Is This the Time to Have Children?
A WOMAN is sweating in great labor pains. She bears down. A little head, followed by arms, body and legs, comes out. A smack on the bottom, a cry, and another human has been brought into the world.
This has occurred billions of times in human history. It is now estimated to take place more than 300,000 times a day. Despite its connection with suffering and pain, childbirth has brought great satisfaction and pleasure to mothers. Said an old woman when asked about her greatest memories: “It was the moment when I, as a young woman, after having exhausted all my resources of energy, could relax and observe my newly arrived, beautiful, firstborn baby.”
There has always been a positive attitude about childbearing. Families with many children have been praised and honored. On the other hand, a couple without children has been considered unfortunate. Barrenness has even been regarded as a reproach to a woman.
This attitude is changing, however. Many informed couples nowadays hesitate when it comes to childbearing, asking themselves: Is this really a time to have children?
The number of American married couples who are choosing not to have any children at all has reportedly tripled in six years. There is a similar trend in other countries.
Why Changing Attitudes?
There are many factors involved. In an interview a thirty-three-year-old musician said: “My wife and I have discussed the matter over and over again. What makes us so hesitant is that we think we would give them such an uncertain future.” Another childless married man commented: “Many nowadays realize that it is a great shame to bring children into the world when there are so many orphans to take care of. I believe it is better to be strong enough to abstain from producing new ones.”—Expressen, Sweden, July 22, 1973.
The population boom looms in the minds of some as a major reason for not having children. They question whether there really are resources and room enough on earth to accommodate an unlimited number of births. The American ecologist, Professor Walter E. Howard, at the University of California, declared:
“It is most definitely not the right of individuals to have as many children as they want or can afford, for such a concept ignores the inevitable consequences to future generations. Birth control is not murder, as some claim. But lack of it in today’s overpopulated world most surely will be.”
If the earth were properly cared for—if people did not squander its natural resources, squeeze together into massive cities and pollute the environment—the earth could pleasantly accommodate even billions more inhabitants. But as it is, human existence is imperiled by fumbling, inept attempts by man to solve environmental problems. As a result, attitudes of many observant persons toward having children are changing, as one population-control advocate observed:
“Our grandchildren may have to buy tickets to see the last redwoods or line up to get their oxygen ration. There are men who complain about being caught in a traffic jam for hours on their way home to their five kids but can’t make the association between the children and the traffic jam. In a world seriously threatened by the consequences of overpopulation we’re concerned with making life without children acceptable and respectable.”
Another factor involved in the changing attitudes toward having children is the growing difficulty of supporting a family in the face of skyrocketing living costs. One young mother noted: “Though I love our newest baby as much as the others, my heart aches for my husband. To support us all, he has a daytime job and an evening job, plus overtime on Saturdays. Whenever he’s home, he sleeps. . . . Talk about quality of family life—we don’t even have a family life.”
As it becomes more difficult to feed and care for a family, some couples are deciding it is simply not worth it now. ‘Why be forced to struggle day and night to make ends meet and worry whether we will succeed?’ they ask. So for their own contentment and happiness, some couples have decided, at least for the time being, to remain childless.
Another factor that reinforces this decision is the constantly deteriorating moral climate. Crime, drug abuse and immorality are rampant everywhere. Declining respect for authority spreads like gangrene. The evil influence exerted upon the young by this world is tremendous, with tragic consequences.
Thus a mother in Sweden wanted to protect her thirteen-year-old daughter by helping her to learn Bible principles. She asked her husband to assist by encouraging their daughter to attend the Christian meetings of Jehovah’s witnesses. He refused, saying: “She is old enough to decide for herself. She is good natured and will become well mannered.” That is what he thought, until the night he entered her room to reprove her for coming home late. She suddenly drew a knife, and screamed: “Stay out, or I’ll stab you in your belly!”
Almost daily similar experiences are heard of or read about. They even occur in so-called “good” homes, and in families where efforts are made to bring children up properly. Young couples who observe the deteriorating moral climate are not infrequently heard to remark: “I’m glad we don’t have to rear children in this wicked system.” They are determined to wait for better times to have their young ones.
Further reinforcing the decision of some couples are ominous predictions for the immediate future. The Ithaca Journal of March 22, 1974, observed: “Normally restrained experts on energy, agriculture, population, and the global economy are starting to predict bankruptcy, social breakdown, and starvation for as many as one billion people by late this year or early 1975.”
Already millions are starving. In recent months tens of thousands have starved to death in northern Africa alone. World grain reserves are about exhausted, and even for the richer nations food may soon be in extremely short supply. Considering such prospects, it is little wonder that some couples might not consider this the time to be having children.
Significantly, in the first century Jesus Christ himself gave an ominous forecast regarding a calamity coming upon Judea. He provided a sign to identify when the calamity was imminent, saying: “When you see Jerusalem surrounded by encamped armies, then know that the desolating of her has drawn near.” When people would see the fulfillment of this sign, Jesus said: “Let those in Judea begin fleeing to the mountains.”—Luke 21:20, 21; Matt. 24:15, 16.
It was in 66 C.E. that the armies of Roman general Cestius Gallus encamped around Jerusalem, but then withdrew, apparently without any reason for doing so. This provided believers in Jesus’ prediction opportunity to flee. Those who did so were wise, for shortly afterward the Roman armies returned and the destruction upon those who remained was terrible beyond description.
The circumstance that Jesus foretold proved true: “Woe to the pregnant women and the ones suckling a baby in those days! For there will be great necessity upon the land.” (Luke 21:23) One can be sure that flight was more difficult for delaying parents with small children. If you had been living prior to that destruction and knew of its nearness, would you have considered that a time to be having children inside the province of Judea?
Today there is a great crowd of people who are confident that a destruction of even greater magnitude is now imminent. The evidence is that Jesus’ prophecy will shortly have a major fulfillment, upon this entire system of things. This has been a major factor in influencing many couples to decide not to have children at this time. They have chosen to remain childless so that they would be less encumbered to carry out the instructions of Jesus Christ to preach the good news of God’s kingdom earth wide before the end of this system comes.—Matt. 24:14.
A Personal Decision
Let it be noted, however, Jesus did not say that persons should not have children. At no time did he ever advise against childbearing. He simply foretold the difficult conditions that would exist prior to and during the “great tribulation,” and said that it would be hard on mothers with small children. Married couples themselves would have to decide what they would do about having children in view of the circumstances.—Matt. 24:3-22.
The fact is, throughout the Bible parenthood is spoken of as being honorable. For example, it says: “Sons are an inheritance from Jehovah; the fruitage of the belly is a reward.” (Ps. 127:3-5) Parenthood is a God-given privilege. And rearing children can be a wonderful joy to parents. Thus, regardless of the severity of present troubles or those that certainly lie ahead, some couples may desire to have children. The Bible says nothing to prohibit them from now enjoying this privilege and shouldering this responsibility. So it would be improper for anyone to criticize others for having children.
On the other hand, there are many good reasons why couples now may decide not to have children. Even within Jesus’ prophecy concerning the time of the end, sound reasons are found for remaining childless. It would, therefore, be entirely improper for anyone to criticize those who may decide that this is not the time to have children.