Monday, April 21, 2008

Multiply and Replenish

As we contemplate if/when/why to have more children, the following have been subjects of our varied conversations. In an effort towards completeness I will include reasons why both we and others choose to have children or not to have more children. [To protect the innocent I will not say which have been our thoughts (with a few exceptions) and which seem to be the thoughts of others.]

Reasons why parents choose to have more children:
  • You grow to love each child so much that logic and experience indicate that the love in your heart grows with more kids.
  • When you see large families, many of them seem to have a special "group association" that only large families have. Sometimes a similar association can be achieved by very close extended families.
  • Social pressure (more on this below).
  • Desire to have a child of a missing sex.
  • Desire to have more than just one child of a specific sex (ie-a family with two girls and one boy wants to have another boy so their only son can have a brother).
  • Spiritual promptings.
  • Satisfy a desire to adopt and help a child that would otherwise not likely live as good of a life.
  • A personal pressure that if you stop when you only have a couple children that you therefore concede that you can't handle more and thus fall short of personal or social desires and/or pressure to have more.
  • Bring spirits into a good family rather than let so many go to families where so many sad things happen.
  • Get more joy in the life to come with a larger posterity.
  • Good old accidents
  • ...

Reasons why parents choose to not have more children:
  • To avoid going beyond their capacity to handle the stresses of bearing children and raising them.
  • Facilitates having an easier life (less stress, less time constraints, less sacrifice, etc.).
  • Have more money for self by spending less on children (both selfishly in cases of excess and necessarily in cases of minimal funds).
  • Easier to do things with a smaller family compared to having 10 kids spanning the ages from 2 to 22.
  • Spiritual promptings.
  • Physical difficulties of child bearing.
  • Avoid overpopulating the earth.
  • Fertility issues.
  • ...
So, for the sociologist in me there are two primary questions that arise.

First, do there exist any pressures to have more children other than the basic desire to just have more children? And, if so, what are the origins and merit of those pressures?

Second, and more important to me, where do you draw the line between what you can handle and what you can legitimately so is too much. This is a question I have never been able to answer for myself. It seems that as long as I am not being asked to do the equivalent of pulling my family across the prairie in a hand cart, during winter, with bleeding feet, burying my children in snow graves, eating leather from my saddle for lack of food and all after just returning from a 3 year mission across the country where I left my pregnant wife to go...well, then I am not doing too much. Yet, I don't really think that unless we get to that point of sacrifice we have room to throw a few more difficult tasks on, but I still do not know where to draw the line.


Holman House said...

Coincidences are so interesting. I was just typing up my own column that somewhat relates to this subject. When I'm done with it I will send the link, but for now, I wanted to share a couple of things that I found:

"It is the privilege of married couples who are able to bear children to provide mortal bodies for the spirit children of God, whom they are then responsible to nurture and rear. The decision as to how many children to have and when to have them is extremely intimate and private and should be left between the couple and the Lord. Church members should not judge one another in this matter. (1989 General Handbook of Instructions, Chapter 11)

As stated in the title of a 2004 BYU NewsNet article, “LDS Church [is] not opposed to birth control.” While the LDS church once promulgated counsel that denigrated birth control as sinful, this is no longer the case.

Good topic for conversation. Do you have opinions or are you scouting out how your readers feel?

Carson Calderwood said...

I do have many opinions on this, but I am afraid to offend :-)

One of the graphs that has always stuck with me from my LDS sociology class is that LDS population trends will mirror US trends only at different levels. For example, if US used to have an average of 5 kids, but now is 2 then LDS trending would be 7 now 4. I think that we are more influenced by the world than we sometimes admit and I see (again, it is dangerous to judge so I could be wrong) some families that choose to have less kids solely for the convenience factor.

Personally, I would love to have 1-2 more kids because I love the ones we have so darn much, but we are at our capacity max right now with our energetic boys. Maybe we'll consider getting prego in a year or two, but right now we are in a solid holding pattern. Our big question is whether or not the craziness will subside when we aren't moving or preparing to move.

lettieb said...

