This video, part of a series geared toward young women entitled “Ask Cristen: Stuff Mom Never Told You,” brings to light a topic that seems to be growing as of the last few years, and as it grows it seems to bring with it an increasing number of question marks about what the right attitude is when faced with this situation.
When host and self-proclaimed “Curator of Female Knowledge” Cristen Congeranswers the question of a 14 year old girl who says she does not want to have kids and is bothered by those who call her selfish for feeling that way, she brings up a variety of points that at first seem legitimate, and that many of us, particularly women, would be tempted to sympathize and agree with.
Many women, as Conger says, feel a pressure to have children and seem to be constantly bombarded with questions by other people regarding their relationship status, their intention to marry, to have kids, how many, etc., and there is an increasing number of the millennial generation in particular who want to put on the breaks and say, “Wait a minute. I know the norm up until now has been to get married right out of school and start a family, but what about me? What about what I want? What if I want a career? What if I want to have fun, and travel and be ‘free,’ and what if kids get in the way of that? What if being a mom isn’t what is going to make me happy?”
However, Ms. Conger’s reasons fall directly into what the pastors of our Church have been discussing during the Synod of Bishops on the Family, which opened up on Oct. 5, and will close on Oct. 19. The declining birthrate across the world is on the plate of discussion for the bishops who said, contrary to what Ms. Conger expressed, that the primary concern lies not in the world’s population, but rather a growing closed-mindedness toward life.
What does the Church say?
In an increasingly broken world, the pastors of our Church have noted that economic hardships and the increasing number of broken families are contributing factors as to why many among the millennial generation in particular are choosing not to have children.
“Many children are born outside marriage, especially in certain countries, and there are many who subsequently grow up with just one of their parents or in an enlarged or reconstituted family context. The number of divorces is growing and it is not rare to encounter cases in which decisions are taken solely on the basis of economic factors. The condition of women still needs to be defended and promoted, as situations of violence within the family are not rare. Children are frequently the object of contention between parents, and are the true victims of family breakdown.”
Within this context, individuals are faced with an increasing need to obtain personal security, to know themselves and be in touch with themselves. And these increasing needs that individuals are facing are coupled with increasing emotional instability:
“The question of emotional fragility is very current: a narcissistic, unstable or changeable affectivity do not always help greater maturity to be reached. In this context, couples are often uncertain and hesitant, struggling to find ways to grow. Many tend to remain in the early stages of emotional and sexual life. The crisis in the couple destabilizes the family and may lead, through separations and divorce, to serious consequences for adults, children and society as a whole, weakening the individual and social bonds.”
In this context, it is understandable why many individuals put off having children for the sake of making sure that they are taken care of and having more of an opportunity, or even the drive millennials might feel to know themselves, express themselves and spend more time to ensure they achieve personal goals and desires before being “pinned down,” so to speak.
Mentalities to watch out for
However, coupled with the societal factors currently being discussed by our bishops, there are several dangerous currents that reinforce the “Childless by choice” mentality that we can’t be blind to.The desire to not have children is often also fed by the subtle undercurrents of a hedonistic, narcissistic society that seeks to glorify the individual and their personal accomplishments.
A frequent misconception is that children are burdensome, and that once they come along our own lives cease to exist, and we are lost in a whirlwind of diapers and tantrums. On the contrary, to havea child is never, under any circumstance, bad. The gift of life, if we recall, is the original gift of God to man; he gave us life before giving us anything else, and God’s first commandment to man was to “Go, be fertile and multiply.” Given the biblical indications, generating new life is on the top of the priority list for God, and although it falls at different times depending on the person, it should be a priority for mankind as well.
Even the bishops have said that despite our current cultural and societal challenges, “it is possible to encounter a widespread desire for family accompanied by the search for oneself.”
In a society that is increasingly focused on the “Me” and the “I want… out of life,” it is easy to forget that as human beings we have been made to live for others, not only for ourselves. We have to be careful not to fall into emotional appeals Cristen uses,suggesting that those who urge for families are being insensitive or oppressive in some way.
Although she argues that “it’s not our moral duty” as women to produce children just because our bodies can, the Church, as reinforced by our Synod Fathers, has always teaches “Being open to life is an intrinsic requirement of married love.” Meaning that no married couple should intentionally remove children as a possibility.
The Gift of Life
Cristen’s argument is not only false, it points to a gender ideology which, while advocating the good and laudable advancement of women in society, renders children as an obstacle, an impediment to her personal accomplishment and therefore her personal happiness. Although a woman’s pursuit of a career and the advancement of women in society is good, there have been some who made it to the top expressing regret that they didn’t prioritize a family too.
As can be seen in this video, children are always a gift, and rather than stopping our lives, they open up new dimensions. Let’s hear what parents, including some who didn’t want to have kids when they did, have to say about it:
This video, contrary to the original, shows what a joy family life can be, and that although there are natural fears and reservations, especially if we’re not ready,the joys out shadow the fears.
Openness to Life
But what will help us conquer these fears, and lead us toward a more generous and open attitude, willing to sacrifice our plans for others? One thing that will certainly help is Pope Francis’ frequent commission for Christians to “go out” of ourselves and look to the needs of others, as well as to keep our gaze on Christ, to “assume his way of thinking, of living and of relating,” he said during a prayer vigil for the opening of the synod of bishops. Because it is only with Him that we can open what has been closed.