Helping People Work on Whether or Not to Have Children

(I would like to thank Jane Gramlich and Diane Balser for all their work on the topic of reproduction and for inspiring many of these thoughts.)

I am a thirty-four-year-old white Catholic female and the youngest of eight in my family. I am single and have no children. For a few years I've been thinking and discharging about reproduction and have convened a support group and several topic groups on the subject.

At the beginning of these meetings I ask which people are already parents. I then remind everyone that parenting is inherently a joyful activity, that the difficulties and feelings of discouragement and being overwhelmed stem from the outside oppression. The correct attitude toward all children is delight in them from the time of conception and a commitment to creating the conditions in which they can thrive. The correct attitude toward all parents is confidence in them and support for them and their children.

I think we need to look at our motivations for having children. I have discharged about: wanting to experience being pregnant, wanting to have bigger breasts, wanting to breast-feed, feeling that it's not fair if I don't have children (most of my siblings have had children, and I feel I am well-prepared, knowing RC and having worked in child care), wanting to bring my children to family workshops, wanting someone to call me Mom, wanting to pass my history on to someone (my photos, memorabilia, stories from childhood); and wanting to "live on" after my death.

It has seemed useful for people to make a decision, for the duration of a session, that they will either reproduce or not, rather than flip-flopping back and forth. With counseling attention, unsound motives are often exposed. I, personally, can now think more flexibly about how to get what I hope for without bearing my own child. We can hold out a policy that people not bear children unless it is in the best interest of all parties involved. If we consider "all parties" to be the entire human population, there are many implications.

A widespread notion is that the parent-child relationship is, or has the potential to be, closer or more special than any other relationship. We can challenge this. In RC we are beginning to glimpse the depth of connection possible between any two humans.

Another common belief is that in order for an adult to be close to a child, he or she needs to be the parent. We can create societies in which many more adults are closely involved in a child's life (there are examples of this in the world).

In most current societies reproductive decisions are considered a private matter and parenting a private activity. This leaves parents on their own in extremely challenging circumstances. People rarely help their friends and family members think about whether it makes sense for them to bear children.

The decision to have or not have children should ideally be a public one. Increasing the world's population affects all of us. We need many more people thinking about the long-range impact of an ever-increasing population. We need more people focusing on those who are already alive and making sure they have the resources they need to enjoy fulfilling lives. We need more people working to replace capitalism with a better system and working to end the senseless, rampant consumerism that is using up precious resources.

We can enlist others in not trying to arrange "perfect" individual lives for themselves but instead taking charge of the whole universe. We can sharpen our conviction that no one individual or group can achieve liberation unless all of us do. We can challenge the notion that individual parents are able to independently provide fulfilling lives for their children without tackling larger social issues.

Different groups receive different messages about reproduction and are hurt in different ways. Those who have faced genocide have different issues than those who have been socialized into oppressor roles. Men and women have different hurts. Catholics may have particular challenges in considering birth control and making the decision not to have children.

I would like to hear from you. What are the various messages you have received about reproduction? Have you led RC groups on this issue or helped people outside of RC make choices about whether or not to reproduce?

Nancy Faulstich
Santa Cruz, California, USA

 


Last modified: 2017-05-06 23:35:41-07