Not sure whether Americans are becoming more materialistic and self-absorbed?
Look no further than Time magazine’s recent carnival of narcissism and
celebration of selfishness.
In a bizarre cover story entitled, “The Only
Child: Debunking the Myths,” Lauren Sandler writes in personal terms of her and
her husband’s decision to have only one child. God bless them. It’s a free
country. Have however many children you wish or don’t wish.
is an evangelist with thinly disguised contempt for parents silly enough to ruin
their finances – not to mention their lives – by being burdened by more than one
Her twisted argument is that the purpose of having children is
not a love of kids, or an appreciation for the beauty of life, but parental
Too many kids involves a life of drudgery and expense that
extinguishes parental joy. Kids get in the way of their parents tennis lessons
and weekends in Paris.
Sandler is as neurotic as they come. “We’re
pushing toilet training just to drop the cost of diapers – about $100 a month –
from our monthly budget.”
Whoa. If you’re writing Time
stories, and your husband is also a professional with a separate income, you
have only one child, and you can’t even afford diapers, then what are you
blowing your money on? Sandler then gets to the meat of her disturbing line of
reasoning. “As parents, we tend to ask ourselves two questions when we talk with
our partners about having more children. First, will it make our kid happier?
And then, will it make us happier?” Really, I never had such a ridiculous
conversation with my wife. Our decision to have nine children revolved around a
simple love of kids. We love their cuteness, their playfulness, their
gentleness, their innocence.
Sandler’s conversations sounds more like two
people buying a pet. “Perhaps the parakeet droppings will be too much for us to
cope with and we ought to buy a plastic Chihuahua instead?” If you’re having
children for your own happiness, you will be a lifelong burden to them as
Rather, the happiness that our children bring to us is the
natural and organic by-product of being a parent rather than the reason to
BUT ALL this is just the appetizer for the main course of
contempt Sandler will serve up for parents primitive enough to have more than
one child. “University of Pennsylvania demography professor Samuel Preston,” she
relates, “...told me the discovery that surprised him most was that parents felt
so madly in love with their first child, they wanted a second. That’s an unusual
To Sandler is it odd to find parents who actually enjoy raising
But let’s not stop her when she’s on a roll. “Parents who
intend to have only one say they can manage the drudgery with an eye on the
light at the end of the tunnel. Beth Nixon, a Pennsylvania artist and mother of
a one year old, says she finds reassurance every day in the fact that “it’s not
going to be an endless chain of need which is going to be fulfilled for years
One can picture Sandler finding interviewees in “Narcissists
Anonymous” for her piece. Let’s hope Nixon’s daughter never reads her mother’s
But lest you conclude that to Sandler parenting is
nothing but monotonous labor with few rewards, she shares how becoming a parent
provided a golden epiphany. “I used to suspect that mothers who talked about
their children with such unbridled wonder didn’t have much else going on in
their lives. Then I had my daughter – and now I gush like the rest of
Oh, to be so enlightened, to come around to the idea, Lauren, that
women who raise their children are not losers and airheads who get knocked up to
fill the void in their lives. Lauren, you rock! But lest we get too carried away
with the pleasures of children, Sandler reminds us that “social scientists have
surmised since the 1970s that singletons offer the rich experience of parenting
without the consuming efforts that multiple children add: all the wonder and
giggles and shampoo Mohawks but with leftover energy for sex, conversation,
reading and so on.”
Are these the new standards for a Time
story? I AM a father of nine children. They are the best thing, aside from my
wife, that ever happened to me. With them I have RV’d around all of North
America. I have taken them to countless lectures, debates, museums and, of
course, synagogues. At our weekly Friday night Shabbat dinner we host people
from every culture, religion and nationality and have incredible giggles and
The more children we have had the more blessing has come
into our lives.
And yes, parents with large families have active and
fulfilling sex lives, as I discovered from interviewing hundreds for my
best-sellers Kosher Sex, Kosher Adultery and the Kosher Sutra.
you find the time for everything? With a large family you learn to economize
both your resources and your time.
Your heart expands and you develop
healthier priorities. The older children help with the younger children and the
family becomes a loving unit.
Sandler drones on about the high cost of
ballet and piano lessons and how impossible it would be to afford it
large family. But do children really need this robotic over-programming
nurturing relationships? In her effort to prove how successful only
are, Sandler gushes over Franklin Roosevelt, Elvis Presley and Lance
which is curious because all three are famous for professional
personal failure. Roosevelt forever lost the affection of his wife
he had an affair with her social secretary, Lucy Mercer.
could not sustain an intimate relationship and tragically died of a drug
overdose, and Lance Armstrong seems challenged in the sphere of personal
relationships as well.
None of which means that this has anything to do
with their having been only children, and indeed I know only children
who are as
well-adjusted, giving and happy as any other children. It is to suggest
narcissists like Sandler have warped values where success is measured by
fame and power rather than loving relationships.
Want to know why Islam
is taking over Europe and why Latinos are becoming such a political
force in the
United States? It’s because they love children and they are exploding
demographically. In the summer of 2008 The New York Times Magazine
cover story entitled “Disappearing Europe” that explained that countries
France, Norway and Russia had hit “lowest low fertility,” having so few
that they cannot replenish their numbers even in two generations.
1960s, as Time
itself notes, Europe constituted 20 percent of the
population. Today the number has fallen to under 10%, despite massive
boost births. How ironic that as the West has become richer and more
affording children, it has lost its appetite for kids, believing instead
real happiness lies in a BMW or a Prada handbag.
In that sense, perhaps
the most striking statement in Sandler’s cover story is this: “I, for
happy without siblings. A few ex-boyfriends aside, people seem to think I
out just fine.”
With values like these, I truly wonder.The writer
is founder of
This World: The Values Network and the author of
Renewal: A Guide
to the Values-Filled Life.