“How Can There Be Too Many Children?”

ChelseaContraception, Family, Marriage, Pro Life, Right to Life, Sex, Vocation11 Comments

Joe“That is like saying there are too many flowers” (Mother Teresa). Nowadays the use of contraception is quite accepted and even encouraged and couples frequently aren’t encouraged to ever actually have children. And when they do, it seems that it is frowned upon for them to have more than one or two. Even in the Catholic Church, over 90% of couples use some form of artificial contraception (including sterility) despite the Church’s teaching against it.
Why all this opposition to having children and embracing God’s gift of life?

SistersMark Pickup at Human Life Matters offers a wonderful reflection on his unwillingness to be open to life as a young man and what he might have done differently if he knew then what he knows now.

For many, like Pickup, the decision not to have “too many” children is financial. A large family would get in the way of advancing one’s career and hinder the expansion of one’s savings account. The expense of feeding all those hungry mouths would supersede the ability to acquire greater material possessions to ensure a more comfortable living situation.

As a young man with a career ahead of me, I did not have time for a large family. There were places to go and people to see. I can’t remember the places or the people anymore – but they were so very important at the time. I was convinced of it. I wanted more money and more status. I can’t remember why, or what I needed to buy, and the professional accolades have long since died away. In short, my career was calling me to bigger and better things.

The idea of modest homes filled with children was passé: Anybody who was anybody used birth control and limited their families to two kids. They warehoused them in daycares because both parents “had to work” to pay their large mortgages on big new houses in well-tailored cul-de-sacs, in just the right neighborhoods. There were, after all, appearances of success to maintain.

The Zimmerman GirlsTrue, having more children sometimes requires greater financial sacrifices and to this Pope John Paul II noted that “it is certainly less serious [for parents] to deny their children certain comforts or material advantages than to deprive them of the presence of brothers and sisters, who could help them to grow in humanity and to realize the beauty of life at all its ages and in all its variety.” In her book, Life Giving Love, Kimberly Hahn points out many times that “siblings are the greatest physical gift, apart from the love you give your spouse, that you can possibly give your children.” We want to be able to provide well, financially, for our children, but we also have to remember to provide well for them spiritually and emotionally. In Life Giving Love, a woman who is one of 13 children says of her parents:

I can never thank them enough for all they have provided me: food, shelter, clothing, a two-parent household…a great faith, and twelve best friends that will be there for me the rest of my life. The best gifts my parents could give us children, besides our faith, were siblings. For when the entire world is against you, your family will always be there to support, help, guide, protect, and love you.

VeronicaBeing open to life not only benefits the other children in the family, but can be a great benefit to parents as well. Another anecdote in Hahn’s book is from a woman who wasn’t sure, at 10 children, whether she could be open to number 11, when a friend mentioned that number 11 could be her special companion in old age: “She was right. My husband passed away recently, and this special son, number eleven, is my heart and a dear friend.”

It is rather unheard of that someone, later in life, wishes that they had had one less child. Instead, like Mark, they have been known to wish they had been open to at least one more:

If I could go back and do it again, I think I would have more children—lots of them. Yes! I would fill the rooms of my little house with the joie de vivre of children’s perpetual laughter, the hum of play, and then I’d revel in the offence it caused the population control fanatics. I’d attach a swing to the maple trees in my backyard and have a fire-pit to roast marshmallows on warm summer nights. We would have hours of fun doing nothing in particular.

So many people mistakenly think that espousing the Church’s teaching on contraception and openness to life means that you have to have as many children as humanly possible, or that you will have a baby every year. To this, Kimberly points out that “God doesn’t ask us, ‘Are you willing to have a certain number of children?’ Rather, he says, ‘Will you be open to the next one?’ Yes, we may sometimes have legitimate, serious reasons for declining the gift of life at one moment or another and we recognize this by examining our motivation (is it faith or fear) and praying for the gift of wisdom. Entrusting our family size to God does not mean that we will have many children (it is possible that we may not have any), but simply that we are open to doing God’s will. If we do that, God will never fail us; he always provides.

Natural Family Planning

BTW: The pictures are of a few children and siblings in my family – including me and my sisters (picture 3).

11 Comments on ““How Can There Be Too Many Children?””

  1. Wow. I had to wipe some leaky wet stuff out of my eyes to see the screen clearly. Chelsea, you are an absolute gift from God in Heaven in so many ways. You have helped your Aunt Laura and I more than you know, and are like a ray of God’s light that shines in the darkness.
    I love you dearly and thank God that he lets me have a niece like you!!

  2. The GA arm of the Zimmerman clan always gives me inspiration and I thank God for all of you! Hope to see you again soon. Go Gators!

  3. Chelsea: I very much enjoy your blog. Excellent production, excellent content. I must say, I never had heard of “ferning” before (ovu-tec). I’ll try to ask Dr. HIlgers’ office about it if I can. Fr. Fred Elskmap

  4. Chelsea:I am, and have been, a long distance and secret admirer of you and what you’ve achieved. This beautifully done treatise is yet another example of your beauty. I am proud to claim that I know of you. Dan (your Aunt Laura’s Dad)

  5. I am a 53 year old woman. I came from a family of 6 and back in the day people would automatically state, “Your Catholic aren’t you”? To which I would proudly reply “Yes, thank God!”… Unfortunately God only blessed me with two children and I often reflect on how alone they will be when the grow up with just one sibling… When my siblings grew up one moved from our home town of Palo Alto CA to the small town of Kingsburg in Central California… My brother, his wife, and their children moved to this beautiful little town next and I soon followed. As we have aged we have become even closer and spend many weekends exploring our great state. Again- I reflect on how my children may not have the same opportunities I was given… Yes, money was tight when we were children, but we were rich in love and laughter. I bless my parents daily for giving me these wonderful beings I call my sister and brothers… If I could give but one piece of advice to a young couple starting out… Forget the big fancy house, the big fancy cars, all the material things and focus on one another and raise a big happy loving laughing family…

  6. Thanks Chelsea for quoting me. Just a bit of an update. I’m 54 years and with advanced multiple sclerosis (triplegic). God has blessed my wife and I with five grandchildren. We put up a swing in the maples in the backyard along with a fire-pit to roast marshmallows in the summer (and winter). Our little house on the Canadian prairies is filled with perpetual laughter, the hum of play and the joie de vivre of childhood (and grandparents too). God bless,
    Mark Pickup, Canada

  7. I’m not even sure how I found this page, was searching for the JPII quote about giving children the gift of a sibling… this website is BEAUTIFUL- DIVINE! God bless you for your fearless approach to sharing TRUTH! I can’t wait to come back and explore the site but going to tend to my second blessing (who just woke up in the night calling the name I love to hear “Mommy!”)
    God bless you!!!
    Krista (GA)

  8. Beautiful. I wish I had a sibling, always did. My parents both had multiple siblings, but my parents couldn’t have children so they adopted me. Life was hard, we barely made it. Because of jealousy and family fueds, I grew up not even knowing my cousins, though we all live in the same city. I was around 10 before I even knew that I had grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins…

    Now I am a single mother through adoption. I pray that my son will have a sibling too. I don’t want to deprive my son of the love that comes from a brother or sister.

  9. Chelsea, what I just read here about the value of brothers and sisters was wonderful. I’d not seen it stated that way before. Thanks for the quote from Pope John Paul II and the reflection by Mark Pickup too.

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