Thursday, May 7, 2015

Is Being Too Busy a Good Reason Not to Have Children?

This is the second post in a series on Family. Read the first one Thoughts on NFP, And Having Kids Sooner here.

Recently, my husband and I met with a title agent at our bank. In the midst of signing papers and documents, she stopped to ask me, "So, how many kids do you have? What are their ages? Are they boys or girls?"  I told her, "We have three- well, almost four- girls, and one boy." She responded by saying "Well, then I guess you have a lot of girl clothes!" And I said, "Yes, we have so many girl clothes!" And she responded by saying, "Well- that's good that you can reuse them. They outgrow them so quickly, it is really quite a waste. We have one granddaughter by one daughter, and our son has our one grandson. Wouldn't trade it."

I have conversations like this a lot.  People react to us having a lot of children, and they usually comment that it is strange... in their own "polite" way, of course.

I know - the elephant in the room- is usually that ...

"Kids cost a lot of money"

"Kids are a lot of work"


"There's no time for kids."

I'll admit it. I have a little bit of a strong opinion about this. I'll go ahead and let my true feelings about it out of the bag from the get-go. It's not that we're too busy. It's that we are indoctrinated by the sense of entitlement that this "right to freedom" has us feeling. We're wired by our culture to think family=hard or family=bad. Simple=easy.

I know-- people have to work- but childcare isn't the kind of work that they're thinking about.  They're thinking about prosperous sort of work. They're thinking about financial responsibility and fiscal security.  They're thinking- if we're being honest- about postponing or not having children, for all of these reasons, and more.

When you start a family, imagine it like starting an orchard or a vineyard.  You are planting fruit, and from the vines, and from the trees, comes a crop. (Provided your kids aren’t Cain and Abel… where one brother murders another...ha.... not funny, really). Each year, that crop- if tended properly- will continue to grow and bear more fruit, until the crop becomes exponential!

Is it ironic that the one thing that “freedom” stands for in our country, or really in our world (if you consider that the world is, indeed “flat” because of the information age) is financial freedom, or one of the biggest things, anyway. Yet we are told having children will drain us of our resources?

Well, the truth is- and this is little dirty little secret that only parents know- starting a family is like starting a business. Before kids, you have no employees or source of income. Before you know it, once the children grow old enough, that’s a different story! Imagine the combined efforts of ten children all working on a family farm, or working for a family business, such as a restaurant. Those kids, in turn, have their own kids, and what a numerous amount of work - billable hours!- could be accomplished!

I'm not trying to advocate for Child Labor, obviously! What I'm saying is, the economy of family is a gift that keeps on giving. It increases exponentially. Families do not deplete resources. They multiply resources. Families make us flourish!

And you know what? The real security I’m talking about isn’t financial. I know some people are trying to pay off debt. I know it is really hard to think about mortgage, security, and retirement on top of childcare and expenses. But, non-parents must know that children bring a different kind of security into the picture. They bring workers!  We can train them to be hard workers!

The economy of family also increases exponentially in the area of love. You cannot make the financial comparison without the oh-so-subtle reminder that as many mouths as you have to feed, that is how many mouths can turn up toward you and say I love you. Imagine hearing “I love you” from ten mouths. Imagine getting birthday presents from ten children! That’s a lot of love!

Many people say it is financially wise to wait to start a family. Research shows that 25% of parents are worried about fiscal responsibility + childrearing. Now first, let’s get all of the disclaimers out of the way.

  • As I said, I know that some people aren’t called to having a lot of children. I get that. Some families have both parents in grad school, or realize after one that they're done.  
  • If you are in an extremely stressful job, or in grad school, and you can give your best self, I understand the appeal of waiting. (Although I know people- ourselves included- who made/make it work! So there isn't only one way.) 
  •  I know that you make sacrifices when you have a lot of kids- financial sacrifices- that some may not have to make. But. Our culture is anti-life. It just is.  Nancy Pelosi, former Speaker of the House (D-CA) and minority leader for the House of Representatives, has stated that it is better for the economy to have less children.

