"You will be a better mom because you are a theologian, and a better theologian because you are a mom."

Is it true? In this blog, I explore the interplay and intersection of motherhood and theologianhood.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Three Kids

Here are the first couple pictures of our third kid, due in October (on St. Francis's feast, I might add). Now that we're onto our third, I've started getting a question (or more of a statement) that I haven't had with my other two pregnancies. It goes like this: "Oh, your third! That's great... and I bet it's your last!" Or this: "Third...and final?" There are other variations, like this: "Well, with two girls I guess you probably wanted to try for a boy. Will you be very disappointed if you end up with three girls?"

I think I've run into these questions more here in New Jersey than I would have in my last home, where my closest friends had views more like my own in regard to the contraception issue. My quick answer to my acquaintances here (Maia's preschool classmates' mothers, the neighbors, and so on) with comments like the above is something like this: "Well, I'm from a family of four, and I know I really love and value my younger brother. Plus, I feel like I'd be doing a disservice to my parents if I didn't make it to at least four." Hmm... well that buys me the opportunity to explain a possible fourth child to the astonished, but what will happen after that, if we're blessed with more?

And I had to smile when I was doing some research and came upon the interesting detail that 1950s moral theologians John Ford and Gerald Kelly suggested that five children would normally fulfill a Catholic couple's procreative obligation. Now, of course, you can't make some kind of absolute as to HOW MANY children a couple should have... but imagine if all Catholics had five children as a kind of goal?

For most of the people in my approximate economic bracket and ethnic background, the perfect number of children is two, or maybe three if you're daring. One acquaintance told me that she wouldn't mind having a third, but that her husband didn't think they should because the two they have are healthy, and why risk having to take on another child that might have some kind of health issue? Another common concern is the delivery. A couple of people have mentioned that with three C-sections already, they don't feel it's prudent to risk having another.

This past Friday I was at a children's consignment sale, in line with three pregnant women, due in September, July, and May. I wasn't involved in the conversation, but it went like this:

Mom1: "I'm due in September, with my second."
Mom2: "Oh, and do you think you'll eventually go for three?"
Mom1: "I'm not sure. What about you, which one is this for you?"
Mom2: "This is my third and final. I've got the tubal ligation coordinated with my C-section."
Mom3: "I know what you mean, I'm planning on doing the same thing. It's just easier to get it all taken care of all at once."

But then I had a sort of different conversation at the park the other day, that went like this:

ParkMom: "Are those two both yours?"
TM: "Yes. The one with the plaid skirt, and this one right here."
ParkMom: "Do you think you'll have more?"
TM: "Yep. I'm actually due in October."
ParkMom: "How far apart will they be?"
TM: "About 22 months."
ParkMom: "Oh, that's nice. My first two were fifteen months apart, and it was so tough that I waited seven years to have my third."
TM: "But I bet it kind of took some pressure off the oldest child, having them so close."
ParkMom: "Yes, and now they are best buddies. Although they still fight a lot. But with the third, I got to 39 years old, and I was like, if I'm going to do this, I need to do it now! Now I look back and I wish I would have had one more, but it's too late. I wish I hadn't waited so long for the third. Let me tell you, being a mom at 39 isn't the same as being a mom at, how old are you?"
TM: "I'm 30."
ParkMom: "Wow, that's great! You have it right, having your kids young."
TM: "Yes, I have a friend who always says that having kids is a young man's game."
ParkMom: "Well, not getting much sleep is much easier at 30 than at 40, let me tell you. You get to be an energetic mom. So do you think you'll have a fourth? I really wish I had..."
TM: "Well, I'm from a family of four, so I would like at least four."
ParkMom: "Do you get very sick when you're pregnant?"
TM: "No, not really. I had about a week of slight nausea, but it went away. I do get really moody though."
ParkMom: "Well, that's ok- lucky you! I think if I hadn't been vomiting for six months straight I might have been more willing to have more kids."

This mom wasn't the first time I've heard someone mention that she wished she would have had more kids. But it also wasn't the first time I've heard a mom mention terrible morning sickness. A very Catholic, NFP-using friend of mine once told me that when she got married she wanted lots of kids, but after her first pregnancy she doubted that she'd ever make it past two, seeing as how she was basically miserably sick for eight months straight (she's now onto her third, for the record). I think it's important not to minimize the discomfort associated with pregnancy, nor to minimize the difficulty and expense of raising children.

Our society has a long way to go in making motherhood more amenable to women. Right now, we don't really seem to value the sacrifices of motherhood or even the importance of children. Sometimes I think that our society sees children as more of a means than as ends in themselves. But I'll have to reflect more on that.

For now, we have three kids, and most people think that's ok, even if they'd stick to two.


revolutionme2 said...

Seriously. The family dynamic is pretty boring without me, just look at recent family gatherings. Kids are fun, especially when they start walking and talking. Some day maybe you'll be able to just send the kids into the city with me and you wont have to stress.

Clara said...

I always remember traveling around Europe with my family as a kid, with my dad driving an enormous van. People were just astounded when my father explained that he needed the giant van because he had five children in it. Europeans just didn't do that sort of thing.

Of course, among our Catholic friends we now know multiple families who've outdone them. Five wouldn't seem like anything amazing in our parish.

I know people who say they don't want any more kids because they get so sick in pregnancy. I guess I can't fully speak to that, because I really don't get very sick, but doesn't it seem like it's worth it? Particularly if you only have one... it just seems sad to me to be an only child.