Large families and morality


#1

This is a subject I have been wondering about for some time, and mostly am asking because of some of the views that my FIL has.

Don't get me wrong-- I love my in-laws, they are great people, but my husband and I don't always agree with all their views. They both come from Christian families and my FIL comes from a Catholic family. My FIL is also a practicing Catholic, who did marry outside his faith but raised his children Catholic. I don't want this thread to sound like I am talking badly about them, but I am just trying to determine how their views fit in light of various moral paradigms.

My FIL is very against large families. In this context, I'm going to have the definition of "large family" be more than 2 children (since that is what my FIL seems to imply).

Here are some of the reasons why my FIL thinks large families are actually *im*moral:

  1. He considers it irresponsible to have more children than you can afford to feed. Even if you are living below your means, to him that means your children are causing you to live well below your means instead of the couple being able to naturally adjust their living expenses and not have to be dirt poor. My husband has relatives who have a large family-- I believe more than 5 children--and my FIL does not think very highly of them. The only time FIL thinks it's acceptable to have many children is if you make LOTS of money. As in 6 figures from one person.

  2. FIL believes people who have large families are a burden to taxpayers because if push comes to shove, they will eventually due to need have to apply for public assistance, public health insurance, etc. He doesn't believe anyone should be forced to shoulders the responsibilities of someone who made the choices to have many children that they couldn't afford. FIL is also a huge fiscal conservative.

  3. This may not be entirely related, but FIL has noticed that oftentimes with larger families the wife is a SAHM. He doesn't really agree with that either because his motto is "if you are able to work, you should." He believes that if you are physically and mentally able to bring in income when you need it so you don't have to be dependent on public assistance, or have to live so low-income, you should work. Even in the "good old days," his own mom never stayed at home. She worked. My MIL never stayed at home, because she worked. In his opinion, my FIL doesn't understand why someone would not step up to the responsibility of working when they know that their family is struggling financially or is coming short every month.

I don't agree with some of these views. For one, there are many people out there who have lots of children but are able to make ends meet well above the poverty line because they make smart choices. My husband once tried to tell him that you have to have faith that your needs will be provided, to which FIL retorted that faith can't pay the bills. When my husband and I told him the ideal minimum number of children we'd like to have, he balked. Let's just say it was more than 2:)

I do agree that if you cannot reasonably afford to care for the children you have, you should be taking responsible steps which are in accordance to Catholic teaching. FIL thinks that NFP is a joke because he's never heard of a couple that was able to use it to space children, without "randomly" getting pregnant.

I have some mixed thoughts about some of the other things. Sometimes families need assistance for a short time to help make ends meet. And sometimes families have the SAHM because the children need a parent around.

What do you all think? Are large families worth it? I would like to think so.


#2

I think large families are beautiful. I only have one sibling, and I wish my parents would have had more :)

I think your FIL's views are harsh and one-sided. He looks at the "tax drain" the children are (or MAY possibly be), but not the taxes they'll pay once they become working adults. From a strictly materialistic viewpoint (which is the viewpoint he seems to be taking) the worry is not too many children, but too few ... from what I've read, Japan and a few other countries are now below replacement level (well below), and consequently face a huge population of elderly supported by a tiny population of working adults. Not a good thing. :nope:

Also, since your FIL is Catholic, you could remind him that only God can open or close the womb, therefore no child is born without God's express 'permission', if you will :)

I'll close with a beautiful quote from Mother Teresa:

"How can there be too many children? That is like saying there are too many flowers.":curtsey::tada::kiss4you: :thankyou: :flowers:


#3

spunjalebi
FIL thinks that NFP is a joke because he's never heard of a couple that was able to use it to space children, without "randomly" getting pregnant.

Since marriage is about the good formation of the children, it is wise for the mother to rear the children at home at least for some years if that is possible financially – this is for the couple to decide. God provides through the prudence, justice, fortitude and temperance of his creatures and we should not expect to ignore those virtues and see the same results.

Perhaps it might be wise to ensure that you and your husband obtain some booklets or articles that explain Natural Birth Regulation (NBR) which can enable a couple that has serious reasons to limit their family on occasion. The Internet can provide articles and your in-laws can be offered facts.

A couple can prayerfully learn to discern how to cooperate with, and how to counter, outside influences. BTW, an average of two children in a country will not even replace the population.


#4

There was a poll taken recently in NZL about how people saw themselves finanically, what the poll found that even when people were better off fiscally, ie. tax cuts, pay increases, they still felt they were "worse off" and "needed more money".

