Tuesday, January 11, 2005

Entry Four

One of the most effective ways to minimize unwanted pregnancies is to change the current mentality about children, which is not very favorable. Children are not often seen today as blessings, but rather as financial burdens, hindrances to the adult lifestyle or (insert your favorite reason children are a drag).

As a homeschooler, I am home all day, every day, with my three children, and I can't tell you how often I have had other women tell me that they could never spend all day with their own children. Why in the world would they rather be anywhere else? I think in part, this may be because of the trend in society towards extremely permissive parenting, meaning that more and more parents are raising undisciplined and bratty children. My children are certainly not perfect, but on a normal day, when my hormones are not at their nadir, they certainly do not make me want to pack up and leave home for 10 hours each day.

The media certainly doesn't enhance our view of children, especially their financial impact. Several times every year I come across some article telling people that they can expect to spend some astronomical six-figure sum to raise each child to adulthood. The problem with these figures is that they are assuming that the cost of hospital births, fancy nurseries, day cares, sports uniforms, designer clothes, extravagant christmases, college tuitions and (insert your favorite modern "need" here) are somehow inherent in the childrearing process. My oldest is 11 years old, and including her homebirth, which cost 2,000, I can honestly say we have not spent more than 7,000 (if *that*) to raise her, and that is including medical expenses, purchasing thousands of books for our homeschooling purposes, etc.

Family life itself has been all but shattered in modern times by the rise of the institutional mindset, which includes the almost universal acceptance of working mothers, government schools and extra-curricular activities. Most family members of all ages routinely spend huge amounts of time away from their homes, building relationships with peers at the expense of family closeness. The alienation between adults and their adolescents can be directly traced to the peer mentality that dominates the lives of most children today, as their most important beliefs, interests and relationships are forged outside of their homes, in schools and by popular culture.

So much more could be said on this very important topic, not least of which is that many people are once again turning away from the anti-child mentality and embracing large families and home-centered lifestyles. This change of mindset is the most important component in ending "unwanted" pregnancies.

10 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I wholeheartedly agree with Samantha. So much of the prevailing attitude in our culture is anti-child. They are looked at in some way as a burden. Even to many couples who love their children dearly, the idea of another child is a huge burden in their minds.

I speak from personal experience here as I am a mother of 3 living children that are all less than 15 months apart in age and another one coming, who will be just as close in age. My first child was born just a little over a year after our marriage. I went through quite a struggle to learn that my life is not my own. My life is a gift given to me by God and I need to submit my will to His own. And His will for me appears to be to have many children. I can not do anything to change the fact that He worked through our "preventative measures" to not get pregnant again. 2 of my children were unwanted, the other 2 were wanted but not particularly planned. In any case, it wasn't until after the 1 unwanted child was born that I realized why God gave him to me. And it wasn't until after I was already pregnant this time that God completely changed my heart to accept my children as the blessings that they are. I could live my entire life wishing my life was different and longing for my children to be grown and gone, or I could LIVE my life with the children I've been given and LOVE them and do the things with them that we want to do as a family. I choose the latter. At the end of my life I know I will look back at it knowing I made an impact on the lives of my children - not just lived a life selfishly for me.

1/12/2005 08:24:00 AM  
Blogger Mike said...

Depending on where you are in your life, a child is a burden. If children were easy to raise and take care of then we wouldn't have a problem with abortion in the first place. If it were no big deal to have a child, then teenagers could have children without worry.

That simply isn't the case. And in this era of Baby Gap, jogging strollers, SUVs, massive houses, MTV, mega-malls, iPods, and every other thing that the mega corporations tell us we need to get in order to be the envy of our neighborhood (and for our children to be the envy of thier school) raising a child is a financial burden as well. Not everyone is willing to spend only $636 and change on their child per year as you have with yours. In fact, many people (right or wrong) would think you are severely depriving the child -- I make no judgements, I am merely pointing out how ingrained this mindset is.

