One of the marks over contemporary society is the way it is so clearly confused over children.
In many western societies there simply aren’t enough children being born. In the 1970s 1 in 10 women reached menopause without having children, in 2010 that rate was 1 in 5. It is a demographic time bomb for a developed economy. Workers expecting to retire at 65 but living to 95 and simply not enough people to take their place and pay their taxes to support the retired.
In Denmark this is pronounced enough for travel agency Spies Rejser to make an ad encouraging mothers to send their kids on sunny, active vacations to improve the odds of a baby arriving nine months later. While the advert which encourages them to ‘Do it for Denmark’ is tongue in cheek the problem is very real.
The reasons for this are complicated and, typically, the spotlight falls mainly on women. In a BBC article Holly Brockwell writes that, “There’s no acceptable reason to not want a baby, it seems.”
In a more in-depth look at the reasons why women choose not to have children the author makes this revealing comment,
It’s more acceptable to talk about wanting to be beaten by a sexual partner than it is to express honestly and openly a deliberate intent to not procreate.
However just as sex has become fetishized so have children. Children are wanted, desired and let’s face it purchased. There are few commodities that are as highly prized as a child. Take this somewhat disturbing article about Ed Houben from the Netherlands who has fathered 106 children not because he’s feckless but because he’s paid to by women and couples absolutely desperate to have a child of their own. Lot’s daughters would do anything to have children, they still do.
So on the one hand we have societies that both desperately wants children and yet at the same time obviously doesn’t.
Both approaches are, I think, symptoms of the same disease. Those that don’t want children choose to do so in order to fulfil their dreams, ambitions, goals – to have the life they’ve always wanted and see children as a hindrance. To those that desperately want children it is the same. They want to be mothers or fathers to again have the life they’ve wanted, dreamed and desired of and for many that image includes a still-photo of a happy family with a child in it. Like the IKEA catalogue.
It would be naive to think that this problem exists only outside of the church. Personally speaking I was very unsure about becoming a father, no-one had ever given me a good reason as to why I should want that. I was also keenly aware that I had for large parts of my life definitely NOT been a blessing to my parents.
For the greatest part of human history it was taken for granted that one generation would embrace the challenge of creating & raising the next. That can no longer be taken for granted. Churches have almost exclusively focused on how couples can be good parents, it is important that they not forget to teach them why they should be parents at all.