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Parenthood: Won't I just Figure It Out?

What is considered outdated advice in our modern age?

Key points

  • Parents have "figured it out" since the dawn of mankind, but with modern advancements it's time to update traditional wisdom.
  • Advancements like safe and effective contraception allow for greater choice, and greater planning before kids, but only if they are used.
  • Just as some historical advancements have become obsolete, so has our thinking around child-rearing.
Image by Rene Rauschenberger / Pixabay
Man Plowing Field
Source: Image by Rene Rauschenberger / Pixabay

The great thing about our ability to keep records is that we can look back to when times were different and see how far we have come. A great place to do that in an interesting setting is to go to a museum. In the South where I was raised there is a fondness for, and a plethora of, agricultural museums.

The Plow

Artistic masterpieces and ancient sculptures are beautiful but there is also value in seeing how society has managed to advance in the necessary life-giving arena of food, land, and environmental management.

Here, much of our progress can be credited to the invention of the plow. There is an age-old debate on who invented the plow first, but the invention was (literally) groundbreaking. The plow’s ability to break up the soil improved the agricultural industry so much that some argue that it kicked off the agricultural revolution.

Yet, as important as it was for society back then – the plow in its original form, is now obsolete. Today, mechanized tractors that in some instances don’t even need a human nearby to work it, do more than the plow ever could. We can thank the plow for its service, while also recognizing that technological advancements and modern society can do better.

The Plow as a Guide

If we accept adaptation to the tools that allowed society to thrive, we should accept adaptation to the advice we give and receive around family planning. When talking to clients who are considering having kids, a common theme I hear is, “We’ll just figure [parenting] out when it happens.”

In fairness, they are merely echoing the sentiments that their friends told them, which their friends heard from someone else, and so on and so on. For most of life up to this point, the idea that people have kids and “just figure it out” or “things turn out fine” was the best that society had.

Throughout history, families had kids because there was no way to prevent them or plan for them. In fact, in the Middle Ages, women who attempted to curtail unwanted pregnancies were condemned as witches.

Advice for the Times

Condoms only existed to prevent STIs until the 1600s, and oral contraceptives were not made safe, effective, and available until the mid-20th century. Considering these facts, it comes as no surprise that in the 1800s the average woman in the U.S. had given birth to 8 children. For these families, with this level of advancement the idea that, “you’ll just figure it out” was the best they could do.

We are no longer in the 1800s. Pretty soon, if you wanted to, you could order birth control online and a drone would drop it off at your doorstep.

If our realities today are so obviously different than what they were a half-century ago, why are we still accepting the same advice for child-rearing? Why are we applying ancient advice that fit the times then, to our advanced and much more customizable future?

Families in the middle ages had to accept that they would just figure it out, because (if they were having sex) they had no way of knowing when and if they would get pregnant. For their sanity, they would have had to adopt the mindset of “everything will be okay” because they had no other choice.

Realities of Today

Today, we have choice – tons of it. Birth control and contraceptives are not the taboo that they used to be, and we need to take advantage of what they are for. That is – controlling birth. These modern advancements can let a couple plan when to have a child or not. In doing so, they provide a couple more time to get ready for a future when a child could be possible.

Today, to say, “I’ll just figure it out when it happens” is like having a 50-horsepower tractor in your shed, and instead, you grab your hand plow to till your 20 acres. If you are not from the south and have not been subjected to field trips where you try to use a hand plow, let me tell you, it’s tough.

Why put yourself through the trouble? You have the appropriate tools. You live in the appropriate times. Use appropriate reasoning. Advancements in time and choice enable us to move past “figuring it out”, towards “planning it out”.

Even if contraception in modern forms is not something you are willing to use for personal or religious reasons, (hopefully) you still know what goes into making a baby, and can prepare yourself for life with a child, should you be engaging in those child creating activities.

Giving in to Family Pressure

A couple that I was working with found themselves in this situation. The pair was feeling pressure from the family to have a child. The stress was overwhelming so they avoided the idea of how to best prepare themselves financially, mentally, and relationally. Instead, they coped by comforting themselves with the idea that “we’ll just figure it out when we get there”. This couple avoided the hard work ahead of time and unfortunately, they are struggling in those realities now.

Artifacts like the medieval hand plow are in museums and not on the farm, for a reason. They would be more trouble than they are worth and better equipment is available today. Likewise, much of the conversation around family planning belongs in a museum.

We have better equipment and better knowledge today than ever have before. Let's use it.

References

Andersen, T. B., Jensen, P. S., & Skovsgaard, C. S. (2013). The Heavy Plough and the Agricultural Revolution in Medieval Europe. Medievalists.net. https://www.medievalists.net/2013/06/the-heavy-plough-and-the-agricultu….

Pandia Health Editorial Team (Ed.). (n.d.). Birth Control Throughout History. Pandia Health . https://www.pandiahealth.com/resources/birth-control-throughout-history….

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