The privilege of saying “no thanks” to NFP

One Catholic blogger says she doesn’t use NFP because, for her, it’s just easier to go ahead and have babies. (This was years ago, but I only saw it recently.)
Most of the response was cheers, congratulations, and admiration. Only a single reader pointed out that it’s easy to feel that way when you’re rich, you have a huge house, your husband supports you easily on his secure, lucrative job, and you have daily hired help (none of which she had mentioned in her essay).
The blogger responded, “I would happily give up absolutely any comfort or convenience to have my children. I’d eat beans and rice in a trailer with them in a heartbeat.”

More hosannas. And that’s where I stopped reading neutrally and started breathing heavily. Ain’t no privilege like the privilege of ignorance.

First, nobody’s talking about trading in any of your kids in exchange for a cushy lifestyle. That’s not how it works. When you decide to use NFP to avoid pregnancy, you’re not saying, “I have kids, but they’re not so great; so now I choose to devote my life to a pursuit of filet mignon.”

Second: oh my dear. Poverty isn’t beans and rice and and a sweet little hut.
Poverty is dirty needles in your kid’s play space. It’s lead poisoning and cockroach-induced asthma. It’s windows you never open, even though it’s sweltering hot and you can’t afford AC, because your drunk neighbors are screaming obscenities at each other and you don’t want that to be your children’s lullaby at night. Poverty means you never have silence, ever, because someone’s always blasting their bass so hard your walls shake, shrieking, endlessly revving their engines, or beating the crap out of each other. 
Poverty means you’d like to bake your own bread, but the oven doesn’t work, the landlord doesn’t care, and the corner bodega doesn’t sell yeast anyway; so you end up getting the dollar loaf of white bread, because you do have a dollar. Poverty means you’d like to sew your own clothes, but you can’t afford a sewing machine, and you don’t have an extra six hours to throw together a simple sundress for the baby because you’re working at Taco Bell; so your kids wear pilled t-shirts from the free pile. Poverty means you’d like to grow your own fresh herbs and vegetables, but the tiny patch of green in front of your apartment is full of broken glass and used condoms, and the meth head who lives upstairs let his rottweiler poop there anyway.

Poverty means everything takes longer, works out worse, has less margin for error, and doesn’t ever give you a break. Poverty means that you build your day around trying to assemble paperwork for some government office to prove that you really are poor, only to find that they arbitrarily changed the guidelines, and you’ve now already missed the deadline and are back on the bottom of the list, and the person who denied your claim doesn’t work there anymore and you have no recourse, because you’re just another poor person, and there forty more on hold ahead of you.

Poverty is endlessly telling your children “no,” you can’t have extras, you can’t have treats, you can’t have lessons, you can’t have trips, you can’t have musical instruments, you can’t have art supplies, you can’t have pets, you can’t have a ride on the merry-go-round. Very soon, kids stop even asking.
Everything you own is rickety; everything you own is ugly. Nothing you own is what you would have chosen.
Poverty is hard on marriage, hard on your kids, and hard on your mental health. Poverty is not sweet. Not simple. Not beautiful. Just ugly and grinding and unjust. Not beans and rice. Bedlam and ashes and mold.

We deserve no credit for saying we’re willing to live a life we don’t even halfway understand. It’s not wrong to be rich or secure; but it is wildly offensive to assume that poverty is just like wealth, minus some perks, as if you could continue to live inside the walls of your privilege, but just shop at Pottery Barn less. That poverty is something you can take in stride if you just love your kids enough. 

No, poverty (especially generational poverty) invades every corner of your life, physical, intellectual, emotional, and spiritual, and it invades every corner of your children’s lives. If you think it would be different with you, I only pray you never find out how wrong you are.

I’ll stop now, because I know poverty is my particular bugbear. But I’ll tell you something else about NFP and privilege.

It is always a privilege to be able to say “no thanks” to NFP. Yes, even if you’ve made some sacrifices in making that choice. 

It is a privilege that comes from having wealth, having security, having a supportive, cooperative, patient husband — or from having enough stability and peace of mind that the sacrifices you make don’t wreck your life.

It is a privilege that comes from having enough physical and emotional and mental wherewithal to care for your other children sufficiently while you are pregnant.

It is a privilege that comes from having a healthy body that produces healthy babies. Some people can’t say “no thanks” to NFP because they desperately want a huge family, but then the babies they conceive so easily keep dying, no matter how much progesterone their NaPro doc crams up in there.

And I could go on. There are more kinds of poverty than financial poverty. Some couples endure poverties you, with your privilege, cannot imagine, and that’s why they use NFP to avoid pregnancy. Not because they refuse to make sacrifices, but because they simply cannot have what you take for granted.

When we talk about NFP, it’s important only to talk about our own choices, and to avoid making judgments about other people. But if we allows ourselves to be seen as a role model, even keeping it personal isn’t really good enough. We must include the context of our choices. We must acknowledge the privilege that makes those choices possible. If we choose to use our lives as an illustration, we can’t crop out the details.


Hear me, public Catholics: If you’re in a position to say “no thanks” to NFP, then get on your knees and thank God for your dozens of life-changing privileges. They, and not your virtue, your generosity, or your free spirit, are what makes it possible to say “no thanks” so blithely. Yes, even if you’ve made sacrifices to say “no thanks.”

Acknowledge those privileges, be grateful for them, and confirm that not everyone is as lucky as you. Believe me, it’s important. So many women accuse themselves so harshly for things that are beyond their control. If you don’t acknowledge your privilege, you are telling a dangerous lie.

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140 thoughts on “The privilege of saying “no thanks” to NFP”

  1. I haven’t read all the comments here and I don’t know if anyone will ever see my comment but to a degree I agree with Simcha. I’ve heard and seen many Christian and Catholic women discuss NFP and from what I’ve been exposed to there can be judgment of “ you should just leave your family size up to God and trust Him with your womb.” Sometimes people need a reality check that that’s just not possible for certain couples. I don’t think the original blogger intended to cast judgment on any women who use NFP she just said why it didn’t work for her. I agree with previous comments that Simcha was addressing a commenter’s remarks on the original blogger’s post.
    It felt refreshing to read Simcha’s post about how NFP is not always a privilege and is a necessity for some people. Right now I have a 7.5 month old daughter, just bought a house with my husband/moved, he’s deploying for all of next year in the military, and I had hyperemesis gravidarum, high blood pressure, and a complication riddled pregnancy and labor/delivery with my daughter all of last year. It can be discouraging to experience the comments (whether in person or online) about well just trust God with your fertility even if you have difficult circumstances. Not that God can’t be trusted He most certainly can but it’s not fun to see/hear the “just constantly have children” in the Church when clearly that doesn’t work for everyone. Again don’t think the original blogger meant that she just stated why NFP wasn’t great for her. It was just nice to see another side of why NFP is necessary at times and that doesn’t mean you do not want children/don’t think they’re a blessing.

  2. Dear Mrs. Fisher:

    I realize that I’m coming to this post a bit late, but I know exactly of whom you speak. I, for one, believe her when she says she would give up all comfort and convenience to have all her children. Note that she said nothing about the necessities of life, only comfort and convenience.

    As a poet, I’m quite impressed with your colorful description of the life of extreme poverty in America. It gives me an insight into that life which I had not had before. So, thank you for that; I believe it will be helpful in understanding that segment of the population.

    However, since you brought the issue up, I felt I should comment. I believe that the issue is beside the point, as the exact same argument is routinely used to justify not only contraception, but abortion. Really, there is no argument for “natural family planning” that would not justify both. If someone is truly too poor to take care of one more child, then the solution is extreme continence, not NFP. As much as modern culture hates the notion, sex is not a necessity unless the couple intends to have children; otherwise, it is a comfort.

    Essentially, the argument this blog post is making is that it is better never to exist than to live in poverty. Yet many people living in poverty would tell you that they are grateful to exist. After all, going to Heaven first requires existence.

    Furthermore, I believe this kind of extreme poverty is overdiagnosed. St. Catherine of Siena’s parents were poor, and yet they had her (their 24th child!) anyway. Modern NFP thinking would have had them stop at some small number, and we wouldn’t have St. Catherine of Siena, because she would never have been brought into existence. Similarly, Ruth Pakaluk had cancer and decided to have one more child anyway, despite the serious risk to her life; that child is now grown and has four children of her own.

    Can anything justify refusing to bring into existence a child whom the couple and they alone can give life? Few people regret having one more child, but many regret “planning” one away, just as many women who have abortions regret doing so. In fact, I wrote some poems to address this very regret, based on real people:

    Two Empty Chairs

    “We did the NFP [natural family planning] bit for awhile [sic]… and have felt revulsion over it ever since. During that time we might have had at least two more children.” —Letter to the Editor, Seattle Catholic, 2002

    Two empty chairs, each in its place—
    The kitchen table’s vacant space,
    Where our six children see the chill
    Of unworn seats, both standing still
    Like Tiny Tim’s by the fireplace.

