A reason to celebrate, not to hide

This morning, I met with some girlfriends and our children for our weekly bible study/ Mass readings. We meet to read and discuss the readings for the following Sunday, mainly because, as mothers of young children, sometimes we end up missing parts of the readings as they are proclaimed from the ambo as we are tending to our children.

After reading a reflection on the gospel, one of the discussion questions centered around how we can tend to those “orphans” around us. Somehow the conversation turned to the happy news that two in our group are expecting new babies! And the fun thing is this: each of these children will be child #6 for each of their respective families. (Technically one will be child #7, as one was lost early in the pregnancy.) Of course, we are all over-joyed because how could you not be happy about another baby?! But one of the moms mentioned that she was really hesitant to mention the news of the baby to “anyone else” and she hasn’t said anything on FaceBook or to extended family members because of the backlash she is sure to get from people. Backlash from “friends and family” basically telling her that she and her husband are irresponsible. Wow.

Let’s face it, large families are not looked on favorably in our culture. Our culture worships things and stuff as status symbols and looks at many children as relics of an antiquated agricultural society. According to mass media, children hold women back and interrupt their dreams. “Beyaz,” an oral contraceptive, has a commercial showing young women shopping in a chic boutique. In this boutique, one woman shops for her Masters Degree. Another for a trip to Paris. Another for the perfect man. Another for a new car. One young woman, comes across a stork holding a little bundle and she laughs, shakes her head, and walks away to continue shopping for her dreams. The message: babies take away your dreams. As a family, you should have at most two children. If you get the golden combination of one boy and one girl, then you are INSANE if you decide to have more. Take a look around next time you are out, our country is really built for families of four and no more.

For families who choose to have more than two kids, they are accused of somehow living off of the government (“I don’t want to support another one of your kids!”) or doing harm to the environment (“There aren’t enough resources for so many people.”) or just being plain stupid (“You do know what causes that?”) But these families make the active choice to have large families and they do so prayerfully and carefully.

While I am sure they exist, I believe that you would be hard-pressed to find a large family who kept having kids even though they couldn’t afford it (and do not mention “Octomom.” She is surely an outlier and in my non-medical opinion, probably in need of mental help.) I am going to make some mass generalizations here, but this is what I have experienced hanging out with my friends with large families: Large families decide that they are not going to take yearly vacations to the Bahamas or to Cancun or to Turks and Cacos. Instead, they are going to go camping. Large families decide not to get a new car every three years or when the mood strikes. Large families don’t try to keep up with the Joneses. Large families see debt as a burden and children as a blessing, not as the other way around. Large families ensure their children take an active role in paying for their education (and it’s usually not with student loans.) I can’t remember where I read it, but I believe that it might be a Jewish proverb. It said something along the lines of “every new baby born is another chance at world peace.” In a nation where approximately 3700 babies are aborted per day (legal and illegal procedures) every child is a reason to be celebrated and not one to hide about.

Usually, environmental concerns are cited for reasons for chasitzing large families. But I can’t help but wonder, do these same people criticize family members for driving large SUVs or living in 4000 sq. ft. homes? What about when their family members are jetting off to the Bahamas or Hilton Head, or when they are enjoying their steak at a restaurant? Let’s talk a bit about Carbon Footprints. A Carbon Footprint is:

car·bon foot·print

Adjective: The amount of carbon dioxide emitted due to the the consumption of fossil fuels by a particular person, group, etc
So, you would think that large families would be emitting HUGE amounts of carbon because they are… big families. According to ecostreet.org, there are seven ways to reduce your carbon footprint and thereby making less of an impact on the earth. They are:
1. Become Vegan
2. Switch to green electricity
3. Get rid of your tumble dryer
4. Insulate your home properly
5. Park your car
6. Stop flying
7. Become an eco-activist
Hmm… no where on this list is, have fewer than 2 children. Another site has this conclusion as far as carbon footprints:
So, there are three things that will make a big difference to your carbon footprint. Yes, stop flying. By all means take up cycling, change your lightbulbs and wear a sweater. But first, cut down your meat eating, insulate your home, and just all round buy less stuff.
The other favored argument agains large families? “I don’t want to pay for all of those kids.” Well, if you pay taxes you are paying for someone’s children. Public schools are funded through taxes and therefore, we are paying for other people’s kids to get an education. Many of the large families I know either homeschool their kids or they are sending them to Catholic school, and the tuition is paid for out of their family’s income. Or they go to public school like a bunch of other kids that we are already paying for. I was trying to find some information on what the average family on government assistance looks like, and I couldn’t find anything conclusive, but I did find this little tidbit:

In recent years, the government has relaxed restrictions on eligibility for healthy adults without dependents. The maximum income to be eligible for food stamps for an able-bodied adult in New York is $14,088 a year. A record 38 million Americans are currently on food stamps, and though most of them are still the “traditional recipients” (elderly, single mothers), a large amount of young, educated adults now count as “working poor.” But they’re bringing their greenmarket standards to the welfare line.

