17 September 2008

How much

I guess I'm not the only stubborn one. After nearly 20 years of marriage, my in-laws are still caught up in this "it's not fair" attitude. Be it politics, religion, sports...you name it, their comments always boil down to fairness.

Where does this come from? The Constitution talks about life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. My in-laws strongly support abortion and define the "pursuit of happiness" to be the "guarantee of happiness." Guaranteed by the government, of course, equalizing the playing field and resources, but only to the point of their coming out on top. As long as they get theirs, things are fair.

After 20 years, I'm still shocked they are so entrenched in this mindset. Their own parents, members of Tom Brokaw's "Greatest Generation," were the types of folks who struggled and never complained, put a greater good above their own interests and were willing to sacrifice for it. Brokaw portrays this generation as heroes and many were.

Last weekend, we were having dinner with my parents-in-law and husband's aunt. Don't know how the topic came up, but families with lots of children were mentioned. My MIL, who was sitting next to me, made some comment under her breath about that women who have lots of children (more than two is her definition) should have their heads examined. I bit at that one.

Her whole thing is that kids are a lot of work and it isn't FAIR that the parents have all these kids and expect the older kids "to help raise them." Being slow of the uptake since having my own kids, I asked how that wasn't fair. I should've asked how is it fair that many families with one child don't raise their own kid either, but send them to daycare? I'm not criticizing people who need two incomes just to stay afloat, but there are plenty of families who use daycare to allow both parents to work so that the family can have more stuff.

Hubby's aunt, my MIL's sister, commented how she thought it was crazy that my MIL had her third baby. "I thought you were nuts," she told my MIL. Since when is three kids an extreme?

I told her I know plenty of large families where the loss of a child through miscarriage or knowing that the child they are holding in their arms is probably the last, is heart-breaking. Why? Because these families see children as they blessing they truly are. The bible is full of references about how children are a blessing, but then their idea is that Jesus wants us to be happy, and that happiness is brought about by how we individually define it and choose to pursue it.

Jesus told the rich man to give away all he had and follow him. His disciples were to do the same and many religious orders follow the same examples of poverty. Tanqueray, in The Spiritual Life, says this:

Our Lord addresses the following invitation to all His disciples: "If any man will come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me." In order to follow and to love Jesus, there is an indispensable condition, that of renouncing self, that is to say, renouncing the evil inclinations of our nature: selfishness, pride, ambition, sensuality, lust, inordinate love of ease and riches. There is the condition of carrying one's cross, of accepting the sufferings, the privations, the humiliations, the evil turns of fortune, labor, sickness, in a word, those crosses with which the hand of God's Providence puts us to the test, strengthens our virtue and makes easy the expiation of our faults. Then, and only then, can one be Christ's disciple and walk the way of love and perfection.

It seems many of those in the Greatest Generation knew this instinctively. On the radio just yesterday, Dr. Ray talked about a study that showed that the more people gave away, the happier they were. The more money they spent on themselves, the less happy they became. Hubby's aunt rails against the Republicans because they are "just for the rich." If we were to take an inventory, she'd be considered rich. A house, a cabin, a pension, a new pontoon, an ATV, computers, electronic gizmos, cars, and on and on. Same with my PIL. Instead of taking stock in their blessings and seeing all that they do have, they look around at the people who have more and compare themselves to the even wealthier folks. That's a shell game and a losing proposition...there's always going to be someone who has more than you. If keeping up with the Joneses is their idea of happiness, I'd rather run a day care.

How much is enough? when your soul is empty
How much is enough? in the land of plenty
When you have all you want and you still feel nothing at all
How much is enough, is enough


angie said...

Well said Monica! My own MIL is about to descend upon us, first time in 4 years (which was when babe #2 was born and she informed us that no one ever loves the second child as much as the first). Babe #3 has never even been acknowledged. No congrats on the baby card, no Christmas card, not even a birthday card. I'm sure she'll like the old man at St Peter's in Mendota who stopped me after Mass a couple Friday's ago to shake his head sadly at me and say, "Why so many, so close together? One of these days you guys will figure it out." Seriously, I only have three kids and they are all close to two years apart!!! Made me feel like going home and getting busy so he could shake his head even more.

swissmiss said...