    We timed the marital embrace
    To procreate at slower pace.
    That empty phrase means none shall fill
    Two empty chairs.

    Our family planning did erase
    Two precious souls we can’t replace;
    We chose ourselves above God’s will.
    Their nonexistence buys each frill,
    And never shall their presence grace
    Two empty chairs.

    The No-Life Algorithm

    based on a letter to the editor of Seattle Catholic, 2002

    The priest gave papers teaching birth control
    Through tracking monthly cycles, maddening us
    With calendars and charts and stickers, full
    Of codes far more complex than C++!
    Thank God we’ve never tracked the monthly rhythm;
    The papers, shredded up, we’ve never missed.
    For, had we learned the no-life algorithm,
    Which of our seven children would exist?

    Would it be Mary, Peter, Anne, or John,
    Or Paul, Elizabeth, or Catherine
    Whose lights of life would never even dawn
    Because avoiding children seemed a win?
    Well, all I know is this: I’d rather give
    My life than not allow my kids to live.

    (Poet’s note: C++ (pronounced “see-plus-plus”) is a computer programming language, criticized for its complexity even by some notable programmers.)

    I also wrote one based on a similar thought, months before I had seen those letters to the editor:

    Elegy for the Child Never Conceived

    His would-be parents had but days;
    The procreative ship sat docked,
    And with the passengers’ delays,
    That ship is gone, forever locked,
    But if, instead, he’d been conceived
    And been allowed to live and die,
    His soul could one day be received
    In the embrace of God Most High.

    And hence it grieves my heart to see
    A child-shaped space unoccupied,
    Not running in the grass with glee,
    Nor leaning on his mother’s side,
    And no one in his space in bed
    To kiss goodnight while tucking in;
    No smiling face, no heart well-fed,
    No warm caress from hands to skin.

    When weighed against one human soul,
    No sacrifice too great to give
    Could ever be for such a goal
    That one’s own child may simply live.

    I also love this one I saw by John Davidson, quoted in Three to Get Married by Fulton Sheen:

    Your cruellest pain is when you think of all
    The honied treasure of your bodies spent
    And no new life to show. O, then you feel
    How people lift their hands against themselves,
    And taste the bitterest of the punishment
    Of those whom pleasure isolates. Sometimes
    When darkness, silence, and the sleeping world
    Give vision scope, you lie awake and see
    The pale sad faces of the little ones
    Who should have been your children, as they press
    Their cheeks against your windows, looking in
    With piteous wonder, homeless, famished babes,
    Denied your wombs and bosoms.

    It is fashionable these days to speak of another being ignorant because of “privilege,” but it is far worse not to trust God. Why do we tell each other to trust God in every area except family size? Might it be because we’re too influenced by our anti-Christian culture?

    I would welcome any thoughts of the matters I’ve addressed.

    Thank you,


  3. Thanks Simcha. This is a great piece and to be honest, you have just voiced an opinion I already had. I come from a background of poverty and have been so frustrated at the ignorance of many popular bloggers. And when I say ignorance I mean the ‘ignoring of’. Because statements are made or choices are explained with such little understanding of how most of the world lives. I haven’t read all of the comments here (phwoar!!) but I’m cheered to see such vigorous debate too. For me, good art stirs the pot and we understand each other better when we speak and listen to each other. Plus, I’m just so glad that ‘the curtain has been drawn back’ a little. Regular blog culture-the oneupmanship, the pursuit of perfection, the lack of transparency and honesty-is just gahhh. We can do better. There is so much more that can be shared about faith, hope and love. (Hmm. and that’s a challenge for me to think about how I manage my own social media accounts!)

  4. Thanks Simcha. This is a great piece and to be honest, you have just voiced an opinion I already had. I come from a background of poverty and have been so frustrated at the ignorance of many popular bloggers. And when I say ignorance I mean the ‘ignoring of’. Because statements are made or choices are explained with such little understanding of how most of the world lives. I haven’t read all of the comments here but I’m cheered to see such vigorous debate too. For me, good art stirs the pot and we understand each other better when we speak and listen to each other. Plus, I’m just so glad that ‘the curtain has been drawn back’ a little. Regular blog culture-the oneupmanship, the pursuit of perfection, the lack of transparency and honesty-is just gahhh. We can do better. There is so much more that can be shared about faith, hope and love. (Hmm. and that’s a challenge for me to think about how I manage my own social media accounts!)

  5. This absolutely needed to be said. Poverty is a scourge on the education and support of children, and is strongly correlated with socioeconomic, health, behavioural, and personal demographic factors that are antagonistic to the well being of children. Responsible parenthood demands that parents consider the full circumstances to which a child would be exposed before conception, and that they govern themselves accordingly.

    I am not a proponent of NFP or providentialism as panaceas. These are methods that are appropriate for some families—often in the appropriate (as determined by the couple) seasons of the families’ lives. Both approaches carry high risks of unplanned conception and place heavy burdens of prolonged abstinence on couples legitimately needing to avoid conception.

    We, as Catholics, need to seriously and strenuously evaluate whether the burden we are placing on the shoulders of the poor—adherence to NFP or providentialism—is ethical. We set families up for failure by imposing a fertility management approach on them that is inconsistent with the resources at their disposal (be they economic, social, emotional, psychological, spiritual, etc.)

    1. After 27 years of a Catholic nfp nightmare, finally I find something so right and compassionate as this post and your comment. Who are you people? Where can I find you? I originally thought perhaps we could be more providential. We have the financial resources, but reality set in during my very first pregnancy that we were definitely not going to be that virtuous couple. My husband wished to let nfp go and covertly worked against it in many levels. (He even called it “free sex” when I was pregnant.)
      Any chance you would go so far as to say after six children and both parents, and all grandparents, with mental health issues, a husband (that is the “devout catholic” who wouldn’t let us consider bc, but then) refuses to practice nfp respectfully, that a dispensation on the ban on more reliable bc is in order? I policed us to strict adherence, but had three more children. Then had to resort long term abstinence to regain a functioning level of health, but that proved devasting to our “Catholic” but not so much sacramental marriage. I tried to speak to our pastor, but his reply was that my not being open to more children was selfish. Again, I was raising 6 children ages 7-21 and had used nfp/abstinence the best I could in light of the situation and a serious illness that took two years to reverse by the day of our meeting. Honestly, the question was for the benefit of my husband at that point. My personal desires had long before been offered at the foot of the cross. I may lack some other virtues and have mental health issues, but I’m not selfish.

  6. Thank you Simcha for this post!
    For the people complaining about her “dragging » Catholic All Year « over the coals », maybe you should stick to an easy, sanctimonious theology like Catholic All Year blogs about. One where you don’t need to consider how your privilege and material advantage may inform or be in conflict or rub up against the call to follow the gospel…

  7. There is nothing romantic about poverty. And those who think it is have not experienced it in truth. It’s actually quite ugly, and I believe it can only be transformed into something beautiful in heaven.

  8. Whether or not the original blogger intended it, the ignorance of the realities of chronic poverty is glaring in OP. This piece of Simcha’s is a useful launching point for a conversation about the ignorance (and ignoring) of what true and lasting poverty looks like. It is not just rice and beans. It is lead poisoning and bad schools and crushing debt. It is not romantic or a “simpler” lifestyle. This is worth writing about.
    If the original author did NOT take it into account, then all the more reason to being that topic up.
    Socio economic position and a full assessment and/or disclosure of how wealth colors life decisions is all too lacking in the Catholic blogosphere and I am very grateful for all of Simcha’s advocacy for more self examination, and more conversation, around those questions.

    1. She wasn’t addressing poverty, so she doesn’t need to make it her focus. It wasn’t an omission, and although it may be ignorance, it probably isn’t. She probably was just saying what was easier for her, in her circumstances. She wasn’t addressing everyone in the whole world. She wasn’t coming after poor people. Sheesh. Furthermore, what’s so awesome about being so convinced life is going to be terrible and impossible and full of drug addict etc?? So what should people do? Cower in their rooms? Wait for the government to come fix everybody? It seems sometimes people forget that children *once* , long ago, were actually a joy and reason for hope in the world. Now, it seems, they only cause anxiety attacks. We get it poverty stinks. Ok. So what?

