Are Children Always Desirable?
( Originally Published Early 1900's )
THE love of children is innate in every human heart. The yearning for the prattling voice of a child pulls at the heart-strings of the possible mother in a manner that is insistently dominating.
It is natural that a man should love a child—any child. But it is imperative that he should love and yearn for a child of his own—a duplicate of himself. In this child he should be born again, made over new. If he has improved his character, if his personality has gained through his own work, study and growth, then his child should be a superior representative of humankind.
There are perhaps circumstances in which a child is undesirable, but it is usually for economic reasons. There should be no other reason unless there are physiological defects in the mother that would make child-bearing dangerous to her life or health, or unless there are eugenic or hereditary reasons or tainted blood. Then too, the economic reason, based on the claim that the child cannot be supported with a satisfactory degree of comfort, is in many instances exaggerated. To be sure, where the father and mother are both compelled to labor outside of the home in order to live, child-bearing becomes exceedingly difficult. And it might also be said that marriage under such circumstances is not al-ways desirable, for the duties and responsibilities of marriage should usually not be assumed until one is able to shoulder the natural result of marriage—children.
Whenever you find a man who is without an innate love for children, you may rest assured that there is something wrong with his character. It has suffered from deterioration or perversion of some kind. However, many have to struggle so strenuously in their endeavor to make a livelihood, or their life experiences have been so tragic that they feel that it is almost a crime to bring an-other human life into being. Some may feel that this excuse is entirely satisfactory. But in robbing themselves of the blessings of children they are struggling against a terrible handicap, for children in the home are really necessary to round out and make complete the lives of those who live therein. A home is not a home without children. It is cold, barren, lifeless. Desolation, and the death of the family tree are then inevitable.
We hear much about the trouble associated with the care and training of children. But what the average parent is inclined to regard as trouble should in reality be a continual source of delight. The very care that is often dwelt upon as a drain upon parental vitality should be a source of never-failing pleasure if viewed in the proper way. A mother may fail to appreciate her children, and may grumble because of the hardship which she feels she must bear on their account; yet if she had the opportunity to eliminate the experiences, both sorrows and delights, that come to her because of her children, she would reject it on every occasion.
Many women of today seek to avoid having children through motives of selfish pleasure. In some instances they do not wish to be bothered with babies, because motherhood would interfere with their activities in "society!" Probably it is just as well that such inhuman creatures should not reproduce their kind. The world is probably better off without their progeny. But from the standpoint of their own pleasure and welfare such women make a great mistake. For the sake, of the social enjoyment of the moment they are planting the seeds of an empty, barren and desolate old age. They sell their souls for the sake of a so-called pleasure that in the end proves to be only a bubble.
Again, many women fancy that they do not want babies for fear of "losing their figures." Even if this supposed reason were valid it would be a pitiful pretext. The excuse is even offered in some cases that a woman does not wish to lose the love of her husband, as if this result were likely to follow. Such silly pretexts only reveal lack of character and womanhood. A husband's love for his wife is invariably intensified as soon as she becomes the mother of his children. So far as the fear of "losing one's figure" through maternity is concerned, I need only point out that this is absolutely unnecessary if one makes proper physical preparation for the event by strengthening and building up the body. Re-member that women also "lose their figures" when they never have children. You will see any number of "bachelor ladies" and childless wives whose figures are even more "lost" than is that of the average mother. The fact is that if a woman is properly developed she need have no fear on this score. That is to say, if she really has a figure, she will not lose it. On the contrary, motherhood often means an improvement in health and vitality, at least if the pregnancies are not too frequently repeated. Maternity is the normal function of a woman, it is her natural physical destiny, and in many cases is followed by greater physical maturity and increased vitality. Sterility is the abnormal condition, and is far more likely than child-bearing to result in a lack or loss of figure, and of health.
Yes, children are desirable in practically every instance. I do not deny that there are exceptions. Alcoholic, insane, syphilitic, or otherwise tainted persons have no right to become parents. But I am not considering these exceptional cases, and when you find a home into which a child is forbidden to come, you find one into which life's most complete and satisfying joys cannot enter. Though children may be troublesome, though at times they may bring difficulties that torture one almost beyond endurance, they are nevertheless a veritable necessity. In the growing child you are able to renew your own youth. As your boys and girls approach maturity you may become a boy or girl again with them. You can taste the joys and delights associated with their enthusiasms. You can take part in the keen pleasures in which they find so much happiness. No, what-ever you do, do not voluntarily deny yourself the satisfaction that comes through having a child of your own.
Then, too, we must remember the necessity for making the child welcome. The unwelcome child is indeed to be pitied. The mother should yearn for and love the child in advance of its coming. Undoubtedly this yearning, this affection for the coming child, to a certain extent at least, adds to the vitality and vigor of the mother at the time of conception. And as the prospective mother's strength increases, to a similar extent the vitality of the child is developed. Whether or not the mental activities of the mother have a marked influence upon the unborn may be a disputed question, but the fact that certain mental states influence the health of the mother cannot be denied. Therefore a condition of hopefulness and the anticipation of coming happiness, by adding to the mother's well-being, will impress the unborn child favorably.
As we become more imbued with the importance of the science of eugenics, we will realize more and more fully the value of training the child before birth. The statement has frequently been made by those who have studied this important subject that the training of a child should in reality begin several generations before its birth. That, however, is beyond our control. But we can surely, to no inconsiderable extent, influence the child at the time of conception through the vitality and health of both parents. The differences between various children in the same family indicate with remarkable insistence the varying characteristics, physical and mental, with which the child can be endowed by the physical condition of the father and mother at the time of conception and during the period of pregnancy. It will not be difficult for the reader to recall families in which he can point to children that possess remarkable physical and mental endowments, while others in the same family seem to be weak, dull and defective. This really astounding differentiation in members of one family clearly indicates what may be done by con-trolling conception and adopting a proper regime for influencing the development of the child after conception.
Nearly all of us are accidents. Our coming is rarely definitely planned. We are created as a matter of course through associations that result from the intense love of a man and a woman. But it may be declared, with at least a reasonable degree of accuracy, that if we were planned in advance, if the intending mother were to go through a course of physical training and preparation in order to insure the highest fitness of her bodily organism for the ordeal of maternity, and if the prospective father would take the same precaution for a considerable time before conception, a superior race would soon be the result. If a man realized that just the degree of manhood, health and strength which he himself possessed was to be transmitted to his child, would he not be encouraged, even compelled to strive for the highest physical development possible to him? Were we planned in advance in this manner, the progeny of each marriage would be far stronger than either the mother or the father. In other words, the human race would grow more fit physically, mentally and morally, generation by generation.
It must be admitted, however, that the tendency in some places at the present time is toward degeneracy. This is especially true in thickly populated communities. A healthy young man, vigorous, virile, a splendid specimen of country life, moves to the city and founds a-family. Each generation thereafter loses a certain amount of the vitality with which it was originally endowed by this country-bred father. In from three to five generations the family is usually "wiped out," eliminated by the devitalizing influences of city life, usually associated with ignorance of the laws of life, sexual, physiological, dietetic, etc.