How Did Family Get So Complicated?
This past August, Time magazine’s editors reached into the controversy bag and ran a cover with the headline “The Childfree Life.” The quip: “When having it all means not having children.” Being a father of four daughters and grandfather of six, I was curious to discover what was up. I was deeply troubled by what I read. Let me explain.
I read the Time article “None Is Enough” several times to not only understand what was being said, but why. I mulled it over. I read similar articles. I read a book on the subject. It is now clear to me that people are not done attacking the traditional institution of marriage and family. People have already pretty effectively destroyed traditional marriage and family; however, a growing number of people want to ensure it is pulverized and blown away with the wind.
A New Female Archetype
The birthrate in America is the lowest in the nation’s recorded history. Between 2007 and 2011 it declined 9 percent. Childlessness has risen across all racial and ethnic groups. Lauren Sandler, author of the Time article, points out that the rise in childlessness is “both dramatic and, in the scope of our history, quite sudden.”
The nation’s fertility rate has dipped to 1.89 children per woman, well below the 2.1-children-per-woman rate a nation needs for demographic stability. A large imbalance is developing between retirees and the potential number of young workers needed to support them. National prosperity will decline significantly if this trend continues.
Sandler’s article gives her view of why this trend will continue. She attributes the drop in birth rate to the invention of a new female “archetype”—a woman who chooses to remain childless.
This is a growing trend, Sandler says. She believes women are discovering fulfilling lives—without children. “Along the way, these women are inventing a new female archetype, one for whom having it all doesn’t mean having a baby.” Sandler shows little care for demographic destabilization. Her article is actually a diatribe against feminists who have chosen to have children, against women who embrace traditional motherhood, and against men who are concerned about demography and reject this new archetype.
Sandler criticizes Sheryl Sandberg’s book Lean In because it suggests that ambitious women will have both careers and children. “It’s great that we’re in the midst of a cultural conversation about the individual choices and structural barriers that shape our lives,” Sandler writes. “If you’re a woman who’s not in the mommy trenches, more often than not you’re excluded from the discussion. … With fertility treatment widely available, not to mention adoption, even clinically infertile women have more options than ever to become mothers, which increase the possibility that any woman who doesn’t will be judged for her choice.”
Sandler’s article says little to nothing about demography—but much about judgment. Sandler demands that no one judge any woman aspiring to this new female archetype.
Victims of Choice
It is time for a reality check. Women have been demanding choice for decades. Society has given them their choice. Women have a choice with birth control, including abortion; women can choose to be construction workers, doctors, lawyers, ministers, policemen, soldiers, senators and presidents; a woman can choose to have a career or stay at home; a woman can even choose to live on welfare; women can choose to marry a man or a woman; a woman can choose to have a child out of wedlock—or without even having sex.
Where has all this freedom of choice left the modern woman?
In 2012, Psychology Today reported that many young women who “have it all” experience a “deep sense of dissatisfaction,” depression and confusion. Psychologist Barry Schwartz calls this phenomenon the “paradox of choice.” He believes that many women become depressed, dissatisfied and confused because they have too many choices.
There is a fundamental lesson here.
Many young women who drive themselves to become doctors, lawyers or successful businesswomen—making fantastic salaries—still want marriage and motherhood. Avid feminists claim that young women feel that way because the overbearing old patriarchal culture expects them to. Actually there is another reason for this, which we will get to later.
Unfortunately, most young women who do get married and begin having children do not want to give up their career or salaries—they want to have it all. The outcome? Many women end up in a never-ending cycle: maintaining a career, taking care of a home, rearing children, and generating the emotional energy to sustain a well-oiled marriage. Such demands are practically impossible for any human being.
Yet who takes the blame when “having it all”—career, marriage and family—doesn’t work? For the new female, the answer is simple: It’s the children. The solution: Don’t have any!
Are Children the Problem?
Sandler cites the advantages as stated by a woman who is childless by choice. “I do get to do all sorts of things: buy an unnecessary beautiful object, plan trips with our aging parents, sleep in, spend a day without speaking to a single person, send care packages to nieces and nephews, enroll in language classes, [and] go out for drinks with a friend on the spur of the moment.” On the subject of the demands of parenting, Sandler quotes another woman who said, “It takes all of you, I don’t know that I want to give it all.” One woman referred to raising children as “glamorous martyrdom.”
Jessica Valenti’s Why Have Kids? is considered to be one of the groundbreaking books of the new female archetype. Valenti states that her book is meant to anger people and incite discussion. The tone of the whole book is one of defiance. She does an effective job of portraying traditional marriage roles and parenting in the most negative of ways. She is definitely a feminist believer in the notion that raising children is “drudgery.”
Valenti quotes one mother as saying, “Kids whine, they cry; they ruin movies and vacations. I once had to get off a train because my kid was crying so hard. I’ve exchanged words with an old lady at church who told me my kid needed to stop whispering and was rude. I’ve lost my temper in public.” Who has the problem here: the mother or the children?
