Sunday, May 16, 2010

Ambivalence or Planned Parenthood

A lot of evidence finds that a sizable number of young adults are ambivalent about pregnancy: they don't want to get pregnant, but they wouldn't mind if they did. Bill Albert of the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy asks whether ambivalence is the right mindset in which to start a family, which reminded me of last week's A Prairie Home Companion.

In honor of Mother's Day, a skit on last week's Prairie Home Companion contrasted today's view of motherhood with the earlier generation. In today's motherhood, the woman says to her husband that they may need to work on their relationship and openness before they are really completely ready for having children, although they've already been married over a dozen years, and the childbirth is assisted by a midwife, a chanting Tibetan monk, and a dolphin named Sparky. The earlier generation, the woman says, "Gee John, I just got back from the doctor, and guess what?" John says, "Guess we ought to get married then." Her childbirth is attended by a doctor who is also a veterinarian, and she runs back to the potato field to finish harvesting right afterwards.

Certainly planning is best, but there is certainly such a thing as too much planning and waiting. Earlier not-quite-planned parenthood is difficult but so are fertility treatments. Parenthood is difficult no matter when it's done; while parenthood is gratifying, according to the research that I'm aware of, people with children are less happy than people without children. May everyone find a middle ground that they can be happy with, and be able to have as many children as they would like.

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