Interesting topic.
I think, to answer the first question, yes. I have had friends stop having kids after one and heard other friends repeatedly ask them if they are done. And even telling them, "no, you not done." I think that sometimes there is pressure from family. Like you have to match what your siblings have (not saying this from my own experience). I think in Utah that because there are so many kids generally and the average is higher than the rest of the nation per household (sorry, no actual data to back that, just a stat I have heard often), that some living here feel like they need to meet or beat that average.
For question two, obviously that is tricky and I wonder it myself. On days where I feel like a bad mom that isn't paying enough attention to her kids, I think, how mean to have more. (Strangely it is not on days when they are bad that I want to be done at 2, just days when I am bad.) I think that being able to house and clothe your kids is an obvious factor within reason. They don't need to wear Prada to be clothed or eat gourmet food. They just need to be reasonable well cared for in that regard, and most importantly they need love. I think that moms (or dads) that struggle with depression may not feel like they can love their kids properly (or other people without depression too) and that by not continuing to have more kids they are increasing the chances of their love being shown properly to the children they have. (Sorry for the long run on sentences, btw.) I think sometimes just asking WHY you want more kids helps to answer when you should stop. Sometimes I feel like I have to reach these goals that I set long ago when I thought I'd be married at 21 and like Mary Poppins. Ha! I think it's best not to decide ahead of time what you are going to do. That could be read super wrong, so let me clarify. If I think I want to have 4 kids and have lots of complications with #3, maybe it is best to stop then and not try and meet my own expectations. You never know what life is going to throw at you...I feel like I have rambled too much and am not making sense, so I am done. Good topic, I look forward to the other responses.

Carson Calderwood said...

Collette, good point!
My mom frequently puts a strong emphasis on the word "replenish" when she says the title to this post. What she is inferring and I agree 100% with her (not b/c she's my mother either, ha ha) is that you have to be able to nurture those that you bring into the world. Not just multiply. That is why we are in the said holding pattern.

n our case, even though we would enjoy the added personality and love of another child we couldn't give the ones we have their proper attention right now if we had a newborn. As they get older and Bex starts to do more stuff by himself like Trey does and Trey continues to be less of a drama then another one would totally be manageable.

The two ends of the spectrum of this issue are 1-the mother's that say they will be blessed w/ greater capacity no matter how many kids they have (not always true, but sometimes yes) 2-people who use this as an excuse to not have more b/c they don't want to sacrifice personal things to give more to their children. BTW, we think you do a great job. Marisa is impressed by your organization and ability to have fun with the kids, two things where frequently you get one or the other in a mom, but not both.

Holman House said...

Coming from a family of 13 I have a plethora of experiences and perceptions about large vs. small families. At first I recollect being treated somewhat of a celebrity because of our large inconspicuous family, but as I got older I understood the patronizing looks, the not so discreet comments that we received from those who looked down on us because of our size. My dad earned a great income and none of us ever felt lacking in the financial area (although because they are children of the depression they are in a MAJOR scarcity mentality, but that is a discussion for another time) and oddly enough, I never felt that they didn't ever have enough love or time for me. Ask my other siblings and you may get different opinions, however.

Anyway, Brian and I were in Las Vegas for two years and I had three really young kids and was pregnant with the fourth. I can't tell you how many times people would say to me in public (like in the grocery store, the library, etc.), "You're done with having children, right?" Like they were saying, "You'd better not have any more kids!!" I got comments like that so many times it wasn't just one random person with the opinion that four was too many.

I had to convince myself not to be hurt by comments like that, especially since my kids are not really that bad in public.

Even in Utah I get the unspoken pressure to not have too many kids, as it is seen as possibly uneducated or something someone of a lower SES status does.

by the way, what is your take on Pres. Monson's choice to have three children?

Carson Calderwood said...

Too funny about seeing yourself as a celebrity-ish family as a child. We get the comments here in Seattle all the time about our having three is more than enough and we would be crazy to have more. Sooo true about the SES issue, I hear that all the time and people are surprised that we would consider having more than the average 2.6 when we have a post grad education. Like we have some mental disorder that would allow us to be smart enough for post grad education but disturbed enough to think it is ok to have more than 2 kids.

We went to dinner w/ some friends last Friday and were talking about President Monson's three kids. That is one where you just have to wonder. They could of had fertility issues, they could of been told by the spirit to not have more considering he was a GA at age 36 (I think).

Not that you asked or think it, but I wouldn't even be opposed to saying that there could have been a possibility that they should of had more, but chose not to for selfish reason. Unlike many others, just because he became a GA I don't think everything he ever did was perfect and if that was their reasons it would have no bearing on my thoughts of him now as the Prophet or his ability to perform in the position. Just a little extra $0.02. If I had to guess though, I would probably say it was one of the first two reasons before this one.

lettieb said...

I guess I have fooled Marisa...

Holman House said...

Um, perhaps it was because he was a GA at 36, he wasn't ever home! ha ha ha!