About her own child, Valenti states, “I don’t want to be the center of her universe, and as much as I love Layla, I don’t want her to be the center of mine. I’m a mother, but I’m other things, too, and my other desires, ambitions and beliefs are as much a part of me, maybe even more, than being a parent.”
Reading and attempting to digest all of what I read from Sandler and Valenti, I had to ask myself, “How did family get so complicated?”
The Right Model of Family
Actually Jessica Valenti answered that question for me. She writes, “We need to do away with the idea that there is a ‘natural’ way to parent—whatever way we choose to parent is the natural way.”
There it is. Marriage, the husband’s role and the wife’s role, family, the child’s duty toward his or her parents—all these basic concepts have gotten twisted, distorted and complicated because everyone wants to do his or her own thing!
The Prophet Samuel lived during one of the most difficult times in Israel’s history. He summed up the problem of that time succinctly: “Everyone did what was right in his own eyes” (Judges 21:25; English Standard Version).
The problem is the same today. To come out of confusion and to experience supreme happiness, humanity has to stop doing what is right in its own eyes.
Valenti, Sandler and the majority of people in Western society, and really throughout the world, no longer believe in absolutes. Few people accept that there is one absolute model of family that works.
“At the heart of the traditional family there has always been the belief that children need a mother and a father,” Valenti writes, “and that those roles within the family unit are distinct and largely formed around gender difference. The mother is the caretaker, the father the breadwinner and disciplinarian. But today the American public no longer thinks, for the most part, that traditional gender roles and marriages are best.” Valenti takes it for granted—and wants you to believe—that today’s thinking is better. Is it?
As wise King Solomon said, “There is nothing new under the sun” (Ecclesiastes 1:9). This includes mankind’s propensity to experiment with all aspects of human life, even family. While new generations believe they can come up with something better, history often shows that something similar was tried before and it failed.
Today’s thinking is absolute confusion. Because this kind of thinking won’t change, our society is headed for disaster!
Laws exist that govern human life, including family life. If we keep these laws, we are guaranteed happiness. If we break these laws, they will break us.
These laws are in the Bible. They are summarized in the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20:1-17). This perfect law gives us the perfect model of family. Deep understanding of these laws shows us how to make family work.
God Is a Family
These highly intelligent, well-educated but seriously self-absorbed women are unapologetically blaming their dissatisfaction with life on marriage, motherhood and child rearing. The trend toward childlessness reveals a growing mindset in modern feminist-oriented society that is proudly self-centered and selfish. Of course, the problem is not just with women: Men and children are also self-absorbed, self-centered and selfish. This is a problem all men, women and children battle every day. Few face up to that battle, so we point fingers at each other. We all want to live life our own way.
This is not new. It has been this way since Adam and Eve rejected God’s way in the Garden of Eden. Mankind is so absorbed with material things—having it all—that we have grown far from God and understanding His purpose for creating family.
God’s purpose for man is truly astounding! It is all about family.
“And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth. So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them” (Genesis 1:26-27). A man and a woman were created in God’s image and likeness for a profound reason: God is recreating Himself through mankind. This is the breathtaking reality.
Yet, there was even more excitement for this man and woman. God told them, “Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth” (verse 28). God commanded Adam and Eve to reproduce themselves—to begin a family to rule the Earth.
But first, God united them in marriage (Genesis 2:24-25). It was God who instituted marriage and family—the roles of husband, father, wife, mother and even child.
What was God’s purpose in creating family this way?
“Now, incredible as it may sound to those who do not understand the revelation of God’s truth—and only an infinitesimal minority does—God is a Family!” Herbert W. Armstrong wrote in his groundbreaking book The Missing Dimension in Sex. “And in man, God is reproducing His kind! Man has the supreme potentiality of being actually born into the very divine God Family.” Mr. Armstrong showed that God designed romance, sexual attraction, the desire to marry and have children, and the human family because that is what He wants for Himself: a huge family!
God instituted human marriage and family so men, women and children could be educated to enter into the God Family—so they could actually experience a type of the God Family in this mortal life. This fact elevates human marriage and family to a plane far above that of animals and angels. Human family is a God-plane relationship.
A full understanding of God’s purpose adds great weight to the role of a woman and motherhood. It also reveals the awesome responsibility of a husband and father. God created human children to grow and mature slowly, requiring family life. Animals do not have to be cared for by parents for nearly 20 years. A balanced, happy, successful child warrants the care of a faithfully wedded man and woman.
Family is not complicated when we build it God’s way. The real problem today is that people just don’t know how. You can build a wonderful family life! You can be thrilled at being a husband and father, or a wife and mother—if you are willing to let God teach and guide you along the way. Request your free copy of The Missing Dimension in Sex. It is a book all about family—pure, simple and wonderfully natural.