember that not everyone is going to agree with you, and you don’t have to attack them or make snide remarks because of that.

    I:
    spank my child
    feed her lunch meat filled with sodium
    occasionally let her wear a dirty onesie

    I love my child to pieces. One of you could say that I don’t, but I know that I do, so it really doesn’t matter what you speculate, right?

    I think the lesson here is that skins may need to be a bit tougher.

    This is entertaining, at the very least.

  90. Elena

    I think it’s just important to remember that not everyone is going to agree with you, and you don’t have to attack them or make snide remarks because of that.

    Absolutely Rach, I totally agree! Which is why I posted the address for the Harris Twins guidelines on commenting.

    http://www.therebelution.com/2005/08/you-read-it-right-complete-blog.html

    A good discussion never has to include ad hominem attacks. : )

  91. Anonymous

    Perhaps if Elena had got a decent education, she’d know the quotation is from Hamlet.

  92. Elena

    Ooops, I stand corrected it is Hamlet and not MacBeth. I mistyped it.

    And I didn’t need to spend $145 K to check it out either! $1.95 on Amazon. FREE at the public library! 😉

  93. Elena

    Hamlet Shamlet

    From the previously mentioned Harris Guide to commenting etiquet.

    NUMBER FIVE: Respond to the argument, not to the spelling.
    There is no surer sign of inadequacy on the part of a debater than when they take issue with some small “error” on the part of their opponent, while ignoring the main point/s their adversary is trying to make.

    If you are unable to refute your opponent’s position, don’t insult his or her spelling, grammar, or insignificant deviations from fact. Your opponent is most likely correct, and their small errors have nothing to do with the overall truth or falsity of the proposition they defend. Don’t make a fool of yourself by being a sore loser.
    DO feel free to point out significant errors that impact the validity of a claim.
    DO NOT point out errors solely for the purpose of embarrassing your opponent.

    The rest of the article is equally as informative and insightful.

  94. Rick Lugari

    Hamlet Shamlet

    Shamlet is not even a real word. I’m sorry, Elena, but now I’m going to have to dismiss everything you wrote.

    🙂

  95. SteveG

    Rick,

    …now I’m going to have to dismiss everything you wrote.

    But your own credibility is seriously in question because you haven’t yet realized that ‘LOST’ Jumped the shark like 2 episodes into this season. 😉

  96. Rick Lugari

    LOL Steve. My credibility wouldn’t be damaged because I agree, even though I don’t think all is lost just yet (no pun intended). I’ve openly lamented the romantic interests on the show. I find them regrettable and indicative of weak writing.

    My credibility is damaged because I was ignorant of the term “jumping the shark”. I’m chuckling about the term right now because I appreciate the concept and recall the downfall of many TV series.

  97. SteveG

    wohooo!! 100 comments! Jen, is that a record?

    The origin of ‘Jump the Shark’ is pretty hilarious.

    For some reason I got the idea from Julie’s site that you were still a big fan of ‘Lost’. Shows how out of touch I am.

    Did you know that initially, the main idea of the island was that they were all in purgatory, and that as each of them found redemption, they died off (i.e. were released). Actually a pretty cool idea if you ask me.

    Apparently, when people started figuring that out, the abandoned the idea and no longer really know WHAT the island means or is about. They are just winging it. The writers/producers were recently quoted as basically saying it’s just a character driven show at this point and they are hoping to run it for 5 or 6 seasons.

    Anybody looking for answers will be sorely dissappointed cause the writers don’t even know the answers. I mainly watch it now because it’s the one indulgence I have were I actually feel that the anger it stirs up is righteous indeed. 😉

  98. Rick Lugari

    Don’t get me wrong, I still like the show, but I do have some misgivings about it. Primarily the predictable and lame “flirting” and setups (helping with golf swing, caught in the net…), the Hurley and Libby thing, Lovely Shannon being defiled by Sayid, etc. That stuff literally pains me.

    My understanding was that the show actually has a 5 year plan/outline and that there has been some changes along the way concerning details and stuff, but not that they are totally winging it. However, if your information is correct, the show will be over half way through next season. They’ll find the huge electro-magnet and Sayid will try tweaking it. He’ll accidently reverse the polarity, and in the next seen we’ll see Eko and Charlie kissing in the hatch while the button goes unpushed.

    The magnet begin to whirl up just as Locke bends over to pick up a little tiki idol he finds on the beach. The magnet will launch him and the idol into the sea at high velocity. Fortunately, he’ll skip over the circling shark, but he’ll sink to the ocean floor where the last thing he will see is a basketball and Chuck Cunningham’s remains.

  99. SteveG

    LOL!!! 😀

    That is far more intersting/exciting, IMO, than anything we’ve seen thus far in season 2!! 😀

    You should be a writer for that show!

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