The 2014 Acton Lecture Series took a dramatic turn last week as we welcomed G.K. Chesterton – or at least a quite remarkable facsimile of Chesterton in the form of Chuck Chalberg, who travels the country performing in character as Chesterton, among other notable historic figures. In this presentation, Chalberg’s Chesterton speaks about America, which he thought was the only country with the soul of a church. He also addresses the state of the family–and not just the American family–past and present. His starting point–and end point– is this: “Without the family we are helpless before the state.” We hope you enjoy the performance as much as we did!
I’ll say it again: surrogacy is a bad idea. It’s bad for the child, it’s bad for women, it’s bad for families. Even when everything goes “well,” it’s still a situation where a woman has been used for rental of her womb for 9 months. Using a fellow human being’s body because you want something is wrong, even if you pay them.
Tennessee’s state Supreme Court is trying to untangle a knotted mess of surrogacy nonsense – which is made all the more horrible because this isn’t simply a point of law: it’s about a baby. Here are the not-so-simple facts:
Unmarried Italian citizens—”L.G.” the “intended mother,” and “A.T.” the “intended father,” paid more than $73,000 to pay for “expenses” and “pain and suffering” to “J.J.E.,” the surrogate. She agreed to be artificially inseminated with A.T.’s sperm, to gestate any babies conceived, and then surrender the child and her parental rights to the intended parents. In other words, the baby would be the biological child of the intended father and the surrogate mother. In Tennessee such contracts are called “traditional surrogacy,” in contrast to circumstances in which the surrogate mother is not biologically related to the baby to which she gives birth, which is known as a “gestational surrogacy.” (more…)
In the U.S., about half of adults live alone. Somewhere around 43 percent of kids in America are only children. In the past 50 years, the number of children living with only one parent has almost doubled. We are, in the words of Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia, living in a “de-familied” society.
Just prior to the current Pontifical Council for the Family, Archishop Paglia (who heads that Council) spoke to the National Catholic Register about issues he hoped would be addressed by the bishops at the council. The archbishop spoke of a major shift in our society’s manner of thinking, calling it a “delirium of omnipotence:”
Indeed it as is, today, homo homini Deus (Man is God for man). Now, this is the fundamental knot. Why? Because from this tearing apart and arbitrary rebuilding we are going towards a society “de-familied” and therefore weaker and less solid. [The theologian Richard] Baumann would say liquid. In this context, the one who wins is not “us,” but “I.”
Having already shrugged my shoulders at our society’s peculiar paranoia over whether having kids is “too expensive,” I was delighted to see Rich Cromwell take up the question at The Federalist, pointing out what is only recently the not-so-obvious.
“Children are people, not toasters or cars,” he writes, “and deserve to be more than the product of a strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats analysis.”
Alas, as we continue to accelerate in our compartmentalization and transactionalization of every area of life, we appear increasingly bent on abusing the gifts of “choice” and “empowerment” to control and micromanage that which ought to be driven by divine deference.
As Cromwell concludes, constructing elaborate cost-benefit analyses based on our own humanistic and materialistic priorities will only serve to distort and diminish the beauty and mystery of procreation:
There is more to life than budgets. Children are much more than budget line items. They are infuriating, destructive, annoyingly inquisitive bundles of energetic, enthusiastic joy. They challenge you, they test the outer limits of your patience. But they also offer you the opportunity to see the wonder and satisfaction of learning to shimmy up a door frame by pressing feet and hands to opposite sides, of scoring the first goals in soccer, of feeding the dogs for the first time. It’s magnificent. As a wise friend told Blair and me when we were expecting Greer, “You will never regret having kids, but you may one day regret not having kids.”
Give it up. Stop trying to make it part of your life script. Stop thinking of kids in the terms you would think of a new toaster or minivan. Those are purchases you may regret. That’s why they come with receipts and warranties. Kids definitely do not. Kids do, though, offer you the chance to experience the exquisite pleasure of riding a go-kart on a Friday afternoon with a thrilled four-year-old, smile stretching from ear to ear. It is so choice. I recommend you have one or three and experience that exquisite joy for yourself. Trust me, you have the means.
Mothers who have achieved success in corporate America are often asked how they balance the demands of child-rearing with those of their careers, and understandably so.
Fathers, on the other hand? Not so much.
The demands of motherhood are significant, to be sure, particularly during pregnancy and the early stages of child development. But given that men have continued to assume more responsibilities in the home, in conjunction with a modern influx of women in the workplace, one would hope that we might begin to hear such questions asked of successful men.
Here is my situation:
* I have 3 wonderful kids at home, aged 14, 12 and 9, and I love spending time with them: skiing, cooking, playing backgammon, swimming, watching movies or Warriors or Giants games, talking, whatever.
* I am on pace to fly 300,000 miles this year, all the normal CEO travel plus commuting between Palo Alto and New York every 2-3 weeks. During that travel, I have missed a lot of family fun, perhaps more importantly, I was not with my kids when our puppy was hit by a car or when my son had (minor and successful, and of course unexpected) emergency surgery.
