Why Not One More? (Part One): When The Culture says Not To

“To the young mom who doesn’t have time for sipping mimosas, who is knee-deep in dirty diapers, who may indeed feel lost altogether at times, whose body is just not quite the same and is so very, very tired… I suggest a different solution than the one our culture is screaming.”

A year and a half ago, I posted an article on Facebook from Time Magazine called, “The Childfree Life: Having it all Without Having Children.” It sparked some very interesting and controversial conversation amongst friends. I took some time to respond to that article, which I’m posting here first, since it is provides some context for my next post: “Why Not One More? Part Two,” in which I’ll share more personally from our own journey. Pushing back against some of the current cultural norms wasn’t our driving reason for wanting a bigger family. There are many reasons, which I’ll discuss in the next post- but I did want to provide some background that has shaped us in this process.

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Time Magazine cover, August 12, 2013.

If you have the chance to read the Time article in its entirety, it is fascinating. But, for those of you who are probably not going to order an online subscription just to read one article, I will try to summarize. As you can see in the image above, the child free couple lounges on the beach sipping mimosas, while the exhausted & grumpy parents struggle with their truck load of toys. In my opinion, this picture depicts another problem: parents over burdened by American consumerism. Time author, Flores, pushes back against the American pie family image and exposes some of the ugly sides of parenting. She writes that we live in a baby crazed, “oppresssively family-centric” culture which is “obsessed with kids.” She describes a world where people “disappear into parenthood” and the loneliness that is felt by those that- for whatever reason- don’t have kids. These revelations aren’t unfounded. I would feel the same way if we didn’t have children & I know some of our friends have felt some of those same feelings. I agree with what she said about social media “adding to the pain.” And I admit, I’ve been guilty myself of doing some of the very things she mentions. Plain and simple- it’s making children idols. As Tim Keller puts it, “An idol is usually any good thing we make ultimate.”

Though she makes some good points, her solution is to swing the opposite direction and glorify a child-free life. In my opinion, none of these complexities or common mistakes of parenthood should necessarily lead to a rejection of having children, but rather a rejection of a specific parenting style and worldview.

The American birthrate is at a record low. In fact, from 2007 to 2011, the fertility rate declined 9% and currently, 1 in 5 American women who end their childbearing years maternity-free, compared with 1 in 10 in the 1970s.
The American birthrate is at a record low. In fact, from 2007 to 2011, the fertility rate declined 9% and currently, 1 in 5 American women who end their childbearing years maternity-free, compared with 1 in 10 in the 1970s.
Isabella Dutton. Her son Stuart was five days old when Isabella realized having a child had been the biggest mistake of her life:
Isabella Dutton. Her son Stuart was five days old when Isabella realized having a child had been the biggest mistake of her life: “I resented the time my children consumed. Like parasites, the took from me and didn’t give back.”

Around this same time, another friend posted an article: “The mother who says having these two children is the biggest regret of her life.” She says, “I dreaded (my daughter’s) dependence; resented the time she would consume, and that like parasites, both my children would continue to take from me and give nothing meaningful back in return.” She went on to describe the “dread the encroachment of this demanding little being on my own independence… I felt oppressed by my constant responsibility for them. Young children prevent you from being spontaneous; every outing becomes an expedition. If you take your job as a parent seriously, you always put their needs before your own.” This picture- of children infringing on our freedom- as parasites nonetheless, is what saddens me most. So there seems to be a trend in our culture (alongside the baby craze), which harbors resentment toward children, seeing them as burdens & nuisances.  One mom implied children potentially “hold you back from the things that matter to you” and said she didn’t “want to be seen as a mom.” I hear that our culture can be overly & perhaps oppressively “family-centric” but I am saddened by the equally strong opposite sentiment- that moms are just are “martyrs” and “lose themselves.” While this is certainly true for many moms, isn’t it also possible for women to do the same in other careers? I’ve thought a lot about what it means to lose oneself as a mom in the way that Jesus described losing your life on behalf of another, as opposed to maybe an unhealthy way we can lose ourselves… to anything.

Some of the most influential people in my life, not to mention dear friends- are either singles or couples without kids. Some of these friends expressed hurt for being judged as selfish for not having kids- or even in some cases “enough kids.” On the flip side, I also took offense & felt equally annoyed & frustrated by the whole portion in the Time article, which implied that those who choose a childless or child free life, are “highly educated” and “just smarter.” It goes to show how easy it is to demonize someone else’s view, rather than confidently arguing one’s own viewpoint, while still seeking to understand another’s. That’s why it’s important to express your own convictions carefully and confidently, but with room for life’s nuances, which are many. Demonizing causes more damage than we can possibly realize and doesn’t prove anything.