The question is why is this so? The answer is because of the free market (which you made clear that you are a supporter of in another discussion). Wal-Mart wants parents to buy things for their kids -- from Wal-Mart preferably. The Baby Gap will show you how wonderful life would be for you and your toddler if you would just deck them out in their baby khaki pants and baby ringer tee (only $75.00 for the set). MTV shows you how wonderful a life the mega rich have it when they go into their "cribs" and take a sneak peek at all the wonderful gizmos and gadgets, toys and computers, pools and playsets that you are supposed to strive to have for your kids. So you (well not you, but the non-specific you) first have to find a way to get that money so you work and work and work. It's to support your kids, for a nice Christmas, to put clothes on their back. A playstation or an X-box (or both) in every child's room we're told by the TV and magazines and computers. So you buy and you buy and you buy. See the funny thing about kids is that the more they get, the more they want. It's hardly their fault, they watch TV too. The X-Box needs a game, the Gap Khakis need a sweater, the iPod needs an iTunes subscription, so you work more and more. It's a viscious cycle and it levys a massive toll on a parent.

Is it any wonder that kids are seen as a burden? Absolutely not. Is there any doubt that it is the "free market" that is to blame? No. Unfortunately, it's too late to change our course now. Much of the country needs (or feels they need) these things and that working to get them is the right thing to do. One simply cannot mandate that the country go back to the days of yore where families were massive, dinner was grown in the garden, and Mother sewed the clothing. We need to accept the reality of our existence.

That reality is this: as much as I don't like it, we are a consumer society (spiraling out of control IMHO) where children are a burden or are simply unnecessary or unwanted many times. We are a society where sex is used to sell everything from alcohol to video games and we aren't afraid to use that persuasion on our children. We are living in a time where sexual intercourse can be dangerous because of diseases, inconvenient because of children, but safe because of protection. However, despite the fact that sex is about as natural as it gets and needs no instruction, using protection is not intuitive and is something that must be taught. Sexual education will lead directly to a reduced number of abortions and help prevent the spread of diseases.

So instead of some how magically trying to make the country adapt the stereotypical TV morals of the 1950s (which didn't represent the actual morals of the country anyhow) we need to embrace who we are and educate ourselves the best we can.

1/12/2005 04:19:00 PM  
Blogger Samantha said...

Mike, the free market does not cause rampant consumerism. Rampant consumerism is a heart attitude, which I made clear is not in the hearts of many who raise large families. If people are so affected by advertising that they must have and provide for their children every fad and fashion, whose fault is that?

I've never bought a video game, a 75.00 baby outfit, an Itune, etc., and none of my children desire them. But I have three children and would love more; my husband makes an average salary, and I own a fairly expensive computer, a professional quality laser printer and other commodities. My husband is a golfer and can spend 100.00 per month on playing...yet we can easily afford to have more children, all of whom are clothed, fed, have toys, many books and are certainly not deprived. That is because we don't spend on command, like some salivating Pavlov's dog, responding to the evil advertising of the free market. We make choices in spending that reflect our values. The whole point of my essay was that people's values reflect how they see raising children. If they worship the almighty dollar and attend regular worship at the Gap, certainly, children could seem an unecessary burden to them.

The "values of the 50s", especially "television values" are certainly not values I espouse; the 50s were already the age of the government school, and in many ways were also the seedbed of feminism, as the role of mothers had already shrunk significantly.

There are true countercultures out there who do not buy into the values of the surrounding culture. In so many ways you sound like an idealist, but you seem not to believe that people can really choose to live according to theirs.

1/13/2005 08:41:00 AM  
Blogger Mike said...

Samantha, you said: "Mike, the free market does not cause rampant consumerism. Rampant consumerism is a heart attitude..."And then you said: "That is because we don't spend on command, like some salivating Pavlov's dog, responding to the evil advertising of the free market."I'm confused, do you or do you not think that the free market has an impact on what people want and/or think they need. Is the "heart attitude" of rampant consumerism not affected by the free market or does the free market manipulate people's minds (some would say their hearts) into being rampant consumers?

