29 June 2011

Trendily Barren

We are all prone to pride and selfishness; in many ways it is the fundamental posture of fallen man.  So, while the demographic bust and the culture of consumerism has been canvassed here and elsewhere before, I wanted to post on this story for the macro-statement of selfishness it makes.

My lovely wife Sharon sent along this story, in a state of fitting consternation.  Though I couldn't fit into one post (even posts as wordy as mine often are) all of the comments I could make, I kept returning over and over to the sadness I see from the many wonderful, faithful couples I know who cannot conceive, or who have great difficulty conceiving and/or begetting as many children as they would like.

It's one thing to point out the incredible shallowness of the couples quoted here, or to lament the lack of handing down of the proper ends of marriage in their right order of importance.  But it's another to see the absolute shamelessness of the societal death wish these people have espoused.  Every canard of modern life has been swallowed hook, line and sinker.

The article is quite long, so I will post some selected paragraphs here.  I will only comment when I just. can't. stop. myself.  For a final insult, take the quiz at the end to determine whether you should stay childless!


The No-Baby Boom

A growing number of couples are choosing to live child-free. And you might be joining their ranks.

By Brian Frazer

This summer, 28-year-old Anthony Shepherd and his wife of seven years, Cynthia, will fly from China, where they've been teaching English since 2009, to Wisconsin for a vacation. In addition to relaxing, catching up with friends, and attending her brother's wedding, they plan on stopping by a vasectomy clinic. The People's Republic may be notorious for its one-child policy, but the Shepherds' attitude toward reproduction is even more stringent. Call it the zero-child policy.
Even before the Shepherds left Asheville, North Carolina, for Sichuan province, they'd made their life decision based on the experiences of their "childed" friends. "We watched them struggle to pay bills, find suitable apartments or houses to fit their families, and work at jobs they didn't like because they needed the insurance," Cynthia says. So she and Anthony enthusiastically took a pass on parenthood, an increasingly common decision for America's couples.

Considering the state of the economy, it should come as no surprise that the ranks of the child-free are exploding. The Department of Agriculture reports that the average cost for a middle-income two-parent family to support a kid through high school is $286,050 (it's nearly half a million dollars for couples in higher tax brackets). Want him or her to get a college education? The number jumps to nearly $350,000 for a public university, and more than $400,000 for private. Undoubtedly it costs more to raise a child than not to raise one.  But I have always wondered from where these astronomical figures come that are so often cited in the kids-are-bad-for-__________ template stories.  Call me suspicious.  And of course, this does not take into account, even on a mercenary, economics-only basis, the contributions of adult children to the quality of life of their parents.

Though if your kid's planning to major in Male Sterilization, it could wind up being a good investment: The vasectomy business seems to be one of the few in America that is booming. In the past year, the Associates in Urology clinic in West Orange, New Jersey, has seen a 50 percent jump in the procedure. So you could stress over starting a college fund, or you could consider that you can get a vasectomy at Planned Parenthood for less than the cost of a Bugaboo Cameleon stroller. The crying shame here is the fact that the author sees a vasectomy at Planned Parenthood as something comparable to a shopping decision ON. ANY. LEVEL.  Unless you're among the less than 2 percent of Americans who farm for a living and might conceivably rely on offspring for free labor, children have gone from being an economic asset to an economic liability.

But for the child-free, the benefits go beyond dollars and cents. There's less guilt, less worry, less responsibility, more sleep, more free time, more disposable income, no awkward conversations about Teen Mom, no forced relationships with people just because your kids like their kids, no chauffeuring other people's kids in your minivan to soccer games you find less appealing than televised chess. Because it is always always always about me.  Of course, why spend all that time stressing about a spouse, for that matter?

In his best-seller Stumbling on Happiness, (warning!) Harvard psychologist (I warned you) Daniel Gilbert writes, "Couples generally start out quite happy in their marriages and then become progressively less satisfied over the course of their lives together, getting close to their original levels of satisfaction only when their children leave home." 

No wonder so many are choosing to spend their entire marriages as empty-nesters. A 2009 University of Denver study found that 90 percent of couples experienced a decrease in marital bliss after the birth of their first child. Still laughing at that one.  And in a 2007 Pew survey, just 41 percent of adults stated that children were very important for a successful marriage, down from 65 percent in 1990. Meanwhile, nearly one in five American women now ends her reproductive years without children, up from one in ten in the 1970s. Not surprising, considering the upbringing we receive these days.  But more on that below.

