Wrong Reasons to Have Kids

It’s not about sex today. It’s about marriage and parenting. (I can talk about other things. Really.)

I recently gave some thought to how unprepared I was for mommyhood and how overwhelmed I was in the first few years. I wish I could say that I have always been one of those beautiful Christian women who craved motherhood and handled it with aplomb and constant thanksgiving.

How many of those women are there, though? A lot of moms have discovered the hard way that parenting is not for sissies.

Parenting is not for sissies. Photo credit: Microsoft Word Clip Art

Parenting is not for sissies.
Photo credit: Microsoft Word Clip Art

Listen, I am thrilled to be a mommy. However, I am nothing if not a blunt realist when it comes to how challenging it can be at times. So I thought I’d give my take on reasons people sometimes give for wanting children and how oh-so-very-wrong they are.

Having children will bring us closer. Indeed, there were be times when Mommy and Daddy look at each other in that “We’re in this together” or “You’re such a great parent” moment. But for the most part, embarking on parenthood will not immediately bring you closer.

Having children can divide you. For one thing, they sap all of your energy and time. Infants keep you awake at night and stress you with their seemingly endless crying at times, such that you’ll turn into a snapping turtle with anyone who gets in the way of your peace and sleep (e.g., your husband). If you think that they grow out of that entirely, just talk to the parents of teenagers – whose lose sleep from later bedtimes, more activities, and anxiety as their kids are making bigger and bigger decisions.

Your family differences will emerge. He grew up with lenient parents and he turned out okay; you grew up with strict ones and now you appreciate them for it. Or whatever the mix happens to be. He thinks boys should play football, you think that sport is the equivalent of Mad Max’s Thunderdome. He’s Lutheran, you’re Baptist; what about the kids? He waited until Christmas morning to open presents, and your family always opened some on Christmas Eve. Believe me, your families of origin, traditions, and expectations will come into play when children become part of the mix and you have to iron out what kind of family you want to be.

Children themselves will try to manipulate you. Those conniving little munchkins are amazingly good at learning who to hit up for what they want. Growing up, if I wanted a parent to buy me something, I’d ask dad. If I wanted freedom to do something, I’d ask mom. It’s not easy day after day to display a united front, especially if you don’t agree with your spouse’s take on things. Your kids hone in on that like a laser beam.

I want someone to love and need me. They will need and love you . . . for the first several years of their life. However, young children are mostly focused on how much you love them. They want their needs met. And as they grow, your child’s admiration for SuperMommy may fade a bit. By the teenage years, they love you, but they may also be embarrassed for you to show your face anywhere within a one-mile radius of their friends. And when you put your foot down and say NO to them, some kids have been known to say “I hate you!” or “You’re ruining my life.” Yes, they will love and need you, but it won’t always be expressed the way you wish.

I am tired of dealing with birth control, so I’ll let God figure it out. If you can’t be bothered to discuss birth control options and choose a good one for yourselves, you are not ready to be a parent. Believe me, you’ll be far more bothered by waking up at 1:30 a.m. to care for a child whose vomiting reminds you of The Exorcist. If you don’t want to use an external tool, try natural family planning (e.g., Sheila Gregoire’s article discusses the fertility awareness method).

It’s that time in our lives. Everyone around you is having children, or this is the time you wrote on your life calendar that you would be starting a family, so you might as well. This is where your mother’s “If everyone jumped off a bridge, would you do it too?” question is spot on. If everyone in your neighborhood is installing roofs, and you haven’t laid a foundation yet, it’s too soon for a roof. You have to look at your own house and see if it is ready for the addition of children. Remember Psalm 127:1: “Unless the LORD builds the house, its builders labor in vain.”

So . . . I make it sound like having children is a fate worse than being stuck at Wal-Mart on Black Friday (without pepper spray), right? It isn’t. Children are a blessing from God (Psalm 127:3). However, it’s best to make sure that our marriages are ready. Indeed, it would be better for couples to prepare their relationships before marriage and work hard in their first months of marriage to ensure that they are ready if God decides to surprise! plop a sweet little one into their laps.

That said, here are some great reasons to become a parent.

We are secure in our marital closeness and want to add our circle. A husband and a wife are a family. They need to be a well-grounded family before they add new members. But most couples who have established a good relationship start yearning to have more in their household – to build the house up with children. Each child will change the dynamics of a family somewhat, but whether one or nine children come through the home, the husband and wife are the cornerstones who remain throughout.