You make the point that in your household fiscal sensibility is the order of the day. Make no mistake about it, I applaud you for that and my children will live in a similar household in that respect ... you know ... once we have children. But you need to ask yourself why there is so much of this rampant consumerism. Why are there so many people out there that would think that you are depriving your children? Why would so many feel badly for your children? (Again, this is a judgment about those who would feel that way not about you, I just want to be clear -- after all some will feel bad for my children one day as well.) What is different about these days than even the 1970s or 60s or 50s or whatever time period you feel the need to go back to in order to make things right?

My contention is that it is marketing, it is branding of children and families, it is the advertising gone wild. It is the fact that corporations can get away with whatever they want. It is the fact that the corporations have made everyone believe that if you raise your family like you apparently do (or like I'm planning on doing), you are odd. And you don't want to be odd so spend, spend, spend.

You said: "There are true countercultures out there who do not buy into the values of the surrounding culture. In so many ways you sound like an idealist, but you seem not to believe that people can really choose to live according to theirs."Yes, there are countercultures that do not believe in acquiescing to the will of the corporations for one reason or another (for some the reason is religion, for others the reason is a deep distrust of the corporate culture and I'm sure there are many other reasons). But you appear to agree that there are in fact those among us that will spend for their children like there is no tomorrow. Of course those people have free will, of course they are able to not spend that kind of money, and I bet if most people sat down and thought about it, they wouldn't go into debt just so their kid could have an x-box or an iPod for Christmas. It isn't that those parents are genuinely bad people, they (and their children) are simply being manipulated by the marketing machine.

There is a part in No Logo that talks about China. In China, as you probably know, couples are limited to one child by the state. What you may not know is that there is a marketing blitz in China right now. With 1.3 billion people who are brand new to capitalism, a government that is slowly realizing the revenue potential of the market, China is literally the new frontier for advertisers. It is so much so that there is something called the 4-2-1 idea. That is, marketeers have the children and teens so hyped up about the products they're being sold and their parents are so overwhelmed with messages that push them to buy everything their kids want that it takes more than they can give. So in China, you regularly see 4 grandparents and 2 parents working to support 1 child's "needs". Hence 4-2-1. This is crazy and it is something that has been happening only since China has been willing to open its doors to Western and Western-style marketing. It is a prime example of the fact that marketing does not simply respond to demand, it drives it. In a 4-2-1 household, I guarantee you they see that child as a burden.

My original point is that we live in the culture that we have allowed (through various legislation) to happen. No, marketing does not have to have such a powerful effect on our lives, no corporations do not have to be as powerful as they are. However, right now (and for the foreseeable future) corporations are that powerful and marketing does have such a strong effect on us. Given all of that, changing the culture to suit whatever era's ideals you think we should live up to is impossible. We need to do the best we can for now with the culture we have and teach our children how they should strive to live their lives by living ours as an example for them. That is to say, we need to teach them about the dangers of sex AND we need to teach them how to have safe sex so they can be protected if they decide to have sex.

1/14/2005 02:38:00 PM  
Blogger Samantha said...

He, he, he, Mike. I should have put quotes around "evil advertising of the free market". Honestly, this discussion is moving in a different direction, now, away from the "unwanted pregnancies" issue.

I am not saying that people are not influenced by advertising, and don't spend too much money. Speaking of heart attitudes, I happen to believe that we all have sinful hearts, and greed is one of the qualities that surfaces in most of us. But I don't think advertising is inherently immoral, nor should it be regulated. False advertising should be treated as fraud.

I don't understand why you think I want to go back to any former era. I am certain that in whichever culture had wealth, there were consumerists of that day. I don't know if what is happening in China is a "result" of advertising; without knowing much about it I would contend that it might be a reaction to living under decades of communism.