Sorry to hear your MIL is even more difficult than my own and that she's coming to visit...reminds me of Endora on Bewitched! She'll make you a saint though :) To this day, my MIL thinks our kids were planned, I cannot convince her otherwise. Only hubby and I know the complete shock they both were!!

I find it hard to talk to my in-laws because they are so far from my position that to consider the parents of large families to be selfish is completely insane! These parents are the epitome of selflessness and my in-laws are critical of it. Just not fair to the kids to have so many siblings. Just not fair to give them life and a loving home. Instead, they need to be shuttled to day care and blessed with material goods.

Christine from Maryland said...

Perhaps our society needs to practice a bit of Henri Nouwen's downward mobility. Making more with less. Living simply that others might simply live. Working toward a level of material poverty helps bring about the spiritual poverty that Jesus taught in the beatitudes. Decluttering your life declutters your heart and allows you to see what's really important. God, and only God. Pax et bonum!

swissmiss said...

So true. My own life is so full of junk and it's rare I see it for what it is too. Hard not to compare oneself to others in many respects, when we should only be comparing ourselves to Jesus.

Anonymous said...

My mother would take great exception to what all these women are saying.
She says (about every other day), "My children are my greatest joy" and "Being a young wife and having a brood of kids running around - those were the best days of my life."

-The 9th of 9

swissmiss said...

My maternal grandparents were both one of 10, my parents are both one of seven. My Irish ancestors that came here had 16 kids. This notion that more than two kids is EXTREME is completely alien to me. My brother calls my in-laws passive learners...they've absorbed all that our materialistic culture has told us will make us happy without really thinking about it.

Cathy_of_Alex said...

Swissy: EXCELLENT point about how some people who think kids are too much (like one kid!) send them to daycare anyway. I don't get that either.

Anonymous said...

What you have written is so true.
I am only just coming to terms with the fact that 6 is all I'll ever have.
I am just SICK to DEATH of the attitude that we have too many kids-that the older ones are hard done by because they act like older children should in the home.
I want my children to learn to take care on one another and be responsible to one another.
Family life is about giving. All this I have it and I'm keeping it and I don't care how much my own family suffer because I'm too busy, off on holiday or whatever to care-is sad.
Sorry Swiss Miss I'm ranting; but this post hit a nerve.
God bless you girl. Keep up your being a sign of contradiction.

swissmiss said...

Thanks, Cath.

I woke up this morning thinking about this. We are called to love, children in these homes are a product of the love between the parents, reflecting the Trinity. How is having children and loving them unfair. To think we are supposed to live a life of ease is not a Christian attitude, but then my MIL didn't expect her kids to do much around the house. When I got married, I had to introduce my husband to the washer and drier. None of the children were ever taught to cook, sew, make a bed, do laundry or to give a rats rear about the welfare of others by learning the small daily sacrifices that encompass our lives. Even when I was a tiny child, it was my job to set the table at big family get-togethers. When I was slightly older, I had to make the gravy. This is in a huge family with about 25 first cousins...everyone had a job and an opportunity to do something to serve others in just a small way. I didn't consider it a burden to do these things, I learned it was rewarding to help and took pride in perfecting the smallest task I was asked to perform. Such an oppressed childhood.

Rant on Mum!

Laura The Crazy Mama said...

Ummmm, hows about around 700 trillion. Yep, that oughta to do it.

You know, I'm all about the bling.

Oh, and I've always believed that things should be just a teeny bit "fairer" for moi.

People who have more than 3 kids are sooooo selfish. Don't they know that they are taking up more of the world's precious resources?

Smiley said...

It drives me up the wall when 'so called' catholic in laws say that having more than 2 kids is not viable in this day and age because it is too expensive. BULLSHIT!! Kids need love food shelter and clothing not the fancy games and toys and things you buy them to make up for time you spend away from home. This drives me mad so mad i cant even think straight.