So, I went to a workshop put on by the dioces about the new marriage program, which looks great- comprehensive, theologically sound, well grounded in good research, applicable, approachable. I think it’s going to be great, at least greater than my own Pre-Cana experience, which was just bearable in my opinion and not too bad in Scott’s.
But as a childless woman, being addressed in the group by a childless woman, I felt that old familiar prickle. She began the conversation by stating her marriedness and her childlessness and explained why she and her husband haven’t had kids. I thought this was curious but I could absolutely understand her motivation, because as a married catholic woman and leader, one is always keenly aware of that fertility lens through which everyone looks at you. One day when Scott met a new neighbor and she asked him “do you have children?” he said “no, we tried but it didn’t work out.” He was in the same spot, defending his state in life to someone who had an expectation of him as a married Catholic person.
So, where does that leave me? It leaves me in the position, like this woman, of defending my childlessness. But, I refuse to do it. I refuse to tell you why I’m childless, because you don’t need to know, and because the conclusion you’ve probably jumped to is good enough. And by You, I don’t mean you, my faithful readers, because you probably already know why. I mean... you, new neighbor, parishioner, parent of my students, etc. When YOU ask me if I have children, although I am tempted to defend myself, I will just say “no.”
I once stood at the back of the church where I was working, surrounded by kids who knew I was married and childless, and heard the pastor pronounce in his homily that childless marriages were invalid. I couldn’t help but feel a little defensive there, I must say… and that was the prickle I felt when, at this workshop, our presenter went on to say, more than a couple of times, that “marriage is for having children.”
Well, what if my marriage is not for having children?
I would have to counter to her that marriage is really for responding to God’s call. Marriage is a vocation- and that one's vocation is ultimately following God. That is, vocation isn’t about God saying “I’ve got a job for you” but more like “sign up, and go where I send thee.”
I can only guess at where my life would have led if we’d had children. I imagine my bizarro self in an alternate reality wondering the opposite. But I think we’re both doing the right thing, me and bizzaro me, because we’re following God’s call for us. Marriage may be for having children, it may for not having children. Marriage is for the glory of God.