What does Nancy Pelosi say about contraception?  And I quote:

"Well, the family planning services reduce cost. They reduce cost. The states are in terrible fiscal budget crises now and part of what we do for children's health, education and some of those elements are to help the states meet their financial needs. One of those – one of the initiatives you mentioned, the contraception, will reduce costs to the states and to the federal government."[82]

Is that true? Absolutely no, no, no. It's not. I don't think so. Mother Theresa said, “How can there be too many children? That is like saying there are too many flowers.” You can find ways to keep a tight budget. You can still travel- before and after kids- if you could get a babysitter, or bring a nanny along, or bring only some of your children along. The possibilities are infinite. You might have to save, or make more sacrifices, but in the long run, having children is worth it! Words really cannot express how strongly I feel about this. Someday, they will take care of you. The sacrifices will be returned. They will not become null and void! Pun intended!

Financial obligations or desires aside, (yes, I'm getting off said soapbox now....) I want to talk about something else today.

Is busyness a good reason not to have children?

Let’s ask the experts…. parents.

I asked parents this very question on Facebook, Twitter, and via Email.

I ask you, my blog readers to stop and consider, before reading the responses....Do you feel that - now that you have kids- you don’t have time for them?  Do you think that being too busy would be a good reason for not having- or postponing-having kids? While we’re at it, what are some other excuses for not having- or postponing- children? Do any of them bear weight now that you have kids? For example, being able to drink a couple of glasses of wine? Vacationing? Having more money, etc.?

Here are eight {real} answers from {real} parents:

Parents, is being too busy a good reason not to have children?

1. "I'll bite - I'd have to say no.  It isn't a good reason 'to not' have kids. While one's schedule could somehow innocently keep one from conceiving, I do believe that deciding and trying specifically to not have (more) children is a problem."  

2. "Business is a poor excuse for ANYTHING. What's the priority? That's the question." 

3. "I think that not everyone is called to have children, and that it is not selfish to delay children because you aren't in a position to provide the best care possible. We waited until later in my residency training to get pregnant because I was worried about being a good mom working 60-80 hours a week, and I feel like we did the right thing (although like most working moms, I still feel torn). But I don't think we were selfish to wait (not more than baseline sinful selfish). In some ways, having a kid felt indulgent - I've been a less involved community member, less in touch with my family, and not as good at my job since having a kid, and much less intentional prayer time, urg. But then again, loving him has grown me in a thousand ways and made my own small world so much more lovely." 

4. "If you intend to keep your life as yours alone, then yes. Children require ALL your time, at least for a couple years. The only way I have found to be at peace with this is to give up expectations of doing anything other than caring for them in the short-term, and leave long-term projects flexible. If you don't have that flexibility built into your job/life, having children is going to upend your world. 
When I had my first, my inability to view my life as revolving around her needs made me more stressed than I needed to be. With the second, I'm up at 0600 to prevent the baby waking her sister, so I get some relatively quiet time before the day starts--even if I've had about 5 hours of sleep. But it won't always be like this. Next week she might sleep later again, or I'll learn to go to bed earlier. 
Final thought: it isn't until you have children that you learn how horribly selfish you are. Being 'too busy' is something a person at the center of their own universe thinks is possible--and it is. I've been there. But God, working through my children, is changing me more radically than I thought was necessary. It isn't comfortable. But it is GOOD."  

