The Contraceptive Divorce Protectant

I mention it a lot in comments, and it occurs to me it’s worthy of a post, since I know a lot of not-contraceptive-using Christians IRL and online.  But essentially part of the fallout from the WHEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE DIVORCE IS SO GREAT epidemic in the 1970s and even 1980s is that people who are 35-50 now were told by older people who’d been burnt that the problem wasn’t marrying young, it was not party animal-ing young together.  And with contraception, this was now on the table.

The belief among quite a few older folks is that marrying young and then jumping into “adulting”  and parenting all at once was the source of their or their divorced friends/neighbors/relatives’ woe.  For all the talk of how women/men are encouraged to live it up singly during their 20s, there is definitely a pro-marriage strain among evangelical and conservative-living secular people that living it up ~together~ and then settling down as older, financially solid boring types is the way to keep a marriage together past when the kids are 18, or even just school-aged.

It is something I didn’t really notice among secular types, although it was certainly there.  It started jumping out at me when we got married and started hanging around married Christians who did it before age 25 and seeing this play out over the years.  And then, of course, it’s not uncommon online either.

For both religious and health reasons we’re not really on Team Contraception, but I do think it’s important to know why people make use of it, because there are people still trying to live out the promises and claims that it would help marriages stay love matches and all that.

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50 thoughts on “The Contraceptive Divorce Protectant

  1. Now that you mention it, I can think of quite a few youngish Christian couples who have been DINK-ing for 5 years or more.

    You know what we did, so…

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    • Elspeth said,

      “Now that you mention it, I can think of quite a few youngish Christian couples who have been DINK-ing for 5 years or more.”

      I have a couple of male cousins from the Evangelical side of our family that DINKed hard (I’m not sure how church-going they are at this point). Some possible contributing factors:

      –lengthy dating/cohabitation (one of them)
      –being in school for a long time (one of them got two technical MAs)
      –graduating into the last recession at exactly the wrong time
      –being on the family dole for a couple years during the recession (one)
      –high mobility and leapfrogging between jobs (the other one)
      –wife with career (both–but handy during the recession!)

      Grandma leaned hard on one of them to get married to his girlfriend (“I’d like to see all of my grandchildren married before I die”) and rumor has it that the very churchy parents paid off the new wife’s student loans as a wedding gift. In one couple, there were medical issues, but the wife was finally able to successfully have a baby. In the other family, the husband just wasn’t around much, but they also finally had a baby. Heaven knows if either couple will manage a second child–it will be something of a miracle if they do.

      My brother is the same age as the younger cousin and baby brother has 3 children, but different circumstances.

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  2. TPC said:

    ” But essentially part of the fallout from the WHEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE DIVORCE IS SO GREAT epidemic in the 1970s and even 1980s is that people who are 35-50 now were told by older people who’d been burnt that the problem wasn’t marrying young, it was not party animal-ing young together. And with contraception, this was now on the table.”

    I recently learned that my young Boomer aunt and uncle partied hard through the eighties while dragging around several young children. The couple had married young after a shotgun wedding. That worked out as poorly as you can imagine (actually even worse than you’re probably thinking), but they’re still married. Poooor (and some unimaginably bad stuff happened along the way), but still married.

    “For all the talk of how women/men are encouraged to live it up singly during their 20s, there is definitely a pro-marriage strain among evangelical and conservative-living secular people that living it up ~together~ and then settling down as older, financially solid boring types is the way to keep a marriage together past when the kids are 18, or even just school-aged.”

    It’s pretty hard to argue with that one, even though it’s incredibly un-PC in the practicing Catholic world, where practicing NFP immediately after marriage is deeply suspect. Like, why didn’t you wait to get married until you could afford children? (Of course, having children immediately would be no joke if either was in school, and there was the potential of winding up with large student loans but no degree.)

    It’s hard logically to combine WHY DON’T PEOPLE GET MARRIED YOUNGER? and DON’T GET MARRIED UNTIL YOU CAN AFFORD KIDS! but I guess consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds.

    There’s a belief among older people generally that couples can start having children on a low income and then achieve exit velocity from poverty while raising children that doesn’t work as well as it used to (my parents pulled that one off but it took them over 20 years of marriage to achieve liftoff even back in 70s and 80s). I think it is possible to achieve that under very specific circumstances (for example medical school), but outside those very specific circumstances, it’s a very dangerous situation, especially for those of us living the no contraception lifestyle. And if it turns out to be a miserable failure, then you get to deal with WHY DID YOU HAVE ALL THOSE KIDS IF YOU CAN’T AFFORD THEM?

    (Xianjaneway had a really good twitter thread on this that I can’t find right now–about how early marriage, immediate childbearing, and low income set young Evangelicals up to struggle..)

    There are a lot of confusing, contradictory conservative messages

    “For both religious and health reasons we’re not really on Team Contraception, but I do think it’s important to know why people make use of it, because there are people still trying to live out the promises and claims that it would help marriages stay love matches and all that.”

    It has to be really hard for couples trying to get used to living with each other for the first time, while simultaneously coping with pregnancy, and yet I see a lot of Catholics and the more “colorful” type of conservative Protestants pushing that hard.

    Yes, people used to do it all the time, but they often had more help.

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    • I don’t think it’s reasonable for us to tell people to marry young, and then have kids right away if they can’t provide for them. Unless the expectation is for 18-21 year olds to marry men 10+ years older than them, but that’s really a ‘spherian dream that isn’t common in the culture (nor was that age gap common for average people throughout history). I’m not interested in getting into a age gap debate, and I only point it out to show it’s not common for people in their 20’s as much as it is for people 30+, and wealthier people.