Now, I am part-Italian, so no emails, please--but, is the novelty the bribery, or merely that it is for reproduction? Germany's baby shortage results in an annual population loss of 100,000.  Just think of that number-- and Germany is not the worst.  And the sheep-to-human ratio in New Zealand, which currently stands at 10 to 1, seems sure to increase, since a staggering 18 percent of adult men there have elected to get vasectomies.


You don't have to Netflix Children of Men to figure out that if everyone shirked his breeding responsibilities, humankind would die out. It takes an average of 2.1 kids per woman to keep a population stable. Fortunately, to pick up the slack, we have breeding machines like the Duggars (of the TLC show 19 and Counting), an Arkansas couple who have said they would welcome a 20th child, and the Bateses (featured on Nightline in January), a pair of Tennesseeans with 18 kids who want two more in order to even the gender ratio of their brood. Half a century ago, these families might have seemed less outrageous. Then again, half a century ago, we didn't have reality shows to parade them on. First, note the wonderful attitude that even in propagating the species these geniuses are willing to sponge off of the work of others. Also note the defensiveness in labelling people who actually live out the marital vocation as "machines", "breeders" and such like.

"I'm actually kind of grateful to Octomom, because it's the first time in American culture we've said, 'Wait a second…We do have the right to judge these people,'" Laura Ciaccio says. "Because before, we had these strange attitudes about motherhood and parenthood and children and babies in our culture. That changed the national dialogue. We now feel we have the right to question whether it's a good idea." Ah, the tolerant crowd! They will be the first to condemn the lack of "tolerance" by religious people of whatever outrage is the flavor of the day, but NEVER forget that THEY "have the right to judge these people."

For Heather McGhinnis, a married 35-year-old marketing specialist in Elgin, Illinois, motherhood is simply a lifestyle choice that's not for her. "The job of being a parent doesn't interest me," she explains. "Just like I don't want to be an accountant, I don't want to be a parent." According to Laura S. Scott, who surveyed 171 subjects for her book Two Is Enough: A Couple's Guide to Living Childless by Choice, that kind of attitude is linked to a specific personality component. "A lot of introverts, thinkers, judgers—these are people who think before they act," she says. "They're planners, and they're not the kind of people who can be easily led into a conventional life just because everyone else is doing it." And yet the point of this article is that being a childless married couple is the thing that more and more people are doing. Maybe the irony meter is broken. Scott, whose documentary The Childless by Choice Project will come out this summer, claims that there are four types of child-free couples: Early Articulators, who made the decision early in life; Postponers, who perpetually put off having their baby; Acquiescers, one of whom accedes to the other's desire to be child-free; and Undecideds, who say they're still thinking about it.


Many assume that an eventual feeling of regret is another drawback of the choice to remain childless. What if you reach middle age and begin yearning for the family life you never had? Who's going to care for you when you're old? And yet, of the more than 60 people Laura Scott interviewed for Two Is Enough (some as old as 66), not one expressed qualms about his or her decision. Actually, regret is more common among the breeders. In a 2003 survey of more than 20,000 parents that Dr. Phil conducted for his show ...um, of parents who would watch Oprah's husband's show in the first place, you mean?, 40 percent reported that they wouldn't have had kids if they'd realized the difficulties of raising a family. 


"I guess the point is that we feel that we're fulfilled," proclaims Heather McGhinnis. "There's no void. There's nothing missing. We're happy the way things are."

So are my wife and I. As we back out of our driveway, cranking up the music to cover the nine-octave wails emanating from our neighbors' back yard, I think to myself, Maybe Laura Scott needs to add a fifth category for couples like us: Relieved Quitters. Great. Let me know when you want my children to send your Social Security check, OK, pal?


SAHD Dad / Dr. Mom said...

Stories like this drive me I-N-S-A-N-E. Prepare for a long comment.

(1) How sad!! When did we become an "its all about me" culture? This is America, where we pride ourselves on team sports and neighborhood barbeques. Since when is it such a bad thing to have to converse with someone who is a little different just because your kids are friend? Shutting ourselves off from these people doesn't sound like tolerance to me!! It sounds more like segregation.

