The West can be a bit patronizing to other people in the world. This was on full display when French president Emmanuel Macron said, “I always say: ‘Present me the woman who decided, being perfectly educated, to have seven, eight, or nine children.” He went on to liken the situation to forcing girls into marriage as children.
He could not have known what he was getting into.
Thanks to Catherine R. Pakaluk, a professor of social research and economic thought at The Catholic University of America, parts of Twitter exploded in recent days with the #postcardsforMacron, most of them pictures of beautiful families with more than a few children.
As one woman put it: “Macron said that educated women never actually desire a lot of kids. #postcardsforMacron is an effort to show him he shouldn’t try to speak on behalf of educated women, and to demonstrate that many children can be a choice and a blessing.”
Another wrote: “I only have 5 kids but my 6th will be home soon from China.”
Women posted photos of their families, with all their many children. Men posted pictures of their wives and children. Others paid homage to their mothers and grandmothers.
Christopher Scalia, one of the sons of the late Supreme Court justice Antonin Scalia, paid tribute to his mother, Maureen: “BA in English from Radcliffe. Nine children. 39 grandchildren. Two great-grandchildren.” He, of course, in the frequent spirit of social media, took some criticism for celebrating his mother!
Pakaluk included an image of herself, in academic robes, with her eight children. She has degrees from the University of Pennsylvania and Harvard.
One man wrote: “My wife has a BA and a Masters from @MarquetteU and has chosen to have 7 kids out of LOVE, not stupidity or because she was forced to. Our kids are the greatest blessing in our life. She’s one of the most intelligent and holy people I know.”
Erika Bachiochi is a legal scholar and fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center. An author, she has degrees from Boston College and Boston University and has been a visiting scholar at Harvard. She has a seven-week-old baby whom she and her husband recently added to their family of six children. “#postcardsforMacron has been so inspiring!” she says, adding:.
I have especially loved showing the pictures of families to my own teenage girls. We are grateful to enjoy a community with many large families here in Massachusetts, but to see other families like ours from around the globe has inspired us all. My wish for President Macron, and Bill and Melinda Gates at whose conference he was speaking, is that they understand the great good that a large family can bring to that family’s children, their parents, and the world. A “proper education” is one that involves and requires virtues of self-discipline, patience, and generosity for the good of others. Big families quite naturally inculcate these virtues, by necessity. They allow children to live poverty of spirit — and so solidarity with the poor of the world — which is a special gift to those of us who live in a culture beset by the soul-deadening temptations of consumerism and materialism.
Dr. Grazie Christie, a radiologist from Miami, posted a picture of her daughter from China with the declaration: “I’m a fifth child and my mother is very educated!” She posted another photo of another of her daughters at her Harvard graduation with the text: “Here’s my highly educated daughter, who is planning to have PILES of children. I taught her well.” Catching her on a runway after participating in a March for Life press conference (rolling out the theme for the upcoming January event: “Unique from Day One: Pro-life Is Pro-Science.”) in Washington, D.C., she explains:
I responded because it seems very obvious to me that children are good things. To know this in one’s bones is like having a passport to joy. It implies optimism, acceptance, flexibility, detachment from the cruel demands of the self. Children delight us when they are little and care for us when we are old. They are a happy glue between a man and his wife. As an educated woman, I’m stupified by Macron connecting that state to a disdain for children. It’s piteous, really. To see children and not feel joy is a sad way to live.
She added on Twitter about her Cuban ancestors: “I don’t know how educated my great grandmother was but I know that she and my great grandfather were able to educate their 20 children. I’ve also heard they were a very very happy family.”
Not everyone who participated in #postcardsforMacron has more than a few children. “Just defended my doctoral dissertation with my 8 month old cheering me on!” Julia M. Dezelski posted, with the addendum: “Oh yes, and I plan to have many more, God willing.”
“As a new mother and professional who aspires to contribute to society in a meaningful way, it was important to send a clear message that women — in many different capacities — are building society with their families first and second their careers. Families cannot be undermined, because it is often a woman’s primary and most precious contribution to the building of a strong society,” she says.
“I hope that leaders in the West realize that to undermine the family is to undermine the people they serve,” Dezelski says. “This is a universal truth that transcends socipolitical and cultural differences between continents and nations. The service of women — and men — who raise healthy families is a civic service that political leaders would do well to promote and support in every way.”
Not everyone can or will want to have seven or eight or nine children, but the president of France ought to consider that for some it is not only doable but joyous. Work on poverty, not sterilization. Help us be more fruitful, not less. And don’t dis some of the most wise and dynamic among us.
— This column is based on one available through Andrews McMeel Universal’s Newspaper Enterprise Association.