      The belief among quite a few older folks is that marrying young and then jumping into “adulting” and parenting all at once was the source of their or their divorced friends/neighbors/relatives’ woe.

      The problem isn’t jumping into “adulting,” it’s that they weren’t adults in the first place! It will continue to boggle my mind how Christians and conservatives think it’s a good idea to get people to grow up by getting married. I never used to be of this camp, but it’s understandable why a lot of parents insist by age 18-20, their children will be mentally and emotionally prepared for married life, know how to manage a household, and want a family. Those parents want adults leaving their home, not practicing-non-grad-students (no offense, but research shows grad school extends adolescence). If adults are leaving their homes, they’ll accept the responsibilities and fruits of marriage. Men AND women.

      It’s why people were able to do it in the past. Their minds were already formed by their families and the culture, and it was reasonable for a 21-year old woman and a 25-year old man to accept marriage, accept children soon after marriage, and build their life from there. I think by the logic I’m following…contraceptive use with young married couples has extended adolescence, too.

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      • I don’t think it’s reasonable for us to tell people to marry young, and then have kids right away if they can’t provide for them.

        I agree with Maea on this point. The reason Christians are telling young adults to marry and wait to have kids if they can’t afford them is partly so that they can spend time getting used to being married, but mainly because they don’t want them having premarital sex.

        The fact that of being young and unencumbered makes it easier to travel and have a good time is ancillary, but I do think it probably makes it easier to avoid the sentiment of “all the things I missed out on”.

        There is a downside. My daughter made friends with a young woman when she first started college who was 24 at the time and had already been married 5 years. She’s 28 now, really wants to start having kids, and her husband isn’t really feeling it. The wife is making very good money, and he likes their life the way it is.

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        • The wife is making very good money, and he likes their life the way it is.

          That is definitely a sign of the “middle class lifestyle.” I’ve met people who said “great, we have finally have enough money to try.” This summer at my job, one of my mentors was married for a few years before she and her husband had their child. Their mentality was “let’s save up and pay down student loans.”

          Also (and this is unpopular to say), but these days we can’t place all of the blame on women for the lack of family formation. A lot of men don’t want it.

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          • So, it would be in some sense safer to wait to marry until one had a guy who wants kids right away–less chance that “later” means “never.”

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        • Elspeth said,

          “There is a downside. My daughter made friends with a young woman when she first started college who was 24 at the time and had already been married 5 years. She’s 28 now, really wants to start having kids, and her husband isn’t really feeling it. The wife is making very good money, and he likes their life the way it is.”

          !!!

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  3. Not to monopolize your thread, but I was just remembering a CAF guy.

    He and his wife were just normal DINKs and upper middle class people enjoying a life of sinful leisure including a trip to Hawaii and a trip to Rome, when one day he encountered a priest who set him right. Since then, they’ve been providentialists. Nowadays, he’s a homeschooling SAHD of 6 (?) and his wife is the breadwinner, with some scary life-threatening health problems the last couple pregnancies. But they soldier on. I have NO idea what health issues would be dire enough to get him to dial it back a little, because even the risk of killing his wife and baby isn’t enough.

    Apparently nothing is really good enough to count as “serious reasons” and people in Africa and Syria keep having babies (as he’s said more than once), so what’s our excuse?

    *facepalm*

    So, that’s an interesting hybrid example of a couple that did all the fun DINK adventures but are now tradding hard. (In this particular case, I suspect OCD.)

    We’ve previously discussed the problem that couples with close to equal pay may have to choose between a flush $100k double income and an inadequate $50k single income. There’s no coupon clipping that gets you from $100k to living comfortably on $50k, especially if the mortgage, etc., were calculated on the original income.

    There’s a similar dichotomy with DINKing versus parenthood. On the one hand, DINKs look like they are living off the fat of the land. On the other hand, those same DINKs would be significantly poorer and less leisured once they had even a single child, so as with the double/single income problem, the contrasts are very sharp, and the sacrifices very real.

    In the conservative world, DINKs tend to be a convenient villain, but as with the double to single income problem, the people who look so privileged would immediately experience a collapse in lifestyle (unless VERY rich).

    (On reflection, I think this is probably what happened to the couple in How Not To Hate Your Husband After Kids. They suddenly got much poorer and less leisured just by virtue of having one kid, and it put some major grit in their marital gears, as the husband carried on with his fun pre-kid lifestyle.)

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    • According to a lot of trads, they’re still not traditional enough. A working mother and SAHD doing the homeschooling? Tsk-tsk. Okay, sarcasm there but people in his position are hardly ones to decide they know better for others.

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    • I read How Not to Hate… and felt like the author was not mentioning…something. I’d be reading along and going, “Yes, I totally understand resenting your husband for developing Dishwasher Blindness, wait, why is she’s screaming he’s a $&^%(*^% %^^#$&# who need to %&%#^ die?” Your explanation of money troubles would fill in a lot of the blanks. That book felt super weird, not least because I couldn’t understand why the author was putting so much of her personal life out there.

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      • Meglet said:

        “I read How Not to Hate… and felt like the author was not mentioning…something. I’d be reading along and going, “Yes, I totally understand resenting your husband for developing Dishwasher Blindness, wait, why is she’s screaming he’s a $&^%(*^% %^^#$&# who need to %&%#^ die?” Your explanation of money troubles would fill in a lot of the blanks. That book felt super weird, not least because I couldn’t understand why the author was putting so much of her personal life out there.”

        I believe there’s a section on finances in the book–they had to get that under control. Raising kids in the NE is SO expensive.

        Some of us are naturally rage-y (my dad was like that when I was a kid and he wasn’t the only person like that in my family) and Northeasterners cuss a lot more than people from other parts of the country.

