Before Peter and I got married, we decided we would not have kids for at least two years. That's what everyone usually says to do, and we agreed that it was best. The question wasn't if we should select some kind of birth control, but which kind.
One month into marriage, we were reflecting on the shortness of life and we finally asked ourselves the question we should've asked earlier: "Why not?" and we didn't have a great answer. We prayed about it for a week then I went off the pill. (The Lord opened my womb shortly after.) I wish someone would have encouraged us to ask ourselves some questions, because there were some deep-down issues that we didn't even realize were there.
The truth is, at least in America, married couples feel like they must exercise much caution before ever being willing to try to conceive or adopt children. Indeed, for me it felt like a big and scary leap to go off the pill and be open to children. I think we should be more cautious about denying the potential of such a gift.
We should stop and consider that extremely natural relations within marriage often have the ability to actually create life. We should ponder the fact that there are over 400,000 children in the U.S. foster care system, with 1/4 of them waiting to be adopted, and millions of children around the world are waiting to be adopted.
I think we should be very hesitant about saying no to pursuing a family. Notice that I’m saying cautious and hesitant; I am not saying that every single married couple should be trying to conceive or adopt as soon as they get married. I’m just begging that we really think about it and open our minds to a different way of thinking about family.
Here are some questions to consider:
1) Where are you getting your beliefs about family?
Everyone wants to say they're either pro-life or in support of human rights, but deep down, we often still think a child is only worth celebrating if it was conceived on purpose and in the right circumstances.
We say “that’s a shame” when finding out about an unwanted pregnancy.
We treat adoption like it’s a last resort if other methods for conceiving didn’t work out...and if you adopt a child older than a newborn baby, they say “you must be a special kind of person to do that” because “kids can just be so messed up by then”.
Children are valued very conditionally in our culture, and that might be one of our biggest weaknesses as a society. In fifty years or so I predict there will be a lot of lonely, “accomplished” millennials on their death beds feeling nothing but regrets over their self-directed lives.
Where are you getting your views on family? I’ve seen all kinds of memes that jokingly cure baby fever by showing pictures of babies with poopy blowouts or of children who made enormous messes. People I respect have said, “Watch my kids for a couple days; that’s the best kind of birth control you can get.” Why do we have to view children so negatively? I promise there’s more to it in raising actual people—the next generation!—than dealing with spilled sippy cups and tantrums at Target. Children really can and should be viewed as gifts to be sought after rather than cute but snotty little things that we should avoid dealing with for as long as possible.
2) Are you making an accurate cost/benefit analysis?
In other words, are you sure it wouldn’t be worth it to have kids?
Sometimes, especially when I think in terms of vacation and leisure, I groan about how my hands are so tied with my children and it can’t be worth it to have so many kids when they get in the way of my happiness so much.
But then I remember how much they enrich my life on all the normal days (which is at least 90% of the time), and I realize that having what I have now, trading a full family life for the pleasures and conveniences I no longer have access to would quite obviously be a really bad deal. The cost (all the sacrifices parents must make) by no means outweighs the benefit (all the privileges and joys parents have.)
3) Are children as expensive as you think they are?
I’ve already written an article about this. You really shouldn’t have to spend more than $1000 your baby’s first year (not counting birth expenses.) If you're considering adoption but you're sure you can't afford it, ten seconds of research will show you that adopting a child from foster care can be free. And once you already have the kid? I have yet to be convinced that parents have to buy their kids expensive things or pay for their college. I know some parents who even charge a 10% “tax” from what their children earn to a) prepare them for the government taking some of their money) and b) pay for family trips. Their kids are responsible, wise, hard-working and really happy.
Children suffocated with comfort are generally not happy children. You do not need to spend a lot of money on them.
Just remember that families are thriving in other countries on significantly less income and, generally, with significantly larger families. If children really cost so much to care for, what in the world did our ancestors do and how did we even get here? (Note: Of course there can be unforeseen medical expenses - - - especially in adoptions - - - that would, obviously, make parenting expensive. But most of the time it doesn’t have to be.)
4) What is the point of having kids?
It sounds so basic, but really: why do you want (or not want to) become a parent?
How you answer will determine how you parent.
We tend to make it all about us. We want kids who look like us, who carry on the family name. We want to teach a baby how to walk, we want to see our kid ride a bike for the first time, we want to sit at our teenager’s graduation, we want to tell our friends about our young professional’s climb up the ladder, we want to spoil grandchildren. We want to feel fulfilled by our kids. So if our kid goes off the deep end or winds up in a dead-end job or gets pregnant too young, we’re devastated. I can’t believe how many parents I’ve talked to who are utterly ashamed of their children because they didn’t turn out how they hoped. That is selfish parenting and I can almost guarantee the kids grew up aware of their parents’ conditional love and acceptance.
I’d like to point out that many religious and large families also have children selfishly and feel they must control every aspect of their child’s lives. When a child misbehaves or rebels, the problem isn’t that the child’s heart needs to be guided but that “we didn’t raise you to be like this!” And that kind of mindset behind parenting is an enormous problem.
But I think there’s another way. A happy family is one where the parents have children because we want to love them. If our motive for investing in any personal relationship is something other than “I want to love you”, we are going to find ourselves hateful and perpetually frustrated that the conditions of our love are not met.
One final thought: Just because something might make your life harder doesn't mean it will make your life worse. Being stripped of selfishness is actually usually a good thing :)
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My name is Hope.
I'm 25, married to a former skater dude, and raising four little people ages 1,3, and 5, and not-yet-born. I like lime green and Coke icees, and I wear my Crocs until they melt. (Florida problems.)
Quick links to some of my posts:
Articles I've Written on Other Sites:
Youth Ministry's Family Blindspot - Christianity Today