I am currently taking a second Masters degree in Marriage and Family. Some of the things that I have been learning in class have been an eye-opener for me both as a parent and as a person who works with young people.
The other day we were discussing rapid social change and how that has influenced the African family context. What do globalisation and the emergence of alternative family systems, not to mention the rapid move to materialism, mean to the average family struggling to meet basic needs?
The sad truth is that as more and more people begin to focus on upward mobility in terms of social and economic status, family takes the back burner.
I have sat in forums where people with more than two children are looked at with pity and made to feel like they are poor planners. I have heard women apologise for carrying their third or fourth pregnancy as though they owe the world an apology for over populating it.
I remember once being interviewed (it had to do with some of my pastoral responsibilities) and one of the panelists asked my husband and I how many children we had.
When he found out we had two children, he congratulated us and told us we could stop at two and make sure we now concentrated on serving God.
I found the comment, no matter how well intended, patronising and offensive. The man had no idea what our plan was, he did not know and did not bother to find out that both Tony and I wanted to have more children and believed that children were a gift and not a hindrance.
I left the meeting heartbroken. If this was the message being given from the church, what hope was there. This in my opinion could not be further from the truth given in the Bible that children are a gift from God.
My sister has five children and truth be told, I envy her for that. It has not changed her; she is still a fashionista and eats life by the shovelful.
Her house may not look like homes and garden, but it is full of life and love and my family loves hanging out there. She also holds no apologies for her number of offspring. “Look at it this way, when they are fully grown at least I will have someone dropping in at one time or the other,” she likes to say.
I have also not noticed much change in the quality of their life in terms of material things. They don’t eat fewer meals a day or go in rugs and before some of you readers assume she is some millionaire, she is not. She is your every day average Kenyan, a high school teacher at that.
In a world that is full of negative messages and dire economic predictions, we need more of her: People who truly believe that children are a blessing and not an economic burden.
That they add the zest to life. As historians would remind us, one of the factors that led to the urbanisation of most first world countries, including the USA, is a large population.