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  4. In some respect, I’m DINKing but my life has been far from a party. The idea of “partying” ended with marriage, and after that it was full-fledged adult life and dealing with adult issues and responsibilities. I’m just going to say this– statistically speaking, my husband and I *should* have been divorced years ago but we aren’t. Your DINKs mileage may vary.

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    • I must have missed the DINK partying. In the 5 years between marriage (at 21 and 24) and the birth of our first child 5 year later we finished a college degree (his, mine was done), a fellowship (his), lived apart for a year and a half so that could happen, had three miscarriages, relocated cities twice for better jobs for him, had a major career crisis and change (him), a layoff (me), bounced through multiple job changes, mostly worked a full time plus a part time job each, and stockpiled enough cash to clear our student loans and scrape together a down payment on a two bedroom apartment which we will never be able to afford to leave due to the soaring real estate market. Not much partying, but a ferocious amount of work to (hopefully) put us into a position where I can long term retire from the workforce to keep making babies. Oh, and there was free/well undermarket housing provided by my parents for a while, and outright cash infusions from my in laws during those early years. And it STILL took 5 years of very, very hard work to get us solidly middle class. As much as I grieve the failed pregnancies, I have to wonder if the extra years they bought (there was contracepting too) will result in our having MORE kids in the long run, because we can better afford them, due to the increased earning power from all my husband’s career advancement.

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      • What you’ve described underscores TPC’s point on older people telling young married couples to party, rather than adult. Divorce usually happened around the 20-year mark for a lot of the married-young-adulted-immediately couples. It seems a lot of the divorcing couples wanted to gain some semblance of independence and time they “lost” during their younger years. There’s where the contraception comes in, but contraception use hasn’t proven to be a fail safe or cure. Divorce has declined, but less people are getting married…and are using contraception in unmarried cohabiting relationships.

        Are you in your late 20’s or early 30’s? I’ve found a lot of older people express disapproval toward youngish married couples who adulted soon after.

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        • I just turned 29, so eight years married, and 2 kids, an infant and toddler. We’re finally old enough now that we aren’t OMGSOYOUNG to be married, but we’re definitely on the young side to be parents in NYC. There was a lot of nastiness when we were young and engaged, but things mostly calmed down by the time our first child was born, though I assume having a third will garner raised eyebrows. I don’t remember wanting fun independent adult time, though who knows if the desire will appear later in life. Anything less than a well developed truculent streak and a desperate desire to be married on my part and we wouldn’t have actually married because BOY was that unpopular with just about everyone in our lives.

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          • Meglet said:

            “I just turned 29, so eight years married, and 2 kids, an infant and toddler.”

            Come to think of it, when I was 29, I was 7 years married, also living in the big city (DC), and had an infant and a toddler.

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  5. Reading this thread I get the sense that the real reason Christendom is doomed is because Christians can’t bear to leave the middle class lifestyle.

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    • Aethelfrith said,

      “Reading this thread I get the sense that the real reason Christendom is doomed is because Christians can’t bear to leave the middle class lifestyle.”

      The ones who do pay a huge price. For example, have just one disabled kid, and life is going to be hard, even if you’re reasonably well off. Even with “normal” kids, it can take a quarter century before a couple recovers from the impact of having “just” two children.

      That’s a long time, and conservative people still mock people with those small modern families.

      I think that one thing driving the Red Pill is resentment at the fact that pursuing marriage and children is going to involve a large amount of personal sacrifice, and the belief that if only women weren’t terrible, it wouldn’t be hard.

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      • conservative people still mock people with those small modern families.

        Those families who live outside of a community that accepts and supports larger families or some kind of traditional family blend (like the SAHD of 6) are going to be mocked, too. In general, conservatives pretty much suck in the U.S. (yup, I said that!) when it comes to natalist issues because they aren’t too serious about them. They want to see people get married, but their attitude is so ho-hum when it comes to families it’s no surprise people aren’t trying. When your own family consists of conservatives who raise their eyebrows at 3 children, and then lecture about how having more than 3 means you’re going to starve and not pay bills, why bother?

        What Meglet said about the orthodox Jews is pretty much true. There are documentaries about the OJ community that showcase a lot of the internal help and charity becomes a shared resource nearly every family eventually uses. THAT is how charity’s supposed to work, and probably the basis for “charity begins at home.” We’re in a society where our households encourage contraceptive use, and consider it a charity for married couples who don’t meet their standards to delay children.

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        • This is a blog of a Hasidic woman in Brooklyn, who I used to sorta know online a decade ago. Her second child is severely autistic. If you read her blog, it becomes obvious that not only is the community very good and very organized about getting disabled kids every possible service they’re eligible for in order to minimize parental expense, but they’re using an enormous amount of informal information sharing that people with weaker social networks just don’t have. And they have enough clout to get most of these services in YIDDISH, which means it ends up being a job source for other people in the extended community who, conveniently, are the only Yiddish speakers around. Given the high birthrate and density, there are enough other mothers of her religious and cultural background in her situation within WALKING DISTANCE that she can regularly go to a support group. When her son is younger (he’s in an institution now), she’s able to get regular government or community provided services to care for him during the hours he’s not in school. Despite their poverty on paper (they’re on Section 8 and Medicaid) she’s able to afford to get the kids out of the city every summer to a cabin in the Catskills and pay for infertility treatment. In contrast, I had to start paying for regular babysitting to treat myself to luxuries like dental exams and time to get IV iron infusions because my husband can’t get time off work to care for the kids.

          http://www.autism-parenting.com

          Orthodox Jews are poor, but they’re living at least a middle class lifestyle in America, which comes up again and again in media about them. I don’t know how you get from where we are to where they are, but they’re worth looking at.