The thing with "beyond your means" is subjective. If you owned a BMW, Audi, and Merc and then decided to buy a Porsche you coulnd't really afford so you got it on hire purchase, would you consider yourself poor? Would you be "beyond your means"?

What Im trying to say is people have their pirorites mixed up, everyone these days seems to think that the meassure of comfort is several TVs, broadband internet, three cars, two incomes. People can honestly live without these things. I'm only 29 and growing up we had two TVs, one was black and white, and had a bunny ear antenna, we had two cars, and one was my mum's teenaged car from the 1960s. My mum would have had more kids had she not lost her fertility due to illness. My mum was also stay at home.

If people brushed aside the nonsense commodities we have been conned into thinking we need, they can probably survive off one income.

I really hope and pray that marriage is my vocation, because I want a stink load of children! I mean, really, the secular world isn't having enough, so I see it as a civic and moral duty before God to have at least 8. :D :D :D

But after all is said and done, I bet if you had 7 kids yoru FIL would love each and everyone of them, and wouldn't dare say they were irresponsible burdens on society.


#5

Don't get me wrong my in-laws aren't materialistic people. They are huge savers, believe in cash only, etc. They are actually rather simple people, but my FIL really dislikes how he perceives people to be irresponsible, and that's usually with having lots of children. He sees it as that he will eventually in some way, be footing the bill for someone else's kid and doesn't think that's right.

They don't have tons of tv's, expensive vehicles, go on lavish vacations, etc. They are hardly materialistic by any means, and for the first time in their married lives actually purchased new furniture and renovated in the last year.

FIL sees other people who live simply, within their means, work, etc. and have lots of children and still struggle and doesn't understand it.


#6

I can see his point about irresponsible people having many children they cannot take care of, however, he is applying this bias against people like himself, who work hard, live simply & take care of their responsibilities. He made a choice to save his money & limit his family (as well as the possible blessings he might have received) other people make a choice to receive those children as blessings. They see the children as a blessing & not a burden. It seems to me that he only sees burden. He then transfers that burden to somehow being on HIM which is not the case for many.Not all large families are poor, on public assistance or have a stay at home parent.
Poor families can be filled with just as much love as a wealthier family. Having the ability to provide "stuff" does not make a great parent. Did he come from a family with financial instability? Ive noticed that some people who have had to deal with that either continue the cycle or work like mad men to make money. Some spend alot others save it compulsively because "you just never know".Sometimes it is easier to deal with if you know where they are coming from. It may be that you will just have to not talk about those things with him period. If he brings it up just tell him that you all do not agree and would rather not discuss your personal decisions with him, and then DONT. I have a devout Catholic friend who deals with this with her parents. She tells them after a new baby comes. It works because we are military & they dont see them often but she says she learned it was easier to deal with them that way. Why spoil her family joy over a new life listening to it being disparaged? She has 6 kids, stays at home, homeschools, NFP, college educated (both) and is raising her kids the way she sees fit. Her & her husband are not in dire straits & actually have college funds! Not to mention, she works harder than most men I know! A salary is not the only measure of someones worth.
Sorry for rambling, I can see both sides of this in a weird way. I have known alot of poor people on public assistance, some with big families but most did not have more than 2-3 kids.For alot of them, irresponsible behavior (sex outside of marriage,never marrying, not graduating & having kids) got them there.
I also know quite a few families whose size would blow him away & they are good, solid, responsible families with sahm's. They went to school & waited to have their families until they were married. So I think that those choices more so than the exact number of children is what determines public assistance levels. Hope this made some sense lol


#7

[quote="spunjalebi, post:1, topic:221295"]

What do you all think? Are large families worth it? I would like to think so.

[/quote]

I would think too. Children are gift from God. We can plan but God decides. I would think receive and enjoy the gift of God while there's still time and opportunity.


#8

All those reasons are good reasons. He is right. Having too many kids is rough on the parents - creating harder demands on them which makes the marriage suffer. Too many kids costs more and may make their upbringing suffer if they can't be fed healthy organic food. It is a burden on taxpayers as well. Lastly, and most important, overpopulation is a major concern for the world. Those that tend to see things black and white as absolutes are dangerous. One needs to wake up and recognize that almost everything in our universe exists in a context. Therefore it's perfectly acceptable to use ABC, and 80% of Catholics use it.


#9

[quote="Reuben_J, post:7, topic:221295"]
I would think too. Children are gift from God. We can plan but God decides. I would think receive and enjoy the gift of God while there's still time and opportunity.