Holman House said...

if interested see my latest blog on vasectomys.

Anonymous said...

This is a topic on which the direction from the church is very clear. There is a first presidency statement from a few years ago that says that "Members of the church are not to judge each other in this regard." meaning the choice of when and how many children to have.] This council goes both ways. We're not to judge people who we think have too many and they are not to judge us, or vice versa depending on our situation. I like that the church, if not its members, has this position. Having said that, I'll do the opposite for the sake of argument. This is not a personal attack, but a hypothetical question to help myself understand the true underpinnings of your argument: Have you ever heard of a commandment which is given and then qualified based on whether someone finds it difficult or easy to achieve? The difficulty of adhering to the directives of a commandment from god should be completely divorced from how difficult the achievement sould be. If you believe that the command to multiply and replenish the earth (however you choose to parse that phrase) is actually a commandment given by God, what difference does its difficulty matter? I'm not a zealot who thinks you should have ten kids in ten years. I really don't care one way or the other - I'm just trying to understand your argument- and I dont see how 'difficulty' is a sound reason in and of itself. Think of all the difficult things that have been required of people through the ages (you mentioned the poineers). Those individuals got to decide whether they would do a difficult thing and reap the reward, or not. I guess we do too.

Carson Calderwood said...

Good question. I do think there are some commandments that you decide between yourself (sometimes spouse as in this case) and the Lord. Some you definitely do not, such as tithing. No matter how difficult it may be you still pay your 10%. On the other hand, fast offerings. We are not given any counsel on how much to pay, just to do it (like with having children). The two logical extremes are give 100% of your money to the church and give nothing (with children have so many they are starving for food and attention vs have none to avoid the hassles). We all choose the extent to which we obey the commandment based on our ability. Different circumstances will dictate different levels and thereby different levels will become a 100% fulfillment. For some having 1 child will be 100% and for others have 7 will be 100% fulfillment.

As you stated, we are not to judge others because we don't know their individual circumstances. I agree very strongly with that after personal experiences and having close friends confide their struggles with us. We truly never fully understand the challenges that others face.

Brian said...

Interesting topic. Jennifer and I have been discussing for a while about having another child. That would give us 4. Gasp! Did I say 4? After each discussion we can't come up with a reason not to. We have the means (emotional and financial) to have another child. I feel that is most important when deciding on how many children to have. I feel as long as you can take care of your family than why not have more children? It is a very personal, sacred decison. I feel a heavy responsability already with 3 kids knowing I need to teach them and show them the right way to live. Calling on OB/GYN's all day I have had frequent discussions on this topic. A lot of the doctors I speak with are church leaders. (i.e. SP, Bishops, HC, etc.) They first ask the member if they are emotinally capable of caring for a child. The second question is about financial support. If the members are comfortable with both then they recommend against birth control. If not then birth control has a place. Why bring a spirit of God into this life if you cannot care for it? In the end who will be held accountable? Again, this is a personal decision and no one has any right to judge the size (or lack of) of a family.
Besides, do you know of a better tax break?

Brian said...

One more thing. I used to have a selfish attitude towards this subject. Do I want to get up in the middle of the night? Do I want to change more diapers? Can I wait that long to have sex again? There were many other selfish things I would question. I let go of those feelings and realized that God gives us children to make us better and to help us grow and learn. Once that baby is in your arms you can't believe you ever thought that way!

Jodee said...

OK, maybe I am just being super naive here but where in the phrase "Multiply and replenish the earth" does it give a number? I cannot even believe anyone would pressure another to have more kids or vice versa. That quote from Rachel says it all, it is between you and the Lord, and we should not judge- enough said! So the pressures should not even exist, I know they do and that bugs me to no end! Seriously, there are SO MANY factors that you have to consider to have kids, and it is SUCH a personal decision.
What is wrong with just having one child if that is what you and the Lord decide? people who have one child shouldn't get any different looks or pressures than people who have lots of children, it's their perogative and as long as they are taking it up with the Lord, who are we to judge? Sorry, but I think it is even crazy that the question came up as to why Pres. Monson chose to have 3 kids. I guess I just don't get it, why should that matter? Do you ask because you think he should have more? Am I missing something? I am not trying to be rude either, I really don't get it!

Carson Calderwood said...

I always love your comments Jodee! Its nice to get your outside of the bubble feisty perspective :)

Anonymous said...

