Saturday, 22 November 2008

Multiply and Replenish

My husband and I used to discuss the command to "multiply and replenish." We both agreed that, to us, it meant to replenish by having two children and to multiply by having at least three. Early in our marriage, we thought four sounded like a nice number.

Then we had a baby.

Granted we have only had about seven months to settle into parenthood, but I have definitely been rehashing some of my thoughts about what multiply and replenish means. I am in california right now babysitting my sister's three oldest children. Add my daughter to the mix and I am now playing single mother of four. I have come to realize, since having my daughter, that I really and truly may not be able to emotionally handle as many children as I originally thought-- and that's ok with me. Lately I have been thinking if I could be happy with just two children, and if I think that could fall in line with the "multiply" command. Honestly, I don't think it's important to parse out exact numbers from the command; I know God doesn't require three or more children. But it is an interesting thought. Mormon families tend to be on the big side. Why, exactly? Are we under the impression that to multiply means we must multiply our two by some certain magic, enormous number? How big is your family? How has that influenced how big you want your (current or future) family to be? What does multiply and replenish mean to you?


Chicken Little said...

In David O. Mackay's book "Doctrines of Salvation" he says that birth control is one of the great evils of our age. The Church doesn't teach this now, but I think that President Mackay's teaching reflected the attitude of LDS people to birth control for most of the 20th century. I've been a reader of LDS mommy blogs for about 2.5 years now and it seems that some women (of all generations) believe that having lots of children ensures your exaltation.

I am very grateful for continuing revelation. We had a Stake Conference last year, where President Hinckley stated very clearly that the number of children a family is to have is between a couple and the Lord and that there is no requirement for women to be continually pregnant.

After the birth of my first baby, almost 20 months ago, I wasn't sure that I could handle another. I accidentally got pregnant 6 months after Rosie was born. Initially, I was not happy about the second pregnancy. Now, I am thrilled to have 5 month old Alexandra in my life. Having a second child has taught me a lot. And I am willing to have another one, but after that I'm not sure. I am grateful that the Lord leaves it up to us to decide what is right for our families - even if there is the occasional unplanned pregnancy.

Monica said...

When Hunter was 9 months old, I was all ready to go again. I still am. He's now almost 2. There is no baby on the way. Probably not for awhile. This makes me kind of sad. Personally, I think I could probably have a few little ones. I like kids. I think they are fun and I enjoy myself quite a lot when I am with them, even when they are crying (Hunter is just too cute when pouting and his cry face is really quite funny and adorable). Don't let this lead you to believe that I am unfeeling - I am sad when he is sad, especially when he is hurt, I am just not annoyed by it (well, at least not all the time). I tend to be pretty laid back.

Also, I really think that we don't really know how many kids we can handle until we have them. When parents are considering how large their families should be, they should rely some on prayer and the spirit and not just logical analysis. Almost everything surrounding little ones defies some amount of logic. Plus, if someone is letting something purposefully get in the way of having more children, I think that is something worth looking at. We know that it is through our families that we have the most joy. I often think back to the story of a young woman whom I visit taught a few years back who later published her story in the Ensign. She was getting a Master's degree and unexpectedly became pregnant. At first she was really angry. She felt it would mess up her plans and her life. After her little guy was born, she realized what an incredible blessing he was to her and her husband and how she couldn't imagine life without him. When we look at children as a problem, disruption, a burden, or something similar, then maybe we should take a good look at that aspect of ourselves and work on our testimonies in that area. I'm not saying every couple should definitely have x many children, and I am definitely not saying that if their hearts are in the right place they will definitely have several - I'm just saying that I think where our hearts and attitudes are can make a big difference in the eternal aspect of things whether we have several children or not.

I also believe that there is a point where adding one more doesn't make as much of a difference as we might think. Watching a bunch of kids all at once and gradually adding numbers to your own family are quite different things. After watching my sister have 5, and growing up in a home with 4 siblings, I would have to say that I believe anything after 3 is pretty much going to be hanging out in the same realm of chaos (of course, there could be a second threshold, say around 7, 8 or 9 or whatever). For instance, having 5 once you have 4 is really less of a big deal than having 2 is when you only have 1. If that makes any sense.

I think some people have big families because that is what they truly want, and that makes them happy - some of those people are the happiest people I know. From growing up in my family, I would have to say that I think big families are wonderful. And fun. Perhaps they are incredibly annoying at times, but they are amazingly fulfilling. "Cheaper by the Dozen" made me want to have 12. Seriously. There are some days lately where I lament not starting a family earlier just so that I could have had more kids, even though I know that this timing was perfect for me.

Really, I would like to have at least 4 kids (I settled on 4 or thereabouts mostly because of my age - I am not going to be having kids when I am 45 thank you very much), and a PhD. Is that too much to ask? ;)