[/quote]

I agree. Children are absolutely a gift from God. We can try as we might to conceive a child, but it will only happen when and if God decides to send a baby. And that is it right there. Children are sent because God wants to create a new life. Even in the case of "poor families," God knows their situation, their finances and their future and decides to send a child anyway. God doesn't make mistakes, these children are here because He sent them. If God sends these babies, who are we then to criticize and say that some people have too many children? Who are we to question the wisdom of God? We may not understand, but we have no right to question it.


#10

[quote="Observer3, post:8, topic:221295"]
All those reasons are good reasons. He is right. Having too many kids is rough on the parents - creating harder demands on them which makes the marriage suffer. Too many kids costs more and may make their upbringing suffer if they can't be fed healthy organic food. It is a burden on taxpayers as well. Lastly, and most important, overpopulation is a major concern for the world. Those that tend to see things black and white as absolutes are dangerous. One needs to wake up and recognize that almost everything in our universe exists in a context. Therefore it's perfectly acceptable to use ABC, and 80% of Catholics use it.

[/quote]

Just because "80% of Catholics" use ABC, it does not make it right. It is wrong because it removes God's right to create a new life, and may if fact destroy a new life already created.

Children are not a burden. It is not easy at times to raise a big family, but it is certainly not a burden. What job could be as rewarding as caring for and raising a little child (or even better, many little children), teaching them and lovingly guiding them through infancy, childhood and then into little adults? They are not ours, God entrusts them to us for such a very short time. It is a sad state of affairs when the world begins to view children as a burden...abortion has done a good job.


#11

[quote="autdrew, post:6, topic:221295"]
I can see his point about irresponsible people having many children they cannot take care of, however, he is applying this bias against people like himself, who work hard, live simply & take care of their responsibilities. He made a choice to save his money & limit his family (as well as the possible blessings he might have received) other people make a choice to receive those children as blessings. They **see the children as a blessing & not a burden. It seems to me that he only sees burden. **He then transfers that burden to somehow being on HIM which is not the case for many.Not all large families are poor, on public assistance or have a stay at home parent.

Poor families can be filled with just as much love as a wealthier family. **Having the ability to provide "stuff" does not make a great parent. **Did he come from a family with financial instability? Ive noticed that some people who have had to deal with that either continue the cycle or work like mad men to make money. Some spend alot others save it compulsively because "you just never know".Sometimes it is easier to deal with if you know where they are coming from.

[/quote]

:thumbsup: Also, as an only child who longed all her life for siblings (my mom's health made her afraid to try for a second child), let me throw in my :twocents: worth. I realize this man is talking about two children, but I can't resist the opportunity to combat this "more children = unwanted burden" attitude.

Yes, siblings can have conflicts, but a lot of "burden" falls on an only child - they can get caught in a triangle with their parents if there are marital conflicts. They can feel "different" from their siblinged peers. And when the parents get elderly and need care, they're in it alone in many cases. I went through this. It was a blessing to be able to care for my mother in her last years, it brought us closer together, but many times I wished I had someone to help me.

This can happen with two children easily enough, too. Often (not to pick on guys) if it's a brother and a sister, the sister gets more of the caregiving responsibilities. Or one sibling lives far away and the other in town. You get the idea. With several children, there is more chance for the responsibility to be shared.

There's so much negative propaganda out there against large families. IMO a lot of it is baloney fueled by the zero-population-growth folks. And people buy into it.:( It seems so pessimistic, and in some cases, even promotes the "Culture of Death.":mad:

I do think we Americans have been living too high off the hog for a long time and it's coming back to haunt us (apologies for the mixed metaphor:D). That's why it's better to strive to be less materialistic, and give one's children priceless gifts of love, time, family bonding, and simple pleasures, which don't cost a penny extra and don't contribute to environmental harm in any way. Plus they will learn the value of frugality and common sense. :) It's a win-win.

P.S. There's an organization called www.onemoresoul.com that I just love.

Viva large families from one who wishes she'd been part of one! :grouphug:


#12

Your father-in-law is teaching something that is against the teaching of the church he claims to be a member of.

I have known a number of people that had large families (5 or more children). Not one of them was ever on any form of public assistance. None of them ever had to utilize government programs to educate their children (most of them sent their children to Catholic schools, while still paying taxes to support the public schools). ALL of them got their children through college.

The happiest family I ever saw was during my Sophomore year in High School. One of my classmates came from a family with 18 children (12 natural and 6 adopted). The family was very well off, but other than the fact that they lived in an expensive house, you would not know that. Each child was required to do chores around the house. At 14, each child was required to get some sort of part-time job (paper route, baby sitting, mowing lawns, etc.), during the summer.

