The Pill: Making Motherhood “Better”?

Posted By on May 10, 2010

Every now and again, feminist thinking and the goals of feminism are demonstrated in the clearest terms and without varnish. An article in yesterday’s Washington Post about the 50th anniversary of the Pill is a perfect case in point:

Forget the single girl and the sexual revolution. The pill was not anti-mother; it was for mothers. And it changed motherhood more than it changed anything else. Its great accomplishment was not in preventing motherhood, but in making it better by allowing women to have children on their own terms. (Emphasis mine.)

Writer Elaine Tyler May goes on to celebrate the Pill as “the only sure way avoid being tied down by a continuous stream of babies.” Women wanting to have it all and do it all could now have their cake and eat it, too. They could enjoy a successful career without giving up sex to avoid having children. Then they could just turn off the switch when they felt ready and have babies when they wanted them…or could they?

But there is a bitter irony in the fact that the same pill that gave mothers the ability to combine childbearing and a career by controlling fertility has also led many women to delay childbearing so long that they jeopardize that fertility. Contraception makes it possible to postpone motherhood, but it doesn’t solve the problem of how to combine caring for children with going to work. As a result, many women wait to have a child until they are financially secure enough to afford child care.

And here’s where the rubber meets the road in the feminist Utopia — no matter how they try to control their lives and regulate their childbearing, putting career first and climbing the ladder of success, women are not any happier with the results:

In some sense, the pill let employers and the government off the hook by giving women the means to juggle jobs and families. [Margaret] Sanger and Katharine McCormick hoped that the pill would allow women to control their lives, but they did not count on women being stuck with such hard choices. For while mothers’ lives have changed over the past 50 years, the work world has lagged behind: Most jobs are still 9 to 5 — or longer — leaving little time to care for children. The cost of child care is, for many women, ruinously high. Paid parental leave is still too rare, and where it exists, usually too brief. For the most part, it is women who, aided by the pill, have adjusted to the demands of the workforce, rather than the other way around.

The pill may have been a gift to mothers. But 50 years on, it could use some new accessories. This Mother’s Day, instead of jewelry, candy or flowers, how about some more novel presents: lengthy paid parental leaves, government-supported child care and flex-time. (Emphases mine.)

Do you see the unvarnished demands of feminism here? Let’s just break it down:

  1. I want to set up life on my own terms, orienting my world to orbit around my own desires and needs. That means I’ll have a career when I want it and have children when I want them.
  2. Children are nice when they are “convenient” and fit into my timeframe. I want to choose when that will be.
  3. Wait a minute, this is not as easy as I thought it would be. I wanted the kids, but I really don’t want to lose my career, and child care is just too financially painful.
  4. Government must come up with a solution for me so that this choice isn’t hard any more. I want my employer to pay for me to be a stay-at-home mom when I feel like it, then I want the government to pay for child care when I decide to go back to work. Oh, and I want flex time so that I can work when I feel like it.

Does the writer bother to break down the definition of “government-supported child care” for us? Nope. But I will. You and I are the government. It is our tax dollars that fund everything our government does. This writer wants a stay-at-home mother of nine and her hardworking husband (who supports his family as sole breadwinner) to cough up more tax dollars so she doesn’t have to face any “hard choices” or pay “ruinously high” amounts of money for other people to raise her children while she works. Pardon me if I sound just slightly incredulous, but does anyone else see the incredible inequity here?

Welcome to Feminism 2010.

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About The Author

Jennie is the wife of Matthew and mother of eleven children, all of whom keep the household bubbling with life, learning, and levity. Jennie co-founded LAF in 2002 with Lydia Sherman and has been delighted to hear from women all over the world who enjoy their femininity and love to cultivate womanly virtues.

Comments

61 Responses to “The Pill: Making Motherhood “Better”?”

  1. I have been watching this thread with interest… As a single mom who has been left with children to raise on my own, and precious few material resources with which to do it, I understand the desire to have all of one’s financial ducks in a row before having children. It’s a reasonable thing to want to be able to provide for them well, give them advantages and not stretch ourselves too thin. It’s only natural to feel that way… but what comes naturally is often in direct contrast to what the Lord desires of us.

    Luteal phase, abortifacient, OC, NFP… I’m sure all of these things are very important and relevant to the discussion of this subject, but I think the crucial issue is getting lost. The kernel at the center of this issue is trust in God: how do we really feel about trusting God? Trusting God is never wrong. It cannot possibly be a mistake to entrust the Lord with anything. He will always choose for us better than we would choose for ourselves.

    Trusting ourselves on the other hand? Trusting our own “wisdom” and judgment? Usually a pretty big mistake. A whole lotta people have gotten themselves in a whole lotta trouble that way.
    I am reminded of this verse from I Corinthians: “For the foolishness of God is wiser than man’s wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than man’s strength.”

  2. madgebaby says:

    One more thing on this: in response to bravelass, I’d also like to see the scriptures that point to the appropriateness of using cars, or antibiotics, or electric lights. There are Christians who use the logic you are using and avoid these things too.