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          • Meglet said:

            “This is a blog of a Hasidic woman in Brooklyn, who I used to sorta know online a decade ago. Her second child is severely autistic.”

            And that’s another issue–if you are a normal conservative Christian couple in the US and have a child with a disability, you’re going to be paddling your canoe by yourself.

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    • So if you look at Orthodox Jews, who are managing nearly universal high birthrates, it’s obvious garden variety Christians have a couple big structural problems that are hindering birthrates. Religious Judaism is optimized for surviving as a minority in an unfriendly outside culture, and so it’s working well today. Christianity is used to being the dominant religion with the implicit, if not explicit, support of the state and absent that, it’s having a pretty rough go of it.

      1. Christianity is universalistic. Almost all Orthodox Jewish charitable dollars are kept within the community to goose the general standard of living. Christians spend a lot of money on charitable giving to non-community members, weakly affiliated Christians, evangelism, and charitable giving in the US and abroad. None of this is bad, but the money only goes so far, and if you’re running a soup kitchen for the homeless, or digging wells in South America, or adopting disabled Ukranian orphans, or helping a Somali refugee family get resettled that’s money and labor that isn’t going toward, say, subsidizing free boxes of groceries for needy parishoners.

      2. It’s easy to become a Christian. Again, this isn’t necessarily bad, but it means that there’s a lot of charitable support on offer for people who aren’t contributing much to the communal pool. It also means that devout Christians tend to swim in a sea of less committed people. Orthodox Jews are an interrelated population that follows extremely strict rules governing every area of their lives, and they largely restrict their charity to those who do the same, or at least share their heritage. The strictures of the Jewish religion basically mandate living in an ethnoreligious enclave of similarly committed people, who are then around to help you in a way that a family a 20 minute drive across town isn’t. Spend some time in the OJ world and the sheer variety of charitable services on offer is astonishing: internal Yiddish food stamps redeemable at local grocers, inexpensive internal bus lines, kosher meals made by home cooks delivered to patients in hospitals, free taxi services to medical appointments, women helping each other out with free babysitting, Orthodox private school education for every child regardless of ability to pay, services that will lend everything from wedding gowns to baby gear to used school uniforms, to extra chairs for when you host guests, teenaged girls from the local high school available for free mother’s helper work, schools with scheduling that is sensitive to realities like religious holiday observance and mom having a new baby, etc. And none of this is available to non-Jews. But this kind of extensive internal subsidy only works if you can solve the freeloader problem, which mainstream Christians can’t or won’t.

      Also, really amazing things happen when you have clusters of likeminded people to create demand and pressure on local governments. OJs have their own college programs, free of left wing politics and optimized to be fast and cheap ways to get marketable credentials. It’s essentially impossible to find middle class housing with 5 bedrooms. In OJ enclaves outside NYC, builders put up tracts of 5 bedroom row houses that have a little basement rental unit, double kitchens for kosher reasons, and other stuff the OJ consumer wants. A 5 bedroom house anywhere else in the metro area is designed for rich people, and comes with things like acreage and a swimming pool and a game room. And OJs block vote, so they can and do get their towns rezoned for high density, which often angers their neighbors, but allows relatively inexpensive, dense housing in fairly cheap suburbs. Also, if an OJ family is playing fast and loose with occupancy codes, he can be extremely confident that his OJ neighbors aren’t going to tell the authorities. He can find an OJ landlord in his enclave who will rent him a 1 bedroom for a family of 4. (In contrast, my building won’t permit a family of more than 4 to purchase a 2 bedroom apartment, and landlords will absolutely always choose a childless couple over a family when renting.) Mainstream Christians are right now “stuck” trying to hack the existing culture with relatively little external support.

      3. Orthodox Jews use the welfare system, which, when combined with internal rich-to-poor subsidies keeps everyone at an acceptable minimum standard of living. They don’t use the public schools, so tax dollars wise, it’s probably a wash vs. putting 6 kids/family into the schools, but at least in the NYC area, OJs are absolutely propping up their lifestyles with enormous amounts of SNAP, WIC, Section 8 and Medicaid. Many, if not most Christians consider welfare use to be unthinkable, or at least a worst case scenario situation. The more right wing OJ groups consider it a basic part of funding their lifestyle, and local charities will help people apply for social welfare programs, or spread the word when a Section 8 list opens up locally.

      4. It’s a lot easier to sustain a young marriage, high birthrate culture than build one from scratch, which is what American Christians would have to do. It’s very different to have 6 kids when you and your husband are each one of six, many of whom are living locally, giving you a big net of people, including grandparents in their forties and fifties who are vital enough to help out significantly. And when those young grandparents start getting old, they have lots of adult descendants to help them. OJs have been doing this for generations, and their generations are much more closely spaced. That helps.

      It’s very, very different than what Christians are doing, but it is also, demographically, where the Jewish people are headed. If you want a lot of babies in the modern world, in a relatively urban environment, the Orthodox have figured out one way to get it.

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      • Meglet said:

        “. If you want a lot of babies in the modern world, in a relatively urban environment, the Orthodox have figured out one way to get it.”

        That’s very interesting.

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    • because Christians can’t bear to leave the middle class lifestyle.

      It depends whose definition of “middle class lifestyle” you’re using. The UMC expectations are downright ridiculous, but certain class markers of being middle class aren’t going to go away. I’ve met people who do the “keeping up with the Joneses,” and the people who don’t and are middle class.

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    • The flip side is that it’s hard these days for non-middle class people with families to be practicing conservative Christians. Once you’re outside the middle class, you get less church-going, a lot more children born out of wedlock, a lot less marriage, a lot more divorce, etc.

