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Child Choice

I found in my email this morning a reference to a blog written by Rabbi Shmuley. In his blog he writes a review and commentary on a Time Cover Article The Only Child: Debunking the Myths, by Lauren Sandler. He was quite clear about what he thought of the article and how he felt it was a “bizarre assault on large families. Ms. Sandler, a mom of one, as she says for now, writes to explore how having singleton children may not be a bad thing. It got me to thinking about this whole mind field of child choice and I would like to add an aspect of this conversation that I find neglected: The spirituality of parenting, most interestingly to me, motherhood. 

My husband and I, both Catholics, are one of those who choose to have a “large” family and I work with Catholic moms, as a spiritual director, who is seeking to understand God’s call in their lives as mother and woman.

What strikes me, this whole subject of parenting, mothering, and the size of family is that it has a seemingly spiritual aspect. Perhaps form childhood experiences, or some other unanswered spiritual need, we often focus not on the spiritual dimension of children and child rearing, the spirituality of motherhood if you would, but rather the material aspect for parenting: The cost of ballet lessons, and so on.

Are there burdens to raising children? Of course there are. Are there sacrifices, yes? Do we compromise when we become parents, certainly? But can’t the same be true for any relationship in which we enter. There are many reasons why a couple chooses to have children and how many. I have worked with women who have only been blessed with one child. Some of these moms feel great emptiness at only be able to have one, others have discerned that adoption was something God was calling them to, still others discerned differently and feel God has only called them to have one and raise that child well and lovingly.

I have worked with mothers who are over-joyed with the children they have, no matter the size of their family. For other moms parenting can be seen as a “Cosmic practical joke” that God and their husbands have played on them. It is my hope that I can help both of these moms see motherhood as the expansion of themselves, not just a fulfillment but an expansion, making them stronger and wiser as women. 

Children do change us utterly, there is no mistaking that fact, no matter how few or many we have. Children change the way we view ourselves, our relationships with others, our whole being. When we become parents there is a major shift in our thinking, we can no longer be thinking entirely of ourselves. Our priorities shift as well. And these changes can often be quite traumatic for new parents. Even the most “prepared” parent will be shocked at how a small child will change their world and perception of it.

But having children does not deem us to a life of unfulfilled dreams, goals and aspirations. To be good role models for our children we must show them that our G-d given callings are important, and that our callings can and do change over time. Our callings grow and mature, and this growth and maturity often comes with addition of children. As young adults we spoke as a child, thought as a child, reasoned as a child, when as we became parents did we put away childish things.

Instead of focusing on the material, the burdensome, the tiring routine, wouldn’t it be helpful to point out how children help us become more than we think we would be?

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