We have overflowing love to give to a child. There really is something to that feeling of “I love you so much, I want to have your baby.” Paul Anka expressed it as well in his famous song, “You’re having my baby, what a lovely way of sayin’ how much you love me.” I adore seeing the traits that warm me about my husband showing up in my children. Many couples also approach raising children as a ministry (which it is because you will spread the Word of God to these little ones in your care). They embark on parenthood as a calling to create a life, then share the love of God with the child and raise her to become a living witness for God’s glory.

We have planned for our future with a family. Those of you who are already parents, raise your hand if this experience has cost more than you expected. Okay, we are all waving our arms like Superbowl fans here. The time, effort, and money to raise a child will require sacrifice in other areas and a huge dose of responsibility. Take a little inventory on your resources and see if you’re up to the task. Now let me tell you: You are not up to the task. No one is. You can’t wait until everything’s perfect because it never will be. But you do need to have a general plan for feeding, clothing, and caring for the little guy. What you still lack, you can ask God for in (constant) prayer.

It is the right time in our lives. It’s up to you to know when you are ready. Prepare your marriage for it. Plan for it. Pray about it. Then jump in.

I’m wholly in favor of having children. I know some wonderful married people who have chosen not to, and they have been called to other great things. But relationships stretch us. Having children can teach you patience, empathy, and selflessness like few other experiences can. I love my children with parts of me that I didn’t even know existed, and this has taught me a lot about how my Heavenly Father approaches His own children. Moreover, lying next to my kid at night with the kid’s arms around my neck and me brushing the hair back from that sweet face melts my heart into a pulsing puddle.

Plus, we parents want the rest of you to know that joy of watching Barney & Friends, attending a birthday party at Chuck E. Cheese, and picking up 12,000 Legos or Barbie shoes out of the carpet. Mwahahaha.

So what are the criteria you think are important for having children? What advice would you give to new parents or couples thinking of having children?

Note: Check out a recent report from the National Marriage Project (University of Virginia) about thriving in marriage after the baby comes.

16 thoughts on “Wrong Reasons to Have Kids

  1. Christy

    Well first I don’t know that any of us is “ready” to become parents or knows what we have gotten our hearts into until those little bundles of joy get here and flip our lives upside down. BUT with that said you can pray and seek Gods will and timing and be the best prepared you can be.

    However, DO NOT have a baby to fix an already struggling marriage because it will tank. We had some friends who were struggling something horrible and yet she insisted they adopt. We had just adopted our first daughter and warned them against going through that kind of stress. We begged them to wait. They didn’t listen and when their adopted son was 2 they were in the midst of an ugly divorce. It doesn’t matter how God brings you a child it’s all the same stress and fatigue and the package looks the same. So dont try to fix a marriage with a baby but fix it with God first.

  2. Sara with an H

    Being a mom is definitely a challenge, but its the most rewarding challenge I’ve ever faced! My husband and I waited 5 years before having our daughter, and even though I got baby fever about 2 years before that, he wasn’t quite ready. And looking back, I now realize that I definitely would not have been ready when I originally wanted children. We both grew a lot in those 2 years, which I believe has helped us to be better parents.

    My husband’s main issue with having children was not having all the finances in order. I think he wanted us to be completely out of debt, and making beaucoups of money before we ever had kids. I also think, with us going to a one income household (I’m a SAHM), he was concerned about being able to provide for us. We had to make adjustments, sure, but they’ve been so worth it. And now, Penelope is the love of our lives, and we’re loving being parents so much that we’re working on number 2!

    But for those parents to be that are still concern about finances, there are things you can do to soften the blow. For one, breastfeeding will save you money on formula each year (plus, its better for baby). Also, we do cloth diapers, and that saves us more than anything else. Until our daughter started eating solids around 6 months, there was no change in our budget.

    I’d be lying if I said being a mommy was easy. It’s tough, but when your 19 month old daughter climbs into your lap, gives you a kiss, tells you she loves you, and gently brushes your cheek, all the struggles just go away. THAT is what being a mommy is all about.

    1. J

      That last paragraph in particular says so much – not easy, but worth it in the end. I agree that there are many ways to address the financial side. Oftentimes, you can cut things out that you thought you needed before, but you really don’t. I believe in planning, not perfection, as you prepare for parenthood. Enjoy that “working on number 2.” That can be a pretty fun kind of “work”! May God grant you another child soon.

  3. upwithmarriage

    quote from J: “Your family differences will emerge. He grew up with lenient parents and he turned out okay; you grew up with strict ones and now you appreciate them for it.” — that’s EXACTLY how it played out in our parenting (marriage)!

    It was slightly different in our case, we got married because I was pregnant (sounds old fashion I know … oh well, there it is, laid out there). And, apparently there wasn’t enough heat in the situation of two people that were totally not ready to get married or have kids .. He thought He would throw a couple more logs on the fire to ramp it up, by calling me to become born again just a few years after we were married … what a funny God He is!!

