Friday, August 8, 2008

Thoughts on Large Families and Responsible Parenting and Generous Parenthood

With all the brouhaha over on Mrs. Bean’s site (and other places) regarding whether or not couples are being irresponsible or not by having more kids while on some form of government aid (or to very loosely paraphrase some of the more harda$$ commentators “I don’t want my hard earned tax dollars going to pay for your brats to have milk to drink because y’all keep breeding like rats”.

Against my better judgment I’ve decided to open my big pie-hole on the issue.

A little background. While people would probably call my Catholicism ‘conservative’ or ‘traditional’ (just plain Catholic is fine with me), politically I’m a Libertarian. I have yet to meet a government program that I like and I would have actually voted in a national election for the first time since ’92 if Ron Paul had been nominated. So if anyone should be opposed to Catholics getting ‘handouts’ for their large families, it’s me.

I would love to see all of the welfare programs done away with and the stolen tax dollars given back to their rightful owners. I think that going back to when churches and other private charities were the main helpers of the poor would not only be a wonderful thing but would work a lot better than the incredibly wasteful programs that the Feds run. People generally seem to want to help others, if they were allowed to keep the money that they actually earn, tithes and gifts to charities would skyrocket. But in the meantime, and until we elect good people, this is the system we are stuck with.

I think we can all agree that parents need to do their best to provide for their kids themselves. But what if they can’t for one reason or another for either a short time period or a long one? What if they need help with food or medical expenses or utility bills etc…? Why shouldn’t they use any help that is available?

And all you people whining about ‘the poor breeders’ using tax payer funded programs; I hope you aren’t using any yourselves. I’m sure your kids aren’t in public schools, play in public parks and playgrounds, take federal grants or loans for college, go to State universities, drive on public roads (you really think the gas tax covers the highway expenses) or any of a 100 other government programs out there. And if you are so against these programs in general, you should be happy then if more people use them. The sooner they are bankrupted the sooner people will wise up and vote to get rid of them.

And what’s up with all the bashing of people who are in Grad School? People were commenting on how we didn’t need any more Theology or Philosophy majors we need doctors, and God help us, more lawyers! Lawyers?! Are you serious? You know why we need theology and philosophy majors? To teach future generations the correct teachings in situations like this. If someone wants to go to a private Catholic college and rack up student loan debt, that is their choice. Sure it would be nice if these private colleges weren’t so darn expensive. But they aren’t and it doesn’t mean going to them is the wrong thing to do or that they should stop having children if they are having trouble making ends meet for now.

How about we help them through the rough times and encourage them? I’m thinking a few more potential saints for the kingdom is worth a few food stamps or subsidized prescriptions. At least it’s a deal I’m willing to make. Would it kill people to be positive and helpful? It’s bad enough that the world gives us such grief about our family sizes; do we really need it from our church brethren (so called)?

So some of you think having to use WIC to get some milk, cheese, eggs and lousy cereal is a Grave enough reason to stop having children? (I’ve noticed a troubling trend over the years of ‘dumbing down’ what are grave reasons to not get preggo.) Well yes it could be, since grave reasons traditionally have referred to issues of health or poverty. But how are you people out there in cyber-space in any position to judge others based on just a few sentences of information on their situation. Just how poor do you have to be for the situation to be grave? The kids looking like Ethiopian famine victims or not being able to afford 2 weeks in Vail this year? See a Grave financial situation means different things to different people.

Even if they are in poverty it doesn’t mean they HAVE to use NFP. It’s still their choice. They are the ones that are responsible to God and know their situation best. And in case you haven’t noticed people aren’t exactly starving in the streets in this country or dying for lack of medical treatment. Maybe they would be justified in using NFP and maybe it’s possible they even should use it but how is this your decision at all?

And since some people seem to think that ‘us’ couples with large families look down on ‘them’ families (when did it become us vs. them?) with ‘only’ a few or no children, a few words on that might be appropriate. My wife and I have 11 children and we have relatives and friends who have a few and want more but have secondary-infertility problems or have none due to infertility problems. We (and no one else we know – and we know a Lot of large families) don’t look down on these people. We love them and pray for them and encourage them and include them in our families. We can never know all the circumstances of couples with ‘small’ families just like we can’t know all the circumstances of couples with ‘large’ families and not a lot of moolah. I’m sure there are couples with ‘small’ families who don’t follow the church’s teachings. But I have no idea which families do and which families don’t. And it’s none of my business.

On a personal note, there have been times early in our marriage when we used various programs to help us out. Overtime, with smart financial choices and better employment, our situation has improved dramatically. And while we aren’t well to do, we are making ends meet without much trouble. The way some of the people out there think, we should have stopped having kids for year’s # 2-10 of our marriage. That was when I quit a good banking job and we opened a Catholic Bookstore. I took a huge pay cut and we ate a whole lot of PB&J and Mac and Cheese during those years. Well if we had stopped having kids during that time-frame, then I wouldn’t have kids’ #’s 3-7. Any of you people want to come tell my middle kids that?

