Yesterday I found my way to the local strip mall beauty salon. Since it was the day after Easter Sunday and most folks did their primping last week I was the only customer. As my stylist set about giving me a trim I listened to the conversation around me. One stylist looked like she was in her early thirties. She talked about her two children one of whom is a teenager. It became obvious that she is unmarried but now seeing someone. She stated clearly that she was not about to have any more children. If her new beau wanted children he was going to have to look elsewhere. She had a boy and a girl. Why did she need any more children? Another beautician chimed in how it was better to have one “good” child than a house full of children for whom you could not provide everything. After all, children want a new pair of name brand shoes every week. You can’t do that when you have a lot of children.
I was very silent during this exchange. It was so sad to hear children spoken of as acquisitions rather than gifts from God. It was unbelievable that someone would reject the gift of life because they couldn’t afford the right brand of sneakers for more than one child. I really didn’t know what to say. I paid for my haircut and went on my way. But I have felt haunted by these sentiments ever since.
When did our culture turn parenting from a self-giving vocation to a parent-centered avocation? Having children is now about the benefits children provide for the parents. It completes their image. The thinking isn’t much different from a man who might seek a beautiful woman to look good on his arm. In the same way this man showers his eye candy with jewels so that she befits his stature, parents shower their children with material goods and enrichment programs so that they reflect well upon Mom and Dad. If they can’t give their children name brand clothing, a new car, private music lessons and an Ivy League education, why have children?
I believe this mentality developed forty years ago with the widespread use of contraception. Children are no longer a sign of God’s will for a marriage. Rather they are something we control based on our own will. The Church clearly states that couples are to be prudent with their fertility. There are valid reasons to avoid conception by abstaining from sexual activity during fertile segments of a woman’s reproductive cycle. However, the inability to provide the latest and greatest of worldly possessions does not strike me as one of those valid reasons. We are coming up on the 40th anniversary of the Pope Paul VI’s encyclical Humanae Vitae. If you have not read it, I urge you to read it now. It is clear the prophetic nature of this document was not appreciated forty years ago. We must pray that it is appreciated now.