Why the Directive to Not Postpone Families?
Six days ago, I gave birth to my second child. A girl this time. Though a bit sleep deprived and stressed out about how to care for both her and my 3 year old son, I’m absolutely thrilled to have her, as is my husband. Getting her involved several unpleasant trips to the fertility clinic, so we feel terribly lucky that it all worked out so well.
Having this baby has made me ponder Church leaders’ directives to not postpone having children. This advice (command?) never made much of an impact on me as a young married woman. I waited six years after my marriage to begin our family. I was 28, and I was always glad I waited, though my husband would have been happy to begin our family sooner. By the time I had my son, I really wanted a baby. I was ready. I would have struggled and had a much harder time with motherhood and marriage if I had had him a year or two into our marriage.
While my experience with postponing my family has definitely been an overall good one, I now appreciate, more than ever before, the idea of not waiting too long to begin. I had problems getting pregnant at 30. If I had waited until I was 36, it could have been that much harder, I imagine. Having experienced some infertility, I now ironically find myself advising my friends who are in their early 30’s and getting married to not wait too long before trying to get pregnant.
While my appreciation for this directive to not postpone families has grown because of my own experience with infertility, I am left wondering just why there continues to be an emphasis on having children young. Julie Beck’s 2007 Mothers Who Know talk reinforces the idea. She states:
“President Ezra Taft Benson taught that young couples should not postpone having children and that “in the eternal perspective, children—not possessions, not position, not prestige—are our greatest jewels.”
I don’t know if she meant the second half of her sentence to explain the first half – i.e. that couples should not postpone children because children are our greatest jewels. But if she did, one can easily argue that children can still be our greatest jewels (I’m uncomfortable with that metaphor, but I’ll go with it), whether one gives birth to them in one’s thirties or one’s twenties.
The Kimball talk Beck references, “To the Mothers In Zion” gives additional hints as to why he implored young people to not put off having children. He seems to associate having children young with having many children, since he spends a bit of time talking about the joys of large families.
With the decrease in emphasis on having large families, however, I am left wondering if there are other, often unspoken reasons for the continuing emphasis on having children early into the marriage. Here are a few possible reasons I’ve come up with.
1) having children young might keep fragile young marriages together, as couples are given additional incentives to try to work through their problems.
2.) encouraging women to not postpone children often prevents them from establishing themselves in the workforce, thus making the gender role division that Church leaders advocate more likely.
3) since Church leaders see having children as such a huge factor in character and personal development, they think that the earlier one starts, the better a person he or she can become.
-What do you think of my possible reasons for the directive?
-Can you think of other reasons why Church leaders would continue to advocate having children young?
-What has been your experience with either postponing, or not postponing, your family?