Each child was REQUIRED to donate 10% of their earnings or allowance to the church. They were required to deposit half of their earnings into a savings account (their parents matched all savings with at least 200% of what the child put in). The older children were required to assist with the younger ones (helping dress them, bathe them, help with homework, etc.). ALL of them assisted with meal preparation, washing dishes, cleaning the house, etc.

Each and every one of those children grew up to be responsible members of society. Each of them earned at least a Bachelor's degree (most went on to graduate study). One became a Priest, and one became a Christian Brother. The rest became engineers, physicians, lawyers, college professors, etc. All of the others married and had large families of their own, and most also adopted at least one child.

Having children you can not support is, I believe, irresponsible. Having children you do not want, and do not love, is morally wrong. Much better to put any such children up for adoption, than to raise them in a "family" where it is obvious that they are not wanted.

But a large family by itself is a wonderful thing. My family has 7 children, and all of us have college educations, we all became self-supporting, none of us has ever had a dime in welfare, etc. All of the males are veterans of the military (and one of my sisters is too). All of us own our own homes, and we all have children and grandchildren.

Your father-in-law sounds like a very ignorant and prejudiced man, who "knows what he knows, and won't let facts disuade him".


#13

[quote="Momofmyangels, post:10, topic:221295"]
It is not easy at times to raise a big family, but it is certainly not a burden. What job could be as rewarding as caring for and raising a little child (or even better, many little children), teaching them and lovingly guiding them through infancy, childhood and then into little adults? They are not ours, God entrusts them to us for such a very short time. It is a sad state of affairs when the world begins to view children as a burden...abortion has done a good job.

[/quote]

Momofmyangels, I couldn't agree more, well said :D

Also, it is definitely not easy to raise children, it is by far one of the most difficult jobs I have ever had, but also the most rewarding. I think one think that most anti-family people forget is that the more children you have the more opportunities you have to grow in virtue. Children demand patience, compassion, charity, sacrifice, strength of will, and determination. Raising children provides one with so many opportunities to grow in these virtues and become self-less and loving, what is more morally correct than a desire to grow in the virtues and in turn grow closer to God?

I have tons of friends that find so many excuses to not have more than 1 or 2 children and to me they all sound selfish. For all of them it is not a financial issuel, they just don't want to deal with nightwaking and giving up their body for pregnancy/nursing for another child, they don't want to have to get rid of their truck/car for a vehicle that will carry more children but will be less "cool" like a van, they are tired of having to discipline naughty behaivor and deal with whiny children, etc.

For me all of these reasons are opportunities to grow spiritually by practicing detachment for things of this world (vanity and materialism), patience for the crys of a child when you have had no sleep, compassion and strength of will when you are frustrated with bad behaivor and need to stay calm and loving but still discipline. I feel sad for those who for these reason choose not to have more than 1/2 children because it seems to me that they are missing out on such a wonderful expression of love and growth.

Now with all that being said, I also think that the church is right on with its teachings on responsible parenthood. Having the means to provide for children is important to discern before trying to concieve, but that means different things for different people and I think each family need to discern that themselves. We live very frugally and are trying get to one income by living beneath our means (but using cash only, getting debt free, homemaking everything I can, living on a frugal but comfortable budget, etc.) We have never been happier and can't wait for God to bless us with more children :thumbsup:

Sorry this got so long, but this is a passionate subject for me since we are trying to concieve right not and we get the anti-family talking to all the time.

God Bless,
Traci


#14

I think parents that want lots of kids could be viewed as selfish too. How many do you need to be satisfied? Seriously. It's like everything else in America in that we live in society of excess. More, more, more. 3 big TV's, 4 cars, 2 homes, 8 kids. Whatever happened to being grateful for 1 or 2 kids?

I know some families who would like to have more than 2 kids, but they don't because they know it's not wise in with their job and the economy. Be thankful you don't live in certain countries where the limit is 1.


#15

[quote="Observer3, post:14, topic:221295"]
I think parents that want lots of kids could be viewed as selfish too. How many do you need to be satisfied? I know some families who would like to have more than 2 kids, but they don't because they know it's not wise in with their job and the economy. Be thankful you don't live in certain countries where the limit is 1.

