The cultural trend of today is the individual's (versus the society's) self-preservation. We are told not to have many children, so that our body doesn't lose its youthful shape and our lives can be better fitted into that tight frame called "modern life".
The fashionable thing is to have children when you are over 35, too, so that you can begin your career properly. Every time - and I say this from experience - the biological time-frame of fertility is discussed in front of academically oriented 20-somethings, there is a general uproar: "are you telling us our ovaries are nearing their expiry date?!" - want to know my guess? Soon, the subject will be banned as offensive.
We are told we need "time for ourselves", and plenty of it. While time to refresh ourselves is of absolute importance, there is no arguing the current emphasis is a lot more on time for ourselves than time for others. We get so much time for ourselves that we are now, on average, close to thirty when we get married. Do you recall Sheila Levine? She decided to kill herself because she was 30 and single. That is wrong, of course - but now her situation wouldn't even stand out, because there are so many 30-something singles and no one's even raising a fuss.
And if you have a certain talent or what is called a "calling"? Boy oh boy, are you entitled to anything and everything. Wherever you go, your feet aren't supposed to touch anything but a smooth red carpet. Everyone else come next.
It appears, however, that this cherishing of the individual doesn't really do us very much good as a society. We aren't healthier or happier than we were a couple of generations ago, and we are more frazzled and detached from our community and our extended - and sometimes even nuclear - family.
What many refuse to say out loud is a controversial truth that goes thus: we are not really all that important. Oh, don't get me wrong. Certainly we are precious in G-d's eyes, as His children, and every human being deserves to be respected and valued for being made in His image. But other than that, our highest importance is made by our being a thread in the web of family and community, by our relationships with others. We don't stand alone.
I know mothers of many children who look, by any standard, very good. Not supermodel-good, but good, and in many instances better than women who had no children at all, or "only" had one. The health of the mother must be preserved - not in the vain way of trying to hold on to the 20-year-old form, but in knowing that a mother must eat and sleep well, and be refreshed spiritually, in order to be able to take care of others.
The people you love are, in a way, you, because by serving them you are shaped into something new - which means that spending time with them is actually, in a way, "time for yourself" too.
And I maintain that even if you are a Nobel prize winner, or a very great artist, you are still, on a deeper level, defined mostly by your relationships. There you get support and inspiration for your work. I always feel a twinge of disappointment when I read up on a favorite writer, composer or artist, and discover they broke up their home and left their children to be raised by others, often not seeing them for years, or went through divorce after divorce. To me, real success in life cannot come without successful relationships. Even if you are a great individual and reach considerable achievments, what good is it if you end up all alone?
It is so good to have someone to care for. It is so good to know there is someone to care for you, when you need it. By the way, I'm not talking only about families with children here. Of course, if you have children at home, you probably don't need to think too hard where to apply your gift of giving - you are probably on your feet most of the day as it is! But there were many people who were single and/or childless, and still made a great positive impact on the people around them. It is so good to give someone what they need, in the simplest way. A hot meal on the stove, clean clothes, a conversation of friendship, timely sensible advice. Where would we be without those?