Childfree by Choice. This is a growing trend in western and American culture that can no longer be ignored. Even Elon Musk and the Pope have recently commented on the matter. The US fertility rate is low and dropping lower. We are below the 2.1 births per woman for replacement rate, at 1.6, and headed towards a demographic winter like much of Europe and Japan.
I recall seeing the 2015 Time Magazine cover, “The Childfree Life: When Having It All Means Not Having Children.” Well, my experience has been the opposite. It was in having children that I felt a profound sense of completeness. But I heard a call to Motherhood when I was eight years old. That is when my youngest brother was born, holding him and helping care for him was so exciting! My love for that little baby just gushed out of me. When I was in 7th grade, after getting to experience firsthand the miraculous invention known as contact lenses, I decided I wanted to be an eye doctor. I chose that career in part knowing I wanted to be a mom and that it afforded the flexibility to do both. God called me to be an eye doctor, but he called me first to be a mother. And in that life-work balance, it is the same order, I’m a mom first and an optometrist second. And I have always ensured that in doing so it is never to the detriment of my patients.
Have you ever tried to describe some amazing experience and it just falls flat? Had to be there, right? Can you imagine climbing a mountain and trying to describe the sunset at the top? You’ve poured sweat into the climb and then the beauty and magnificence has such a purity to wonder and behold. You could never find words to aptly describe the beauty, but that is what art does. Art in its many forms tries to capture and convey truth, beauty, and goodness. So why can we easily convey the “dirty diapers” of parenting. You know the costs-lack of sleep, financial drain, the toll on Mom’s body, the stresses and insecurities, and of course the many literal dirty diapers. But few of us, can aptly articulate the simple joy and wonder of it all. Let me try.
It is awesome. It is Awe-some, as you sit back in awe of how perfect these little humans are created (even imperfectly perfect). It is Awww- some, as they melt your heart in unexpected ways, and are just so dang cute! It is Ahh-some as you strive to teach them all about the world, but you end up being taught what the world is all about. Simplicity. How often we lose sight of the simple things. The best things in life aren’t things! Parenting is not easy, it is a great amount of work. But in a sense your child is a work of art. Art co-created by the spouses and God to reveal the goodness and beauty of God. Do you smell the dirty diapers? That is the smell of the work it takes to produce a work of art, a work of heart.
In some ways I kind of resent the culture. If I would have known that children were so wonderful, I would have started sooner! I was so in awe of the profound joy and sense of divine purpose when I had my kids, it made my many accomplishments before children appear watery and gray. Not that I’m not proud of graduating Magna Cum Laude, getting a 4-year degree in 3 years, being awarded special recognition for service to others, and -if graduating with a doctorate isn’t accomplishment enough- doing so with both academic honors and leadership distinction. However, when these bouncing bright spots came into the picture, they couldn’t help take center stage with all their color and animation. Pictures can speak a thousand words, but it is still 2-dimensional. In real life, children are 3D in their contagious laughter and energy.
So, how do we reconcile the truth, beauty, and goodness of children that spring forth from God’s perfect design for marital love with things like this book I saw prominently displayed at the public library a few years ago. “Childfree by Choice: The Movement Redefining Family and Creating a New Age of Independence.” I wanted to read the book, to be more knowledgeable in potential counter arguments, but it was just depressing to think about! A book convincing people not to have kids-humanity’s greatest treasure! I like God’s definition for family, I don’t want a new one.
Sadly, there are many other books in this genre. I saw six suggested to me on Amazon, one struck me in particular, The Baby Decision: How to Make the Most Important Choice of Your Life by Merle Bombardieri. The first thing in the book description is this, “This valuable unbiased book skillfully shows readers how to stop fretting over the choice and take time to make the right one.” –Blue Ink Starred Review and Notable Book It goes on in the author’s bio to say:
Merle Bombardieri, MSW, LICSW is a psychotherapist, coach and workshop leader. Although she enjoyed raising her daughters, she has been a childfree advocate since 1978. She has contributed to Our Bodies Ourselves, The Boston Globe Magazine, Glamour, Self and Brides and has appeared on national news, talk show, and documentaries.
First off, let me just say out loud what everyone is thinking. How to make the most important decision of your life? GO TO THE LORD! PRAY ABOUT IT! The inconsistency, if you missed, is that the reviewer calls this an “unbiased book,” but then the author bio touts that she has been a childfree advocate for over 40 years! The magazines that are listed? No doubt full of worldly advice, not godly. We want our daughters to pursue glory not glamour!
Teach your child to follow Jesus or the world will teach them not to. Teach your children the sanctity of sex, married life, and children, or the world will teach them …hell only knows. You read that right. Sex is sacred, marriage is a sacrament, and children will cultivate virtue in the life of a parent that will lead them closer to Christ! We are selfish, but God calls us to love, and to love means to sacrifice. See my blog Motherhood a Lesson in Divine Love for more!
Catholic wedding vows include:
“Are you prepared to accept children lovingly from God?”
Take a minute to contemplate what it would mean for a marriage to flat out reject God’s gift of children?
As Catholics, our view of children is different. Some see all the bad in the world and fear to bring children into it. We see children as bringing good into the fearsome world!
CEO of Tesla, billionaire Elon Musk commented earlier this year to the Wall Street Journal, “I can’t emphasize this enough, there are not enough people … And yet, so many people, including smart people, think that there are too many people in the world and think that the population is growing out of control. It’s completely the opposite.” Musk contended that one of the biggest risks to civilization is the low birth rate and its rapid decline. The atheist father of six urged, “Please look at the numbers. If people don’t have more children, civilization is going to crumble. Mark my words.”
The Pope remarked last month that he has seen more couples choose “fur-babies” over having children and that these couples are “missing something.” He applauded those that choose adoption. I recently watched Cora’s Story, where Cora says, “I can say firsthand after going through two adoptions, there was this special chamber within my heart that was hidden, I didn’t even t know it was there, and the moment I held my first daughter it was like this chamber in my heart just opened up. It’s a love, I didn’t even know existed, and it came so profoundly just pouring out into this child, and it is the unconditional love I have for both of my girls.” Those that choose children overwhelmingly don’t regret it. Babies Add Color to Life! Babies add light, laughter, and love too. They certainly have enriched my life. Let us make a positive messaging campaign. Babies add much more than they take away. Let us do what we can to encourage and support those that say “Yes” to children. Parenting requires a ton of time and attention and really takes a village!