It's hard to pin political or cultural labels on some of the behaviors that are inspiring so many people to avoid marriage, to marry later, to have fewer children or to have children later in life. At one end of the cultural spectrum is the 30-something male whose solo life remains focused on his Xbox. At the other end is the professional woman working 70-hour weeks while striving to rise in a major law firm, even as her biological clock ticks loudly.
Of course, it also matters that children are expensive. In his book, Last examines a variety of expenses and career realities and concludes that it costs about $1.1 million to raise a single child, with home costs and college expenses higher in prime locations. When living in New York City, San Francisco or Washington, D.C., having two children is "having a lot of children," he said. "What's countercultural in one city is normal in another."
The bottom line is that Americans who choose to have large families are almost certainly making "some kind of theological statement," he said. "They are making countercultural decisions and people just don't keep taking specific countercultural actions without having some kind of purpose, a larger reason for what they are doing. ...
"Think of it this way. At some point, you have to ask: 'Am I the most important -- or even the only -- character that matters in the movie of my life?' ... Parents just can't think that way, and the more children you have, the less you can afford to think of yourself as the center of everything that happens in the world. ... That's a very important lesson to learn about life."
(Terry Mattingly is the director of the Washington Journalism Center at the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities and leads the GetReligion.org project to study religion and the news.)
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