* I have an amazing wife who also has an important career; she is a doctor and professor at Stanford where, in addition to her clinical duties, she runs their training program for high risk obstetricians and conducts research on on prematurity, surgical techniques, and other topics. She is a fantastic mom, brilliant, beautiful, and infinitely patient with me. I love her, I am forever in her debt for finding a way to keep the family working despite my crazy travel. I should not continue abusing that patience.
Friends and colleagues often ask my wife how she balances her job and motherhood. Somehow, the same people don’t ask me.
A few months ago, I decided the only way to balance was by stepping back from my job.
For the first three years of my life, I lived with and was primarily raised by my grandparents. While I was always grateful for the experience, I never realized until I was a parent myself of the depths of their sacrifice, and the burden and stress raising an infant put on them.
Like many other seniors, they didn’t get the credit or recognition they deserved for being caregivers. This role of grandparents is often overlooked, despite the fact that in 2013 10 percent of children in the U.S. (7.1 million) lived with a grandparent.
According to the Census Bureau, in 2012 2.7 million grandparents were responsible for the basic needs of one or more grandchildren under age 18 living with them. Of these caregivers, 1.7 million were grandmothers and 1.0 million were grandfathers. Out of that caregiver group, 603,118 grandparents had incomes below the poverty line, 674,936 had a disability, and 1.6 million were still in the labor force.
On Sunday, Americans will celebrate National Grandparents Day, an annual holiday established by presidential proclamation in 1978 to celebrate and honor of our nation’s grandparents. Let’s take the opportunity this weekend to let all grandparents — whether our own or others — know that we recognize and appreciate the vital role they play in sustaining our families.
“Deadbeat Dads”—absent fathers who don’t provide financial support for their children—are one of the most significant factors contributing to child poverty in America. So why do some single women have children outside of marriage when they know they will receive little to no support from the child’s father?
A new study from the University of Georgia and Boston College attempts to answer that question. The authors created an economic model to simulate a scenario in which every absent father was forced to pay child support. As the researchers note, “Looking at the data through the lens of this ‘perfect enforcement’ scenario caused the picture to change.”
Universal daycare. Universal preschool. Regulations on school lunches. Bans on bake sales. Don’t bring ibuprofen to school. The government knows all about keeping your kids safe and educated. (And the underlying note is that you don’t know enough.)
In yesterday’s New York Times, law professor Clare Huntington extols the virtues of government child-rearing. While she does acknowledge that families are the “ultimate” preschool, she quickly recovers by adding that our society just makes things too darn hard for parents to do this job.
Our public policies, however, make it much harder for families, especially families living in poverty, to lay this foundation.In my research, I have cataloged government policies that undermine parent-child relationships during early childhood. Our legal system, for example, destabilizes low-income, unmarried families, distracting them from parenting. Forty-one percent of children are born to unmarried parents. These parents are usually romantically involved when the child is born, but these relationships often end. Rather than help these ex-partners make the transition into co-parenting relationships, the legal system exacerbates acrimony between them. States impose child support orders that many low-income fathers are unable to pay, creating tremendous resentment for both parents. And courts are not a realistic resource for many unmarried parents, leaving them to work out problems on their own.
Last Saturday was hot and humid in our corner of the world, and thus, my wife and I quickly decreed a pool day on the front lawn. The kids were ecstatic, particularly our four-year-old boy, who watched and waited anxiously as I got things prepared.
All was eventually set — pool inflated, water filled, toys deployed — but before he could play, I told him he needed to help our neighbor pick up the fallen apples strewn across his lawn.
With energy and anticipation, he ran to grab his “favorite bucket,” and the work quickly commenced. Less than three minutes later, however, his patience wore off.
“This is boring, Daddy,” he complained. “Can I be done now?”
More than anything else, the response was comical. Within mere minutes, this simple, ten-minute task had become a heavy burden he simply could not bear.
But it also signaled something profound about our basic attitudes about work, and how early they begin to form. Our kids are only beginning to edge upon the golden ages of chorehood, but as these situations continue to arise, I’ve become increasingly aware of a peculiar set of challenges faced by parents raising children in a prosperous age.
In a society wherein hard and rough work, or any work for that matter, has become less and less necessary, particularly among youngsters, how might its relative absence alter the long-term character of a nation? What is the role of work and toil in the development and formation of our children, and what might we miss if we fail to embrace, promote, and contextualize it accordingly? In a culture such as ours, increasingly propelled by hedonism, materialism, and a blind allegiance to efficiency and convenience, what risks do we face by ignoring, avoiding, or subverting the “boring” and the “mundane” across all areas of life, and particularly as it relates to work? (more…)
Produced by the Acton Institute and spread across seven episodes, the series seeks to examine the bigger picture of Christianity’s role in culture, society, and the world. Episode 2 focuses specifically on the Economy of Love, and the grand mystery we find therein.
As host Evan Koons concludes: “Family is the first and foundational ‘yes’ to society because it is the first and foundational ‘yes’ to our nature, to pour ourselves out like Christ, to be gifts, and to love.”
Stream the full episode here for the rest of the day (July 23).
Watch the trailer for the series below, and purchase it here.