Raising Children

* In response to "Mothers and Other Strangers," Commentary, March 30:

Katherine Dowling's sad lament regarding a supposed decrease in fecundity seems to be rooted principally in her concern for the future of her no-doubt lucrative career as an obstetrician. She also apparently feels the need to rationalize her own ample fertility (she enjoyed motherhood and went on to have "a couple more"--totaling seven), which does not quite square with the thinking of those who believe that bringing an excessive number of children into an already overcrowded, undernourished world is selfish and irresponsible. Her final concern seems to be that if people limit their childbearing to one or two children, there will be no one around to take care of Dowling in her old age. Better a "child-poor" society, than a "poor child" society in which there is no clean air, little opportunity for betterment and violence around every corner.

Dowling seems to believe that all mothers with careers bear children merely for their trophy value, to be raised by "surrogate parents." And just who, Ms. Dowling, has been mothering your brood all these years?

Finally, Dowling omitted one rather obvious possible reason for the decrease in prenatal visits to her and her colleagues' offices--the out-of-sight costs of medical care. My husband and I (we have two children and will stop there, shame on us!) are fortunate enough to make a decent living and to have health insurance. But the skyrocketing costs of medical attention and the increasing difficulty getting insurance claims paid have forced us to think very carefully before we make a trip to the doctor's office. We can only imagine what it must be like for those less fortunate than we.

CHERIE RODGERS

Santa Monica

* Strengthening the economy, infusing the job market and providing for our old-age security are dangerous reasons to bring a new life into this world. They are just as dangerous as procreating to complete one's life experience, or because it is normal and expected, or because your parents want to be grandparents, or because you think you will attain through your children the immortality or success you cannot achieve on your own.

There is only one reason to bring a new life into the world--because you have time, energy, capacity and inclination to know, love, honor, nurture, patiently understand and respect this offspring for the rest of your life. How can a person know if he or she is ready and able to do this? Easy. What you are unable to do for yourself, you will not be able to do for others!

People who are hard on themselves are hard on their children. Those who chastise themselves chastise their children. You who set unrealistic expectations for yourselves do the same to your children. If you do not have to time, energy, capacity and inclination to know, love, honor, nurture, patiently understand and respect yourself, then learn to be first to yourself--what all parents must be to their child.

THE REV. L. M. McDERMOTT

Newport Beach Ecumenical Center

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