Everything I’m Not: Responsible Parenthood

, ,


Jim Gaffigan’s answer to the question, “Why so many?” seems to be a good way to kick off a post about responsible parenthood for NFP Awareness Week:

“Well, why not? I guess the reasons against having more children always seem uninspiring and superficial. What exactly am I missing out on? Money? A few more hours of sleep? A more peaceful meal? More hair? These are nothing compared to what I get from these five monsters who rule my life. I believe each of my five children has made me a better man. So I figure I only need another thirty-four kids to be a pretty decent guy.”


I hear you, Jim.  Having kids shines a light in all the cobwebby corners of my life.  I can’t hide from my faults.  I am impatient, lose my temper, and say dumb things.  Four pairs of innocent little eyes record my mistakes and replicate them.

“Just go away!” I hear Cee tell Elle, “Can’t I be alone for five minutes?”  

Oh, Lordy.  There have been some moments of frustration where I’ve said those exact words.  Usually it’s from the bathroom, but that’s irrelevant.  That impatience has roots in my own behavior.

I must practice kindness.

“Why do you *always* make me pick up the laundry.  You should take a turn!”  Elle shouts at Cee.

I was crabby about *always* having to clean up the toys the other day.  That resentment has roots in my own behavior.

I must practice cheerful service.

It was so much easier to gloss over my long list of flaws before having kids.  If I want my kids to be everything I’m not, then I have to model the ideal.  The journey has been exhausting and full of failures, but rewarding.

When Moe is frustrated but shows restraint – – my heart sings.
When Cee chooses to turn around a bad mood – – I do a happy dance.
When Elle consoles a sibling – – my guilt about permanently messing up my kids diminishes a tish.

We’re making each other better.


We have four children, and we’ve been asked if we’re going to have more.  (That’s the more polite way of saying, “Are you done yet?”)  I always answer that we’re open to more, but we’ll just see.

I wish I could come up with something that doesn’t sound so trite.  Something that encompasses the prayer, conversations, and tears that go into discernment.  The actual answer is more complicated.

A few months ago my sister brought over some baby clothes she didn’t need any more.  Bea was already too big for them, so I asked David if there was any point in keeping them.  “It’s more likely that we’ll have more kids than that we won’t,” he said casually.

My heart skipped a beat.  Tears came to my eyes.  The thought of another high-needs family member during that particular season of life was overwhelming.

Honestly, it took me a few days to get over the anxiety that that possibility stirred up.  (Now, had we discovered that we were expecting during that time, we would have welcomed that new little person with joy, even though I wasn’t sure how it would work out at the time.  But that’s beside the point.)

Health, finances, the issues facing the older children – – everything comes into play during discussions of family size.  For better or for worse, it’s not black and white when considering what issues are sufficiently grave or serious in discerning whether or not this is the time to welcome a child.

I’m going to say it, and it might hurt.  The default in relationships is to choose love.  To choose sacrifice.  To choose to die to self.  Every vocation in the world falls under this umbrella.

Natural Family Planning is less about “how many kids we want to have” and more about “how we’re being called to love.”

Choosing love does not necessarily mean another child.  Sacrifice does not necessarily mean another child.  It is not necessarily selfish to postpone pregnancy.  Simcha Fisher does an excellent job describing some of these situations in her book, The Sinner’s Guide to Natural Family Planning.  There are occasions where prudent abstinence in order to postpone pregnancy is the loving choice.

Serious physical, emotional, or financial issues aside, children are a beautiful fruit of marriage.  That means that David is right about welcoming more children.  Children are good.  They are messy, needy, expensive, irrational – – yes.  But they are good.

As a society we need to stop treating children as a good and start treating them as good.

If we’re honest and truly act on well-formed consciences, if we strive to love, we will grow into the best versions of ourselves, regardless of the number of our children.

I’m not sure that I’d agree with Jim Gaffigan about needing 30-some more kids in order to be a decent person.   The kids I have now are already doing a good job helping me increase in decent-ness.  But I do agree with Mother Teresa’s words on this lovely print from Hatch Prints.

How Can You Say There Are Too Many Children?

When we’re fumbling around trying to herd the cats kids into the car, or when getting the kids to bed is a 23 step process, it probably looks like 4 is already too many for us to handle.  The truth is, in considering the immeasurable gift each child is, it’s hard to say any number is “too many.”

We won’t know until far into the future whether or not our garden is complete.  In the mean time we’ll strive to choose love month by month, day by day, and cultivate the little flowers we’ve already been given.