    We’ve been married for 25 years. My criteria for having kids? It’s a biblical mandate, imo. My advice … do it, and lean NOT on your own understanding!!

    (sorry, slightly long winded here);o)

    1. J

      Thanks so much for telling your story. I know several couples who started marriage with a kid on hand. They all say that it was hard to balance those first years of parenthood and building a marriage, but I admire them so much for sticking with it and honoring their vows and their children. Congrats on those 25 years! God definitely had a plan for you two. Thanks to Him.

  4. Anonymous

    Thank you for this blog post! I remember a couple of years ago when hubby and I were talking over this decision a lot, I was thinking “there’s not a lot of stuff out there about how to make the decision as a Christian!”.So thank you for adding to the discourse and providing young couples with some guidance in this 🙂

    There is another reason you didn’t include on either list…
    You have potential fertility issues and don’t want to leave it too late.

    We are expecting our first baby in just a few weeks, and this was our reason for trying as early as we did.
    Honestly, we could have waiting a couple more years before bringing kids into our family, but we just didn’t know if the fertility issue would get worse over that time. So we are glad that we are having a baby now, in light of the potential issues.

    I think that’s a good reason for having kids, but I guess it needs to be balanced with the greater context of the marriage relationship.

    1. J

      You make a terrific point about fertility issues. Not every couple conceives easily. That may not seem fair, but that’s simply the way it is. In addition, there are risks to a pregnancy later in a woman’s life. So I agree that there is a window, which is why I don’t think you can wait for all of the stars to align or for Joan Rivers to show wrinkles before you engage in parenthood. I still don’t think you should start having kids if your marriage is a wreck, no matter what…but that clearly isn’t what you’re pointing to. Great input!

  5. Ngina Otiende

    I like the roof analogy

    Brings the message home perfectly:)

    We don’t have kids yet..almost four years into marriage now 🙂

    Love this post and the additional comments from the readers.

    Thanks for sharing!

  6. kurlyfryz

    Love this! Thank you! My husband and I have been married 2 years, and hope to start trying this fall. We think by then our home and finances will be in good order to welcome a baby into our lives. But I want to start preparing in other ways soon. I don’t know anything about babies or parenting. I’ve never even changed a diaper! I’m going to start volunteering in the nursery at church soon, so I think that will help. Could you write more about preparing to parent or point me to some good resources? Thanks again for this!

    1. J

      Admission: I am not a great parenting resource. I do love Dr. Kevin Leman’s books about parenting, and he has a sense of humor too. If I had to do the infant years over again with my kids, I personally would do 3 things differently: (1) read fewer experts and ask more grandmothers what works; (2) relax and remember that a few mistakes will not send my kids into permanent therapy; and (3) read Marc Weissbluth’s book about sleep much earlier (but that’s because we had a kid who nearly drove us insane with that issue).

      Sheila Gregoire also has some parenting posts that have been wonderful. If I think of any other great stuff (Epiphany, God?), I’ll get a post out. Thanks!

  7. Nicole

    You were spot on with that roof example regarding “it’s that time in our lives” when it may not be. My husband and I are there now – everyone, it seems, is starting to have a family and it’s hard! But that roof example is so true- God is definitely moving us into the position to have a family but we are definitely still in the foundation stages! Thank you so much for your post- be blessed!:)

    1. J

      Good for you building that foundation! May God bless you and your husband when you choose to add to your home (with stuff like quick conception, easy labor, a healthy child, and a growing marriage). Thanks, Nicole!

  8. Jennifer

    We waited to have our first child until we had been married about 9 years. In that time, we traveled together (modestly) and enjoyed on another’s company. It has made it easier, IMO, to push through some of the rougher patches of parenting because of our extended shared history. Plus, my husband was able to complete his doctorate and not have to be in school and be a parent at the same time. Others reminded us that the sleepless nights and tantrums were temporary conditions and at night, once our girls are asleep, we have plenty to talk about because it is something we are used to doing.

    On the flip side, 9 years was a long time, especially since we still want to add to our family.

  9. Tamara

    My hubby and I have been married almost 8 years now and no kids yet mostly due to financial instability. You should HEAR some people’s reasoning for us to go ahead and have them anyway and some I do agree with (declining fertility with age and never will have enough money), but OMG, that is the hugest slap in the face!

    Anyway, im glad that we have waited this long though as its allowed my husband and I to become a well oiled team and we’re hoping with God’s help that will serve as a sturdy foundation to have kids.

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