May 22, 2006

A copy of The Stranger materialized in our kitchen the other day, so I had a chance to read this edition of "Savage Love" with an update on "straight rights":

"In particular, and not to put too fine a point on it, they [fundamentalists and conservatives] want to change the way Americans have sex," [Russell] Shorto writes [in "The War on Contraception," in the New York Times Magazine]. "Contraception, by [their] logic, encourages sexual promiscuity, sexual deviance (like homosexuality), and a preoccupation with sex that is unhealthful even within marriage." Shorto quotes Judie Brown, president of the American Life League: "We see a direct connection between the practice of contraception and the practice of abortion. The mind-set that invites a couple to use contraception is an antichild mind-set.... We oppose all forms of contraception." And there's this from R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary: "I cannot imagine any development in human history, after the Fall, that has had a greater impact on human beings than the pill... Prior to it, every time a couple had sex, there was a good chance of pregnancy. Once that is removed, the entire horizon of the sexual act changes. I think there could be no question that the pill gave incredible license to everything from adultery and affairs to premarital sex and within marriage to a separation of the sex act and procreation."

There are a number of things to take issue with here, including the faulty science of "every time a couple had sex, there was a good chance of pregnancy" and the assertion that it's "anti-child" to time the arrival of children for when a family has the resources (financial, temporal, emotional, etc) to actually care for that child. But here's what's been on my mind:

The anti-contraception position is fundamentally an anti-woman position, and specifically, a position that wants to restrict women to the roles of housewife and mother. I cannot object to either of those roles, since I wear those hats myself. However, I also wear a number of other hats. I have continued to work, albeit from home and with limited hours, since Caitlyn was born. I need the mental challenge and the grown-up interaction work provides. While I love my daughter and think she's the smartest, most advanced child the world has ever seen, there's only so long that her current favorite activities (wood chip and tupperware relocation projects) can keep me amused.

Taking time for me and my projects, during her naps and the quiet hours before she starts the day, makes me a better parent: more patient, more present. After solving some coding problem or making a quilt block square up, I find I'm more fully engaged in parenting. The wood chip project becomes an important process; under the couch is a reasonable place to store the tupperware. By giving my brain some time to be an adult, it's easier to focus all my attention on her latest discovery, to translate the string of "ma ma ma ma" to "look what I'm doing!", to fully participate in a game of ball fetching and carrying.

I suppose that my need for personal time and mental stimulus could be an argument against my being a parent at all. But the anti-contraception position would have me bear more children. They would have me be a worse parent: short-tempered, mentally unengaged, exhausted, distracted, distant and bored. After all, it would be anti-child to do the things that would counter such characteristics or to be a good parent to fewer children. The results: a brood of children, all of them dirty, four in need of a diaper change, three in tears, two eating Cap'n Crunch out of the box while sitting on the floor because it's likely the only dinner they'll get, and one about to check out what happens when a wet table knife is stuck in an electrical outlet. Their mother would be prone to crying or screaming and be incabable of keeping up with the diapers, providing any comfort, supplying an appropriate meal or preventing bodily harm. Somehow, this seems more anti-child than preventing conception.

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