(2) I get so tired of those cost numbers. Those numbers have to be based on a couple buying absolutely the latest and greatest amount of toys for their kids in large amounts. I admit, all I have is an 8 month old at this point, but my wife and I have found we have significantly more money these days because our kid costs us next to nothing (really, how much does an 8 month old need?), and we go out so much less. AND WE LIKE IT THAT WAY. I'd much rather be at home with my laughing, smiling child than at some stupid movie or dinner out that I'm going to forget in a couple days anyways.

(3) Additional children cost even less. If the toy worked well for my first child, then it should work just as well for my second. Same goes for the crib, clothes (although a boy-girl combo could lessen this savings), car seats, etc.

(4) My wife and I are a part of that group that thought they may never have children. My wife has a disease which makes it difficult to get pregnant, and we were shocked she got pregnant so early in our marriage. We were defintely not ready for a baby, but we are thrilled he is here. Nothing is more rewarding than having a child who relies on you for everything and loves you absolutely unconditionally. I wouldn't trade all the sleepness nights for even a second of "me" time. Sure, I don't want to be up at 3 a.m. in the morning every night (or any night, for that matter), but it is all worth it.

(5) Marriage suffers? Really? That's the dumbest thing I've ever heard. Sure I don't get to have a romantic night out with my wife every week, but the joy we share together now in raising and parenting our son brings us closer together than we ever were without him. But if having that romantic night out is all my marriage is based on, then my marriage was a sham to begin with, and isn't worth a thing.

(6) I get tired of people always focusing on the negative. Sometimes, I am too rosy about having a child, I admit that. But my wife always tries to correct me to our friends, and thus hits upon some of the negative. As I tell her, society puts enough on the negative, we need to let the joy of having children shine through. Sure there are hard times, but the happiness and fun we have needs to be shown.

(7) Having a child has hardly dampered out social life at all. In fact, we can cook a healthy meal for 6 for the cost of the two of us going out to dinner. Our friends love it, and we host dinner parties nearly every weekend. I bet we see our friends more often now than ever before.

The fact is stories like the one posted simply act to discourage people from having children by promoting this false idea that nothing good ever comes from children, a point to which I strongly beg to differ.

Anonymous said...

I work with people like this, and sadly many of them come from families with quite a number of siblings. It really is another sign of the continues decline of Western culture; into the morass and abyss of self centered, self absorbed egotism.

'Thy wife as a fruitful vine, on the sides of thy house. Thy children as olive plants, round about thy table.' Psalm 128:3 is completely foreign to them. So much the pity.


Lily said...

Wow, this is really, truly sad. :-(

Anonymous said...

I want to hear from them when they're in the nursing home and no one visits. They will be kept minimally clean by min-wage orderlies who don't care about them (some might be compassionate...). These folks should be grateful that other people's children will fund their retirement and medical care and care for them in old age. Selfish and greedy now, they'll be tragic figures in old age. Oh, and under O-care (presuming it's not killed) these folks will have no advocates to say their lives are worth living. They may be too costly to care for and must be allowed to die to meet federal budget figures, of course. And these are mostly white yuppies. We are losing white population in America. Hello?

You just know the "breeders" term would be used. Can we call these folks "population killers"?

Fertility is a gift from God we must use for our own benefit and God's.

Long-Skirts said...

(Genesis 38:8-10)

If you plant
God's seed
It grows.

With holy
An openness glows.

Then to man

Wisdom to
Grace which guides.

So abundance
Will spread

Feed the early
Feed the

And you
Fruitful souls,
A cornucopia fills -

While the deserts
Of Onan
Remain wastelands of spills.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for posting.

But Timman, to make your point, it seems that you too fall into the same economic trap.

When talking about breeding machines, you say "First, note ... that even in propagating the species these geniuses are willing to sponge off of the work of others." Are you saying that it isn't right for people to have too many children IF it means they have to rely on the government for help? If so, you are buying hook, line and sinker the idea that only the relatively rich should have children, and they should stop when they can't afford anymore? That gives 100% credence to the whole article you are trying to discredit.

Then you end the article with the line "Great. Let me know when you want my children to send your Social Security check, OK, pal?" Again, you give credence to what he is saying in that having children is exactly an economic calculation.