      1. I haven’t read the original blogpost because I haven’t been able to find it. But based on Simcha’s account of it, no, the original post was not about poverty. But a commenter pointed out to the blogger that it’s easier to forgo NFP and continue having babies when poverty is not a factor. The blogger then responded that she would happily make sacrifices, such as living in a trailor and eating beans and rice, to keep having babies without using NFP. Simcha was pointing out that there are situations of extreme poverty that go way beyond those types of sacrifices, which is why people who don’t face that kind of poverty are therefore privileged to be able to forego NFP. So while the original blogpost was not about poverty, her response to a reader’s comment suggested a lack of awareness of the extreme poverty that some Catholics face and which makes it hard for them to say no to NFP. No one is implying that children are not a joy or that we should live in fear of poverty. Simcha is just saying that for people who live in that circumstance, having baby after baby without using NFP for spacing could be problematic, and it’s not something that would be resolved by eating beans and rice.

        1. Ok. She was responding to a comment. Fair enough. I seriously doubt her answer was reflecting a lack of awareness about poverty. She’s just sayin that as a response to one comment, cause you know she’s making a comment. I would tell people to chillax but clearly that ain’t gonna happen, cause we all gots to be aware of microagressions and poverty and privilege all the time, 24×7. The world’s a terrible place, and we’re all gonna die. There, feel better?
          I’m sorry, that’s my bad humor coming thru. I’m just going to apologize for thinking about this way to much, and go find something else to do. I’m sure you and Simcha are really lovely people.

          1. I don’t have anything against this blogger. As I mentioned, I wasn’t even able to read the blogpost because I couldn’t find it. I certainly don’t think the world is a terrible place, and I don’t think Simcha does either, or I doubt she would have brought ten children into the world. She just took issue with the implication that a beans/rice lifestyle equates a poverty lifestyle with no need for NFP, when in fact there are more extreme levels of poverty than that where forfeiting NFP would barely be an option. Maybe she’s reading too much into it, maybe I am, but it seems to me the person who needs to chill is the one who interprets an empathy and concern for the poor to be an attitude that the world is a horrible place.

  9. Half my childhood was in poverty. Very similar poverty to the way Simcha described it above. I was the child and not the mother, of course, but I remember being cooped up, not allowed outside or to play with the other kids in our apartment. It wasn’t just the fear of drugs but the very real fear of pediphiles and sex offenders.

    It’s not a place that many people want to raise a family. It isn’t humble rice and beans. It isn’t living simply. It’s li in ugly, and often very very alone. Or worse than alone, disturbed by the addicts and aggressive neighbors and family.

    The other blogger, saying that it is easier to not use NFP, is ignorant of these realities…. and it’s hurtful to people who really are stuck in these impossible situations.

  10. Wow. This saddens me. I suppose you would also “blame” some one like her for not having a lot of children while seeming to be well off? Where does the line get drawn? No one can know the circumstances or challenges that anyone else goes through. This just disgusts me. Being able to toss NFP out the window is certainly not my lot in life, but I’m not offended when that’s another person’s situation, nor do I assume it is simply ignorant privilege talking. I’m also not in the position to raise 8-10 children, but I don’t go making assumptions about other people’s reasons or lack of reasons for using or not using NFP. More power to them! Marriage and fertility are hard. It’s a cross, no matter what form that comes in. It’s not a sin to have wealth or a housekeeper, and someone who is open to life and uses their money to take care of a large family has my admiration. We surely don’t see the struggles of any person fully, especially when it’s an online presence. You could have made this point about privilege without jumping to so many conclusions about a person who you basically called out by name. We Catholics are doing a disservice to the world by tearing each other down. You could have made this point much more effectively without making it a personal attack. You’ve lost one reader here.

    1. I think you missed her point altogether.

      Maybe you should read it again, this time focusing on what she is saying. She is calling out a judgment, not judging.

      1. No, she is passive-aggressively quoting someone word for word but not naming them directly, leaving it very obvious who she’s talking about. She is then using that person as her token example for those who are privileged and don’t understand poverty. She could have made the point either by directly confronting and calling this person out (for no good reason that I can see), having a private conversation, or she could have written her piece about privilege/poverty without the lack of charity. This is basically gossip and slander. I get what she is doing, and I don’t appreciate it. There are plenty of people who don’t use NFP and are 100% open to life. Do they owe us an apology or an explanation because we are not in the same situation? There are others who cannot figure out NFP and 100% abstain for long periods of time. Do we know what goes on in everyone’s life? This piece by SF is an example of what’s wrong in the Catholic online world, I’m sorry I gave it the web traffic that I did.

        1. Yes a million times over! My first and last visit to this blog. If the other blogger had made some fatal flaw in presenting Catholic teaching, by all means point it out (maybe with a shred of charity though). In this case, it’s a Catholic mom blogger dragging another Catholic mom blogger over the coals for a comment within a post about celebrating openness to life–are you for real? Just no.

          1. Please excuse my denseness, but I don’t see a shred of charity in your comment. Maybe you could point it out to me?

          2. You’re right, Melissa. My post did lack the charity that everyone deserves to receive. I go to these blogs looking for inspiration to be a better Catholic, not worse, and that definitely wasn’t the case here!

    2. I have to agree with you! The personal attack on this “blogger”, who let’s be honest, we know who she is, is not needed. We all have our crosses.

      1. This is months after the fact, so sorry if I’m dredging up old dirt here…

        I have NO idea who the other blogger is (nor do I particularly care). Just my two cents.

    3. “This just disgusts me.”

      I’m finding this expression being used more and more online and, frankly, IT disgusts me. Disgust is a strong word to toss around when someone is simply expressing a different viewpoint. It’s quite possible to disagree with someone without being disgusted. Disgust should be reserved for evil.

  11. While there are many, any valid reasons to use nfp, there are also plenty of reasons not to which can’t be considered “privilege.”

    First of all, no one “has to” use NFP. It is their choice and it is licit, but they don’t “have to.” They may feel like they have to, but the same situation on a different person may decide differently. For instance, a woman has recurrent miscarriages and they can’t figure out why. One couple may choose to use NFP to avoid pregnancy, another may continue to conceive and lose their children because they feel that is what they’re called to. It is their cross, so to speak, but also in hopes that one baby will make it eventually.

    Also, a person living in “poverty” in the United States may choose not to have any more children because they don’t have the money, but another person living in “poverty” in the United States may choose to let the Lord bless them with as many children as He sees fit, trusting He will provide. Not to mention that in America, no pregnant mother or mother and child goes hungry or without medical care unless something else is in play (mental health issues, drug issues, etc). People in Africa are perfectly happy having slews of children and by America’s standards, they live in extreme poverty.

    I understand there are always serious issues that may lead to NFP and avoiding children, but again, that is all left to the perspective of the couple.

    People have different perspectives, and that’s good, because the Church allows for discernment. This type of article serves no purpose except to point fingers and drive a wedge between families.

    So, why don’t we drop the liberal talking points about “privilege,” and try to understand each other a little better instead?

    1. Understanding each other is the entire purpose of becoming aware of your relative privilege. If you feel the need to categorize (and then dismiss, without consideration) individual words because you don’t like their pedigree, you’re never going to get very far with understanding anybody very different from yourself.

    2. You’ve talked to every mother in Africa and you know they are all perfectly happy, even the ones who have obstetric fistulas and have been kicked out by their husbands?

    3. Respectfully, it is unfortunately not at all true that every healthy mother and baby in America is guaranteed food and health care. That is the part she references about organizing days around all the hours it takes to fill out paperwork, organize childcare/public transportation/time off work to get to the proper office, then finding out that arbitrary rules have changed and you have to start all over again. I can tell you that, no matter how qualified you are for aid programs, getting successfully enrolled in them is a hurdle many, many people struggle to get over. If you are very lucky and all moving parts of your plan work right the first time (which is often out of our control) then it takes at least a few days for aid programs to kick in. What if you can’t afford to fix your car, so you have to take a bus to file your paperwork, and what if the only time you could catch the bus that day, the bus was an hour late? So the office closed, and maybe it’s a weekend and you have to wait until the next week to try again because your city has very limited bus schedules on weekends? That’s a few more days that you qualify for food and healthcare, but can’t access it and your bank account still hasn’t gone up. Actually if you’re keeping track, your bank account is in fact going down (lost wages and bus fare). Small things like that can derail entire days or weeks for people in poverty, during which your children still want to eat food. That’s the kind of thing she meant about people in poverty having a small margin for error. You don’t have to have mental illness or addiction in order for the city bus to inexplicably be an hour late and therefore ruin your schedule for the next several days. But so what if you do have mental illness or addiction? Virtually all of us will experience a season of mental illness at some point. Should we just throw up our hands and let their families go hungry?
      It can hurt to hear people who don’t understand our experiences say that we don’t deserve a second thought because “no baby in America goes hungry.” I’m honestly glad for you that you haven’t had to learn about this type of life firsthand. I would ask respectfully that you please listen to the experiences of people who have. It may be true that no mother or baby in America is supposed to go without food or healthcare, but please consider that accessing these programs in reality is at best time-consuming and at worst downright impossible in our lived lives. Thank you very much for listening to me.