More stories from the interwebs about NFP:
If NFP works, why does she have ten kids? @ Simcha Fisher
NFP Post Extravaganza @ Carrots for Michaelmas
Women Speak on NFP @ Carrots for Michaelmas
Never Say Never @ Conversion Diary


  1. // Reply

    This was so beautiful! I have more to say but have to make it quick for now! So lovely.

  2. // Reply

    You are such a wise and beautiful soul. Eloquently written, dear friend!

    1. // Reply

      That’s sweet, Jodi. Thanks. 🙂

  3. // Reply

    Oh, this brought tears to my eyes! We have 12. Of course we get the “are you having more?” We would LOVE ‘just one more’ (or 2…) And for all the reasons you listed. And more, I’m sure… my mommy brain just cannot think of any more .

  4. // Reply

    I love this post and the Jim Gaffigan quote. I’ve written several things on my own blog about this very subject and basically come up with the same answer. Why do we have 6 kids? Well, why not? I couldn’t think of any reasons not to that were good enough to miss out on having another wonderful person in our family. It’s hard to put that into words, though, especially when it’s just some random person behind you in line at the grocery store who wants a quick answer.

    1. // Reply

      If you ever figure out a quick response, let me know. There’s no way they can see me exasperated with Moe and understand the wonderful bits that happen every day at home. The little moments aren’t the public ones. The running down the aisle at church screaming – – that’s public. Public.

  5. // Reply

    I love this! My husband and I want to have more children but even with the two we have things are crazy but I wouldn’t have it any other way!

    1. // Reply

      Haha! We’ll keep that in mind. 🙂

  6. // Reply

    “As a society we need to stop treating children as a good and start treating them as good.” Yes! The whole “children as commodities” thing drives me nuts! Why should it matter what our children can potentially contribute to society? Why can’t they be valuable solely because they are human?

  7. // Reply

    “Just go away!”…“Can’t I be alone for five minutes?”

    That’s exactly something that I say and then feel awful about, usually when I’m trying to get something done for my kid.

    Thanks for sharing!

    1. // Reply

      If nothing else my kids have seen me model how to apologize when I make mistakes or lose my temper. I take some small comfort in that. 🙂

  8. // Reply

    So, I have decided, since our family is a co-sleeping family (our children wake up all night long, if they can’t feel us on either side of them), I don’t want another one until at least one (if not both) are out of the bed! It’s crazy – they will throw an arm or leg out, and if it doesn’t connect with my husband, or myself, they wake up terrified! I thought initially it was my son’s reaction to my husband’s (now-past) deployment; but, my daughter does it, too, and she’s never lived through a deployment … yet. Instead of getting up every 20 minutes for my daughter (I kid you not – every.20.minutes after she had been put back to sleep), we just all go to bed in the same big bed – thankfully, we bought a king sized bed…!

    I recently spoke to our chaplain about “being open to life.” I told him I take prayers to God, beseeching, “please no more kids yet,” but we aren’t using anything as far as contraceptives (my children are currently, affectionately referred to as “Natural NFP’ers” . I told him I didn’t know if I should confess during Confession “not being open to life,” because the desire is not there to *have* more children right now. I was up front – “I’m only 33, so statistically, I know we have a good likelihood of having more, but I don’t want anymore *right now*.” He said, since I am open to life, if it were to happen, I’m not using any contraceptives, and I am logically agreeing that there is a great likelihood that we *will* have more, then I don’t need to confess my realistic, current apprehension for having more *right now.* That was a *huge* relief to me!

    Having spent some time as a mental health professional, I have seen first hand the need of “responsible parenthood.” It means something different to every couple – but, I am starting to wonder – our chaplain recently asked me what my vocation was. I snorted as I said “technically, wife, right? Because I don’t know – wife or mother?” He chuckled and said “wife” is my vocation, but sometimes it will feel as though “motherhood takes priority.” Because the marriage is a sacrament, *that* is a vocation. So, taking this topic (not what we were discussing that day) and applying it to what he was saying about making volunteer/work commitments, “Does it enhance and support my vocation?” So, when looking at responsible parenthood – are you enhancing your vocation as a wife, “having another child right now”? (<– totally rhetorical question). That should be part of the equation when we assess "responsible parenthood," in my opinion!

    Great post!

    1. // Reply

      It’s amazing how much a little time can change perspective. From July to now my anxiety about a new baby have pretty much disappeared. If your kids randomly start sleeping alone, things could change for you, too. How wise that you sought (and received) good spiritual counsel. “Does it enhance and support my vocation?”—> what a great tool for all discernment!

      Thanks for commenting with your thoughts. 🙂

    1. // Reply

      I think you should just copy and paste, add an opening and closing thought, and use it on your blog. 🙂

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *