Reckless Breeders

cute girl and family“The correlation of reckless breeding with defective and delinquent strains, has not, strangely enough, been subjected to close scientific scrutiny. This is a crying necessity of our day…”  –Margaret Sanger

Mrs. Sanger would classify my wife and I as reckless breeders—seven kids, and not a whiff of birth control. “Bring ‘em on!” we said when we got married, and so God did—alleluia! And nary a defective nor delinquent strain in the lot. Scientific scrutiny be damned.

The funny thing is that reckless breeders are in short supply these days, and not because of scientific scrutiny nor its nefarious twin, draconian social policy (thankfully a thing of the past). As a nation, we’re sinking demographically, but instead of rearranging deck chairs, we’ve struck up the band and we’re throwing a party! Yeah! No babies! Whooo-hooo!

A stark example of this is the cover story on a recent Time Magazine, The Childfree Life. Here’s the tagline: “The American birthrate is at a record low.” Indeed, it’s startlingly low—2.0 babies per woman at last count. Keep in mind that the replacement rate is 2.1, and the rate’s trajectory is down, not up. Bottom line: We’re going the way of Europe and Japan, where grey is all the rage.

Shrinking fertility rates and aging populations are important for a number of reasons, as William McGurn points out in his review of Jonathan Last’s What to Expect When No One’s Expecting (2013). Among other things, fewer kids means fewer workers to make stuff and buy stuff, and fewer taxpayers as well. As more and more boomers start collecting government benefits, there are fewer and fewer employed taxpayers to foot the bill. Our weak economy only exacerbates all this.

McGurn also mentions a weakening of our national defense and a curtailing of innovation as the balance of our population tilts in the direction of the aged. But these are mere temporal concerns. Another problem has to do with our vision of what marriage and sex is for in the first place.

But don’t I know? It’s for fun, of course!

Of course. But not just for fun.

Back in 1982, The Roches had a song on their album Keep on Doing called “Sex is for Children.” I remember it being a collage of sounds and words that didn’t reveal a whole lot about the title’s meaning. But, as song titles go, it’s definitely provocative, isn’t it? And simply true. Physiologically, sex is oriented to the begetting of children, regardless of how enjoyable it is. In fact, when Margaret Sanger and her allies coined the phrase “birth control,” they were obviously taking the biology for granted—i.e., facilitating more sex with less births.

The dual meaning of sex—pleasure and procreation—is something the Church has always taken into account. Here’s how Pope Paul VI put it in Humanae Vitae:

[The] fundamental nature of the marriage act, while uniting husband and wife in the closest intimacy, also renders them capable of generating new life—and this as a result of laws written into the actual nature of man and of woman.

Yet, the Church goes much further than that—there’s no question that kids are the main point. Pope Pius XI said it pretty directly:

Thus amongst the blessings of marriage, the child holds the first place. As St. Augustine admirably deduces from the words of the holy Apostle Saint Paul to Timothy when he says: “The Apostle himself is therefore a witness that marriage is for the sake of generation: ‘I wish,’ he says, ‘young girls to marry.’ And, as if someone said to him, ‘Why?,’ he immediately adds: ‘To bear children, to be mothers of families’.”

Terribly backward by today’s standards, I know, but even Margaret Sanger seemed to admit that motherhood had its good points. She wrote that the “potential mother can then be shown that maternity…may be the most effective avenue to self-development and self-realization.”

But how? What is it about having kids that seems to be so vital to self-development and self-realization? I think Lauren Sandler’s Time article gives us some clues, like when she quotes New Yorker Jenna Johnson, who is partnered and happily childless: “My plans—professionally, daily, long-term, even just for vacation—are free from all the contingencies that come with children.”

Contingencies. That’s a nice way of putting it. For us parents in real-time, it’s more like “constant chaos,” where every day is a matter of survival, and coming home at night is similar to a controlled crash landing.

So why do we do it? Love. Love begets love. And, in this case, it’s not an abstract begetting, but rather a fully incarnate, enfleshed love—one that cries and laughs and poops. The reality is that being entrusted with that incarnate crying and laughing and pooping love changes us. It makes us better men and women, husbands and wives, friends, neighbors, workers, humans! Or at least it should.

But it’s herculean, by all accounts. This is something that another childless woman featured the Time article seems to grasp. Even without kids, Leah’s life with her husband is “insane already.” She goes on: “I don’t feel we can do what we do and be great parents—and for me, the emphasis would be on being great parents.”