  12. I have gotten to know a middle-aged woman who works at our local hardware store pretty well. We’re not best buds, but we talk. I know she comes from a large, dysfunctional family. The stories she told about her family were hair-raising. She and her sibling were taken away from her parents briefly. And it sounds like the dysfunction is being perpetuated in the next generation. She knows I have seven kids and when she found out my sisters had large families also, she asked if we were Mormon. When I told her no, she said, “My parents weren’t religious, just horny.” I think that’s something we all have to ask ourselves. Do some Catholics not use NFP because, man, it’s too hard to abstain, and then call their lack of self-control “following God’s will”? Do some Catholics use NFP, claiming to be “prudent” yet are really just afraid to go where God leads? I think it’s a pretty complicated issue. Often, the people who “should” use NFP are the least likely to do so because they haven’t been given the privileges of coming from a stable, safe home, or receiving a good education, or a good work ethic, or a myriad of other benefits we take for granted . That’s something that those who work with the poor often point out. We’re eating more means and rice these days, not so we can bring another child into the world, but to help get our kids through college. That is a privilege and I am well aware that I shouldn’t complain about college tuition and our diet around those who are juggling two or three jobs with no hope of higher education.

  13. I remember loving that blog until I found out that A. She has a full-time housekeeper and B. Her husband earns seven figures a year. But then I started to give her the benefit of the doubt because I was thinking, man, how many ladies in a ritzy zip code in California with millionaire husbands have large families? I think it’s admirable.

    1. …..Wow…. That explains so much. The latest I had remembered jobwise was that her husband was in some administrative capacity in the Marines, so I assumed her blog was really taking off or something. I did wonder what was up with that recent video of peacocks walking around mansions lol. I think she could be more forthright that her lifestyle is made possible by a full-time housekeeper (!!) and millions of dollars, since she positions herself as a lifestyle role model and all. I still love her though 🙂

  14. I like your article but you missed a major point… there is a huge level of prayer. A couple must always be praying for God’s guidance on whether or not to use NFP. Humanae Vitae is clear that a family is called to a life of communion with God. That is saying God should we have another child or not and listening to his voice. Not using NFP should be a prayed about decision. All marriages bare crosses that no one sees. I have felt with dozens of families who say that they are open to life all the while the couples marriage is suffering and the children are disturbed. The issue plaguing Catholic families is the desire to appear Holy and perfect. Prayer is honest, God’s guidance is honest. When you let God into a relationship He highlights everything that needs to be fixed. Using NFP is a model of prayer whether you are doing it to conceive or to wait. Pope Francis made it clear that there is no moral high ground to saying I am letting God control. Our God is all wisdom and looks to give us inspiration, and we have freewill. No where in scripture does it say God has full control. Please include prayer, this article was great… but it could use a dose of prayer

    1. My father, who had a large family himself and many grandchildren, was always upset when he heard that a couple on the brink of divorce or in marriage counseling, had conceived a baby. His reaction was something like, “What the hell are they doing making a baby together, when they don’t even like each other?!” (And other more earthy expressions). We need prayer, but we have to balance it with “over sprititualizing sex” (TOB comes to mind). Sex is something we share with the animals and in the weird world of being human (or rational animal), we have to remember that sex is still an overwhelming animal passion that needs to be firmly under the control of reason and virtue. I think NFP helps with developing that control.

  15. Well, well. What a lot of different issues have already been raised. Sympathy, or lack of it, for other people’s difficulties, anonymous references vs. calling someone out, NFP vs. being open to life. Whether disagreeing with someone is exactly the same as hating the person. Or not. One good Catholic blogger vs. another.
    Just to stir the pot a little more I will add another point of view. That is, urban vs. rural poverty. I have never lived in, or even faced, the level of poverty Simcha references. I do have a very good friend who has suffered a great deal from living in poverty, but never has had to deal with condoms or broken glass or the neighbor dog’s poop in the kids play area, has always been able to have a large garden because she has been poor in a rural area.

  16. I am so over silly Catholic debates over nfp or the quiverful approach. Thank God for contraception after you have had the number of kids you want and can manage. Being constantly pregnant or being scared of being pregnant is stupid in an age when you can have a choice.

    1. Artificial contraception is contrary to Church teaching. Moreover, it violates Natural Law. So, if one is Catholic, artificial contraception is not an option. Further, it is not about how many kids you “want”. It is about discerning God’s will.

  17. So refreshing! I’m so tired of hearing the rainbow and unicorns part of nfp and not reality. I think there’s tons of reality out there and hard stuff, but somehow the concept of nfp often isn’t combined with the tough part when you’re learning the methods. It’s tough. I absolutely hated my process of learning because my body wasn’t sending clear signs (continuous mucus) and my instructor kept peddling the method as well as the doctor wasn’t fixing the problem (thank God I’m with an instructor that sent me straight to the right doc for PCOS testing and healing because it worked!!). It was so aggravating. Aggravating isn’t even a strong enough word. I was terrified. My husband to be just didn’t want me on the pill, he wanted me healthier I guess, but he wanted his good catholic conscience satisfied. What about me and my job? The fact that I didnt have any end in sight of continuous mucus? My teacher kept saying how it would be ok, but when was I able to have sex with my husband when I was about to get married? I had waited many years to have sex until I got married, but I was going to have to either just get pregnant or be completely abstinent? I was so angry at the church and all of these people saying nfp worked. For me, I could not fathom how they trusted it. I can see it now, but we pretty much only use post peak. It’s very tough. Thank you for acknowledging everything that’s real! Not pretending this is easy. It’s such a slap in the face to pretend otherwise.

    1. Jj – this was/is me/us too. My big irritation was how the whole NFP concept is “sold” as something beautiful that brings couples closer together. It CAN bring couples together, but only if you’re on the same page, and you have a good solid relationship already. If your husband doens’t understand mucus and why your nfp instructor wants you to abstain for another cycle so you can chart and find out why you have mucus all the time, and if you may have something you need to look into, and you’re newly married, it’s understandably frustrating. I think the NFP promoting community needs to get more real and stop trying to sell all the fabulous things NFP can do for you and your marriage and just teach it as a natural thing to do. And at least mention that it’s not always easy for some people and explain WHY.

  18. Thank you Simcha. I am a mother who, until I read your book, always believed that to be a “good” Catholic that I needed to do whatever it took to “be open to life”. I am grateful for our four children but in 8 years I had four children and four miscarriages. Each birth and miscarriage was followed by post partum depression and serious physical complications. And, yes, God gave me the graces I needed but I thank God that I also read your book which very plainly explains the necessity of considering your unique circumstances and to not fall into the trap of saying, “well if someone else can do it I should be able to do it.” I hear that same message in this post and I thank you for continuing to trumpet this message.
    As a side note, I do not use social media nor do I read other bloggers but it seems that criticism of this post is unnecessary. It’s odd that others accuse you of doing something that they themselves are doing with their comments.

    1. This touches on a disagreement my husband I used to have. When families in our Catholic homeschooling group would decide to stop homeschooling and send their kids to the public schools, my husband would get upset. I’d defend the moms by saying they had so many kids and it was just getting too difficult for them to homeschool. My husband’s obvious answer to that was NFP. I would come back with “but they’re bring another life into the world.” He’d come back with, “So the other kids are going to get a shitty education and have their souls endangered, so they can have another baby?” Maybe the couple thought everything would come out alright if they gave another soul to God. My husband thought that was a big gamble to make. We never agreed on this. I think, as a mom, I had a visceral reaction – what’s more precious than holding another baby? For him, it was a problem with an obvious solution.

  19. Great post, Simcha. Even outside of the NFP conversation, so many people mistake poverty as purely a money issue, and have no handle on its true complexity.

    Also, I’m glad that people can be honest about their struggles with NFP, but as a not quite married person, I’m kind of over all the NFP angst online this week. Some may have to abstain, but poverty or not, at least they live in the same zip code as their spouse (I’m currently 700 miles away from my fiancé, and also know folks who deal with constant military deployment, so there are many crosses other than mine that look more attractive right now.)

