December 7, 2011 3:46 PM

In Europe, Children Growing Hard to Find

A little over a year ago, my friend Amy Owen and her family - including 5 kids then - moved to Germany because of her husband's work (this happens a lot when you live in the DC area). She just sent me some beautiful images of her new baby, explaining that in Germany because the birth rate is so low and children are so scarce, that hospital photos are done by very artistic photographers. Here are the ones from her baby:

owen baby 1.jpeg owen baby 2.jpeg owen baby 3.jpeg

Beautiful, aren't they?

Intrigued by what she said about the scarcity of children, I asked Amy to write a guest blog:

amy owen 1.jpeg

In Europe, Children Growing Hard to Find
by Amy Owen

I've lived in Europe for just over a year now with my husband and family. When my husband first told me about this opportunity, I had mixed emotions about raising our children overseas. Lots of positive experiences to explore, mixed with the challenge of traveling abroad with six children under the age of 12. Plus I was keenly aware that in Europe families are very small, and non-existent in most cases.

Recently, I had the rare treat of walking through some shops without my usual entourage - which gave me a chance to really take my time and speak freely with the vendors who visit our area during the Advent season and throughout most of the year. I ran into an old, Italian couple selling Christmas linens. As I was leaving, she recommended that I visit northern Italy - her home - saying how beautiful it was. Knowing of the negative population and poor economy in Italy, I couldn't help but comment that it would be even more beautiful to see more children and asked if she was concerned about her country's future and the fact that there are not enough children being born to sustain and support them as a country socially and financially. I was quite stunned when replied emphatically, "I've had four children and they wish and deserve a better life, a great life, the best life!"

In the past I'd always felt compassion about the economic problems some countries face, but since this exchange my focus has completely shifted and become more clear. Economic problems, particularly in this case, stem from the decisions made consciously by a society. The decision of one or more generations to not have children and walk away from their faith has ultimately affected the whole economy of a country. For this reason our compassion needs to be properly placed. Since this experience, I have chosen to focus compassion towards a society who has lost faith in God and who have only placed faith in themselves, causing a failure and collapse which extends to all of us financially and socially. I pray for an increase of faith in society. Only then will there be economic prosperity.

amy owen 2.jpegHere in Germany it is common to see a mother and grandmother out and about with one very fortunate infant dressed to the nines in some of the most extravagant strollers you have ever seen - their little lives so protected. Any worldly need is met before they are even born - sometimes years in advance - by the parents, grandparents and even great- grandparents. These infants are very special and considered very valuable to society. So, when Germans see larger families, they are thrown for a loop. Some are surprised, especially when you tell them you are American (it doesn't fit the image portrayed in their media) and some show grave concern about our irresponsibility for not having practiced more control.

When citizens are taking pictures of couples with children because it is so rare to see such a sight you know the country has failed. In Europe, if you have three or more children, it is common to be stopped and asked to pose for a picture. Strangers will sometimes even swoop the youngest out of a stroller, holding the baby to pose for the camera as if they might never see such perfection again.

The "better life, a great life, the best life" the Italian vendor thought her children deserved is not to be found by turning your eyes from God, but in fulfilling the perfect plan He has for our lives. That requires faith and obedience and a belief that children are treasures no matter how many He gives us.

Love,
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Comments

I can't help but wonder what these pampered little ones in Europe (families w/one baby who has the best of everything and lacks for nothing) are going to be like when they grow up.

Posted by: Michelle | December 7, 2011 7:09 PM

That was a beautiful post, Barbara. Thanks for asking for her feedback about living in Europe.

I have several family members that have chosen to remain childless because they don't want the hassle of children. They like travelling. They like spending money. They like having freedom.

That may seem fun when you're 30, but I wonder what it's like when you're 60? Or 70? Do you remember about ten years ago when that heat wave hit France, and 12,000 old people died while all the young people were at the beach for a month? It was heartbreaking. But when people give up on having children, it should hardly be surprising when society becomes selfish. It really is sad.

By the way, I'm an ENTJ, too. And my scores are almost the same as yours!

Sheila from To Love, Honor and Vacuum!

Posted by: Sheila Wray Gregoire | December 7, 2011 9:21 PM

I noticed this as well when we were in UK and Paris for a visit.

Having money doesn't equal having a great life. Sadly, those are often equated. Things are just that, things, they will never be a substitute for people, although they are 'safer.'

Things can't love you back, but they don't leave you either. It is harder to surround yourself with people than things.

Surrounding yourself with people requires personal sacrifice, as opposed to sacrificing to yourself.

Posted by: sarah | December 7, 2011 9:38 PM

Oh my goodness. We are so thankful for our 8 children, and see the gift of a brother or sister as the greatest. My 3 siblings are all childless, so our kids are the only grandchildren. When my mom passed away suddenly a couple of months ago, it was so comforting to have those children around us. Shortly thereafter, my 2 brothers underwent cancer surgery, and had no one to assist them but my sister and I, flying in from out of state. And who is there to pray for them, but our children. Now that I have been diagnosed with the same cancer, I can truly appreciate having my loved ones so near. Yes, I can see how it would have been fun at 30 to be so carefree...

