Intentional Childlessness

[B]earing and raising children requires every spiritual, emotional, financial and psychological resource that parents can muster. It is a journey fraught with potential pain and disappointment, but also unspeakable joy and satisfaction. The investment in children is the antithesis of our society’s self-centered, “me first” environment that so often aborts its babies or neglects its young. An important study by social researchers, Drs. Barbara Dafoe Whitehead and David Popenoe, brings this anti-child mentality into the sobering realm of reality. Their report, titled “Life Without Children,” confirms that “demographically, socially and culturally, the nation is shifting from a society of child-rearing families to a society of child-free adults.”

The most striking evidence of this shift can be seen in our nation’s declining birthrate. An article in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution revealed that in 2002, the birthrate in the United States fell to only 66.9 births per 1,000 women aged 15-44. This figure, an all-time low, represents a shocking 43 percent decline in the fertility rate since 1960. In their study, Popenoe and Whitehead state that “since 2000 the birthrate has been continuing its downward trend. In 2004 . . . the American ‘total fertility rate’ stood at 2.049 . . . This rate is below the ‘replacement level’ of 2.1, the level at which the population would be replaced through births alone . . .”

Whitehead and Popenoe assert that in today’s economy, childless young adults are considered extremely desirable as both consumers and economic contributors because they are not “burdened” by the time constraints and other limitations associated with marriage and, especially, parenthood. Similarly, adults over 50 “make up a growing share of Americans with money to spend on second homes, travel, recreation, learning and entertainment.”

This conclusion might help explain why studies show an apparent link between our society’s wealth and materialism (what some have termed “affluenza”) and its increasing aversion to children. Apparently, when people are caught up in the ongoing race for bigger houses, better jobs and faster cars, they have little time for or interest in bearing children. [For example:]

—San Francisco, which has a median house price of $700,000, also has the lowest percentage of people under 18 than any other city in the nation—14.5 percent (the nationwide average is 25.7 percent).

In Seattle, there are nearly 45% more dogs than children.

—In Salt Lake City, there are nearly 19% more kids than dogs.

This demographic shift has produced an adult-oriented, self-centered mindset reflected in a proliferation of “no kids allowed” housing developments, health clubs, stores, and so on [in more progressive/liberal areas]. Social and travel groups are organized for “DINK” (dual income, no kids) couples, and anti-child Web sites abound, many of which derisively refer to children as “spawn” and their parents as “breeders.”

The eventual result of this hostility to children and parents, as it spreads, will be a form of social suicide, leading to a world without springtime, regeneration or the idealism of youth. Remaining will be an increasingly aging community stumbling inevitably toward death and decay.

Leon R. Kass, a respected professor and researcher at the University of Chicago, has described the experience of parenthood in particularly eloquent terms:

Marriage and procreation are, therefore, at the heart of a serious and flourishing human life, if not for everyone at least for the vast majority. Most of us know from our own experience that life becomes truly serious when we become responsible for the lives of others for whose being in the world we have said “We do.” It is fatherhood and motherhood that teach most of us what it took to bring us into our own adulthood. And it is the desire to give not only life but a good way of life to our children that opens us toward a serious concern for the true, the good, even the holy.

This is precisely why the high calling of childrearing deserves our society’s support and encouragement, not its scorn and indifference. Parents who are earnestly endeavoring to raise productive citizens and, hopefully, committed followers of Christ, need the very best resources that our government, social organizations and churches can provide. What they don’t need are looks of disdain from the cultural elite, backbreaking taxes and family-unfriendly policies from the government, or jeers and jabs from everyone else.

If you’re a parent, you already know that raising children is the most difficult job you’ll ever do. In the words of Popenoe and Whitehead, “the bone-wearying and time-consuming work of the child-rearing years [does not] comport with a culture of fun and freedom . . . Indeed, child-rearing values—sacrifice, stability, dependability, maturity—seem stale and musty by comparison.”

But it’s also a faith-challenging, faith-stretching and faith-affirming endeavor that nurtures selflessness and maturity in the face of our culture’s admonitions to pursue pleasure and to “look out for number one.” If approached in a spirit of humility and prayer, parenthood produces the fruit of righteousness in those who embrace it. How can one not be transformed by a trip to the ER in the middle of the night when your little one has a dangerously high fever? How can a mother not mature in her faith after years of nursing skinned knees, bandaging broken arms, or offering comforting embraces after bad dreams? What father hasn’t learned a valuable life lesson after experiencing, though his children, the joys and failures of school sports? What parent could remain unmoved and unchanged after hearing a little voice ask, “Why is the sky blue?” or “Where will I go after I die?” or “Who is God?” This is the stuff of real life. The pursuit of fame, fortune, comfort and convenience are utterly meaningless in comparison.

—Highlights from Dr. James Dobson’s April 2007 Newsletter from Focus on the Family Action.

 

[Jay:] I make this post in honor of my own mother. Thank you for your love and dedication in my own life. And to my lovely bride, I thank you for your compassion and dedication in the life of our child. Finally to mothers everywhere, thank you for taking on the greatest challenge possible: shaping the future. God bless you all. 

Happy Mother’s Day     

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