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      • Maea said:

        “Well, there’s a difference between being middle class and having the middle class lifestyle.”

        It’s less expensive to be middle class without kids.

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        • I don’t agree with that. From what I’ve seen, the middle class families who have kids and try to keep up with the Joneses are the ones creating the problem. There’s no need to have one’s kids in multiple activities per child, all at the same time. There’s no need on doing fancy all-family vacations. People in their 40’s with multiple children have told me that they feel the need to do these things because it’s considered “providing,” and keeping their kids active. They’re the ones playing the game and setting its rules. We don’t have to play the game.

          Then there are middle class people I meet who don’t do the Joneses nonsense and their children have full happy lives. Sure, they might not have smart phones, and the parents are tight with the budget for sending their kids to private school, but they live in safe suburban communities and know other medium to large families who go to the same parish.

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          • Maea said:

            “I don’t agree with that. From what I’ve seen, the middle class families who have kids and try to keep up with the Joneses are the ones creating the problem. There’s no need to have one’s kids in multiple activities per child, all at the same time.”

            We do a very light approach during the school year (no team sports for any of the kids but therapeutic riding and music lessons for Big Girl), and the music and therapeutic riding add up to $300 a month. We do some one offs for Middle Kid (some rock climbing out of town and entry fees for runs and rock climbing competitions–and of course running shoes and climbing shoes for Middle Kid) and a zoo membership and a children’s museum membership for Baby Girl (probably about $140 total for the year), but so far, we’ve seriously cheaped out on the younger kids.

            It’s not that we hate the younger kids, it’s just that we can’t actually afford to be equitable. We’re also planning on switching to just doing the horse riding one term a year, rather than both spring and fall. I’m also contemplating cutting Big Girl’s music down to two lessons a month instead of four, if the music place will let me do that. Objectively speaking, we ought to put Baby Girl in physical therapy and maybe social skills/see a psychologist, but none of that can happen for another 6+ months unless maybe we stopped Big Girl’s music lessons, and that might not even cover it.

            I suppose that (all things being equal) public school families can afford to do more extracurricular stuff than we can, but as a north-of-$100k family with 2.5 kids in private school that lives within our income, we are well and truly tapped out right now.

            Aside from the finances, there are a lot of issues just with regard to transportation/logistics. Since I’m an SAHM and my husband is a professor, we have it probably as good as anybody you’ll meet with regard to logistics, but with three kids, we run into scheduling conflicts even just with mandatory stuff (like mandatory school stuff versus mandatory church stuff).

            There are a lot of mandatory school and church things:

            –at least half a dozen parent meetings at the beginning of the year (three kids in three different school levels and two kids in two different church youth groups)
            –other mandatory parent meetings later in the year
            –parent teacher meetings
            –weekly youth group for Middle Kid
            –weekly youth group for Big Girl
            –weekly confirmation classes for Big Girl (scheduled so that husband either needs to keep a kid twiddling their thumbs for an hour for the other kid’s class or do two round trips)
            –confirmation retreat
            –multi-day overnight school trip for big kids
            -nativity service for Baby Girl
            –different Christmas service for big kids
            –school play practices (not this year, fortunately)
            –history fair
            –science fair

            I’m probably omitting some things (and the kids do some other non-mandatory things), but you can see why we’re so delighted not to be doing team sports, especially since there is such a thing as homework.

            “There’s no need on doing fancy all-family vacations. People in their 40’s with multiple children have told me that they feel the need to do these things because it’s considered “providing,” and keeping their kids active. They’re the ones playing the game and setting its rules. We don’t have to play the game.”

            Well, keeping kids active is a big deal, especially with boys. Left to their own devices, kids nowadays glom onto their screens and can’t be removed without a crowbar. They often don’t want to go “outside” and “play”–whatever that means.

            http://www.bbc.com/news/technology-32067158

            “Children aged five to 16 spend an average of six and a half hours a day in front of a screen compared with around three hours in 1995, according to market research firm Childwise.
            Teenaged boys spend the longest, with an average of eight hours.”

            That’s presumably Britain, but it’s probably about right for the US–that’s the uphill battle that middle class parents are fighting.

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          • Also, if we had more children in school or church activities, the list of mandatory events would grow proportionately.

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          • I’m going to sound terrible, but what you’ve described made me feel tired. lol. It’s no wonder people don’t want kids.

            Is it so strange and unheard of for people who live in safe suburbs to have their kids play outside, and with other kids around the neighborhood? I live in an apartment complex, and the kids who live here play together. Where I live has nearby parks and trails, and kids are there on their bikes a lot. Or does that constitute people calling CPS on them?

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          • Maea said:

            “I’m going to sound terrible, but what you’ve described made me feel tired. lol. It’s no wonder people don’t want kids.”

            Yeah. School kids require a lot more work than they used to.

            My kids’ school is especially bad about loading up our schedules (we also have 10 hours of required service which thankfully you can buy your way out of and also three years of mandatory team sports). That’s one of the reasons I started wigging out when Baby Girl got to be a toddler–it was getting impossible to keep up with school stuff for two big kids and normal home stuff with Baby Girl glued to me all the time. It’s easier now that Baby Girl is 5 and the big kids are largely able to keep track of their own school work and many school engagements, but at the time, it was becoming clear that school’s requirements were calibrated to the two child family (even though there are a lot of 3+ kid families among the founders and staff). And the two child paradigm may be even truer in public schools, as “good” middle schools require enormous parental input. How is a mom with a small child supposed to help her elementary schooler or middle schooler with projects?