  20. Wow, amazing essay.

    Does anyone else think that Catholics’ hyperfocus on these kinds of issue is a little bizarre? If I were an outsider, I’d swear Catholicism was a religion somehow centered entirely on contraception, abortion, and gay marriage. Let’s devote our energies instead to knowing, loving, and serving God, and then, once we know the joy of that, let us share that joy with others. Then everything else will follow of its own accord. I suspect, however, that most of us do not know the center, and that is why we are so overly concerned with the periphery.

    1. To be fair, these are the things where we’re facing a different direction than the rest of the world, and they have a huge impact on both the societal and the individual level. I can’t touch the gay marriage issue because in my head it’s part of a larger denigration of marriage, a redefinition of the purposes and ends of marriage, that I’ve seen destroy people. I can’t talk about it without sounding kind of unbalanced–the connections that are obvious to me because of my Catholic-informed understanding of what marriage fundamentally IS are completely foreign to most of the people I talk to, even to many Catholics.

    1. From what I understand, NFP isn’t just about not conceiving; it’s about understanding your fertility and using prayer and discretion in your sexual life. In that sense, while you’re right that it’s not “required”, it is something that each of us ought to pursue. Understanding the gift we’ve been given and how it truly works is the real point of NFP, and some couples use that knowledge to either have children or avoid having children because it’s not appropriate right now.

  21. Thank you very much for mentioning infertility and miscarriage. I often feel very left out of these conversations. Thank you for acknowledging the pain and losses.

    NFP/NaPro for me is being open to life (and so, so much loss) and it’s also the most expensive thing in our lives.

  22. Oops sorry. I’m not good at writing on my phone. I just wanted to say that our entire country is in a mess because of people suspecting that the intentions of others are bogus. My husband for example is one of the most generous people I know,but he simply can’t fathom why healthy white guys with college educations wouldn’t go out and get a lousy sales job that they hate rather than go on public assistance.

  23. If the blogger was responding to a particular comment by making a specific point, well she’s not coming after you, nor is she really attempting to address poverty. She’s just saying that the particulars mentioned wouldn’t have stopped her. She’s not addressing your particulars or poverty in general. You’re not the only person to have to face fears with regard to poverty, or maybe health or how to keep going in circumstances that seem impossible. Really. Anyway Im sure you are a good and kind person and a wonderful caring mother. Your writing often makes me smile and laugh. So thank you for that!

  24. Well I don’t think anyone mentioned it yet, but there’s also abstaining, when circumstances are indeed dire. So that’s an option if NFP doesn’t work for you.

    1. That comes across as a flippant statement. Permanent abstinence requires heroic virtue. What we as a Church (and society at large) need to do is work for an economic environment where one doesn’t have to be a hero to be good. That’s why the Church has always insisted on a just social and economic order – to make it easier for people to be virtuous.

      1. There’s nothing wrong with abstaining if your circumstances are indeed very dire. It’s actually something of a relief to know that this is ok, and you don’t have to do NFP if that is not a helpful option. I don’t see how that’s flippant.

        1. Oh I should have added, I’m not talking about “permanent” abstinenance. Eventually, most people experience changes of circumstances that allow them to re-assess things.

  25. Maybe it has to do with where I live. Maybe I am too new of a Catholic. But I gotta say, nowhere but the internet have I ever encountered a single Catholic who has had any opinion to share about family size–mine or anyone else’s. We have two kids, and no Catholic has ever criticized or shamed us for not having more; it’s not anybody’s business, but we’re quite poor, not TTA, and God simply hasn’t blessed us. (Doctor thinks the stress of our living situation right now might be impeding fertility.)

    The blogger Simcha mentions sounds naive but well-meaning. As poor folks ourselves, we’ve made a similar decision not to avoid, although we’re not married to the decision. We know some of our family members think we’re naive not to avoid when we’re financially on the rocks like we are right now.

    On the other hand, I don’t get the impression that Simcha is attacking this blogger so much as using her comment about rice and beans as a jumping-off point. A previous commenter mentioned how there are people who can’t imagine how anybody finds NFP difficult–and then they discover that they can’t have kids at all, which suggests that NFP only “worked well” for them because they wouldn’t have gotten pregnant even if they had made a charting mistake. In a similar way, there are people who can’t imagine how anybody finds being poor difficult–because their idea of poverty is restricted to having to decrease consumption of luxury items.

    Just like there need to be voices saying, “HEY. Just so you know, NFP truly doesn’t work well for a number of people, even if it works fine for you,” there also need to be voices saying, “HEY. Being poor is about waaaaay more than what you do and don’t eat.” That’s what Simcha is doing here. Not attacking the blogger; pointing out a weakness in a claim the blogger made.

    The assumption that a critique of a statement is an attack on the person who made the statement is one of the most pernicious concepts of our current age. It’s the death of healthy discourse.

    1. I have to agree with Clare K, I have never encountered anyone who comments on family size in my Catholic or not Catholic friends. Also it has never happened in my family, my two younger brothers have five kids and I “only” have four, my little sister is a real underperformer with two. We are Irish Catholics and I’m the only one who lives in England, the rest live in the home of big families- Eire.

      What I’m trying to say is that NFP is wonderful and as an author Simcha has written an excellent book on the subject.

      BUT one of my least favourite parts of modern secular life is the constant intrusion into people’s bedrooms and treating pregnancy as a fashion statement. Babies become accessories and rapidly become sex objects as they grow.

      We should be better than that, we shouldn’t judge, pontificate or intrude into other people’s decisions.
      Wise experts write wise words on many subjects but I honestly think that that we should listen to our natural instincts where “family matters” are concerned.

      My very Catholic conscience is horrified by anyone commenting or judging or pontificating on anything that involves another couple. It is not “judge not, lest you be judged” more a case of “judge not, thats Gods job”.

      Sorry if I’ve rambled, please don’t judge me and with Gods grace I will never attempt to judge anyone.

      Massive Love to you all.

    2. Wow, Clare. “The assumption that a critique of a statement is an attack on the person who made the statement is one of the most pernicious concepts of our current age. It’s the death of healthy discourse.” This is so true. Well said.

      1. I mean, we Christians are on the receiving end of “hater” and “bigot” so often when we voice opinions that are against the Zeitgeist, I would think we’d be more reluctant to do the same thing to each other. But it’s so common… I myself am way too thin-skinned and take every criticism super personally, so I know whereof I speak 😉

    3. It happens. I witnessed the father of a large family at a parish picnic tell my childless friends about how great it is to trust God and how “there’s never a perfect time to start a family.” This guy was assuming that this couple had postponed starting a family because of their work and travel situation (they were teaching theology in Rome). But this couple had been earnestly trying to conceive since their wedding night and they simply had not been blessed with children. I wanted to punch Mr. Large Family in the face. It was so terribly insensitve. But this couple was much more grace-filled than me and they weren’t even slightly ruffled.

      1. Wowsers. What self-absorption. I think in general it’s more charitable to assume the childless couple wants kids but can’t have em, if you’re going to make assumptions.

        As a convert, the company I keep are mostly secular people or evangelicals. I tend not to talk about Catholic sexual teachings with either group because our sex life is none of their business, but hubby has. The secular folks think we’re nuts but don’t make a big deal about it… The evangelicals get MAD. Like, very defensive, as if our choice not to use ABC is a judgment on them and their choices. My hubby has gotten in shouting matches with his evangelical friends about this topic.

        1. It is so predictable these days that anybody who states their position on anything at all is automatically assumed to be pushing against someone else’s position and bringing it up automatically causes an argument. I just saw a buzzfeed thing of NFP users holding signs like, “I don’t want to put dangerous hormones into my body,” and all the commenters are taking it as if the NFP users are calling ABC users ignorant, immoral, and foolish. A couple of the signs made me squint a little, but most of them are reasons that I also use NFP, fully cognizant that lots of people will disagree and choose differently, and that’s fine with me because they have a right to decide what to do with their own bodies (when it’s only their own bodies, of course).

  26. It should also be pointed out that lots of people live in big old houses in off the beaten track areas. It doesn’t mean you are wealthy. The author being referred to doesn’t live in a high profile area if I remember correctly. And she works to help support her family. I don’t think it’s fair to call that wealthy.

    1. That’s actually not true. The author being referred to lives In Los Angeles county which has exorbitantly high cost of property and living and does so primarily on one income. Just for reference

      1. I think the point is that just because money troubles hit, at a certain point it’s possible to be well enough established that the sort of bloodsucking poverty of which Simcha speaks is so far away that it’s no longer a burning issue. I have no idea if the original author is at that point in her life, but it’s entirely possible she is. My husband and I grew up poor so we can relate to the tales Simcha is telling. And although we’ve come a very long wany, we still don’t have a safety net which the original author may very well have. There are no parents who could bail us out. We’d probably have some siblings who combined could float us for a month or two, but realistically if our resources dried up, we’re on our own.

