Love for Love’s Sake

I have a lot of children. I know this because the kind people at the grocery store frequently point out that I have my “hands full” (insert polite yet pretend laugh). Just in case I may have missed the point, without fail, the cashier posits that I must be feeding an army with the size of my order. Yes, I am raising an army of very hungry hobbits. Second breakfast is no joke in this house!

After my fourth child, I noticed the addition of one more question: Are you going to have more? Seriously? Who invited you, checkout lady, into my bedroom? People just can’t help it. Large families, once fairly common especially in Catholic communities, have become something akin to a unicorn sighting. Look, a well-educated affluent woman with more than two children!

There I said it! Society associates women having lots of babies with poor uneducated women who don’t know any better, or who should know better. Having many children in today’s culture is considered irresponsible if not immoral!

As evidence of this sad distortion in thinking, I offer you a recent article in the Huffington Post: 5 Things ‘Childfree’ People Want You to Know. Apparently, the “free” part of the childfree title is key. People are not childless; they are childfree – free from responsibility, inconvenience, and sacrifices of time and money. Only childfree couples are free to dance joyfully in the kitchen amidst their high-end professional kitchen appliances as the cover picture suggests. Good thing they saved all that money by not having children because that granite countertop looks expensive!

Amy Blackstone, a gender sociologist at the University of Maine conducted the qualitative study on which the Huffpost article was written. Ms. Blackstone specializes in “childfree” research. She also manages a blog she founded with her husband entitled “We’re {not} having a baby!” Ms. Blackstone and her husband are childless; I mean “childfree.” Consider now her recent study.

Finding one states, “Childfree people do not make their decisions lightly.” According to Janet, “You’re constantly making a decision about remaining childfree.” Dear Janet, to say that you are “constantly” making a decision to remain childfree might suggest that you are wrestling with a pretty profound urge, like some sort of alcoholic attempting to maintain sobriety.

This is kind of the problem with qualitative research. Ms. Blackstone interpreted Janet’s response as intentionality where others can easily see signs of an internal conflict, a cognitive dissonance of wanting the good of motherhood while desiring to be acceptable to a culture that devalues that choice. Dear Janet, go have some babies!

Finding two states, “They’ve observed parenting up close – and they don’t like what they see.” Poor unfortunate Steve had to witness older siblings struggle and “make [do]” following “accidental” pregnancies. His response, “Yeah, I don’t think I need kids.” Well Steve, if your vision of children is to complete some “need” of your own, then no, you are not ready to be a parent. Creating a person is an act of selflessness and love. You do it for the good of the child and not to satisfy some narcissistic need. Grow up Steve.

Finding three states, “For women, environmental and social responsibility often plan a part.” April boldly declared, “[Not having children] is responsible . . . Like I camped over the weekend and I saw the trash factor that people with kids had left and let build up from so much over use of a campsite. I think about stuff like acceptable population levels.” I almost can’t take you seriously April. Litter vs. the creation of a human being. I find this an increasingly popular criticism of large families. Somehow, those of us who reproduce are irresponsible at least when it comes to the planet.

This is possibly one of the worst forms of self-loathing. April and her like minded friends are declaring nature as primary while denying/removing humanity’s membership in that very thing. Human beings are not less than the created world, we are part of creation, and so are you April! Why must we deny the dignity of man in order to value the natural world? April, your argument is illogical and possibly a shield for the real ego-dystonic reason you aren’t having children. Would children mean fewer camping trips? Are you just a selfish person?

Item four makes me feel bad about suggesting April struggles with selfishness. As written, “ . . . While men’s decisions tend to be internally motivated.” Steve (again) offered, “I want to be able to travel, I want to be able to do things, that I would not be able to do it if I had kids.” Not only are you not ready to be a parent, you are clearly not ready for marriage. God forbid your wife became seriously ill and you were forced to cancel that golf trip to take care of her. Both marriage and parenting require sacrifices. Steve doesn’t want to have to make sacrifices. No one marry Steve. Steve is a narcissist.

According to item five, “They put a lot of thought into what it means to be a parent.” Bob clarified that not having children is “deliberate.” Do some people accidentally have no children? Thanks Bob for that unnecessary clarification.

I would argue that the childless participants interviewed put a lot of thought into how they would be inconvenienced, not “what it means to be a parent.” What it means to be a parent is to participate in the work of creation, to be a witness to love’s radical self-giving, and to make a gift to the world a new generation of kind and virtuous people. You’re welcome!

This self-selected sample group demonstrates a scientific and psychological reality that what is full cannot be added to. When one’s life is full of one’s own ego and associated needs and desires, there is no room for love of other as love of self has consumed all.

God created humanity not out of any need, for he needs nothing. God created humanity out of a generous act of love. That’s what love does. Love by its nature brings forth new life. It is love for love’s sake.

This unfortunate Huffpost article ends with a lament by the researcher that she and her husband are often left out of events where children tend to be present. Ms. Blackstone concludes that her childlessness “can be a kind of lonely existence.”

The significance should not be lost that this particular Amazing Nearness blog is first posted on the Feast of Our Lady’s Nativity – Mary’s Birthday! Today we celebrate as Pope Benedict XVI wrote, the Blessed Virgin Mary whose “soul was the space from which God was able to gain access into humanity.” Like St. Ann and Holy Mother Mary, our fiat, our “yes” to God, must be a total surrender to his perfect will – even in the hardships and sacrifices of family life. We must fight the tendency toward selfishness and the ethic that places pleasure and self-interest above God’s call to life-giving love.

May God bless all parents and those who desire to welcome children into their lives. Let us offer our sacrifices and trials of the day for all couples praying for the gift of a child.

St. Ann and Our Holy Mother Mary, Pray For Us!


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