By Cassandra Hough
Last week, discussion of a new phobia made waves on the social media circuit: fecundophobia.
Mollie Hemmingway, writing for The Federalist, explained that “fecundophobia” is the growing fear of children and fertile women. She sites ample evidence for society’s growing disinclination toward children, child-bearing mothers, and especially big families.
As an ivy-educated young mother of a growing family who has made the choice to work part-time from home, I can see many of Hemmingway’s points. Perhaps the most salient for me was Hemmingway’s reference of Lisa Miller’s contempt for women who put “their natural fertility first – before their brains, before their ability to earn a living, before their independence”. This statement (besides being insulting and narrow-minded) is simply ignorant of the lives of a great many women. Earning a living is undoubtedly an important and essential part of life, and there is much to be admired about those who work diligently and achieve professional success. However, while a stable society may depend on the paid, professional work of many, culture and the fabric of society depend on the volunteered service and generosity of people’s time and talent. And here we find an overwhelming presence not of independent, professional men and women, but of parents, and especially mothers, whose dedication to their families prompts them to give of their time and talent in order to aid and improve the institutions of their local communities.
We are sorely mistaken if we think that our personal dignity arises from the exercise of our independence. We cannot possibly realize the full potential of our talents and character by serving only ourselves. On the contrary, it is our mutual, intelligent dependence on one another and shared social responsibility that rightly inspires admiration for the human race and its members. Women who put “their natural fertility first” are ennobled by the significant responsibility that is the rearing of young members of society. In the three and a half years that I have been a mother, I have already been amazed at the delicacy of this responsibility. We would not say that the task of public and private school educators is a brainless activity. We can see, then, how much more ridiculous it is to say that rearing one’s children is a brainless activity, especially when parents are the first and most important educators of their children.
But even if we put this debate aside, we would still be left with the contention that fecundity is putting the world at risk since we are already over-crowded and our resources are limited. But here, too, we find a legitimate counterargument, in this case by looking at the lessons of human history. Hemmingway sites Jonathan Last, author of What to Expect When No One’s Expecting, in his observation that,
“sub-replacement fertility rates eventually lead to a shrinking of the population — and throughout recorded human history, declining populations have always followed or been followed by Very Bad Things. Disease. War. Economic stangation or collapse. And these grim tidings from history may be in our future, since population contraction is where most of the world is headed.”
This time next week, the Love and Fidelity Network will gather together roughly 250 young men and women for its sixth annual national conference on Sexuality, Integrity and the University. We are excited to have Jonathan Last as one of the conference speakers and to engage further these questions surrounding fertility, population, and the stability of society.
There are many crises that are beyond our control that threaten the peace and progress of mankind and the world in which we live. But replacing our population by having children is not one of them. We must learn to view children not as a burden and infringement on adult independence and achievement, but as the key to the preservation and progress of civilization and culture.