5. "I would think no for the reason of just being too busy.  Now, in my personal opinion (not sure this is actually right) I think that anxiety can be a good reason to try to wait (using NFP) but to still always be open to the possibility of children.  I guess being busy could lead to anxiety but I think if a busy lifestyle is causing anxiety that busy schedule should be altered.  " 

6. "No way, being too busy is usually something you can control. Cut something out if you are too busy. That seems like a selfish reason not to have children. Everyone is busy, but a soul that God gives your family is much more important than almost anything on your agenda. I think we put too much pressure on ourselves to do things, this causes stress and the feeling of being"too busy" sometimes we need to truthfully look at our lives and cut out the things that don't really matter to make room for people, who matter eternally. " 

7. "Hmmmm, depends. If you are busy with older and younger kids and feeling overwhelmed mentally, emotionally, spiritually and physical, then postponing is valid, I think. If you are too busy pursuing things outside of God's will and he is calling a couple to more generosity with their fertility, then perhaps postponing is not a good. The problem with the question is that only a couple can discern Gods will and whether or not they are living in accordance with it. We can't say one way or another for sure. "

8. "'Too busy' covers such a huge range of possibilities that it's almost impossible to speak to them all in an overarching way. And lots of people who are 'too busy' have kids anyway and thrive, as long as they can find extended family and or community support. But generalizing wildly I think it's much more common in the developed world today for us to think we're too busy than to actually be too busy. 'Too busy' is such a historically anomalous western concept anyway. In other contexts I find I never say I am too busy for anything unless I mean one or both of two things: 1. I prefer to do something else instead or 2. I do want it on some level but I'm afraid of what it will cost me to follow it through to the logical conclusion. I think the culture indoctrinates us into such fear when it comes to raising a family. More could be said, but my littles need my attention...."

Let’s boil it down. Let’s take the research, and give you a good recap of the issues. Here are just a few reasons why having a lot of kids and being busy may (or may not) be mutually exclusive.

1. These children matter eternally. I think this person is saying, "Busyness has no comparison when weighed with an eternal soul. We're talking trivial business matters, vs. eternal significance. There is really no just comparison." (person # 6)

2. Busyness is a modern concept. What this person is saying- if I'm correct in my assessment here- is that being "too busy" is a construct that is simply the result of our modern philosophy that financial freedom will be our ultimate good and our ultimate happiness. (#6 & #8)

3. Being busy is something you can control. I think this subject comes up in a few of the answers above. These people are saying, "Don't put child-rearing on the back burner ... many people make it work and thrive... such as the doctor and her husband who have new joy at their little one-  even though they must utilize daycare- and it is a joy that they would not and could not have known otherwise! (#1, #6, & #4)

4. Busyness/business is the result of selfishness.  Some people answered that "busyness" isn't a good excuse, simply because you are at the center of your own little world, trying to make decisions before you've had a chance to try life with kiddos. (#2)

5. If you are feeling overwhelmed, maybe. (I received a few comments from people who asked that I not quote them, citing either mental illness or anxiety/stress as the reason they postponed children, or recommend that others do the same). Some people don't have kids, for reasons unknown to outsiders. I must clarify that if faithful, married Catholics don't have any kids, it isn't necessarily a sin- in and of itself. (#5 & #&7)

Final thoughts: Are your kids a drain on your creativity or an inspiration?  An absence or a loneliness?  Are your children benefitting you? A little bit or a lot? Are children beneficial?Are children a source or a strain on your “security”? IS being too busy a good reason not to have kids? I’ll let you non-parents take a wild guess what us parents would say!

This is the second post in a series on Family. Read the first post, Thoughts on NFP and Having Kids Sooner.


Laura {a spoonful of joy} said...

I really enjoyed both of these posts.
Our three are each 22 months apart and the first was born before our first anniversary so, like you, I definitely consider our apparent fertility to be a gift, especially considering there are so many families (my own parents included) who struggle to get pregnant.
I'm curious, what was your attitude towards contraception before your conversion to Catholicism? I grew up Catholic and openness to life was just second nature to me. What was your experience?
Also, yes, our third boy was born a couple weeks ago - thanks for the comment. :)

Tacy said...

My family was very Pro-Life growing up. The only change was no birth control! I never felt convicted by the HS about it until we became Catholic.

Tacy said...

Oh! And congrats on that baby!! How did I miss that?!

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