[/quote]

That is were the "discernment" comes into play when considering responsible parenthood and each family has to prayerfully consider conceiving more children. Having children just because you want to have children with no concern for your ability to provide for their well-being is obviously irresponsible and I would think would stem from a lack of virtues. IMHO it is possible for it to be immoral to have more children in some cases (i.e. can't provide for them) and in other cases immoral not to have more children (i.e. when your reasons are strictly selfish and you refuse to cooperate with God's will and plan).


#16

[quote="Observer3, post:8, topic:221295"]
All those reasons are good reasons. He is right. Having too many kids is rough on the parents - creating harder demands on them which makes the marriage suffer. Too many kids costs more and may make their upbringing suffer if they can't be fed healthy organic food. It is a burden on taxpayers as well. Lastly, and most important, overpopulation is a major concern for the world. Those that tend to see things black and white as absolutes are dangerous. One needs to wake up and recognize that almost everything in our universe exists in a context. Therefore it's perfectly acceptable to use ABC, and 80% of Catholics use it.

[/quote]

I have a question for you Observer. Up until 1930, not ONE Christian denomination permitted or okayed ABC. So what changed, God's eternal truth, or other denominations bowing to the pressure of their flocks who threatened to leave if their denom's teaching wasn't changed?


#17

Well, your FIL will be supported in his old age by Social Security payments obtained by taxing the young. But because many seem to share his views, there will be fewer workers to support the old, so he may not get as much in the way of benefits as previous generations.

When Social Security was first enacted, each retiree was supported by 8 or 9 young workers; now the ratio is approaching two to one. Because of the declining number of children, he'll have to depend on just two workers or less, to support him on Social Security.

Another thing to consider: Does he really view people as nothing but eaters? Has he lived a productive life? Does he think that he and others of his generation produced more than they consumed? Did they provide services, manufacture goods, write novels, make scientific discoveries? Does he not think that other generations are capable of productivity?

In reality, people are the ultimate resource. Without people, nothing happens. Without people, cities become ghost towns. Without people, civilization dies. And people begin as babies.


#18

[quote="Observer3, post:14, topic:221295"]
I think parents that want lots of kids could be viewed as selfish too. How many do you need to be satisfied? Seriously. It's like everything else in America in that we live in society of excess. More, more, more. 3 big TV's, 4 cars, 2 homes, 8 kids. Whatever happened to being grateful for 1 or 2 kids?

I know some families who would like to have more than 2 kids, but they don't because they know it's not wise in with their job and the economy. Be thankful you don't live in certain countries where the limit is 1.

[/quote]

Are you actually equating children with TV's, cars and homes? Now children are mere baggage? Has anyone said that they are not grateful for the 1 or 2 or 8 children that they may have? No, I don't think so. It is everyone else judging them and criticizing them for having more than the "average" 1 or 2 kids.

What about God's wishes? Perhaps it is His wish that some families have many children to make up for ALL the babies He sends that end up murdered by their mothers because "it is not wise in with their job and the economy" to have another.

And yes, I am grateful that I don't live in a country where the limit is 1. I daresay I would not live there long.


#19

[quote="zz912, post:16, topic:221295"]
I have a question for you Observer. Up until 1930, not ONE Christian denomination permitted or okayed ABC. So what changed, God's eternal truth, or other denominations bowing to the pressure of their flocks who threatened to leave if their denom's teaching wasn't changed?

[/quote]

The context of the world has changed. The world became more populated, that's one major reason. It gradually became more expensive and harder to raise kids. Birth control came along as a blessing in science to help control population much like aspirin was discovered to relief headaches.

God's eternal truth is not something that is going to be the same in every context. To say that something is always wrong or always right is just not true. We live in a world where most things are in some kind of context. For example, stealing is almost always wrong, but it could be justified if your family is going to die from starvation and there is no other option. Similarly, things like abortion could be good for a woman who is otherwise going to die from birth complications.

Someone else recently asked on here if using ABC was ok for their periods. Several Catholics responded that is was fine because it was not being used as birth control. This is one of endless examples that context matters, even though I disagree with the idea that ABC is wrong or evil. But you can see, we all believe in the context as being important.

God's eternal truth hasn't changed at its core, it's just the expression has as the world inevitably changes.


#20

Believe it or not, my FIL doesn't count on social security and has saved as his means for retirement when that time comes.

Here's something that happened-- on cable there is a show called "Downsized" about a large family that is on "reality tv" where the parents lost their jobs or something, and the entire family has to make financial sacrifices in order to get out of debt and save. I believe the family is actually a blended stepfamily but there are lots of children nonetheless. My FIL found it deplorable. He is under the impression that the children's expenses are the cause of their troubles and he is somewhat correct in that observation, as I've watched a few of those episodes.


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