        Still, we’d be unlikely ever again to find ourselves in the sort of poverty described here. At least not for many, many years, long after our kids have grown. We’ve lived in this lovely neighborhood for more than two decades. Our full house payment is less than what we’d be paying to rent a tiny dump in slummy in North Philadelphia. Our public schools are fine. Our kids could walk to a free meal every day in the summer if they wanted to. There are plenty free programs at our library and in our very safe park. We have lots of friends and neighbors who’d keep our kids in hand me downs. I’m not saying suburban poverty would be easy for us, but at this point for us it would definitely be closer to beans and rice than the hell Simcha described. And if their teeth hit the magic free braces Medicaid number, I doubt that even in poverty our kids would be distinguishable from the other kids in the neighborhood.

        I tend to agree with what others have said that I don’t see people in real life judging about NFP usage. I think that’s an internet thing. Everyone has their own crosses and for that woman poverty is not her particular cross. Having not read the original piece I don’t know if she was judging anyone or simply stating her truth, but it’s easy for me to believe she wasn’t thinking beyond her own situation.

        1. Philly area, I couldn’t agree more! I really appreciate how non judgemental your comment is. We have no idea what people’s circumstances are. Just because someone’s life looks a certain way, it doesn’t mean it is and everyone has some sort of cross they are bearing. I’m kind of tired of bloggers/Internet articles forgetting this.

      2. I’ve met her. I can’t remember exactly where it is that she said she lives but it was not high profile L.A. And FWIW there are definitely cheap neighborhoods in L.A. County! We know a couple that moved to Lancaster. They sold their bungalow in Marin for close to a million and bought a giant house in Lancaster. They both are highly educated but from poor families so Lancaster didn’t make them lose their cool. He is a lawyer but does sales. There is a good amount of money for a provider if he is willing to live in airports and Marriotts frequently to bring home the bacon. Not my cup of tea but we are now living a version of this so I salute the man for doing it for twenty years.

        1. I’m with you Annalisa! I hate replying from my phone because I always mess it up! I have been waiting till I have a chance to use a full keyboard, which is probably good because it gives me time to cool off before saying something uncharitable!

    2. I don’t think you’re thinking of the same blogger. She is very wealthy, and I don’t think she’d argue that point.

      1. Elisabeth,
        My father used to say that “people are broke at their own level” –meaning that if you operate from an upper middle class level you still have upper middle class expenses. You might say “oh boohoo for upper middle class woes” but you have to understand that in CA where there is a huge divide between the wealthy and the massive amount of people on welfare, it is the middle class that takes it on the chin. Yes, you can make 150k and have less cash flow than your gardener that works under the table! If you don’t have a big mortgage tax deduction the gov’t is going to take the money from you anyhow!–So you may as well buy that big old can of worms 1920s Spanish house. Yes, it doesn’t mean you are wealthy. Sheltering money in college accounts is another way of keeping the government from picking your pocket. Rural Ventura isn’t where the wealthy go to spend their big bucks unless you’re a big farmer. People with big bucks don’t save on hair highlighting and smartphones.
        Hahahaha–we used to have a million dollar mortgage and I can remember making beans and rice to save money!

        1. Anna Lisa everything you just described is so, so far from poverty though, regardless if it means someone is “rich”.

          1. Elisabeth,
            I hope this doesn’t sound abrupt, but while Simcha is a complete victim and did nothing to deserve her circumstances I question why it ever got that bad. I believe she is truly suffering from a form of ptsd, and viewing the NFP debate like her situation was normal. Someone in this thread said it’s rude to refer to the blogger in her own thread, so I don’t mean to do that (sorry)…

            Simcha you are a Saint. I’m not trying to flatter you and I like that you are a salty Saint too. You didn’t deserve what happened to you. I know you love your kids and wouldn’t trade them to erase what happened. I bet your suffering has done a ton of good, you will see it some day and get blown away. It still doesn’t justify that you were ever put in that position to begin with. Obviously there are details like maybe your husband was clinically depressed and we just don’t know what happened. In cases like these I can see why you made the point that you did.

            So her husband makes a million bucks a year?

            Hahaha okay yeah. She sort of deserves the calling out.

  27. So much truth here.
    When I got married at the ripe age of 21 and quickly had my first three children in three years, I found it easier to not bother with NFP and just keep having babies. I imagined myself as a mother or nine to twelve, because that was what I signed up for.
    Then we had a 60% decrease in income. We moved from a huge four bedroom house to a crappy townhouse with neighbors whose bass did shake our windows all night, loose pit bulls running all over, and an emotionally unstable neighbor lady that would ring our doorbell and start screaming because she didn’t like the way we parked. We always had food to eat, but it was all bought on credit cards and while we have found more financial security now, we still carry that debt to this day. We eventually moved to a worse house that was filthy beyond belief but were able to save about $75 a month on rent and that was worth it. It was during this time that we became acquainted with nfp.
    Things improved finally, we bought a modest house and put away the charts and monitors. Then in the ultimate plot twist, despite 4 textbook healthy pregnancies, the 5th nearly killed me and did kill our baby after sudden, unexpected, and unexplained 3rd trimester complications. After all the tests, the specialists, the genetic counseling, we were advised that whether or not it would happen again was anybody’s guess. A flip of the coin. I asked about the 4 healthy pregnancies in a row, and the perinatologist said, “No one alerts the press if you flip heads four times in a row.”
    We have since had a 6th. But I was an emotional, nervous wreck through that pregnancy with symptoms of PTSD and then PPD.
    So now, we are TTA NFPers for life, and it’s a cross we have to bear. I’d rather stick to my 21 year-old-me plan, but with each new pregnancy I know I may or may not die and my baby may or may not die. I get the side eye from time to time from certain Catholic families, first for the obvious age gap between children 4 and 6, always ready to point out that their family is bigger than yours, as if to say the measure of how Catholic you are correlates with family size. Or people that say you just have to have faith when letting God plan your family. Faith? Faith was saying no to the OB that performed my last, high risk c-section when he offered to tie my tubes. Faith is saying no to easy and quick contraceptives that would take the fear of conception out of me every month. Faith is saying yes to NFP despite the fact that it is not what I ever wanted or planned to do.

    1. Here here. That’s such an important point. Each couple has to take their own unique situation into account and the most faithful response will be as unique as the situation. And that may change with situation or our own understandings of our faith

  28. In some cases, the validity of using NFP should not be the issue. The validity of the marriage should be examined.

      1. Let’s just put it this way: I know a woman who is basically an exotic dancer because her husband won’t work. He is extremely immature and got that way because others enabled his choices.
        Not a marriage.
        She sticks by him out of pity, complacency and because her children love him (even if they don’t respect his example).
        Not a marriage.

      1. What I’m saying is that when there are serious symptoms (extreme poverty by American standards)–you don’t just treat the symptoms. How can you begin to discuss being open to life if more serious underlying problems of *the relationship* aren’t addressed? Everybody freaked out a little when the pope highlighted the fact that it’s not just broken marriages that need to be addressed but marriage itself and what constitutes an authentic one. I think conservative Catholic wives have been conditioned to keep their heads down, suffer, and not even question whether what is happening to them is just because for better or for worse what they are experiencing is associated with sacrament. I think this is a serious distortion and leads to some pretty intolerable situations that appear to have a Catholic rubber stamp on them. Pope Francis may have let a genie out of the bottle and it may be chaffing a lot of guys in red dresses, but it’s time the guys in red dresses grew up too.

  29. Kinda off topic, but excellent point about the difference between poverty and thrift. Thrift is managing resources, poverty is a complete lack of them. Thrift can (sometimes) help avoid poverty, but it can’t solve it once you’re there. Seems basic, but it’s something I haven’t thought about much.

  30. I usually love your writing and perspective, Simcha. It is valuable and needed. And I understand how hurtful it must be that some people do not understand or appreciate the necessity of NFP within the context of poverty. So perhaps instead of kind-of-anonymously-but-not-really assuming things about specific people, you could share more from your personal perspective so others can better understand. Of course economic stability is a privilege, and what a gift to be able to accept children as they come without worry. But everyone has their gifts and crosses. Nobody needs to demonize or beat others up because their gifts and crosses are different – that is not helpful.