I must say that all this fuss over NFP has caught me by surprise. I thought people used it for grave/serious reasons or they didn’t, end of story. There are a lot of people debating this and that about it. I guess since we have never in our 19 years of marriage used it (no seriously we haven’t – hard to believe I know), we have evidently been out of the loop. All this seems like another reason for a good solid spiritual director.

One other thing. There is a whole lot of bandwidth being wasted on a teaching (NFP/Birth Control) that most ‘Catholics’ ignore anyway. Nothing like Catholics eating their own.

Ps – I know this rambles but I’m heading to the beach in the morning for a week. I’ll ponder this deeply while baking myself on the beach and watching my blessings from above play in the waves. Hopefully I will be a Responsible Parent and not fall asleep in my beach chair.

Now if y'all will excuse me, I need to go buy a burgandy sweater for the beach. I hear it can be cold in August.


Update***See here for a much better article then I could ever hope to write***

12 comments:

wife said...

don't even try to understand the burgandy sweater comment...he is crazy!!!

messy bessy said...

Well, I am in your camp. It would be so nice if we all stopped inferring things about other people's intimate lives and decisions. I used to be one of those judgmental Catholics, until I came to know how common infertility problems are, and how incredibly painful they can make this discussion.

My feeling on this is quite similar to yours; govt programs are so overblown that we cease to see them as all the rest of us helping those who are in trouble. The sad fact is, if you have a job loss, a serious injury or illness, plain old bad luck, or (God forbid) make a mistake financially, you are somehow not being responsible for taking what help there is while you work to put yourself back together.

And from one who has been there (my husband was a victim of the information technology crash and although he was in school to get a better job, evenings, and BTW still is, could not find anything that paid as much) it can take a really long time to get back on your feet. Because we had been open to life, we had not been able to save much, although we had been paying off debt as fast as we could with the extra $. We had to borrow from friends and relatives, we had to go without insurance, we had to use WIC. And although this was almost four years ago, we are only now starting to get back on solid ground.

The key here, though, is that we knew we would eventually come through it. And because God only gives you a certain window for child bearing, I think you have to be very careful to refuse Him. And so we had two more children during this hard time.

I really like this article of yours. Thank you.

Red Cardigan said...

It seems to me that you have gone out of your way to mischaracterize, in a most uncharitable way, the discussions of people who were interested in some abstract ideas about the topic of responsible and generous parenthood.

tcm said...

Excellent! Love this!!!!

Red Cardigan, I think you could use a vacation.

Annelisa said...

You sound like my husband. Well said 'dad'. I discovered you via db,and i'm going to show my hubby when he gets home, he'll love it! he is the oldest of 10 and i'm the oldest of 8 neither family were or are rolling in cash but we had a very "rich" childhood with all our siblings. I'm a young catholic Mum with 3 boys under 4, and no ... I/we aren't irresponsible. Yes we'd use government help if we needed to.
I'm sick of all this NFP talk. If you get rid of the 'N' in NFP you have FP - Family planning which you may as well say "planned parenthood come on over" coz they are SFP (Synthetic device Family Planning). synthetic/natural its still planning. Can't we just get on with being good catholic parents, and stop public debate about a private aspect of peoples Marriage. if it needs to be discussed it should be with a priest in good standing in the church.
Sorry, Thanks for listening (thats a load off my chest!)

Liz said...

I so thoroughly agree with what you have to say, even though for various reasons we only have two (now grown up) living children.

In our area 70-89% of the babies born are born to WIC eligible families. Does this mean that 70-80% of the couples in our area are being irresponsible? I don't think so. Government help to the rich population includes all the things you mentioned and more (like tax breaks for various tax shelters).

I also would have voted for Ron Paul, but would have preferred to vote for someone like oh, say Dale Alquist because I'm actually of a Distributist mindset more than a Libertarian one.

I am aware of at least one former Catholic who was scandalized as a teenager by the attitude of other Catholics (even nuns and priests) to her mother's 9th pregnancy. She loves her little sister, but she came home in tears because of the teasing she received at her Catholic high school. You have to wonder whether this was part of what drove her away from the Church.

Anonymous said...

You don't vote! Are you kidding?! I read in one of the many books about Padre Pio that he became so angry at individual who had told him he was not going to vote in an election, that Padre Pio screamed at the person and told them to get away from him. I think St. Pio needs to pay you a visit.

Abortion is the greatest scourge of our society. One day we will all be held accountable for our pro-life activities or lack thereof. Two of the easiest activities are praying and voting pro-life. Maybe the answer to all the prayers to end abortion is that we can still vote for pro-life candidates. Shame on you for not helping end the murder of innocent babies by voting pro-life.

