Having kids in seminary: The ethics of choice

September 27, 2010

I’m going to
try to devote some of my limited blogging time to the experience of
being a woman with young children in seminary. When we were discerning
coming to Princeton I had a very difficult time finding resources to
aid me in the part of the discernment involving my daughter. Eventually
the admissions office connected me with two women who had children
while completing their MDivs. These were vastly helpful conversations
and knowing about these experiences enabled us to confirm our call as a
family.

So this is for all the ladies with babies. Here’s reality: there are
not many of us. To my count there is only one other woman whom I know
who has children in preschool and is in the program full-time. I found
this shocking at first but less so as I moved through the process of
orientation and registration where the experience of men and single
women is clearly prioritized. More on this in a later post.

Today I’m thinking about the conversations I’ve had with PTS folks
about having children while they are in school. There are quite a few
men here with children but even more married couples without children.
What I find fascinating about our conversations regarding children is
how the reasoning for not procreating is almost always based on the
sense that children are a nuisances. Most of the time these comments
come across in almost a trite way. Like someone in my building, who is
in every other way quite a lovely person, told me she and her husband
didn’t want to have children now because they don’t like to wake up
early in the morning. For a lot of other people it’s clear that
children are simply a disruption to the lifestyle they want to
cultivate – the constant academic with very little priority for life
outside the mind.

I guess I should be thankful that these people recognize that
children radically change your life and your priorities. But I am so
curious that a decision of this magnitude is really based entirely on
lifestyle. One would at least think that the welcoming of children to a
family would also include a discussion of ethics, theology, the Good,
of joy or pain.

Granted, I’m not expecting these new acquaintances to immediately
share with me that their childbearing choices are affected by the fact
that they are a carrier of the cystic fibrosis gene, or that they
struggle with the impact of children on our natural resources, but the
shock on some faces when I ask if they even have children leads me to
believe that conversations around the sexual ethics and theology of
childbearing is even more thin and impoverished than I had imagined.

Originally posted at Sign on the Window, part of the CCblogs network.