To claim that this commandment to multiply and replenish the earth is different because it is "between you (and your spouse) and the Lord" skirts the real issue. Every commandment is between 'you and the Lord'. Whether or not I pay my tithing is just as much between me and the Lord as choosing to have a child once I (and my spouse) feel that it is the right thing to do. Carson claims that the real difference is in the moving bar for the measurement of completeness. I would tend to agree. And that is where the judgement issue comes into play. It seems to be a human tendency to seek validation for ones own life decisions. When others choose a different path we sometimes see this as an affront to our own choices. For example: I have one child and my friend has ten. I say to myself, "What is she thinking, the planet can never sustain that sort of multiplication and she'll never be able to afford to send them all to dartmouth let alone nurture them as she should." Conversly: If I have five children and My friend chooses (notice I say choose and not unable) not to have children or to have what I percieve to be 'only' one, I rationalize that they must not catch the vision or posess the faith to attain to the higher calling I have chosen. After examining both these positions, it seems that both are rooted in fear. The fear that we may have made the wrong decision, and someone else the right. Or at least the fear that others will view us in that light. The irony is, as Carson illustrates, I can do the right thing while you can do something completely different (or even opposite) and also be in the right. Mormons do not have a monopoly on this type of pride, but our unique culture definately exacerbates it. What is it about our (LDS) culture that causes us to do this to eachother?

Anonymous said...

Using the trope, "between you and the Lord" is as good a device as any to achieve the necessary end that we refrain from critisizing other's decisions. But this phrase is used too often within ourselves to rationalize our doing whatever we want. "between you and the Lord" when it comes to personal introspection means: Find out what God wants you to do and Do it.

Carson Calderwood said...

Anon, you bring up a good point.

IMHO, we primarily use other people as our "social barometer" due to the fact that most of us are incapable of using the spirit to the degree that we would like and our fear of making a wrong decision. It is easy, though not always right, to look around us, see where the social norms average lies and try to be at least just a little bit better than that. By so doing we feel that we are being better than others and therefore must be doing "good enough" to consider ourselves correct. Balancing ourselves against social norms probably does have a place, but as you point out, it also has its obvious shortcomings.

Carson Calderwood said...

This has been a good example of how discussing things with other people can help you dial-in your personal stance on a subject.

After thinking over Brian and Jodee's comments I realized that I have agreed with both (kind of opposing statements) at various times in my life.

When I say what Brian did (and I have said myself before) in a different way:

"One should keep having children until they are no longer physically, financially or emotionally capable," it just doesn't seem right. If you and your spouse have the physical/financial/emotional capability is it really your responsibility to have 15 children???

On the other hand, I don't think we should just choose to have 1 child so that we can have an easy life.

This life isn't meant to be a cakewalk, but we are also here to have joy. Although I feel that I have personally narrowed in the two outside parameters of my personal spectrum on this subject, I do not feel that I have an answer for when we can say we are done.

Jodee said...

Just to clarify, I hope you didn't think that I was "on the other hand" and thinking it is ok to just have 1 child so that "we can have an easy life". That would not be on my list of reasons to stop. I was just trying to explain that if for some reason, after having carefully thought it out with ones spouse and Heavenly Father, one decides to only have 1 child, then they shouldn't feel judged for that decision. I would say the same for someone who decides to have 15 children, as long as they are deciding in the right way, for the right reasons. I guess my babbling was more about the pressures than the actual number.

And as for your conclusions, I think it shows that you are doing the right thing; carefully contemplating with your spouse and the Lord. In my opinion, if you continue to do just that, you will find your answer when it's time.

Carson Calderwood said...

Thanks, and no I didn't intend for you to be the other end of the spectrum, well at least until you do have your 15 kids that is ;)

pacemaker said...

Carson, I ws given your site address from my son, Adam, thought I'd check it out and being opinionated myself, thought I would comment on the whole to have more children or not.
Each has their own decision to make and that decision needs to be based on you and your families individual needs and desires. Good to know that we have the agency to choose for ourselves and our own familys.
As you know, we have a rather large, drawn out family. I wouldn't have it any other way, but in no means would ever think its the only way and that it is what other people should do.
Yes, Jerry and I are older now and are still raising little ones, our youngest is 6 and now the oldest is 30. For us this has worked, great to know that the Lord can have a say in how many and when we have our family.
I have loved giving birth, but when that option ended for us and adoption was a new door opened to us, we were able to allow other children to have a home and family that might not otherwise be able to.
Just my opinion, so glad that we are all different and what works for one may not for another! Good to read your opinion and others!