  3. Renee Stam says:

    thanks Jennie for clarifying my statement 🙂

    I was thinking about taxes and the irony that for lots, having 2 incomes when having children means that one of the income goes practically all out (daycare, clothing, lunches etc..) So basically it means that you are working for almost nothing.

    I am Canadian so our economy and taxes are a bit different then the US, so basically my husband is not only providing for me and our family but for the 1 years maternity leave of the working mothers, the government founded daycare, the special allowance the the government give to mother’s at work or who are students etc…

    For us I make more money being home helping my husband and being under his headship (I help him in his business) then I would being outside.
    And by making more money I mean, my husband business is growing faster and at less cost because I don’t ask to be pay for helping him.

    So that is working for us

  4. Cassandra says:

    Reading threads such as this one really hurt. I’ve asked my question on a few different anti birth control blogs but have never really received a response. Maybe someone would be willing to advise me?

    My situation is a bit different than most of what is discussed in this article and comments. My husband and I both had debt when we got married. Our total debt equaled $95,000 and we don’t own a home. Both of us worked but my husband had job problems and was laid off or had his hours cut several times. We started reading Dave Ramsey and have since paid off over $30,000 but still have a lot of debt. When we first got married, I took BC because I was taught that was the norm and that it was ok for Christians. I had to try several different brands over the course of a year because they created terrible mood swings. I also suspect I lost a baby because I bled for a month straight. That was the last straw.

    Now we use Fertility Awareness – Natural Family Planning. No pills, no hormones. My husband finally found a really good job. I was laid off and we decided (with a lot of prayer) that I should stay home. God has blessed us financially and we’re making a LOT of progress paying off our debt.

    I believe God should control our family planning. My husband does not. He believes that we made stupid decisions financially before marriage and that we need to pay off all of our credit cards and our car (we’d still have $40,000 in student loans) before we start trying to have children. He believes that God gave us a brain to use it and that we should wait to have children until we are no longer slaves to our lenders.

    Now what? I have talked to my husband about letting God lead in whether we have children. He disagrees. I love my husband very much and try not to resent him for making us wait to have children. I’m 27. I don’t think we should wait but I also believe that I’m to be submissive to my husband and he is the head of our household. Do I try to convince my husband of what I believe the Bible says? Do I not talk about it and just pray? It’s a sore spot between us because both of us believe that our way of thinking is what God would have us do but we can’t both be right. So now what? What do you do when the wife wants to let God plan our children but the husband believes that God gives us a choice?

  5. dreamingformore says:

    Just a thought, the woman can push off pregnancy with the pill—> then she pushes to infertility, then takes lots more pills to increase her chances of pregnancy- then ends up with multiples. It’s crazy.

  6. I’ve been on the road and at a wedding this weekend and not able to pay attention to the LAF comment thread. No time to sit down and respond to these questions this week, either, with all we have going on, but perhaps someone else can jump in here. Thank you all for understanding that the gals behind LAF have real lives to live and don’t sit at the computer all day. I really appreciate your patience!

  7. bravelass says:

    Cassandra,

    You are in a most difficult situation, no doubt about that. If you are using Fertility Awareness/NFP and your husband agrees with this, I have to say I am one who does not entirely disagree with this method because it involves discipline and restraint and does not put a barrier (whether mechanical or chemical) between husband and wife. I think it can fall within the scope of Paul’s caution about depriving yourselves only for a time to pray and fast. However, the concern is that it is used as a barrier of another sort — that the couple using it will never come to the point of being ready (financially or for other reasons) to be open to children.

    Is there a Titus 2 sort of woman in your church you can confide in and pray with? Would your husband be open to meeting with a pastor or elder? It sounds like you have talked about this and both given your situation serious consideration so it may be time to go together to seek the wisdom of your church officers. Continue to pray and seek wisdom about if/when to speak.

    Kamilla

  8. Jenn84 says:

    Diane and Tmichelle, the Bible never says we may NEVER use our own discernment and logic; to claim otherwise is erroneous. This is a serious and private issue for every couple, and neither every situation nor God are one color.

  9. Jenn, no one in this thread is claiming that God doesn’t say to use discernment or logic. All we’re saying is that discernment and logic both have their Source in Scripture–not in our own fallen minds. Our consciences must be “captive to the Word of God,” just as Martin Luther said. When Christians disagree, they need to start in the Scriptures and debate from there — not from their own ideas and desires. Our argument is that people are approaching the issue of birth control from a secular standpoint rather than going first to God’s Word to ask what His principles and standards are for us when it comes to marriage, childbearing, and child-rearing. Enough has been said on this thread to the point that it’s just going around in circles and is pointless to continue. This thread is now closed, but I would encourage everyone to continue reading and investigating from a biblical standpoint. As Christians, we are called to “take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ” (2 Cor. 10:5)–and that really does mean every thought! 🙂

  10. Jenn84 says:

    Jennie, excellent points about spending other people’s tax dollars (to support other parents). We have to be very cautious about this kind of indirect robbery, especially considering the way the country is becoming.

  11. Jenn84 says:

    Thanks for the clarification, Jennie