Your logic here reminds me of Michelle Bachman when she was trying to discredit the Health Care Act. She said "Keep your government hands off my body," which his the EXACT same language that pro-abortion activists use to support abortions!

Anonymous said...

The writer states that many American women end their child-bearing years childless... but what is the average age of marriage these days compared to what it was in the '70s? I agree, it is very sad what the couple mentioned at the beginning of the article has decided, but they're certainly not "average American" when it comes to being married at the age of 21. There's a little more to it... no one can say it's a "choice" that everyone makes.

thetimman said...

anon at 8:25,

No, I don't agree with the children are economic units arguments at all. I was trying to limit those two responses to merely economics based as the writer tries to do.

My 'sponging off other people' comment was directed at the intentionally childless, not at the child-bearing. In other words, the self-centered paragons of the modernist sterility culture will even condescend to acknowledge that somebody HAS to breed in order for humanity not to die out, but let that be somebody else but them. Either you misunderstood me or I am misunderstanding your comment.

The only limit on the number of children ought to be God's will (expressed in the myriad of ways He does so); I don't care if government assistance is implicated in either case. I am not a fan of any government public assistance. The charity of friends, neighbors, church and benevolent associations would be more than enough if the government stopped robbing people's income and frittering it away.

AM said...

I wonder about these stats sometimes...
The THEY just throw anyone convenient to them into the pot when coming up with numbers.
Who's being polled?
I don't remember any polls.
Are 80% of these people between the ages of 30 and 45 who live with spouse in a 1,000 sq. ft. apartment in NYC with sissy dog named Rocky, Marlon, or Steve?

On the other hand, I believe the Duggars are a completely different story...

And Octomom may be in another completely different category with psychological issues. So, since perhaps she's got some real problems we CAN judge her? Um, ok...
That's great Laura! Stand up for your rights!

Anonymous said...

Comment to Peggy:
I work in a nursing home and can tell you that many men and women with children never see them. I hear the point that your trying to make, but with first hand observation, this point falls flat.

The Riopel Family said...

I took the quiz...it said I should not have kids so...what should I do with the 6 I have? :)
It's amazing that the perception of life with children is so jaded.
Not saying it's great all the time (especially with a teen!) but if love is not about sacrifice than what is it about?

Long-Skirts said...


There are some couples
O, so nice,
As nice, as nice
Can be,

They have their weddings
Roses and rice
And plan forever
Just "we".

No more.

They know the latest
Things to do
That pleasure their skins
And each pore.

"What need for seeds
And eggs take space,
We desire to be
In lust -

Our lives are erotic
And our blood does race
In cholesterol-free
We trust."

Some of these couples
Are Bob and Rick,
Some are Michael
And Sue,

No matter their genders
Each has his trick
Of blending secretions
Like stew.

Much money they'll save
On themselves, these few
From their vows 'til their graves
They'll live well...

But because their intent
Was a-party-of-two...
Alone they'll be seated
In Hell!

Unselfish mom said...

Childless couples have no little, innocent person that totally depends on them to feed and clothe them, and shower them with affection. Caring for children makes naturally selfish people into kinder, more responsible parents.

I feel so very sorry for the selfish author who was desperately trying to justify their decision to focus on only themselves and not become a family. He certainly protested too much because he knows he is making the biggest mistake of his life. What a sad man he will soon be.

Love Chlldren said...

This couple has no clue as to the lovely life they are missing. That is such a truly horrible thing that intentionally "Selfish", I mean "childless" did to mutilate his body and his marriage.

We are currently looking into adding to our already medium sized family by adopting a sibling group from our state Since we have both natural born children and adopted, what category will the childless by choice idiot put us in? We couldn't exactly be called, "breeders".

StGuyFawkes said...

The spokesman for childlessness said, "As we head out for our after-work hike, followed by yellow curry in Thai Town and then an Arctic Monkeys concert, we wave goodbye and smile, pretending not to notice their faces frozen in exhaustion."

Thai food, hiking, a rock concert: what trivial adventures!

Even if the couple who teach in China had participated in Mao's "Long March" they would have experienced nothing which compares to the hair raising adventure of raising just one child.

All the pleasures which the barren seek seem so meek and mild and riskless. I pity them the day their picturesque little town in Oregon runs out of foreign films.

