Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Blessings or Burdens?

I saw a this commercial a couple of months ago and I can't get it out of my head, but not in the way that the advertisers would like. The commercial is for an IUD called Mirena and they're marketing it as "when your life is so hectic, you can't keep track of taking a pill everyday, use this instead." They show a mom with so much going on in her life that "the last thing on her mind is having another kid right now", but really it seems to me that having another kid is her greatest fear. She goes to grocery store and her kids run around and destroy the produce, she comes home to unload the groceries and her kids have made a huge mess in the hallway with a water balloon.She's at her wit's end with her two elementary aged kids and cannot imagine adding another child to their family. What I can't stop thinking about though is what does this commercial have to say about our attitude towards children? Are they a blessing or a burden? What I see here is that two children are uncontrollable hellions and too much for a normal mother to handle. My mother had two children, I know many people with two-plus children and I'm not sure this is actually the case. Obviously everyone raises their kids differently, but I've never seen children act the way they are portrayed in the commercial. It seems to me that there is a warning underlying this commercial that if you think this is bad don't even think about having three or four or ,god-forbid, five children!

I picked up a Jane Austen book I hadn't read before and the first page caught my attention and I can't help contrasting it with this commercial. The novel is Northanger Abbey and the main character is a country girl who is the 4th of 10 children. The way that Jane Austen speaks about her heroine's family is so different from the way that a family of ten children would be considered today. She praises the heroine's mother for the accomplishment of bringing ten children into the world and not dying in childbirth. She also acknowledges, "A family of ten children will always be called a fine family" which speaks of the way large families were perceived in her society. In order to be a large family today you only need 4 or 5 to qualify. According to the CIA World Factbook, in the U.S. our birth rate is 2.06 so the "average" family is about 2 children. The attitude of the commercial is that having two children is extraordinary not average.

I recently came across a similar French commercial promoting condoms. It is a similar situation to the one above, a dad and his son are shopping and the son throws a temper tantrum in the store. Unlike the above commercial though it seems to say that the dad regrets not using birth control to prevent having his son. The mom in the Mirena commercial is happy with her two children, but in this commercial the dad seems to wish he had never had kids and is warning others of the heavy, unnecessary burdens kids are.

I hope that we as a society can come to understand the blessing that children are to our lives. Thankfully, many people already understand this. The Quiverfull movement welcomes children as gifts from God and are open to large families. Also, the Large Families of America association has a website with a social media aspect where large families can connect with one another to share stories and advice. Below is a testimony from the site. It is so beautiful to watch their family grow!