And no, I don't think that the free market is some perfect system. I just think that after life, freedom is the most important right to safeguard in a society, and when people use their freedom to make stupid choices, like overspending, that is no justification for limiting the freedom of others to engage in business, to accumulate wealth, etc. I also do not believe that when some people become rich, others necessarily become more poor. This, of course, is another whole issue!

Thanks for responding so thoughtfully to my entries. I really appreciate it.

1/15/2005 05:49:00 PM  
Blogger Craig R. Harmon said...

This discussion is, indeed, getting off topic. Perhaps this indicates area's to explore in the future. I am loath to stop the discussion because the participants have mannaged to remain civil and insightful. However, perhaps we should stay with discussing 'ways and means' rather than morality.

Economics, on the other hand, plays a large role in a discussion of abortion. I consider discussion of ways to lessen the economic burden of bearing and raising children to be a valid part of a discussion of the question at hand.

Thanks to everyone who has participated (and hopefully, will continue to do so) in our discussion. I, for one, am learning a lot, not only from this current discussion but from all of our discussions. I therefore give us all a congratulatory pat on the back! You make me very happy that I began Continuum.

1/16/2005 11:04:00 AM  
Blogger Samantha said...

Mike, I just wanted to say that we don't disagree about, say, advertising as much as it might seem. While I don't think that advertising itself is immoral, I know that many, if not most, advertising "techniques" are very manipulative, and use psychological needs and/or desires to make us think we want or need a particular product. So, while I don't think we should be protected from such things by legislation, we shoud be aware of the fact that merchants can use propaganda and emotional manipulation just as well and as often as governments. Being aware of this fact, as well as knowing our own psychologies, can help us to withstand the gotta-have it mentality. Here is a blog I wrote about this topic:

Do You Need It, Or Do You Want It?

1/17/2005 04:19:00 PM  
Blogger Mike said...

Although my comments focused on advertising, I do not advocate preventing anyone's free speech by legislating what advertisers can and cannot say (insofar as what they say is not false advertising). My point is that our society has been molded to be a certain way by corporations that the government has allowed to grow to such monsterous proportions and that is what happens in the free market. Children are a burden because the corporations want us to spend, they have blurred the line between what is necessary and what is desired for nearly everyone. I do support regulating businesses but not their advertising.

Having said that, I do recognize that this topic has gone on a tangent. Honestly, I have to say that premarital sex, promiscuity, and even abortions to be that big of a deal so I latched on to something that is off topic. On those topics, my points have always been that we need to take the mystery out of sex and make sure that kids understand how to have safe sex. My main concern is STDs although I will be upfront and say that if I had a 14 year old daughter (or 15 or 18 or 20 for that matter), I would most definitely not want her to get pregnant for a myriad of reasons -- not the least of which is that a child would be such a burden and would prevent her from living her life to the fullest. If this type of education increases promiscuity, so be it. I would feel better knowing that a (hypothetical) child of mine knows the facts and is smart enough to use protection than being pretty sure that I have scared them from having sex until they're married.

1/18/2005 11:03:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Samantha:

I think your figures are off. Your 11 year old has been alive for something in the region of 4000 days. The differential cost of an extra serving of dinner is not large, but I really doubt you pay less than $1/day for her food.

I imagine that she has a bed, probably in a bedroom. You need to count your extra housing costs because you need a larger house.

You did mention books, but I don't think you could really have bought "thousands" of books for $7000.

You can clothe her relatively cheaply - nobody needs Baby Gap, after all.

2/10/2005 09:14:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Samantha:

Oh, and I see neither of us mentioned the elephant in the room of child-raising costs, which is of course the cost of either having one of the child's parents not working for several years (plus subsequent lower income due to lack of career advancement) or the cost of childcare. These costs dwarf any sums that you actually spend on a child.

2/11/2005 09:41:00 AM  

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