            For a full tour of middle school project hell, see this book:

            This sort of thing, by the way, does create pressure in favor of two parent families, because single parent families usually won’t be able to hack it.

            “Is it so strange and unheard of for people who live in safe suburbs to have their kids play outside, and with other kids around the neighborhood? I live in an apartment complex, and the kids who live here play together. Where I live has nearby parks and trails, and kids are there on their bikes a lot. Or does that constitute people calling CPS on them?”

            This is all very geographically and neighborhood dependent.

            –I see a lot of inner city Hispanic kids out and about playing and on bikes after dark (in fact, I’m on high alert not to accidentally hit them when coming from parish activities). Those households tend to have a lot of kid toys and stuff like big trampolines in the front yard.
            –We used to live in a middle class city neighborhood that was built in a loop (with exits on two ends), and the kids ranged all over on foot and on bike. It was great, but it’s gone now–it got demolished in favor of college improvements.
            –My friend lives in my neighborhood and is on a cul de sac. Her kids play on the cul de sac, but they have had a couple of scary close calls with cars. Really, really close calls. In fact, we once had an episode a few blocks outside the cul de sac where the two kids were racing on scooters and got way ahead of us and heedlessly zipped across a street in front of a car. (We didn’t even see it because they got so far ahead–we just heard the HOOOONK.) Nobody got hurt, but it was terrifying. Kids on scooters are WAY faster than mommies on foot.
            –There are some really idyllic suburban cul de sac neighborhoods with a lot of kids, from what I hear.
            –I’m WAY careful (think Marlin from Finding Nemo), but Big Girl still got hit by a truck walking with me and Middle Kid to school downtown.
            –In our neighborhood, I also have concerns about neighbors backing out of driveways.
            –We live on a street that isn’t a major road, but still gets a lot of traffic from people in a hurry to work or class. There are a lot of kids in the neighborhood now (it used to be older people), but you don’t see kids playing without parental supervision, except for the one family of feral homeschoolers, whose toddler I recently had to return home when she wandered off from the siblings who were supposed to be watching her. My chum says neighbors have called CPS on the family for getting into their yard. The kids don’t have a decent yard of their own, and they wander around other people’s yards–the closest real playground is 2 miles away. Say what you will about CPS, when the kid is messing around in your yard, what are you supposed to do?
            –There are a lot of homeschoolers in the neighborhood, and it’s just the one family that does that stuff.

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    • Maea said:

      “It depends whose definition of “middle class lifestyle” you’re using.”

      School is a big problem.

      If you can be happy with public school, that saves the family an enormous amount of money, and makes it more possible to live a 1950s middle class lifestyle on a lower income. However, there’s a prevalent conservative message that public school is unacceptable. In some areas, that’s sheer hysteria, but depending where you are or what your kid is like, that may be the gospel truth. And then what are we supposed to do?

      We’re left with either private school or homeschooling. Private school is expensive (my family spends more on school tuition than on our mortgage and property taxes combined–we spend $4k a month on the combination of school and house) and homeschool is expensive, too, at least in terms of the toll on mom and lost income.

      These are very tough decisions even for people with good incomes. The lower income family is really up a creek, though. They can:

      –do godless public school (FREE!)
      –private school (can’t afford cash outlay)
      –homeschooling (can’t afford to have mom not work for 20-30 years, may also have trouble affording decent homeschooling)

      There are sometimes private/homeschool hybrids. There is one in our area, but it’s run out of a theologically exotic church. But that still costs money, it just splits the difference with homeschooling–so it’s maybe half as expensive as normal private school, but mom has only half as much time freed up.

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  6. I wasn’t kidding when I said the help is extensive. This charity in one enclave exists to provide poor brides with household essentials: dishes, sheets, a dining table, etc. I remember that even a minimalist and cheap set of this stuff when we were newlyweds was expensive and stretched us quite a bit. (We bought a second set of sheets after the birth of our first child. Before that, we had one, which I’d launder and replace on the bed every week.) The video is heavy on Hebrew and Yiddish, but if you understand bride is “kallah” you’ll understand the jist of it. Note again: scale, they’re going directly to manufacturers and buying pallets of cookware to give away. And note that almost all OJ charitable dollars go to subsidizing reproduction, and this is WHAT PEOPLE DO. And note that nobody is expecting people getting married at ages 19-22 to bankroll the whole thing themselves. They’ve got a very narrow set of priorities, which evolved out of the Holocaust (unlike mainstream American Jews, the Orthodox in America are mostly descendants of Holocaust survivors): serve God, make and raise new Jews. That’s IT. Not save every baby from abortion. Not convert the heathens. Not extend charity to outsiders. Not live rurally and hobby farm. Not homeschool. Just make more Jews. It’s a much more focused approach than anything Christians are doing. And, you’re not going to face social stigma for making more Jews while poor because THAT’S WHAT YOU’RE SUPPOSED TO DO.

    http://www.thelakewoodscoop.com/news/2017/12/the-feature-video-shown-at-the-tiferes-devorah-lkallah-event.html

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    • And, you’re not going to face social stigma for making more Jews while poor because THAT’S WHAT YOU’RE SUPPOSED TO DO.

      The problem with American Christianity is its alignment with conservative politics over Christianity. Christians who come from conservative families who look down on people using WIC or other benefits for a short time because of financial hardship while having children are going to contracept it up because the latter is more acceptable than the former.

      There’s already enough social shame associated with using benefits, but when your own family is going to do the bulk of the worst shaming it’s detrimental to family formation. I speak from experience– if my husband and I had children during our job losses and financial straits, we would’ve never heard the end of it, ever. The children’s existence would’ve been the target, and my husband wanted to avoid that if all things.

