Babies as Burdens - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 1 Old 12-29-2001, 06:10 PM - Thread Starter
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Babies as burdens

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Author Topic: Babies as burdens
Member posted 02-16-2001 02:50 PM
The thread on our friend's non-AP parenting choices got me thinking about this again.
Though I'm not a Christian, I've read through a lot of the specifically Christian objections to Ezzo. One of the objections I thought was most insightful was that Gary Ezzo promotes the idea (very common in secular America) that children are a burden, rather than the Christian idea that they are a gift from God. I thought this was an interesting point. The same essay, I believe, talked about the exercise that they do at some high schools, where all the teenagers have to carry around a fake baby -- a five-pound sack of flour or a mechanical doll -- for a week, to teach them what a burden babies are and how they don't want one.

Now, not that I think that most 14-year-olds ought to be having babies yet, but I did that exercise (when I was 11 -- I don't know what the teacher was thinking) and I remember objecting that an egg (we were carrying around raw eggs, rather than sacks of flour) might not require diaper changes, but it was also totally unresponsive. "So are babies," my (childless, of course) teacher told me. Even at 11, I knew this was BS (I had younger siblings, for one thing) and my mother was incensed about this statement ("Babies are VERY responsive, even little newborn babies!")

I don't think this is an AP/non-AP thing, necessarily. There AP parents who make the "sacrifice" of breastfeeding etc. because they believe it's best for their children. But I think a lot of the detachment-parenting approaches are designed to "lighten" the "burden" of parenting -- you Ferberize your baby because it's a "burden" to have him sleeping in your bed, you put him on a schedule because it's a "burden" to nurse all the time, you leave him to cry because it's a "burden" to carry him.

Even publications that supposedly focus on the joys of parenting -- like most mainstream parenting magazines, for godsake -- tend to focus on things like how you arrange to get your nights out with your spouse (because being home with your children is such a burden), all the noisy mechanical sound-and-light toys (because playing with your child is such a burden) and all the mechanized parent-substitutes (because rocking your baby is such a burden).

I am aware, of course, that parenting is not an unending stream of joy and bliss . My baby was never colicky and has always slept quite well next to me (I know that some babies sleep horribly even in the family bed). And on Valentine's Day my mother babysat for dd so that dh and I could go out to a restaurant, which was nice, honestly.

But....the mainstream media portray staying at home with your children as such a SACRIFICE. For dh and I, it was a question of who would GET to stay home with the baby, not who would HAVE to stay home with the baby. And my mother told me once, "I didn't stay home with you and your sister and brother because I thought it was my duty to do it as a good mother; I stayed with you because I couldn't bear to leave you."

Of course sometimes children can be inconvenient. (And I suppose that a baby in a sling is, in a literal sense, a burden.) But why is it that society values all the things that you can do easily without children (travel! eating out! working 80 hours a week!) so much more than all the things that you can do WITH children? Is it just the money issue? (Travel typically costs money, eating out costs money, working 80 hour weeks makes money, but playing "This Little Piggy" is free.) Or is there more to it than that?

Do other people see this? Do you think you get the message from society that you should feel weighed down by your children, rather than enjoying them? Do you think it's a relatively recent (i.e., late 20th century/early 21st century) thing, or do you think it goes back further than that?

Member posted 02-16-2001 03:19 PM
Naomi, we would agree that the one who gets to stay home with the kids is the lucky one! Dh keeps asking me where I want to work when dd has weaned herself! He wants a chance to stay home and do the homeschool.What a great point that the Ezzos go against the Christian viewpoint that babies are A JOY and A Gift!The saddest thing is when these programs try to convince parents their babies will end up in jail if they dont' crack the whip early.

Member posted 02-16-2001 05:01 PM
I hate they way they talk to teenage girls about what a burden having a baby. Yes, they need to know how much work it is but these "values" they teach kids in high school travel with them into the real world and they keep these attitudes when they have real kids of thier own. The message they are constantly giving girls are "Don't get pregnant, babies are a burden and will steal the best years of your life. Stay in school and get a good job. A good career is what smart people aim for"
There was a girl at church recently looking bored out in the hall while holding a key uncomfotably in the dolls back. I made sure she knew that parenting a baby really wasn't that bad (she doesn't need scare tactics to avoid pregnancy) The doll gave us a chance to talk about how parenting wasn't a burden when you slept with your baby at night and breastfed and could pop your baby in a sling (all things she has seen me do) and how these were all things these dolls didn't account for.
I also think a lot of people make parenting a burden and if I was doing it their way I would want to get away too. Picture having to get up at night and make and feed a bottle several times, put up with numerouse sicknesses that could have been prevented if the baby was getting brestmilk, getting up to feed the baby and then getting it back to sleep in thier crib, dealing with all the trappings of play pens, "stimulating toys", baby seats, jumping things, exersausers, and the myrid of other crap that can be avoided if one just holds thier baby instead. We have made just a few changes with our second baby such as having her sleep with us all through the night and bringing her into bed right from the start, and using our sling earlier and more often. The load was lifted considerably just by such small changes. What I am saying is the same magazines and writes who constantly say to take a load off are the people heaping it on oi in the first place.


