Monday, August 28, 2006

A defense of the large family by a 'six-time breeder.'

The Case for Kids

For the Befuddled
Given the rise of the Childfree and One Child Only movements and my nearly weekly public encounters, I feel moved to post a reply—a moral, biblical, and political defense of the larger family, or at least some insights for those who are genuinely befuddled or even fearful. I can do this because I understand the concern and befuddlement. It took ten years of marriage before I ventured nervously into motherhood. . . . I had an impressive list of prejudices and stereotypes, many of which I now see on the Childfree websites.
. . .
Yet even though our birth rate is historically low, the U.S. still has the highest birth rate of all industrialized countries.
. . .
[In larger families] Children with multiple siblings are also more accepting. They practice living with a variety of temperaments, quirks, and ages. Older children cannot stay safely within their own peer group. They learn to hold babies, sing lullabies, and change diapers. A teenager cannot retreat, morose, into his bedroom every afternoon to listen to his music—his 3-year-old brother will jump on his back and demand a gallop around the room. A 16-year-old girl will trudge through the door from school, worry on her face, to be greeted by a flying 18-month-old jumping into her arms.
. . .
Longing for Sacrifice
For all this, I am not a proselytizer for large families. I do not encourage couples to have more children than they want. I tell younger women the truth: If you aspire to be a mother, you aspire to a job without pay that is harder than any job you'll be paid for. It's a job with no time off, only time away. I tell them they should not have children to derive anything from them—not love or joy or fun or a legacy. It is possible that any or all of these may come, but there will be long stretches when little fulfillment is in sight.
. . .
But fewer couples worldwide choose this kind of life. What do we miss without children? What does the world miss with fewer children? Alarm bells are already beginning to ring from demographers, and, in keeping with tradition, their concern is primarily economic. They warn that although declining fertility rates bring a "demographic dividend," that dividend eventually has to be repaid. At first there are fewer children to feed, clothe, and educate, leaving more for adults to enjoy. But soon enough there are fewer productive workers as well, while there are also more and more dependent elderly, each of whom consumes far more resources than a child does. Even after considering the cost of education, a typical child in the U.S. consumes 28 percent less than the typical working-age adult, while elders consumer 27 percent more, mostly in health-related expenses.

How do we order and feed such a top-heavy, resource-consuming society of elders . . . ?

I'll admit this article might be a bit diificult to read- it skips between topics, doubles back, and has internal inconsistencies. For example, it acknowleges the high U.S. birth rate - which is currently at replacement rates, then worries about a 'top-heavy' society. If the author is trying to suggest that we expand the population, the ever-present pyramid scheme argument for population growth, the adjective used is still out of place.

Also, her argument for how a large family develops a personality could be dangerously applied to many other kinds of childhood hardship, such as losing a loved one, taking in extended family, caring for an elderly parent. Any childhood difficulty, such as having no privacy or personal space described here, will develop positive characteristics. So will simply having two loving parents who teach you life lessons, even if there are only one or two of you (and from what I have heard, more likely to happen in those cases).

Crippling our society with overpopulation just so kids can get a built-in tough childhood, using immense resources on schooling and health care just so we can have greater numbers paying into social security (so it can be. . . what? slightly less doomed?) doesn't seem any more well-reasoned than the layout of this article.

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