      I think it goes like this: DINK contracepting couple>>>>>poorer contraceptive couple>>>>>>>>>>poorer couple with kids. Yeah, it’s sad. Until people start seeing the poor and working class as real people, contracepting it up as a “divorce preventative” won’t change.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Maea said:

        “There’s already enough social shame associated with using benefits, but when your own family is going to do the bulk of the worst shaming it’s detrimental to family formation. I speak from experience– if my husband and I had children during our job losses and financial straits, we would’ve never heard the end of it, ever.”

        If we had had a kid while my husband was in graduate school, we would have been (at the very least) on the family dole. I would have DIED of shame. Ironically, I now suspect that my FIL would have warmed up to me faster under those circumstances. (I asked my husband, and he thought so, too.)

        But it would have nearly killed me.

        It took years for me to gt more pragmatic about this stuff.

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  7. Say what you will about CPS, when the kid is messing around in your yard, what are you supposed to do?

    I fail to see how calling CPS is supposed to encourage family-formation, increase relations between neighbors, and do this thing called create community. If kids are playing in someone else’s yard, do the normal thing by talking to the kid’s parents. If there’s a safety issue involved and there’ve been multiple instances, tell the parents you’ll be forced to call the cops.

    Calling CPS on people’s kids when there is no actual evidence of repeated child abuse is fertility-depressive. Kids in a neighborhood who sometimes get into your yard comes with the territory of being in a community with children. If people don’t want that, they need to put up a fence.

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    • This blogger I like, who had a great blog with advice for managing a big family without a lot of space and money, had CPS called on her by someone who saw her home tour and realized that the bunk beds in her kids’ rooms blocked the windows, creating a fire code violation. She replaced them with triple bunks that fixed the problem, but the whole thing felt super antisocial. You can see the old girl’s room, here, note the description doesn’t match the photo because of the change.

      https://blogs.babycenter.com/life_and_home/large-families-house-size-02212014-photo-home-tour/

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    • Maea,

      It’s not any more neighborly (and possibly a lot more dangerous for everybody) to call the cops rather than CPS.

      These kids in our neighborhood have no decent outdoor space of their own to play and don’t seem to be getting much in the way of homeschooling. There are several homeschooling families in the neighborhood, and this family acts completely differently from the other ones.

      It’s a tough case because I don’t really know them–I just see what I see and hear what I hear. I will call CPS if I see that toddler wandering around alone outside again after returning her to her home again, of course. How would I feel if the kid got hit by a car and I hadn’t talked to CPS? (The time I took the toddler home, nobody had yet realized that she’d wandered off, presumably because the big kids were in charge of her and they got distracted–as kids do.)

      Meglet,

      Would the blogger have fixed the covered window situation if some random just pointed it out to her by email? People don’t tend to take that sort of thing well, no matter how terrible their decisions are. Think about your extended family–how easy is it to get somebody to do something they don’t want to?

      Mrs. Shupe recently sent her kids to public school. Why is one of the great internet mysteries.

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      • I know why some reader felt inclined to do that, but:

        1. Feeling like at any point any random stranger could sic CPS On you dramatically diminishes the utility of the internet as a means for information sharing. The snark and nastiness, which is par for the course, is brutal. I suspect this is part of why the Shupes have since, unfortunately, vanished from the internet.

        2. We’re coming back to the “castrate and bid the geldings be fruitful” business again. Are her kids safer in triple bunks? Absolutely. But they tend to be expensive, hard to find (especially used) and generally not something you can just pick up at the neighborhood furniture store. A cursory Google suggests a triple bunk bed is at least $400, while I recently bought a brand new bunk bed for my parents’ house from Walmart for $110. The Shupes are already living well below normal middle class American standards, but there’s still a legally mandated minimum standard they must meet and it probably cost them a surprise $1000 to do so. There’s also the reality that if you stretch to live in a nice middle class neighborhood, the odds that your neighbors are going to get you in trouble for this sort of thing increases. I live next to a fairly poor Latino area and it’s well documented (in the local media as well as apparent from a walk down the street) that a lot of people are seriously violating occupancy laws and the residents can be pretty confident their neighbors aren’t going to call and complain about a lack of multiple routes of egress.

        We’ve run into one of these anti natalist regulatory problems ourselves. I need a low bunk bed that takes crib/toddler sized mattresses soon, and it turns out these are ILLEGAL to sell, because they violate government safety standards. Never mind that I have short kids and the upper mattress is going to be 30″ off the floor. I have to privately commission at carpenter I know to make one, because that’s the way I can fit another kid in a small bedroom. So I’m throwing money at the problem, but we’re looking at $300 to do so, when, if this were mass produced, it would be a $100 solution.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Meglet said:

          “Feeling like at any point any random stranger could sic CPS On you dramatically diminishes the utility of the internet as a means for information sharing.”

          That’s why people shouldn’t invite total strangers into their homes via the internet while making it very clear who they are and where they live.

          It’s still possible to be pretty frank and informative without saying, I’m Suzie Jones of 800 Buttercup Lane.

          “Are her kids safer in triple bunks?”

          That’s a very fair question. I’m personally concerned even just by normal bunkbeds. (I got a concussion while jumping off (!) one as a tween and at least one of my kids has fallen out of one on an overnight trip.)

          “There’s also the reality that if you stretch to live in a nice middle class neighborhood, the odds that your neighbors are going to get you in trouble for this sort of thing increases. I live next to a fairly poor Latino area and it’s well documented (in the local media as well as apparent from a walk down the street) that a lot of people are seriously violating occupancy laws and the residents can be pretty confident their neighbors aren’t going to call and complain about a lack of multiple routes of egress.”