Posted by: Kate J | December 8, 2011 10:35 AM

I do have to say that I have recognized that at times those who stop us and ask if these are all of our children there is a sense of sadness expressed covered by a quick comment, these are the individuals that have been given a glimpse of what is missing whether it be in their society or their own lives personally.

As for wondering how these children turn out later in life would not much different from their own parents (organized, clean and prepared) from what I have witness there is not a lot of genuine happiness expressed until briefly at the birth of their own child and then they are back to work.

The hope in all of this is that during the summer my children who speak a bit of German pointed out to me these posters that had new born babies swimming underwater with captions below saying save our future do not abort. This was a very public advertisement because hundreds of families a day visit these public pools.

Posted by: Amy Owen | December 9, 2011 2:05 AM

We were stationed in Italy many years ago(12) when we only had 1, and then 2 children. People there thought we had a big family then, I can't imagine the stares and comments we would receive now with 6 kids!

Children are a great deal of work and can become very expensive (piano lessons alone for 4 kids is well over $300/month) and I just hope and pray that it is/will be worth the sacrifice. I have had child-free relatives lament that they are taking care of elderly parents and that there will be no one to do the same for them. Well, I have to bite my tongue to make a snarky comment in reply. I'm training my brood now that one aspect of the 4th Commandment is to help one's parents when they are in need. "When I'm 90, you will take care of me, I'm sure," I tell them.

I feel sorry for the little pampered princes and princesses of Europe, for the greatest gift one can give a child is a sibling, someone who is there throughout a child's life through joy, loss, and tragedy.

Posted by: Kat | December 9, 2011 1:22 PM

the young princes/princesses will find out exactly what life is like when their country is ruled by fecund Muslims

Posted by: bobster | December 15, 2011 11:04 PM

My oldest daughter (a homeschooling mother of five) has observed that nations that adopt a comprehensive old age pension system (where the government supports most old people) seem to experience a decline in the birth rate to the point where population "growth" becomes negative. Perhaps this is only true for nations that are mostly not Christian. Sad!
We will have our 12 grandkids and their parents with us on Christmas Day. We provide the house, and pay for the meat; they'll bring other dishes and do most of the work. Love is supposed to give life.
We may not have had all the material possessions we might have liked, but we never went hungry.
TeaPot562

Posted by: TeaPot562 | December 15, 2011 11:39 PM

Go forth and multiply.

Papa

Posted by: ReginaTan | December 16, 2011 12:50 AM

You big families are "a sign of contradiction"!

Persevere!

Posted by: TheInformer | December 16, 2011 1:16 AM

Let's check on that "better life" in twenty years when the demographic implosion's more painful effects are felt.

Posted by: Ken | December 16, 2011 1:03 PM

Report from Italy:
I live in NE Italy with my six young children. When we had three, strangers would stop to lecture us about how irresponsible we are. Life is indeed expensive here but, when pushed for more explanation, parents with one child will state, as you say, that they want the good life for their kids (and the Mercedes and vacation in the Canary Islands, etc.). Italy has come a very long way from two generations ago when women often gave birth to eight or more children. Italians should know better. This is a country of great saints but then again the Catholic faith is faltering here. In my town of about 9,000, my two boys are nearly always the only altar boys. They have closed two of three elementary schools and the one that is still open is half empty. They can no longer even field a soccer team for my oldest who is 13. Italians are contracepting (and aborting) themselves away. As George Weigel has pointed out, by 2050, most Italians will not know what it is like to have a brother or a sister or any aunts and uncles. It's not only un-Catholic but it is a sociological nightmare. The question is: will they wake up?

Posted by: mgseamanjr | December 16, 2011 6:30 PM

Beautiful article, yet sad reality.

'Demographic Winter' by Rick Stout; really puts things into perspective.

Posted by: Markus | December 16, 2011 8:19 PM

Here is an article that discusses old age pension systems effect on birth rates. http://mises.org/daily/2451

Posted by: KJ Hesselius | December 16, 2011 9:28 PM

I know all parents want the very best for their kids, but seriously, good enough is just fine.

Posted by: enness | December 16, 2011 10:05 PM

Thank you so much for this report - all Americans need to hear and understand what's going on in Europe - and the perspective helps us appreciate the choices we feel more free to make here.

Catholicism was the glue that held so much together. Praying for a Catholic revival in Europe.

Posted by: Barbara | December 17, 2011 4:47 AM

This is an excellent post! Thanks so much Amy for sharing your view of the European crisis. The media makes it sound like the issues are just bad choices made by governments, but the reality, for anyone that is paying attention, is that "The Continent" has succumbed to an overdose of self-indulgence. When so few women are having babies, and most people are dependent on entitlements that those missing people won't be around to pay for, it seems like any reasonable person should be able to come to the logical conclusion that a very ugly collapse is in the works. However, there is no one in the public square that is willing to do the math, except Mark Steyn and no one believes him.
God help us if we don't see the way it's adding up, because we are just a few miles behind on the same road.

Posted by: Jennifer | December 17, 2011 8:07 PM

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