Today's newspapers carry the headline that the fertility rate in the United States is going up again, reaching its highest level in 35 years and distinguishing us from most industrialized nations that, faced with the increasing availability of birth control, the opportunity and necessity for women to work, and who knows what other factors (maybe the paucity of good husbands and fathers), are struggling to reproduce themselves.
Women need to have at least an average of two children apiece for a country to replace itself, as it were, and for the first time since the baby boom ended, we do. It's 2.1 to be exact.
But is it good news?
That is a hard question to answer in the abstract. The zero population growth crowd will tell you that in an overpopulated world using up its resources faster than it can preserve them, encouraging women to have more children is exactly the wrong advice.
I don't know how to dispute that contention in the abstract, except to point out that the same rules don't necessarily hold for developing countries with more mouths to feed than food to do it, as for industrialized nations, who need people to do skilled jobs, not to mention pay into the Social Security Trust Fund. But in any event, it's not entirely an abstract question.
If the higher fertility rate reflects, as it surely does in part, the increasing ability of skilled doctors and scientists to help couples who once might not have been able to experience the greatest joy in life become parents, then I'm thrilled for the news, and for them. Believe me, I can remember painfully well the irony and longing I felt when I was trying to have children.
I was worried about whether I would be so lucky — the irony being that after years of worrying about not getting pregnant, I was even more worried, even more desperate, for the opposite result. There is simply no greater joy, no greater blessing, at least in my book of Life, than a much-wanted, much-loved child, and no greater trust than the trust of raising that child.
Which brings me, of course, to the lovely Jamie Lynn Spears. The 16-year-old's announcement of her pregnancy predated by only one day the news about the fertility rates. Apparently, she and her own mother will be paid $1 million by OK! magazine for an exclusive photo shoot once the baby is born.
Jamie Lynn is, of course, the younger sister of the poster child for selfish, stupid and arrogant mothers: Britney Spears. Britney's antics with addiction and abuse have made Kevin Federline, her ex-husband, otherwise best known as a wannabe rapper, emerge instead as a candidate for father of the year.
The news of little sister's pregnancy, which follows weeks of speculation that Britney, having done such a bang-up job with her oldest two, may again be pregnant, also included mention of the fact that Grandma (who might actually still be of childbearing years herself) has put her book on Christian parenting on hold.
Christian parenting? I don't know much about Christian parenting, not being one, but I do know that it can't have anything to do with this family, and the only thing more absurd than Jamie Lynn being paid $1 million for a story of successful slutdom is her mother being paid to write a book about Christian parenting.
How dumb do these people think we are?
How dumb are we?
When is enough enough?
The younger mother-to-be isn't just the sister of a celebrity car wreck, but one in her own right. She's a "star," too — on "Zoey 101," a Nickelodeon show aimed at teenagers who might see her as a role model.
This week, Nickelodeon issued the kind of statement that makes you wonder whether any of the people who run these networks are parents themselves, or could care less about the children who are their audiences and make them rich. "We respect Jamie Lynn's decision to take responsibility in this sensitive and personal situation. We know this is a very difficult time for her and her family, and our primary concern right now is for Jamie Lynn's well-being."
Well, I beg to differ.
My primary concern is not for Jamie Lynn's well-being, but for her baby's, who didn't ask to be brought into the world by a selfish, immature celebrity who sees in her pregnancy a big payout from a magazine that caters to and encourages the worst instincts of its readers.
If she wants to devote herself to being a mother, good luck to her. Kicking her off that television show would give her more time to do it. And as for Grandma, maybe she needs to go buy a book about Christian parenting, instead of pretending that having two daughters she should be ashamed of qualifies her to write one.
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