Determining child spacing in American culture

May 19, 2007 | 5 comments

More great stuff from Mothers of Many Saints. Hope has a very interesting article where she discusses a recent post by Greg Popcak. In particular, I loved this part about discerning responsible use of NFP and limiting family size:

I think couples, and those who counsel them, must be very careful when discerning what it means to be responsible and prudent and generous regarding the rearing of children. Materially, socially, spiritually, and intellectually, what does it mean to be responsible? Again, this will be something only a couple can decide prayerfully together. It may be that a couple, because of their apostolate, are called to use NFP for much of their marriage and will have only a small family or widely spaced children.

However, we cannot look at the benchmark of the average American family and decide that we’re just “not ready” for another baby yet. The truth is, the American culture encourages people to be selfish, materialistic, and way too attached to comforts. If anything, these “attachments” are where the laser beam should be focused, not on faithful families who happen to have many children and are learning to live a less comfortable existence.

This is especially interesting to me at this point in my life. Since I’m about to have three children under the age of three, I’ve been thinking a lot about child spacing and what seems best in terms of the timing of the next child.

I plan to prayerfully take it day by day, but I’m definitely conscious of the difficulty of accurately discerning God’s will in the midst of modern American culture. Obviously I believe it’s important that my husband and I be responsible stewards of our fertility and try to avoid pregnancy if it would max us out mentally or financially. Yet, especially in terms of money, I find that it’s hard not to look at the rich suburbia that surrounds me and see that as the default way to live, the standard we must look to in terms of determining whether or not we can afford more children at any given point. I often catch myself thinking, “Well, we couldn’t cut back on that, that’s a necessity”…when “that” is something that 80% of the world lives without every day.

Thanks to Hope for giving me lots to think about!


  1. Literacy-chic

    I grew up in a family of 6 that lived below the poverty level in Louisiana, one of the poorest states in the country. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with wanting to do better than that. The circumstances were more complicated than number of children, but I think, even considering the call to charity, measuring yourself according to Third World standards, or even according to monastic standards, is a little harsh.

  2. Elena

    Jen, I know it is hard to see right now but your 3 under 3 will soon be your 3 under 6 and then your 3 under 12 and then your 3 under 16 – and they will be each other’s best friends and playmates, and confidants! As I type this my children 14, 11, 9 and 7 are outside playing ball with the neighbor kids and I am so thankful that I have enough to make a little neighborhood team! It’s hard for you right now, but in ten years you will start reaping the fruits! Hang in there Jen!

  3. Christina Martin

    Thank you so much for posting this! We’re working on number 8, and I just got the condom lecture from number 1. I don’t regret any of the others; why on earth should I regret this one?

  4. Jennifer F.

    Literary-chic –

    Good points. What I was getting at was more just the idea of not looking to my current surroundings and taking it for granted that I definitely *need* all these things. Maybe I’ll decide that I actually do need all the things that are a part of my current lifestyle, but I think it’s important (esp. for people like me who grew up in one-child, middle-class families) to take a step back and put it all in perspective before making that decision.

  5. Crimson Wife

    How did a desire for simplifying one’s lifestyle become equivalent to looking to the developing world as a goal? We’re not talking about giving up electricity, sanitation, adequate medical care, etc. here. More like giving up all the frivolous luxuries that many people in America have come to see as “basics” like a cell phone, cable/satellite TV, an iPod, multiple cars, frequent restaurant meals, etc.

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