          Right–and there tend to be horrific fire stories involving that kind of living situation.

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      • CPS is not interested in child safety and family cohesion. I’ve been in situations where if it were a different person, they’d have called CPS but I didn’t because I a. chose to get to know who the parents were b. had a little compassion and c. understand that sometimes parents mess us, aren’t perfect, and every now and then the need to be given the benefit of the doubt.

        Also, there’s plenty of proof that CPS is VERY interested to know if a family is traditional or religious and once they find out, they are hard to shake off. Calling the cops if there’s a child safety problem IS more appropriate, especially since those situations involve careless adults (driving down a street too fast, not slowing down, paying attention, etc.) and it’s the adults who receive a talking to, versus a family having their children taken from them.

        Liked by 1 person

        • So one thing the manosphere is correct about is the extent to which SJW/Feminist thinking has become the dominant ideology of many government enforcement offices. They talk about it mostly in the context of men facing prosecution for DV if cops are called on a couple, but it’s a reality in how CPS functions to. They are getting their ideology from academics who think people who are Christians, especially white conservative Christians, are extremely dangerous and prone to harming their kids. And the idea of CPS getting up your butt is such a terrifying idea to any parents that I think it causes an outsized fear based reaction. This is the reality that American Christians are operating under, and as you get more kids, it gets harder and harder to hide from the well meaning neighborhood busybody who is *sure* something must be going on because you homeschool and have six kids so she’ll just drop a friendly call to a government hotline and pat herself on the back for caring about those kids.

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          • Meglet said,

            ” They are getting their ideology from academics who think people who are Christians, especially white conservative Christians, are extremely dangerous and prone to harming their kids.”

            And yet, there’s a whole Christian subculture built around physical abuse, and even mainstream conservative Christian culture offers a lot of excuses for beating your kids.

            https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/675331.To_Train_Up_a_Child

            I have to mention here that I grew up in a conservative Protestant home (and not even an especially weird conservative Protestant home–only three kids and public school) and my mom was physically abusive right into my mid-teens. I didn’t start using that terminology until a couple years ago when I realized that my stories of the stuff my mom used to do tended to freak out even conservative religious people online, and they used the word “abuse”.

            “And the idea of CPS getting up your butt is such a terrifying idea to any parents that I think it causes an outsized fear based reaction.”

            I grew up in a home (and extended family) where CPS was a bogeyman. However, now that I’m all grown up with children of my own, I think my mom had every reason to be scared of CPS, because she was doing bad things.

            To quote Romans 13:

            “Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. 2 Therefore he who resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. 3 For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of him who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, 4 for he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain; he is the servant of God to execute his wrath on the wrongdoer.”

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          • This is a valid point, but we’re kind of stuck with the acceptable fringe problem. The hippies tolerated a lot of bad, crazy stuff and a lot of their (sometimes literal) descendants are part of the acceptable conservative fringe (and in some cases parts of its version of mainstream) now. Which is also why we can’t have nice OJ-type things. Much of the current Right is ancestrally counterculture, which has far-reaching effects in terms of family formation.

            Essentially a powerless subculture has to punish fringe offenders more harshly to preserve a hands-off standard from the larger, more powerful mainstream culture. And this is a pretty hard thing to get people on board with even if they don’t personally defend bad fringe actors (which most people in subcultures don’t).

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          • From Two Stones this link regarding the blog audience supporting and encouraging this fringe family is a case in point. http://www.patheos.com/blogs/nolongerquivering/2017/12/forms-child-neglect-can-take-quiverfull/

            Most evangelicals, even the ones who support a larger family size, wouldn’t agree with this family’s choices as being reasonable. But wherever they live, there is no social pressure that might have led them to at least not adopt on top of the essentially constant pregnancies. There’s also clearly no in-person support for Mom, like OTHER WOMEN. Just blog money to pay for a little bit more space, but not enough to catch up to the family size.

            Liked by 1 person

          • I finally saw this–sorry for the late response.

            TPC said:

            “Most evangelicals, even the ones who support a larger family size, wouldn’t agree with this family’s choices as being reasonable. But wherever they live, there is no social pressure that might have led them to at least not adopt on top of the essentially constant pregnancies. There’s also clearly no in-person support for Mom, like OTHER WOMEN. Just blog money to pay for a little bit more space, but not enough to catch up to the family size.”

            Probably by the time outside people in real life can see that there’s a problem, it’s way too late, and the couple has created an impervious family ideology where anybody who discourages them from their path is just a godless hater.

            (See, for example, that recent CAF NFP thread–there’s a level of denial that just can’t be argued with.)

            Also, the huge demands of the household in the NLQ story would tend to isolate the family and insulate them from outside public opinion.

            Another issue is that at a certain level of difficulty, people stop being frank about what’s going on at home (if they ever were). For example, if you have two little kids and are having a rough time, that’s easier to talk about, because it’s more mainstream. But if you have 8+ kids and are having a rough time, suddenly you’re no longer allowed to have problems, because if you have problems, then that might mean that you need to do things differently (like maybe stop adopting special needs kids or pushing pause on the babymaking). Hence, there’s a lot more pressure for somebody like that to say, “We’re doing FINE!” Ditto homeschooling. If I’m not happy with something at school, I can gripe about school or a teacher, but if there’s a serious problem with homeschooling, there’s much more intense pressure to engage in happy talk, because there’s nobody outside the house to blame if homeschooling isn’t going well.

            With regard to the blog money, it’s a problem of modern life that it’s increasingly possible nowadays to find internet nitwits to help you do dumb things.

            There is something terribly wrong with the legal system that these adoptions and rehomings of multiple seriously disabled children into large overwhelmed families are allowed at all.

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