Mary

Simcha said...

This post was a huge consolation to me. Thanks.

Rachel said...

Rob,

You definitely lit a fire there. The comments you've gotten are quite varied.I gotta say, so that your myriad readers can know, that NFP helped to sell my husband (Robert) on coming back into the church (he was afraid we would have to abandon all family planning that's how ignorant he was). In his defense, we were just becoming aware of the many issues that our Ben faces and Robert was terrified of having another special needs child.

Since I was the one converting who was totally open to having more kids, I was just thrilled not to have to use synthetic birth control anymore, which I think is the most misogynistic creation ever (pantyhose would be a close 2nd).

So fast forward to now, the whole family has been Catholic since 2004, I charted for 2 plus years using just the Billings Method (no thermometers...too much work) and told Robert I couldn't actively avoid a pregnancy anymore. I really wanted another child and I wanted it to be God's choice if and when we got one. So, I stopped charting. It's been well over 2 years and NOTHING. Anyone could say that we have a 'grave' reason to prevent pregnancy. Mental illness has ensnared one of our children and it could do so with another child. However, for whatever reason, God is saying, "No."

Some may tell me to get checked for secondary infertility. I am healthier now than I have been in a long time. But, I'm 42. I have come to believe that God truly does open and close the womb and that He truly knows what a person can handle. And just like I am not going to put chemicals in my body to help prevent a pregnancy, I am not going to put chemicals in my body to help cause a pregnancy. God's got a plan for me. Sometimes His answer is yes, and sometimes it's no. Either way, it's still His answer and His will.

kateg said...

I agree with Red Cardigan I think you really missed the whole point of the discussions and grossly mischaraterized content to perhaps get some attention on your own blog. Then someone told her she should go on vacation? I give her credit for bringing up a subject which seems to get so much disdain from people who believe they are talking about Church teaching.

I've been in a place where I battled a very serious mental illness and knowingly conceived believing that God would take care of it all if I trusted Him. A most beautiful, loved and welcome child I have to add. I have to say that things don't always work out peachy for everyone even though they are trusting God. I'm hestitant to elaborate because of the tone of your post and I would prefer not to be attacked.

I would never wish for a day without this child. However, I really came to understand what perhaps the Church is talking about when it tells us to be responsible parents. I think it is important for couples who are in dire circumstances whether it is financial, emotional or physical to know that the Church teaches them to use wisdom in planning their family.

kateg said...

I agree with Red Cardigan I think you really missed the whole point of the discussions and grossly mischaraterized content to perhaps get some attention on your own blog. Then someone told her she should go on vacation? I give her credit for bringing up a subject which seems to get so much disdain from people who believe they are talking about Church teaching.

I've been in a place where I battled a very serious mental illness and knowingly conceived believing that God would take care of it all if I trusted Him. A most beautiful, loved and welcome child I have to add. I have to say that things don't always work out peachy for everyone even though they are trusting God. I'm hestitant to elaborate because of the tone of your post and I would prefer not to be attacked.

I would never wish for a day without this child. However, I really came to understand what perhaps the Church is talking about when it tells us to be responsible parents. I think it is important for couples who are in dire circumstances whether it is financial, emotional or physical to know that the Church teaches them to use wisdom in planning their family.

Rob said...

kateg -

I’m not sure what post’s you and RC think I was referring to, but I think you might be mistaken. I was referring to a few people’s comments on Danielle Bean’s Coffee Talk. The ones with the “how dare you have more kids if you use WIC” tone. I don’t read RC (although I heard she/he wrote about a similar topic) and I have no idea what the comment she posted is supposed to mean.

I don’t recall saying that anyone HAD to have more kids. That’s a decision between husband and wife, God and spiritual director. I was upset with people saying that people HAD to use NFP.

No one ever said things would work out peachy if we trusted God; we are just called to be faithful.

I think it is important for couples who are in dire circumstances whether it is financial, emotional or physical to know that the Church teaches them to use wisdom in planning their family.

I think I pretty much said the same thing in my post, but I used the word Grave instead of Dire since that is the word my old Catechism.

If I missed quoted any de fide church teaching please feel free to post any corrections here, seriously.

I don’t recall attacking anyone personally in my post so I don’t know why you think I would attack you for your opinions. My beef is not with individual person but with the whole contraception mentality that has infected a lot of Catholics. (not saying you are one of those people).

I know sometimes my attempt at being funny while talking about a serious topic can some across as mean-spirited (that’s the trouble with posting on the internet) but I’m not trying to be mean, just having some fun while I’m stuck down here and before I get to spend a heckuva lot of time in purgatory (probably in cell next to that farm girl from Fatima who is stuck there until the end of the world).

Anyway best wishes for you and your family and stop by again sometime, my topics are usually a lot lighter and fun. Mainly stuff about my kids puking all summer – lol

Peace Out