And so, I write this post to any young mom out there who may have “disappeared into parenthood.” To the mom who may be pulling the wagon in the picture above… who may be guilty after all of American consumerism, of being baby-crazed, family-centric and spending too much time on Instagram. To the young mom who doesn’t have time for sipping mimosas, who is knee-deep in dirty diapers, who may indeed feel lost altogether at times, whose body is just not quite the same and is so very, very tired… I suggest a different solution than the one our culture is screaming. The answer to our parenting idols and disappointments is not to erase the source of our struggles and glamorize a life with less chaos, more independence and more “me time.” Our children are not parasites, burdens or nuisances. Yes, children often prevent you from being spontaneous. And yes, If you take your job as a parent seriously, you will put their needs before your own. But there is a delayed glory and greatness in submitting to these little teachers that can challenge the passing pleasure of any mimosa any day.

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If I’m honest, what sounds attractive about the child-free life to me (or even less children in general) is the promise of less chaos, less noise, less mess, less work… and of more rest, more comfort, more… mimosas. But, whether you are “childfree” or have more children than you feel you can handle, Jesus presents a better vision for us both. Better than being family-centric, better than making your kids idols, better than Instagram. And likewise, better than me-time, better than finding yourself and better than your self-comfort. On either side, it involves self-denial and often delayed gratification.

If it seems backwards that in the chaos, and in the diapers and the mess and the pile of dirty laundry and dishes, and in the driving back and forth and in the constant discipline and in the naptimes and in the lack of naptimes and in all the noise(!!)… that there could be a glory and freedom worth pursuing…. it’s because it is. But the kingdom of God often works this way. I’ll say it again because He is worth repeating:

“Whoever finds their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life for my sake will find it” – Jesus Christ (Matthew 10:39)

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What are your thoughts on any of this?

4 Comments on “Why Not One More? (Part One): When The Culture says Not To

  1. This post makes some important points:
    http://qz.com/273255/how-american-parenting-is-killing-the-american-marriage/
    I would take it a step further though, as the article isn’t written from a specifically Christian perspective. I do believe our spouse should come before our children, but also that our God must come before and preside over both. Something I’ve been trying to focus on lately is respecting this hierarchy of importance: First God, Second Marriage, Third Children. I think we often get the order exactly backward. And that mindset is what causes burnout and makes parenthood look downright unappealing to outside observers. We have so many temptations related to priorities as American parents. We need to be honest and aware of our shortcomings, and constantly ask our Savior to forgive us and redirect us. When our parenting is God-pleasing, it will also shine the light of His love and will make it, and Him, attractive to others. Of course, in this fallen and sinful world, even a family shining with Christ’s love will draw the ire of some. Jesus told us we would be hated for His sake.

    From the other perspective, it is a tragedy and sin for parents to judge childless and single people as less than us. We are all called to different vocations, and I firmly believe not everyone is called to have children. This is making me think of 1 Corinthians 12, which discusses how the church, the Body of Christ is made up of many different members. And that leads nicely into 1 Corinthians 13, where we see the great example of how we should love our spouses and children.

    Hopefully I haven’t rambled too much 🙂

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    • Thank you for sharing these thoughts. I agree about putting God first, your spouse second and your children third. Putting him first in decision-making and being on the same page in general hasn’t been hard (yet) but I’ll be honest, quality time has become harder and harder for us to carve out time for each other. I am still just as in love with my husband… And our love has changed too- it’s deepened. But we realize we need to keep fostering the romantic side. Recently got date nights back on our calendar, which has been awesome. They used to be once a week, now they’re just once a month, but it’s something! ☺️
      And yes- judgment/condemnation is never appropriate.
      Thanks again for sharing.

      Like

  2. Hi Elizabeth! I found your blog on a friend’s Facebook. I absolutely love this post! I’ve had so many of the same kinds of thoughts. The way you communicate this is beautiful- thank you for sharing your writing and helping bring perspective to my own life as a mom.

    Like

    • Holly, thank you so much for taking the time to respond. I am touched that I was able to encourage you in your perspective as a mom! I also write to try to reinforce/give myself perspective so it’s fun to know that it was a blessing to you in some way!

      Like

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