One New York blogger told Salon “I’m sort of a foodie, and I’m not going to do the ‘living off ramen’ thing”—he then mentions a dinner of roasted rabbit with butter, tarragon and sweet potatoes that he made using his food stamp money.

Good-bye Ramen noodles, I guess. So, what’s my point? My point is that we need to stop being so judgmental. Have we really become so narcissistic that we truly believe that the world revolves around us and our comfort-level to the point where we are dictating how many children someone ought to have? Have we become so “me, me, me” that the very thought of someone taking more than their “fair share” is enough to leave a bitter taste in our mouths? (and how that fair share is measure, I have no clue.) My view is this: Celebrate those babies, each and everyone of them. Fertility is a gift that one usually doesn’t see the value of until it’s gone and children do not hang around forever. But, strangely enough, debt seems to hang around forever.

(P.S. I wanted to add. I went here and took a Carbon Footprint analysis for my family of four. I then changed my family size to eight, and increased the number of bedrooms by two but otherwise kept all other answers the same. Our household carbon footprint for a family of four was 40 tons of CO2 per year (National Average is 110 tons.) When I doubled the number of people in our household, the amount of CO2 increased to 60 tons per year (National Average of 210 tons per year.) So, yes, more people does mean more energy usage, but not as much as you’d think.)

______________________________________________________________________

Thanks to Laura J. for inspiring this post. No, she’s not one of the pregnant ones but she said “someone” should write about this. :) And a heartfelt congratulations and prayers for healthy and happy pregnancies, ladies!!

Pax Christi!

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5 Comments

Filed under Catholic, eco-friendly, family, wednesday

5 responses to “A reason to celebrate, not to hide

  1. Colleen

    The truth about abortion and birth control is this: The population that refuses to reproduce will be replaced by the one that does not.

    I think I still see the American Flag flying and that must mean we are still a free people. Family size is a personal choice just like anything else.

  2. Thank you, for Soo wonderfully making such wonderful points! ( I have the “Big Family Argument” ) Just about every hoilday with at least one of my extended family members :( I try to share the same pionts but it never comes out “just” right. I have a 15 yr, 11 yr, 9 yr….. and 7mos. ( we worked for years to get the last one, and with what I think of as just ” only four kids ” , everybody else is ready to haul me in and have me fixed, for all the “above Crimes” Even though we homeschool, and even though my family is the only family I know that is not in any debt ! ( we don’t even have credit cards) … I know they would just “die” to know I am already working and praying for number 5!

  3. Wendy

    Wow, Kari, well said! I only have my 3, but I am already getting comments from family. And they are visibly dissapointed when the hub and I say we want more. My dad recently told me it’s irresponsible to have no limit due to the carbon footprint argument and I was caught off guard. After the fact, my husband pointed out that my parents live in a nearly 4000 sq ft home and our fam of five lives in under 2000. We keep our heat lower and air higher and we both drive cars that seat 5 where my mom drives an SUV and dad drives a car…in some ways, big families maximize the resources :)

    And amen to Colleen’s comment!

  4. Brigid

    Don’t know how I missed this until today but I did. :) About the resources, I’m with Wendy. My family of 8 all eats dinner out of the same oven and uses the same air conditioning and heating. My children use hand me downs or borrow from friends instead of getting new stuff most of the time – not because we can’t afford to but because it just makes more sense. Maybe families of 4 should have to bunk up with their neighbor to minimize resources. Just kidding of course! Dr. Ray is one of my favorite radio hosts and he has 10 children. He jokes that his youngest daughter (who I think is 12 or so) has cost him about $14 so far as near as he can figure. :)

    I think the biggest hurdle with family size is the control factor. People want to control their own lives and that is a delusion. We are not in control. God is. I don’t think He said, “Be fruitful and multiply until you get one of each.” ;) Does that mean every family should have as many kids as I do? Or as my parents did? (13!) No – I know plenty of people who have remained open to life throughout their marriage and have zero, one or two children. The point is that God has a plan and we have to follow it, and He will give us the grace and strength to do so.

    Good thoughts, Karianna! :)

    • Thanks for your great comment, Brigid! That’s something very valid to keep in mind. A couple may have their minds set on having 4, 5, 6 children, but they may not be blessed with those children. Does it mean that there is something wrong with them? No, it’s just not their plan. I just keep in mind the saying “If you want to make God laugh, just tell Him your plans.” And I am so glad that you brought up the point about His giving us grace and strength. We are not called to do just for ourselves, we can only achieve greatness by holding the hands of Christ.

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