Parents giving arguments to the anti-child couples

Parents giving arguments to the anti-child couples

An advice columnist, Emily Yoffe, at Slate started a firestorm of response when she advised a woman who was determined to remain childless in marriage that she might change her mind. Similarly childless couples wrote in with furious responses about how their lives are so much more fulfilling than if they’d had kids: “Many didn’t just write about the adult pleasures of their childless (or “childfree”) life—travel, restaurants, undamaged upholstery, sex in the living room—but expressed contempt for those deluded enough to want to reproduce.” One woman even sneered that “It is the most wonderful lifestyle, free of whining and sniveling and mini-vans.”

Now where would she get that impression? Sure, you see movies and TV shows—even ones that supposedly extol family life like the modern remakes of “Cheaper by the Dozen” and “Yours, Mine, and Ours”—that depict life with kids as chaotic, messy, full of sleeplessness and worry and fights and whatnot. But they’re not solely the reason people have that impression. Unfortunately I believe that a lot of parents, while trying to impress on others what a tough but wonderful job parenting is, overemphasize the tough and underemphasize the wonderful. Yoffe agrees:

In our society parents do a wonderful job of portraying the difficulties of having children: the financial burdens, the time drain, the guilt, the exhaustion. But we do a lousy job of getting across something else about parenthood: It’s fun! When you are experiencing parenthood from the inside, there is an overwhelming pleasure in the funny, fascinating things your children do.

Because of the overemphasis on certain difficult aspects of parenthood, especially those days of dealing with newborns and infants and toddlers—the “diaper years”—that’s the impression of parenthood people are left with.

An unrealistic sense of the passage of time

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  • My point is not the people who are childless (especially those who are not childless by choice) are selfish, but that people with children should be careful not to make it appear that parenthood is all punishment and no reward.

  • We were at Disney World with our 4 1/2 month old daughter. With the exception of restaurants having an infant with us generally seemed to make us a burden to the busdrivers, ticket takers, ride runners and other cast members. One bus driver scolded us for not moving out of her line of sight of her back mirror while we were still boarding the bus and struggling with the stroller (it was a narrow bus). Somehow if it was a wheelchair, I think they would have been more patient. But it seems as if many people view us with our infant as a nuisance and burden. The general mindframe seemed to be summed up nicely by one cast member (Disney employee) at a Safari ride in Animal Kingdom who commented about our daughter Cecilia, “When I see them like this I think, ‘I want a baby,’ but then I hear them cry and I’m over it.” I was actually a bit stunned by her comment considering our experience with Cecilia – she rarely cries. She fusses quite a bit between the teething and when she gets tired, but it isn’t the same thing as crying. It isn’t as though babies cry nonstop. I suppose if a baby was just simply ignored long enough it would cry continuously, but then I am not sure that would be considered parenting. Personally I find my brother’s dogs that bark at anything that moves (that includes wind!) much more trying than any of Cecilia’s fussing or occassional crying. I think much of society’s misconception about children and the difficulties surrounding them is part of the national trend of being self-centered. Children aren’t easy. And without immediate gratification, immediate pleasure, and the ease to bring them, people would prefer to propogate a negative view of children to make their own lifestyle choices seem preferable to everyone. A society that is anti-life IS anti-children and, unfortunately, the challenges surrounding having children get a much bigger sounding board than the pleasure and joy children bring. Nevermind that we all melted when Cecilia grabbed Mickey’s nose or all laughted when she perfectly timed a razzberry sound at my brother’s bad joke. She lights up the room when she lets out her laugh or a big smile. She alone provides hours of entertainment with a simple cup at the dinner table and can make any one of us smile no matter how sad or angry or ill anyone happens to be. Seeing your child discover the world enables you to rediscover it, but somehow many people don’t seem to realize this.

    Sorry my comment got so long. For the record, this isn’t James but his wife, Katherine. I’m on his computer and couldn’t figure out how to log off his account and onto mine. Sorry. I tried twice.

  • I would think that emphasizing the negatives, for some misguided parents, can seem like a compassionate way to speak in front of the childless.  Nobody wants to look like the saccharine braggart gushing about the cute or stupendous thing his kid did the other day, especially in front of somebody who’s never managed to marry.

  • Travel, restaurants, sex in the livingroom, undamaged upholstery.  Hmmm.  Well, there was a time when I thought these things would be fulfilling.  Mostly when some unexpected child-related bill or emergency interfered.  That little interference is grown and on her own now.  I could have the travel, etc. that I thought I had missed.  So why am I spending my thoughts on the joy of having a child at home instead of planning for those other things?  Must be because they are a miserable substitute for the real thing that made life worth living.  And still does.  I wouldn’t trade parenthood for any of the glitter I missed.  Everything else pales by comparison.  But I guess you just have to do it to find out what it’s all about.

  • The problem isn’t just that people make parenthood look too difficult. In reality it is difficult, if not as impossible as people make it out to be. The problem is that popular culture has been built up around avoiding pain and suffering.  We want our lives to be completely sterile.  Look at what the non-parents are suggesting

    Travel = going from place to place to see how other people live(d) a real life.

    Sex = artificially interupted so that I can have it when I want it with no real life consequences

    Undamaged furniture = because I don’t actually LIVE in my home

    Everyone hates the old saying but its true, “no pain no gain.”  Pain, adversity, suffering, inconvience-these things tell us that we are alive, that we are being real persons. They are indication that we are authentically loving because we are willing to suffer for the other.

    The problem is not just that family life is presented as difficult, but that WE as a nation are afraid of really living, because that entails difficulties.

  • Are all of these old people in institutions or are any of them living with and being taken care of by their children (and helping take care of the grandkids)?

    Otherwise, I think I see the pattern.

  • In fairness to Zhou, he is saying there is no (or, at best, a weak)correlation, not that there is an inverse correlation.

  • Not everyone’s vocation is exactly the same. I am a married woman (for twelve years) and have not been blessed with children. I am also a teacher of children from “large, Catholic families.” I have become quite tired of hearing about the “sacrifices,” and what not, of being a parent of so many. The grumbling and long faces and sighs are quite annoying, especially to someone in my situation. 

    1. I agree that parents need to stop complaining and looking/acting like martyrs and realize the blessings that they have. I know that is the focus I try to have. I have not received certain blessings that I would like to have (children), but I try to be grateful for the ones I do have (a wonderful husband). Don’t make everyone “experience” your cross…and sometimes it can be quite “insulting” to certain persons like myself.

    2. Having children doesn’t automatically make you holy or unselfish…but if approached and lived out in the right way, it can aid in that process, just like any other vocation or life that God calls us to can. Our faith should inform our whole life, no matter what our vocation is. So, really it is “striving to be transformed in Christ” that really makes us holy, within whatever circumstances we are placed. As a caregiver to my mentally disabled brother, I know that parents do not have a “corner on” patience or sacrifice. We all need to see beyond our own circumstance sometimes.

    3. No matter what our vocation or personal circumstances, we should strive to meet the challenges we face with love and joy. As St. Josemaria said, we should not accept our crosses with “resignation”—that is not a generous word. We should embrace them with love and joy. We all need to remember, myself included, that Christians are called to live their vocations and follow the Gospel in joy, which is a fruit of the Spirit…and that joy is not a fleeting “happiness of the present moment” but is born out of our faith and hope in Him. I had the wonderful privilege of attending Franciscan U. where I benefited from the guidance of the friars and other students who embodied Franciscan joy rooted in the Gospel.

    Let us lift one another up in prayer as we strive to live our vocations in such a way that in Christ’s grace we not only “get ourselves” to Heaven, but try to bring many others “with us.”