    Just because someone doesn’t have a reason or need to use NFP (and how many are there really??) doesn’t mean they’re incapable of understanding it or appreciating cases where NFP is needed. That is an assumption. I’m not even in that group of people and I don’t appreciate this. Your sacrifice of using NFP does not disqualify the other types of sacrifices others are called to make in their other circumstances. You may have intended this to enlighten people who don’t understand poverty, but that’s not what it did. It didn’t help me empathize with your struggle – it just makes me wonder if people in your position are jealous of others and blame them for their privilege. Nobody needs to apologize for their privilege because other people don’t have it. But we all need to take up our crosses and not measure ours against other people’s crosses. We should all be grateful for our gifts, but since when did those need to be a disclaimer? Some articles don’t apply to our lives, so those are the times to move on and realize it wasn’t aimed toward us.

    Poverty is an extremely difficult circumstance. Help me understand instead of getting mad and blaming me that I don’t already.

  31. I don’t necessarily know that that is correct. Visit any poorer pariah of Latinos and you will see plenty of children. Saying no to nfp might just mean wanting to unite physically and procreate freely with a spouse. Poverty might mediate that preference somewhat but it might also mean people are even more bound to the joys of marriage.

    1. Latinos also have something that a lot of anglos dont– strong family connections. Latino families rely on an extensive network of grandparents, cousins, aunts, and uncles and constantly share resources. If you’re isolated, you’re in a completely different situation than they are.

      I live in South Texas in an area where 80-90% of people are Latino, so I’m not just making this up. I’ve witnessed it.

      1. Oh, and Latina single mothers are common. Very, very common. They generally receive a LOT of help from programs and the extensive family connections I mentioned earlier.

  32. Shining a light directly on the darker side of life is, well, enlightening. To never be challenged in our comfort would a tragedy.
    In defense of the other blogger, however, she challenged a certain population. A population who have had relative ease and comfort their entire lives, who have the never really questioned what it would be like to not have basic necessities. This is no sin on their part, no conscious fault. Many, many Catholics have fallen headlong into the world’s contraceptive mentality, viewing another child as an obstacle to their comfort. This can’t go unchallenged. To use deliberately avoid pregnancy, at times and in certain situations is to refuse grace.
    As someone who is only recently coming to understand the enormity of the privileges granted, I would offer a suggestion. Browbeating, shaming and verbal finger-waggling did not bring me to a better understanding of this. Compassion and words spoken in love did. And patience.
    Have mercy. Please.

  33. I do know two people who were always quite confident about how easy NFP was and how no one could ever possibly have real struggles while using it and who both were unable to have biological children. True ignorance in their case, and they perhaps should have been more sensitive to other peoples’ struggles, but *not* a “check your privilege” type of thing. But it can be easy to look at someone else’s problems and feel that that would be better than your particular cross (or at least that you could deal with it more gracefully than with the one you’re grouchily stuck with because don’t we all deal really well with problems we don’t actually have?) And everyone seems to feel that when someone else talks about their cross, that must mean they think yours doesn’t even count. Sometimes they do think that, but I think more often they haven’t thought about it, they’re just thinking of their own experience and writing what they know.
    Anyway, I’m not saying the blogger referenced here gets it or doesn’t since I don’t know the post or the person in question; just that ignorance can be infuriating to someone on the other side, but isn’t necessarily the product of malice or even of privilege.

  34. Thank you for this post. We need much more conversation about privilege, fertility, and family planning, as well as the realities of poverty. Thank you.

  35. What about mental health problems. Where after the first child you had post partum depression so bad that you are fairly sure you won’t survive another baby and even if you could your afraid of passing on your mental disorder. You also live in poverty because it is hard to hold down a job due to the frequent stints in the psychiatric ward. This is the plight of a friend of mine.

  36. I happen to know the Catholic blogger of which you speak, in person. She is a dear friend of mine, actually.

    I also grew up in poverty. We currently live in a tiny rental house with our 6 kids on my husband’s modest income as a school counselor. While we live at the middle class level, I do have that life experience as a kid, so I’m not ignorant of the struggles you listed above. So there’s a little context for you.

    First off, her blog is pretty popular, so she probably didn’t think she needed to put that stuff in context; she has faithful readers. And yes, faithful haters who will never let her live down the things she’s shared. We Catholics are pretty good at tearing each other down, aren’t we?

    Secondly, her life experience has been an inspiration to some. I know of several people who were inspired to be more open to life through her example. More humans exist because of her witness. This is an objective good. Period.

    Is it a privilege to *not* need to abstain. Hell yes. Are there people who need *your* witness? Yes. We need people, of all walks of Catholic life. People we can identify with and people who inspire us, who comfort us, who lead better Christian lives because of our individual witness.

    Her experience and yours are different. Your roles in the Body of Christ are different, but each is valuable and important. And you know what? You could have written a very inspiring post about this without ever mentioning that someone out there is rich. You could have, but instead you chose to tear someone down instead of build up the Kingdom.

    1. I should not have mentioned the blogger in question by name. It was good of you to defend your friend.

      It is also good of you to say out loud that Catholics often tear each other down. Good grief, with secular society being what it is – it would be nice if satiated worldlings could look at your average parish and say, gee, they must be disciples, look how they love one another. But if you don’t fit the image of Good Catholic Family then you aren’t in the in-crowd. Sunday Mass can be a very isolating experience in the “Good Catholic” parish my husband insisted we join. Thankfully, there are enough of us non-poster Catholics so we can form our own little band of imperfect souls trying to get to heaven. And all are welcome with us.

    2. Yes! One thing I love is that two of my favorite bloggers (Kendra and Simcha) have such different perspectives and experiences and share their lives differently and both are part of my church! How great is that? Especially because I tend to fall somewhere in the middle.

      I haven’t ever gotten the vibe from Kendra that she isn’t absolutely on her knees in gratitude for all she has on the daily, and I love that example she sets for me, even though I have much less. I also don’t feel like she comes across as saying her way is the only good Catholic way, or that she is blogging AT me. But that’s just me, I guess.

    3. I saw the blog referred to and no where in it does she say that not doing NFP is better than deciding that you have to use it. It was just a sharing of how in a particular situation where they had grave reasons and thought about using NFP they chose not to because that seemed easier and more right. The grave reason was not poverty, but a spouse with health issues and the comment I would rather have kids and be poor is not meant to be an insult and I fail to see why it is lambasted so cruelly here. It is the hope that should circumstances get bad we would still avail ourselves of God’s help and do our best. I’m those circumstances you may need to use NFP, but you aren’t going to regret and try to sell of the kids you had when you where better off are you?! I find it so unhelpful to comment to people, “well you say that because you have x, but if you were in my situation then…” . Sharing personal experience is not judging someone else! If the experience is not helpful to your personal situation you do not need to get angry and own diatribes about how others have things you do not. Why are Catholics so nasty to each other?!!

    4. Amen. Simcha can NEVER be truly charitable. NEVER. Always bitterness. Always anger. Always turns me off. I only read this because I adore Kendra’s blog. Eyes rolling so hard at this whole lame post.

      1. I think you have misinterpreted Simcha’s sense of humor. Sarcasm is not necessarily anger and bitterness.

        FWIW, I enjoy both Kendra’s and Simcha’s blogs. Yep, that’s possible!

    5. You nailed it. Thank you. Let’s all build the kingdom with the gifts and experiences given to us by the Lord.

    6. I read Kendra’s blog regularly, and while I enjoy it much of the time, I do get where Simcha’s coming from here.

      When I read Kendra’s blog and Facebook, I often get the sense that she’s a little out-of-touch. Her husband obviously makes a lot of money since they have a large family, a huge house which they’re renovating, domestic help, and send 3 kids to private school on his income alone. Kendra has said that they can afford all this because she doesn’t have a smartphone or color her hair, but my husband and I have two good jobs and no children, and there’s no way we could afford half that stuff – even without an iPhone or hair care. Now, I certainly don’t begrudge them their success! Good for them! What irks me isn’t the success; it’s more that she comes off as thinking that a few small sacrifices would make us all into millionaires and that she doesn’t seem to understand that most families will never be able to live the way hers does. I do *not* think she says things like this to be malicious; merely that she doesn’t realize how other people perceive her or how fortunate she is.

      I don’t intend to tear Kendra down here, and for what it’s worth, I don’t think Simcha did either. Sometimes people just need to be corrected, and while that may not be easy to hear in the moment, in the long run it can be a kindness.

      1. I’ve been reading Kendra’s blog since yesterday and I think saying she’s out of touch isn’t fair. She’s simply a take charge gal. Is she well off? For sure. She puts away money into a college savings account each month and makes her kids have investment accounts – wow! I’m impressed. We’re relatively well off too, but we don’t do that. I suspect that she could never understand the sort of poverty Simcha describes because as long as she and her kids are healthy, that family would pull themselves up by their bootstraps and pull themselves out of it. Some people are just that way. She’s married to a marine for goodness’ sake!