[This message has been edited by lilyka (edited 02-16-2001).]

Sierra M-
Moderator posted 02-16-2001 07:40 PM
All I can say is, "Yes! Yes! Yes!" I have thought all the things you all are saying.
In fact, just the other day I was noticing (once again) a very offensive billboard, highly acclaimed for its "message" (in my area, at least). It's like this:

A young woman is holding a baby in her arms, looking down, with sorrow, at the baby. The message reads, "It's like being grounded for 18 years".

Yuuuuuucck!! The ad makes me want to puke, and I am only comforted because a lady next to me, noticing the sign as well, looked at me and rolled her eyes, saying how much the board bothered her. Thank goodness there are others who feel this way!


Moderator posted 02-16-2001 08:38 PM
As usual I am balancing a baby and typing, not easy so I rush...
When I was pregnant, I mentioned that I wanted my baby with me every second until we left the hospital.

My boss (woman with 3 kids) "Ohhh honey, send that baby to the nursery and get some sleep, you won't sleep again for the next 18 years"

Well, all I have to say is I cannot sleep without my baby. I have tried to nap (when I had the flu) without her and I cannot slip off into slumber without her in my arms. It may just be a prolactin addicition or whatever. My daughter is a joy never a burden and when people stop being selfish and get over themselves perhaps we will see the kind of world we would like to see our children grow up in. My daughter has taught me more about love and devotion and the word burden has never even entered my mind.

Sorry for the rant, but women piss me off when they have babies and don't recognize the amazing beauty that is gracing their lives.

and I am gonna shut up now!!! (finally)

Moderator posted 02-16-2001 08:48 PM
Yes, I agree with so much of what has been said here. My husband and I BOTH want to be the stay at home parent. I want to be home with my son because it's fun for ME; sometimes I feel jealous that the babysitter gets to spend time with him while I go to work. It seems wrong and unnatural...

I'm personally a little shocked when friends talk about their kids as a burden. I guess I crave time with my son, and although I like my computer time, yoga time and other alone time it's not because my child is a burden, it's because I need alone time.
Good topic.

Linda in Canada
Member posted 02-16-2001 09:09 PM
yes, ditto to everything. I had a very good job before I was a SAHM and leaving it was not a sacrifice! I feel so lucky and blessed by my kids. I have a couple of single friends who are also in the mid 30's and still doing the career thing and would love more than anything to swap places with me.

Becca Lynn
Member posted 02-17-2001 08:45 AM
I totally agree that society treats babies as burdens. I hate that. I love my children and feel blessed to have them in my life. I had twin girls when i was 17 and my son when i was 20. I am now 22 with a 15 m.o. and 2 4 y.o.'s. I am happy being home with my kids. I did miss out on a lot of fun my friemds had, like proms and partying, but my kids are more rewarding than all that.
I think mostly it's about laziness. It's easier to stick a screaming kid in a bed, shut the door and walk away than it is to comfort and love them. It's easier to bottlefeed if you are going to be leaving your kid with a babysitter all the day to work or go out. it's easier to stick a kid in a walker or swing or bouncer and have them entertained by tv and plastic stuff than to sit down and work with them and teach them and read to them. it's easier to hit a child for something than to teach it to make the right choices. it's easier to get a happy meal at the drive thru than to prepare a healthy meal.

Member posted 02-19-2001 08:12 AM
I absolutely agree. This "children are a burden" view is an agenda promoted by Planned Parenthood and the overpopulation myth. Nowhere in the Bible are children refered to as anything but blessings! Hitler killed what, 7 million; Stalin around 12 million; the abortion industry in the U.S. alone more then 40 million! There seems to be some unwritten rule that people are only allowed two children, maybe three and after that we have to abort or contracept them away so we can get on with "real" life. Why is America experiencing a shortage of laborers? Why do we have to import so many employees from other countries? Because we as a nation are killing and contracepting away our future citizens!

Member posted 02-19-2001 11:25 AM
Amen, Lucy!!

sweet bunny's mama
Member posted 02-19-2001 12:16 PM
so ladies, a practical question do we teach teenagers to wait before having babies? (obviously the "babies as burdens" tactic is not even working, because the teen pg rate only seems to increase each year)

Sierra M-
Moderator posted 02-19-2001 02:49 PM
Lucy, I have to say though I think I agree with the underlying problem with viewing kids as burdens (as I'm sure you can tell from earlier posts), I have spent a great deal of time studying population issues, and I disagree that current population trends are not a problem. I also don't think Planned Parenthood is the true carrier of the "children as burdens" message (I know this as someone who has worked in the health field with young moms as well as personally recieved numerous health services- albeit not abortion services- from Planned Parenthood.) I also think you have overly-simplified a lot of issues in implying that an alleged "labor-shortage" is due to abortion and contraception! Just my opinion, and I realize others might feel differently . However, I don't think this is the place necessarily to have a huge debate on abortion or other such issues. As sweet bunny's mama, I'd like to talk about the practical implications of society's attitude toward children as burdens as well as teen pregnancy issues.
I have a great deal of experience working with teen moms, and many of you probably also know from other posts in various forums that I have a problem with our tendency to call teen pregnancy a "problem". In an article I recently wrote, from the public health professional standpoint, about issues that arise when we view teen pregnancy as a "problem", I made sure to clarify that in no means does my research give us reason to encourage teens to get pregnant.