Exactly. Leah would be a great mom. I hope she gets the chance.


image: shutterstock

Richard Becker


Rick Becker is a husband, father of seven, nursing instructor, and religious educator. He serves on the nursing faculty at Bethel College in Mishawaka, Indiana. You can find more of Rick’s writing on his blog, God-Haunted Lunatic, and his Facebook page.

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  • Dad-of-11

    My wife and I live in the crazy Catholic world of raising and homeschooling 11 kids (all our own – one spouse – one marriage). When people ask me why so many kids I say – ‘Just doing our part to fight the Islamic Jihad!’ or ‘Just doing our part to maintain the population growth rate!’ – then they look at me like I’m weird or something.

  • Richard III

    At this point, you, Mr. Becker, and my dad (another father of 7) are all weird, but weird in a good way. Hopefully you’ll start to become less weird in the near future. No doubt all the kids will help out there. Maybe Leah will too. 🙂

  • Jane

    I read the greatest gift a father can give his children is to love their mother. Since none of the men I would have liked to have as the father for my children wanted to marry me, I opted not to settle for second

  • Rick Becker

    Eleven! Awesome. You’re very blessed. We don’t homeschool any more, but I think we have some idea of that craziness you mentioned.

    And I like to disarm people right up front when they ask us how many kids we have. “Only seven,” I say. “We did the best we could.”

  • Rick Becker

    Sounds like God might have some other avenue of fruitfulness for you in mind. In any case, I trust He will bless you in a special way for your faithfulness and for not settling for second-best. And who knows? Maybe first-best is still out there!

  • Bobby Rodriguez

    7 kids? Gross!!!

  • mljobe

    I think that is fantastic!! Maybe I’ll have to tweak it for our family of a half dozen kids…

  • Jeff

    When reading the news over the last few weeks I think that everyone would agree with Sanger’s comments about reckless breeding.

  • Richard III

    Great response. 😀

  • Therese

    Relax Bobby – the future belongs to the ProLife – so apparently you don’t have to worry past your own little self.

  • Therese

    proud Pro-Life producers of the next generation of taxpayers….. Thank-you!

  • James H, London

    Sympathies, Jane.

    Remember, just because the high-calibre men you might have hoped for aren’t available, there are other, less stellar, but still eminently-marriageable guys around who would love it if you’d just smile at ’em! 🙂

  • B. Champ

    I am one (duh) of six! YAY!!! I love my family even though we live in a VERY small house, but as my oldest three siblings are in College I have a room to myself, YIPPEY! Ah, Christmas is going to be fun…. (crowded house)

  • Proteios

    Gross? Normally I just bypass nonsensical comments, but this was too good to pass up. Gross? What are you 8 years old?

  • Proteios

    Yes Therese. The mathematics is pretty clear and therefore the ingrained values of those having 7 kids…who have seven kids…etc. doesn’t take more than a few generations to overwhelm the values passed along by those having 1kid…who has 1 kid…etc. I suspect that is why the leftists are so intent on controlling government, media and education. If they don’t brainwash the kids, they won’t have any followers after a generation. No one to perpetuate their self destruction.

  • Mary

    Love this community of big family thinking. When we only had six children a stranger asked my husband if we were done. His reply while holding the new baby, baby number 6, was simple and prophetic- He said we like to think of her as the middle child! 9 years later we have 11 children. I cannot tell you the number of men and women that have come to us and said I wish we had had one more child.

  • lightedlamp97

    I once had a priest say to me, “men will always push the envelope and it is up to women to say no.” I was fortunate enough to know that I always wanted to be a mother. The man I married would have never chosen to have 9 children but, his love for me has allowed him to choose the path less traveled. Has it changed us, you bet, for the better! Yet, I have always had to be the gatekeeper when the world creeps in. You will always get what “you” expect. As I sit back and look around at the world today I think women and mothers we could single handedly turn the tide if we chose to. Mothers if you are lucky enough to have daughters challenge them to always see everything through the eyes of a child, to always stand up for weakest, the smallest, and the frail. For there is nothing as ugly as such a girl who has lost this capacity. Women quit waiting for the ideal man, marry a man who has the capacity to love and challenge him to be more than he thought he could be. There is an old Gidget move from 1950’s where Gidget’s mother tells her, “a girl knows she has become a woman when she makes a man want to be better.” It’s amazing the messages one can find in just old movies. Once upon a time in America women knew these things. We now have to relearn them and teach them to our girls. Thank you for this article it was so good!

  • Great post. i like this post. i need it. Thanks