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A blog dedicated to the Source of everything good.

Monday, October 18, 2004

Contraception, Part IV: A Mother’s Talents and Training -- Forsaken?

Here’s another question (to add to the list): would God want a woman to completely give up her area of expertise in order to bear large numbers of children? This seems to be a question of stewardship, and of honor. Of course there are countless women who have areas of expertise applicable to or compatible with motherhood. These women would not be required to “turn their backs,” so to speak, on their talents (as well as the resources which have been put into materials and training) in order to mother.

But consider a set of loving parents who have spent their hard-earned dollars on higher education in a specialty for their daughter. Suppose the reason for this commitment is their daughter’s substantial talent and love for the specialty. Then, suppose said daughter meets the man of her dreams, marries soon after graduation, and...proceeds to birth children, one after the other. What might her parents make of this? Does that even matter? (Let’s assume that they support their daughter and love their grandchildren.) From the daughter’s standpoint, does she “owe” them a return on their investment? Perhaps not, or perhaps yes: it’s a matter of honoring what was given to her in good faith. More importantly, is she obligated to God for provision of talent and the means to develop that talent?

When you think about it, it doesn’t make much sense for a young woman and her family to spend gobs of money on higher education in a particular trade, when it’s not possible for said young woman to pursue said trade once she gets married and has lots of children. Nor does it seem right for her to pursue it for a year or two, only to give it up to raise children. It'd be 30 years or so til she'd have opportunity again, unless by then she's helping to care for grandchildren. (I don’t know the practicalities of getting back into a trade after 30+ years; probably depends on the trade.)

Note that what I’m referring to is not a temporary “putting on hold” of the practice of a particular skill, nor even “compromising” the expression of said skill for the sake of raising a family. I’m talking about, essentially, forsaking this skill.

Now, no doubt it is difficult for someone who is not in such a position (or familiar with someone who is) to fully appreciate my question. So let’s imagine a ballerina. From an early age, she exhibits unusual ability to move her body well. Her parents, noticing this, enroll her in ballet classes. She excels in these classes and progresses quickly, having what it takes to be good both physically and mentally through ups and downs of training. She revels in this thing she’s been created to do. She dances for her Creator. (Like Eric Liddell in Chariots of Fire: “When I run, I can hear God laugh.”) So, after high school graduation, her parents send her to a fine dance school. She receives further opportunities to hone her dancing and to develop her professional dance career.

But then she gets married. She becomes pregnant, and bears a child. Without much chance to return to professional activities, she becomes pregnant again. And again. And again. And again. Years go by – the prime years in which she would otherwise have developed and peaked as a professional dancer. Money is tight, so she can’t really afford to send her children, some of whom also show promise as dancers, to ballet lessons. Though she tries to provide what instruction she can herself, this proves difficult due to her other responsibilities to her children, husband, and household. Perhaps some generous benefactor offers to sponsor training for her children...but perhaps not. And in whose footsteps, down the road, may her daughters follow??

The debate on contraception and childbearing/raising often hinges on the value of life and the value of children, which I don’t dispute. However, suppose we examine the purpose of a woman. Is a woman’s sole, overriding purpose to bear and raise children? (This is not a feminist question ;-) ) If so, why would God give her certain talents that, in order to be substantially realized, must compete with other callings in regards to time, effort and resources? Yes, we all need to make choices. In the case of multiple talents, one must seek God and use wisdom and judgment as to the purpose of those talents in one’s life and in the big picture.

The book of Ecclesiastes tell us that "there is a time for everything." And I believe this is true. But what does that mean for a woman of certain talent in a reproductively healthy marriage, who does not use contraception?

Part V: “Other Considerations” to follow.

7 Comments:

  • I still don't see this as an "all or nothing" choice, but rather a seasons of life thing. Also many of the skills I learned in school or in the work field I have put to GREAT use in family life - particularly with budgeting and organizational skills.

    Speaking as a former dancer, the career for a professional doesn't go much past 30 anyway!! And there was never a performance that gave me as much back as the relationship with my children. Besides, there's always teaching and studio work. Good ballet teachers who work well with small children are a Godsend!

    I don't think there is anything that a woman can do, or accomplish that will ever ever equal the role she has in having and raising her own children. It's an undervalued profession!

    By Blogger Elena, at 3:07 PM  

  • Hi Elena,

    I guess it comes down to what each person’s individual situation is, as far as whether it truly is an all-or-nothing choice. I can’t believe that a mother who does not use birth control and has a large number of children has any other type of choice.

    I certainly agree that there are far-reaching applications of many skills. But there are also some that have one application that cannot be substituted for.

    I’m a performer also, a professional musician. There’s a big difference between playing on a local level and on a high professional level. I am aware of the mentoring and example I set as a performer at this level, both for my children and for my private students. I do enjoy teaching privately, but this certainly does not substitute for performing. On top of that, I can command a certain respect and a certain fee because of my professional expertise.

    I also know that I wouldn't be able to establish a studio if I had many children now, in part because I homeschool, and in part because I seem to have incredibly difficult babies. I would also have nothing on which to establish a studio later once my kids had grown up.

    But I do agree wholeheartedly that motherhood is an undervalued profession, and that children are a mother’s greatest fruit.

    Thanks for contributing your perspective! I appreciate it very much.

