The old joke goes that the father of a large family finally got fed up when someone asked if he and his wife had planned on having their six kids. “Not really,” he said, “But at least we’ve finally figured out what’s causing it!”
God said, “Be fruitful and multiply” in Genesis 1:27-29, and “Children are a blessing” (Deut. 28:11) and “a reward” (Psalm 127:3), but the world says the opposite. The backlash against big families is growing as quickly as the number of Duggars. Mollie Hemingway dubs it fecundaphobia–the growing fear of children and fertile women–as she masterfully points out the ways it affects prominent men in the world of sports. This mindset leads to accusations of wrongdoing by parents of big families: with assumptions that it’s impossible to parent well when the number of kids goes up; overpopulation, etc. The derision for families and children has led to demands for airplanes and retail venues to ban or segregate families with kids.
Time magazine’s 2013 cover story, The Childfree Life pictured a couple enjoying a day at the beach. The story noted US birthrates are at an all-time low and wondered, “What happens when having it all means not having children?” Great question! “Having it all” is shorthand for the dilemma baby-boomer women faced balancing career with childbearing. Apparently many in this generation have chosen to erase the dilemma by rejecting motherhood completely.
According to Faith Popcorn, in the ’70’s only one in ten women were childless, today the number has risen to one in five. She points out that the childfree by choice movement will signal a new upper-class with more disposable income for luxury goods and travel. But Popcorn fails to mention that abortion on demand is the underside enabling this choice–Popcorn holds up several celebrities who are embracing the child-free life, among them Chelsea Handler who has been open about the abortion in her past, even joking about it with Conan O’Brien while possibly outing rapper 50 Cent as the father of a child she aborted at 16. I’m not suggesting that all women who choose not to become mothers have chosen abortion. And I’m not slamming Handler although I think her obvious discomfort in the Conan interview betrays her public statements about not having any regret over her choice. I hope she, and all women who need to know, can be reached with the message of God’s love and his plans to give us redemptive hope instead of self-justification so many of us felt we had to claim.
Whether or not abortion has played a part in an individual woman’s choices, the divide between careerists like Handler and women making motherhood career is clear. But big families still carry the “freak-show factor” according to the New York Times.
Sue Badeau, author of Are We There Yet? has heard it all when it comes to the backlash against big families. She’s the mother of 22 kids and she shares stories of their wild and joy-filled ride. We also tapped into her expertise as a child advocate in the world of social services, talking to her and her husband about adoption, fostering, and taking care of special-needs children.
Highlight: Adopting and raising 22 kids
Adopting and raising 22 kids in a world going childfree by choice
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