However, the public health field is beginning to understand that *all* people need to have access to lifetime family planning services. By family planning services, I mean all people should have access to information that will help them plan their families (whether they plan to avoid contraception or use contraception, etc.). This is necessarily a lifetime issue. Though the information needed changes...people in their teens need information, and people in their 20s, 30's, and 40's also need information. After people no longer need information about family planning, information about reproductive health is still critical.

I guess what that means for folks who have teens is that teens need information not only about various ways to avoid pregnancy, but they need opportunities to make life plans and creat visions for their futures, plans that include hopes and ideas about family. They need guidance and support in this process, and they need information about why some people choose to have kids, why some people choose not to have kids, why people choose to start their families at various times of their lives, and why people choose to have various numbers and spacing of children. We can't just go around telling teens that getting pregnant when they're young is bad. Additionally, teens need outlets for their abilities to care for and nourish others, they need to feel loved, and they need to feel like they are "getting somewhere"...which means they need little token events along the way that help them feel like they are building their dreams, and that they are close to these dreams.

Also, I think it's important to recognize that not all teens are "risking" pregnancy, and for some teens, family planning will take a backseat to career planning, etc.

I can't wait to hear what others think!


[This message has been edited by Sierra M- (edited 02-19-2001).]

Linda in Canada
Member posted 02-19-2001 08:35 PM
A couple of years ago NPR did a segment on teen pregnancy and they sited a study that showed that girls who have been molested are much less likely to use controceptives when they choose to have sex than other girls. I don't know anything else about this study, but the idea made sense to me. One estimate is that 1 in 4 girls in the US are sexually assulted before they turn 18.
I agree that girls having real goals and dreams is important. They also need to have a sense of self and to know that they are loved.

Sierra M-
Moderator posted 02-19-2001 08:44 PM

Originally posted by Linda in Canada:
I agree that girls having real goals and dreams is important.

Oh, yes, but again, we must keep in mind that real goals and dreams may sometimes include family plans.

Member posted 02-20-2001 08:50 AM
Great topic! It is indeed a shame that children are portrayed as such a burden. For many years I did not want to have children because I was afraid the responsibility would be too great. Thank God, dh changed my mind. Now when I look at ds and think about how he might have never been if I had continued to believe the "burden theory", it breaks my heart. Being a SAHM is the most rewarding and important job I have ever done. What a tragedy that I might have missed it, and even sadder that ds might never have made it into the world.
To address the topic by Sweet Bunny's Mama, it seems that it would be good to teach that there is a time for everything, and that there are certain necessary preparations for everything in life. Just as you should not drive without having a license or before having any instruction, so there are certain things that should be in place before beginning the task of child rearing. In my opinion, the bare minimum requirements would be a stable relationship and a source of financial support for the family. Of course I realize that many people do not have these things and have kids that turn out fine, but I think we should encourage our kids to shoot for the ideal. We should emphasize to them, however, that children ARE a BIG responsibility. Although children bring great joy, they should not be brought into the world without some serious thought. I say this because I used to teach in an area where most of the children were not properly cared for. It was heartbreaking to see the emotional and physical condition of these kids. Apparently the parents who brought them into the world were not ready or willing to take up the responsibility of bringing up their children properly. Being a parent is a 24 7 job, and kids need to understand this. The rewards are great, but you have to be willing to put in the time.

Moderator posted 02-20-2001 10:17 AM
Just wanted to agree with Sierra!
Thanks for saying so much of what I wanted to say...

Moderator posted 02-20-2001 02:28 PM
I don't understand why one ought to argue that babies are not a burden, because they are joys. Surely both descriptors apply?
Sweet Bunny's Mama touches on the interesting point regarding the use of body packs as a sort of aversive conditioning against teen pregnancy.

There are many factors which would appear to influence children to have children themselves. (The most obvious being the sexualization of children by culture, peers, and, unfortunately, caregivers.)

The state has a limited array of non-invasive techniques to discourage teen reproduction. The body-pack method is sound in principle, and so I am all for it, even if it cannot be wholly effective.

In fact, even Draconian measures such as those promulgated in China (i.e. the one-child policy; late marriage; forced abortion) do not prevent population increases. They can only slow them.

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