    By Blogger Bonnie, at 6:27 PM  

  • I don't think "not using birth control" always equates to large numbers of children. To my dismay at times we have tried for a pregnancy, where nothing happened at all, and other times got pregnant just because of the twinkle my hubbies eye! Add to that a pregnancy that ended in a stillbirth at 23 weeks and I am humbled and fully aware of who is truly in control here - and it's not me!! Only one knows the future.

    My DH had 9 kids in his family. I have one sister. I think I mentioned in another comment how much those siblings and sibling-in-laws have come to mean to us especially now that we are more middle aged and I'm so grateful to my in-laws for having this big wonderful family of great adults that can and do love and support each other.

    I don't think there is a better gift I can give to my children than siblings that love, support and care for each other.

    I do understand your concerns. It's not easy to watch my dancer's body disappear with each pregnancy and work twice as hard to get it back. It's not easy to keep my home business going or to participate musically (I'm a flutist) like I would want to. But I know that the sacrifice of these things NOW will bless me later, and I know it will bless them. "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me!"

    looking forward to your next blog post on the topic.

    By Blogger Elena, at 7:35 PM  

  • One never knows if the girl will really marry young or end up with lots of kids, so when it's possible to study, she should and not wait. You can never tell how helpful the studies will be for part-time or full-time work or just to be a better wife and mother. and full-filled person

    By Blogger muse, at 11:43 PM  

  • I think God gives us abilities, we of course have the free will to choose to use them, but I think he would want us to explore those abilities.

    You also need to consider that God wants us to be responsible in all area's of life. If you have so many children that you cannot properly care for them, is that being responsible? I don't think so. In this day and age I don't think the average family can really handle more than three children and expect to raise them all to be mature and responsible adults.

    By Blogger Mike, at 10:12 AM  

  • In this day and age I don't think the average family can really handle more than three children and expect to raise them all to be mature and responsible adults."average family" ? Average secular family perhaps. I think Christians are called to a higher standard. And frankly Mike, in my experience... you are wrong! Many families of my acquiantance with 4, 5, 6, and 8 or more children are raising very Godly children who are making a mark on their communities! One of my friends has a son who is finishing his college degree and preparing to enter the armed forces. His younger brother is training for special forces while their sister and brother are honor students in their local high school. The younger four are still being homeschooled!!

    I'm expecting my 7th. I just had a gentleman come to me today to express his admiration for how mature my second son, the 11 year old, was during his duties at church today. My high schooler told me that three of his classmates this week wrote his name down as one of the top three people in their lives that they admire!

    I EXPECT ALL OF MY CHILDREN to be Godly men and women to be responsible and mature adults! I think they'll get there too because they will have had to develop that responsibility while growing in up in the loving bosom of their large families. That's an advantage that just can't be overlooked.

    By Blogger Elena, at 9:08 AM  

  • The assumption that seems to be being made here is that children will mess things up. Whatever "thing" it is - finances, time, mother's health, talents, ambitions, etc. Use whatever thing you wish. The assumption is that children will be a hindrance to that thing rather than a blessing.
    Is that an accurate assumption?
    Could not children be a positive element to any of those areas? Why are they assumed to be a detriment?
    Finances for example - could not children contribute financially to the family?
    Take talents - could not children be a catalyst for a mother to to further develop and/or share her talents?
    Albeit in a different manner than she did without children, but I do not see that children would without question be a detriment in any or all of these areas.

    Another assumption clearly being made is that certain talents or training or other consideration is equal to giving a child life. I emphatically disagree with that premise. I see no action we can choose that equates with joining with God to bring new life into this world - and the next.

    The unspoken assumptions here lead us to believe that - theoretically speaking - another child might prevent mother x from discovering the cure for cancer. Is not there an even more probable truth that some of the billions of children who are being denied life might discover the cure for cancer? How far behind are we? at 6 billion now, if birth control had not come into play (abortion is birth control) and the birth rate had remained steady, what # would we be at today? What have we missed??? what have we missed. . .

    Social security is in trouble precisely because the birth rate declined. That we can see (tho you do not hear that reason on CNN) - how many other problems have come about because the children are missing?

    Cities in Europe shut down their schools because there are no children - how long til towns are empty? The American image of 2 children is a population control figure and we do not even realize how we have been brainwashed. 2 is acceptable - even with 3 you don't get much grief. But more than that and you have opened yourself up to many interesting comments. Why is that? Because 2 parents and 2 children equals a steady population with no increase. Is that biblical? Wasn't our command to be fruitful and multiply? Don't we want more Christians, not less? (I know all our children are not guaranteed to be Christians, but generally children follow in their parents steps.)

    The true fact is that 2 children is a population decline due to not everyone lives a full life to an old age. Probably why 3 is fairly accepted in our society - everyone has this under the surface understanding of the realities of life as far as that issue is concerned.

    Why do you suppose we all have this 2 children mentality? Why 2? Where did it come from? Why does everyone accept it? What factual basis is there stating that 2 children are financially viable while more are not? Any statistics to back this up? It does not come from a financial perspective but from a population control perspective which is prosperity oriented. The deeper issue is trust in God. Silly God, if we get too many people on this planet, we will pollute ourselves out - silly God, didn't he know that when he gave that command to be fruitful? He must have figured wrong.

    Our entire population of 6 billion can fit into an area the size of Texas and be slightly less congested that those in the heart of New York City. I don't think overpopulation is the problem.

    By Blogger jo, at 4:59 AM  

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