Michelle Duggar made big news again, a few weeks ago, when she outrageously, scandalously said: "The world needs more children."
The incredible response to this! The uproar, the anger, the alarm. But how could anyone aware of her enormous family be shocked by this idea? If she DIDN'T feel that way and had nineteen kids, something would be wrong. Of course she doesn't believe in overpopulation; if she did, she'd be like the rest of my friends and have one--maybe two!--children.
Here's how I see it. All kinds of people have children, people who don't want children, people who don't like children, people who don't know what to DO with children. Some children are molested, raped, abused, mistreated, used, maligned, ignored, abandoned, starved, murdered.... Other children simply suffer the usual dramas of childhood and growing up, which always includes some level of benign neglect, even if it's just that Mama can't play with you all the time because she has to do the dishes!
(I should be doing the dishes. But at least I'm blogging while my kids are asleep.)
If you see it from the Duggar perspective, the world does need more children--more children who are seen to be precious, incredible, vital, useful, gifts from God (or you may put in a more meaningful word here that you use). Michelle Duggar may be crazy, but not any more crazy than many parents I know--just differently crazy. She and her husband say that many years ago they prayed to see children they way God sees children, which, to me, is an amazing thing. It means you stop seeing children for what they can do FOR you, stop seeing them as a part OF you, stop feeling like who they are is a mere reflection of you, and see them in their own right, perfect and whole, wanted and necessary in the great world.
The point is not that there are too many children, but that there is too little love--and too little love for children. I don't mean we all need nineteen children. In fact, I am very much in favor of those who don't want children not having any! But to grow in our ability to appreciate children, to welcome them, to treat them kindly, to learn from them, to let their challenges change us into better people? That is what I understand from what the Duggars are doing. And I do believe motherhood is a spiritual practice. (Oh, how I practice, practice, practice every day!)
Sharon Lerner in her book THE WAR ON MOMS, writes, "And children are treated as something akin to puppies--cute little extras we've opted for, perhaps because we find them diverting--rather than as actual people. In what economist Nancy Folbre describes as a children-as-pets mind-set, there's little recognition of the fact that children are essential to society, or that keeping them well and ushering them into the arena of tax-paying, job-holding adulthood is in the public interest."
Two things: "children are essential to society" and "Keeping them well" is in the interest of all.
We do need more children. More children who are beloved, seen as essential, and kept well in the fullness of such an understanding, in body, mind, heart and soul, with value beyond measure, not just OUR children, not YOUR children, not simply MY children, but children of the great I AM.