On the other hand, I must add a dissenting note. Is there anyone among us who really thinks these folks whould have made good parents, given how selfish they seem?

My opinion is that a child, even one child might have saved them from the ludicrous heresy that every Martin Scorsese film is worth seeing, and every new restaurant reviewed in the New York Times needs to be discovered, and every Steig Larsson novel must be read. Culture and sophisication requires restraint and selection. These folks are vulgar boors. They read and see EVERYTHING! I say, God bless the child who rescues the chic from their chic. If it takes wiping the feces smeared little butt cheeks of an infant to save one from season tickets to the Loretto Hilton then I say God bless the child.

Anonymous said...

Wow. An incredible comment thread. I especially like this stanza from the would-be poet above:

"But because their intent
Was a-party-of-two...
Alone they'll be seated
In Hell!"

Better inform God that you just took over God's job and are now deciding who goes to heaven, who goes to hell.

Yes, by all means, let's pretend that everyone is well-suited (tempermentally, emotionally) for parenthood. Let's encourage EVERYONE to become a parent, whether or not they will be good parents. Let's guilt people or shame people into parenthood. What a wonderful world we will have when even more people abuse or neglect their children, rather than deciding they aren't suited for parenthood and taking responsible preventive measures (e.g., vasectomy) that will ENSURE THAT THEY NEVER HAVE AN ABORTION. Slam them for those preventive measures. Definitely. And go ahead and play God and condemn them to hell, too. Then tell yourselves you are pro-life and pro-child. Right.

Long-Skirts said...

Anon. 17:26 said...

"...you just took over God's job"

Well...I have to model myself after SOMEbody!

Anonymous said...

I agree, Anon 17:26, if people do not feel 'well-suited to parenthood...(tempermentally, emotionally)' [sic] then, indeed, they should take 'responsible, preventive measures':

1. Don't get MARRIED (due to the simple fact that the Church states clearly that the nature of marriage is ordered to PROCREATION (CCC1652);

2. Remain chaste.

'Problem' solved and without need for surgical mutilation.

StGuyFawkes said...

To Anon 17:26, and Anon 10:21,

I think the real question this article provokes is whether any of us are suited for parenthood until the catastrophic moment when a child is born, and we simply have to find it in ourselves to learn the limits and joys that little lives impose.

I've heard soldiers say that war is like this, no one is ready for the carnage, and yet somehow, on the field of battle, courage is born.

None of us, generally, are suited for or ready for parenthood until it happens.

This article suggests that some folks are simply closing themselves off from one basic fact of life: all the great and important events come without a calling card. It's ours to have the grace and character to step up to those occasions.

Having said all this, there does remain a lively philosophical discussion as to whether some souls are equipped with such self knowledge, at a young age, as to know that they would be bad parents. I'll allow that there are a few such souls. For those a good vocation director might be of assistance.

Anonymous said...

Well, I have two children born within a Catholic marriage, so therefore, I am assured of eternal happiness.

The narcissistic logic follows that anyone who doesn't have children from a marriage are to be condemned to hell.

The gist of this website and many bloggers is simple: If I'm doing it, it must be good. Anyone who isn't doing what I do must be bad. (Good: getting married to have kids, attending Latin services, voting straight-line Republican, etc.)

Or conversely, if I'm not doing it, it must be good, so anyone doing what I don't do must be bad. (Bad: not having children, having relationships outside marriage, being gay, voting for any Democrat - even if pro-life, etc.)

Ahhh, I love simplicity!

thetimman said...

anon at 11:08,

It may help to read my post or perhaps other posts of mine before telling me what I think. Your conclusions don't follow in the least.

It is hard to be fair when angry. But if you want to try, then I'll engage you in a debate on any topic.

Latinmassgirl said...

Dear Anonymous(es),

Not everybody should have children, you are correct. If you do not feel like being a parent, then you are obligated to stay single and celibate, not marry. All marriages must be open for life at all times of their marriage.

Going to hell for having surgery for the purpose of rendeing one sterile is exactly what the Catholic Church teaches, so the poet is correct in her assumptions. And of course, having children is not a guarantee to heaven. These ridiculous assertions are beyond clear thinking.

thetimman said...

You go LMG!

Anonymous said...

It is very disconcerting that we have to share the planet with others who don't live their lives in accordance with ours. Curse you, free will!