Jennifer Fulwiler is a writer and speaker who converted to Catholicism after a life of atheism. She’s a contributor to the books The Church and New Media and Atheist to Catholic: 11 Stories of Conversion, and is writing a book based on her personal blog, ConversionDiary.com. She and her husband live in Austin, TX with their five young children, and were featured in the nationally televised reality show Minor Revisions. You can follow her on Twitter at @conversiondiary.
There are some great discussions going on in the blog world right now about how much money you really need to have kids. Blogger Young Mom has a good takedown of an MSNBC article talking about couples who want another child but are choosing not to have one because they don’t think they can afford it. Leila Lawler laid it out forcefully when she wrote:
There might be reasons for not getting pregnant—I think I used to think there are more than I now do. But not having money is not one of them. If you are reading this, you have enough money.
There is only a limited amount of time in which you can have a child, no matter what you might think now that you are in the midst of it. Thirty years from now you won’t be thinking about the bills you had to pay.
Do you know what the Bible calls riches?
In thirty years you will be telling yourself that you should have been willing to live in a tent and eat roots and berries to have had more children.
I think this is a great subject. How much money does a family really need to have another child? How much should we let our expectations about standard of living play a role in whether or not to add a new soul to the world? A whole series of posts could be written parsing out all the different factors at play in those two questions alone.
The angle that jumps out to me most clearly, though, is how common it is for modern childbearing decisions to be based on fear, and fear’s natural result: a desire for control.
The golden calf of the 21st century is control. We think that if we can just get the right numbers on our budget spreadsheet, the right job, the right-sized house, we can control our way into fulfillment. This is a spiritually dangerous idea under any circumstances, but I think it’s all the more damaging when it comes to our childbearing choices.
When people choose to abort their children after receiving a prenatal diagnosis of Down Syndrome or other disabilities, a feeling of not being ready is often a big factor: They didn’t carefully plan for this situation, and thus don’t even see it as a possibility that they can handle it. More commonly, people simply miss out on the blessings that additional sons or daughters could have brought. I once asked my blog readers who were older than I was to give me advice on my 33rd birthday, and I was amazed at how many people expressed regret that they weren’t more open to children while they had the chance. I received effusive comments and emails from people past their childbearing years, who looked back and realized that they chose not to have additional children because they felt the weight of the world on their shoulders, like they had to have everything perfectly place in order to welcome a new baby. In hindsight they saw that all their “important” plans weren’t that important after all, especially not in comparison to the love that an additional child could have brought. They warned the people of my generation not to make the same mistake.
Obviously, there are good reasons out there to avoid pregnancy, financial ones included. But what troubles me is this increasingly popular idea that there is such a thing as the perfect time to have a new baby. There’s not. And if we’re waiting for that window to arrive, when we’ve finally been able to get everything lined up exactly the way we think it should be to properly welcome a new human being into the world, we’re going to miss out on a whole lot of living and loving.