        What’s more, I’m going to go out on a limb here and agree with her. If you already own your own home and have decent health insurance a new baby usually isn’t that expensive. Of course there are diapers, but they’re temporary and often can be paid for by budget tweaks. Oh, kids can get pricey down the line (sports camps/school supplies/dental care, etc.), but if you’re a certain type of parent, you a) make your kids start earning their own money when they’re about 8 or so and 2)make your kid pay for things himself, even his teenage boy food. And I’m not living in la la land – as the saying goes, I grew up without a pot or a window. I know how soul sucking it is to be poor. It’s not fair to say that people like Kendra can’t know real money problems, it’s probably more true to say that while people like Kendra might sometimes have money problems, they don’t let themselves be victims of it.

        I personally can’t connect with her because her personality is more regimented and her parenting style is more authoritarian than mine. And I’m way too lazy. If I knew her in real life, I doubt we’d be more than acquaintances as my friends tend to be messier and more freewheeling. I would drive her crazy. I no longer have very young children but when I did the house rules could pretty much be summed up with 1)the only thing we draw on is paper and 2)not too much noise in front of mommy. But do I think she’s out of touch? I just don’t see how someone with all those kids whose husband works all the time can be out of touch with what other moms are going through. She just tackles things head on. It doesn’t mean she doesn’t know suffering. She’s just less likely to dwell on it.

        1. Sometimes pulling yourself up by your bootsteps is not enough to overcome poverty. There are some things that beyond a person’s control.

          1. Of course there are! I grew up in it. But other than physical and mental illness there’s not as much beyond our control as you might think. And when those issues are the root, money’s no longer the problem, illness is. I’ve been working with a lot of Hispanic immigrants these days. They’re poor, but you know what? Their kids are going to be successful because all they lack is money. They’ve moved into a previously horribly crime ridden neighborhood. The houses no longer have boards on the windows. They’ve cleaned up the parks. They’re building a life here and they’re not calling themselves victims.

            In this country, there’s lots of intergenerational poverty, but not so much among immigrants. The reason is that the kids have grown up with role models of a good work ethic. That’s no small thing and what’s often missing among our nation’s poor. But Kendra is not lacking for a work ethic and her children aren’t lacking for role models.

        2. Pulling yourself up by your bootstraps is not as easy as you think, and a lot that’s beyond one’s control can go wrong. Not to mention defects and problems in our infrastructure that make it harder for some people to improve their lives.

          Moreover, there are money problems and then there are money problems. You may not have intended it this way, but your comment that people like Kendra don’t let themselves become a victim of their money problems is naive, and at worst offensive to those who did not “allow” themselves to become victims, but who nonetheless could not bring themselves out of poverty.

          Some people can meaningfully improve their lots, and some can’t. Character and willpower are not the only factors — so are talents, skills, education, charity, social welfare programs, the economy, local infrastructure, institutional bias, family or community support, and just plain luck. It’s important to recognize that, and to acknowledge how these factors played a role (for good or ill) in one’s own life and in the lives of others.

          1. Well said, Beadgirl. You articulated that much better (and much more charitably) than I could have.

        3. I guess I wasn’t clear: she’s out of touch regarding *finances.* Is she out of touch in other ways? Maybe, maybe not. I don’t have kids of my own so I really can’t speak to that.

        4. There is an accidental, I’m assuming, criminalization of poverty in your comment. One won’t be poor if they work hard enough=one who is poor isn’t working hard enough=poverty is a lack of character and will.
          This underlying belief has caused a great deal of greif in our country and does not honor human dignity in all people.
          Christ tells us that the poor will always be with us. But the question isn’t who’s the poor, but who’s the least among us? We’re all that person at some point. Which means we all deserve love and mercy

    7. Can you explain how she tore her down exactly? She merely said that she doesn’t understand something. That’s not a tear down. And if Kendra is the kind of person you say she is (and I believe you) she will welcome the instruction of her ignorance. Fwiw Kendra is not the only one who is ignorant of what she’s talking about on this subject. I can name a good ten other Catholic mom bloggers who are oblivious to their own ignorance on this issue. Look. When you talk about life and death matters of morality from a Catholic perspective, and are deliberately​ trying to set an example through your writing, you don’t get to play the “don’t be a big meanie to me” game. I’m sure Kendra can put on her big girl undies and take in some well deserved criticism that will only make her an even better person than you describe, should she choose to take it to heart.

    8. Yes! Exactly! Why the war? I was infuriated by the end of this uncharitable bitter piece. Take the gloves off man.

  37. YES! I teach NFP, and I hear directly from couples why they are avoiding pregnancy at any given time, and it’s not nearly the “light” reasons that people looking from the outside accuse them of. I’m glad that people can be providentialists, but insisting that it’s somehow more holy, as if NFP is a way to sin-without-sinning, drives me up a wall. Not everybody has a stay at home mom, or grandparents living locally, or a steady job, or healthy older children.

  38. I think I recall Kendra Tierney saying having babies was easier than NFP, but Simcha may be referring to a different blogger.

    I’m sure Kendra Tierney is a dear, but I read very few Catholic mommy bloggers now. It can be very overwhelming for those of us who don’t fit the “Real Catholic Mom” (trademark) image.

    1. See, when you reference another blogger publicly but psuedo-obliquely, it just never plays well. Better for Simcha to have identified Kendra outright than to do the passive aggressive shade throwing. I agree with much of what she writes here and it’s such a necessary (and sorely lacking) perspective, but in my opinion she unnecessarily weakened her position with the “I read somewhere and don’t remember exactly where” when everyone knows precisely whom she was referencing. If you’re going to publicly engage someone’s ideas or content, do them the courtesy of identifying them by name.

      1. I think you’ve misunderstood, Jenny. You and I have been blogging for a long time, and you know how this goes!
        If you use someone’s name or quote them directly, that’s mean, because you shouldn’t call people out.
        If you don’t use names and summarize their point, it’s dishonest, and you’re making stuff up.
        I tried to split the difference, since I was attempting to talk about a point that I’ve heard more than just one person make, and had no desire to set up some kind of battle of blogs. So I used a direct quote that anyone could google, if they were interested in knowing who had given me the idea for my post. I wasn’t really talking to Kendra, but to everyone who approaches this topic as she did in her post.

      2. I’m afraid passive aggressive is simcha’s main game – when she’s not being plain ol’ aggressive agressive.

        1. Talking nastily about somebody in the third person on that person’s blog is rather passive-aggressive, too. It would be better to talk to Simcha directly about how she could improve herself.

          I’m sorry you have to go through this, Simcha. It could be that your blog post was mean (though I certainly don’t see it that way), but you don’t deserve this shitstorm.

  39. Does anyone happen to know the blog/blog entry Simcha is referencing here? I kind of want to read it now to get the full context.

  40. It’s like the difference in hotel options. You don’t get to stay at the Hampton Inn where the towels are thick and soft. You have to stay someplace that isn’t even a franchise and there’s like lipstick or blood on the threadbare towel. I used to have a job where I always got to stay at the hampton inn.

  41. Amen, again.

    I have never been *that* poor, because I always knew it was temporary. But I have been poor enough that cheese was a treat, because it cost a lot more than (dry) beans and rice. And I remember when a union rep told me that if she didn’t have to pay union dues, she could have an extra ski weekend every year. She didn’t get it when I said that I would have to choose between food and union dues.

    Later, when we were better off, I did join the union and do other things I couldn’t do earlier. But I never forgot her obliviousness to my relative poverty.

    1. From comments below, it seems the other blogger (and those like her) aren’t talking to the poor. They’re talking to people like your union rep, who haven’t ever questioned their ideas of what is necessary and what is luxury (or thought about categorizing at all), nor actually thought through the good of a child versus all the perceived (or actual) goods of the things they have. It can be a good starting point for some people to hear that someone has chosen to skip cable and smartphones and a new car – things they look at as basic needs – in order to have a baby instead. That doesn’t mean the person who is skipping NFP because they aren’t staring poverty in the face doesn’t care about those who don’t have that option, just that they’re talking to a different population.

      1. Excellent points. And they remind me of *another* story. We had a neighbor who had three kids and four bedrooms. She told me that they couldn’t have another child (they weren’t Catholic, so contraception wasn’t the issue) because they would have to move to a house with more bedrooms. There I was, talking to her, with four children and four bedrooms. ::sigh::

        1. I’m a big believer in kids sharing bedrooms to the point that I’d probably have kids double up even if I didn’t need to just so I could have a spare room, but I do know some people who have a history of being abused who cannot imagine their children sharing a bedroom until they’re much, much older. Not saying that’s the case with your neighbor, just that we all do what’s best for our own families. One person’s ridiculous is often another person’s non-negotiable.

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