Having kids used to be what you do. Now, according to some, it’s a selfish assault on an already overpopulated world. Fertility has become a fiend.
According to the Center for Disease Control the birth rate among all women of reproductive ages dropped to the lowest since 1987. One reason is the mindset of alarmists like Roy Stanton, professor of English at Notre Dame, who cried when his daughter was born: “My partner and I had, in our selfishness, doomed our daughter to life on a dystopian planet, and I could see no way to shield her from the future.”
Happy birthday, sweetheart.
I’m not suggesting that would-be parents shouldn’t count the cost of having kids. My son called me after learning they were pregnant with their first child. “Dad, is it true that it costs $200,000 to raise a child?” I think I dodged the question and said something like, “I have no idea. What I know is that you do what you have to do, whatever the cost. It’s worth it.”
Actually, the Department of Agriculture reported the cost at $230,610 in 2015. But who’s counting? I stand by my answer. It’s worth it all! And here’s how I came to that conclusion…
Our Fertility Crisis
We had a plan. We’d marry, take two years for ourselves, then start a family.
After seven years of waiting to conceive, we went to plan “B” and started looking into adoption. Then, bang! Our son was born. Despite all the warnings (“Wait until you have children. It changes everything!”) we were prepared by seven years of watching bad parenting.
We saw them tending to tantrums in the supermarket by handing the little monster candy or anything they asked for. We heard the fake warning, “If you fuss one more time we’re going to…,” a warning that was repeated again, and again, and again. We witnessed sons and daughters hungry for attention from moms and dads who were too busy with lesser things.
Here’s what we learned: Are there situations when the best choice is not to have children? Yes. It’s a little like going into debt without a plan to pay it off. It’s not so much the money as the investment of time and emotion necessary to raise a child. But even when things don’t go according to plan, there are four good reasons why you should do it…
If you haven’t figured it out already, you are not defined by your job, your money or your ethnicity. You are someone else, created in the image of God and most fulfilled when you fulfill your purpose. God’s first words to the man he had created were, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth.” Your purpose in life is wrapped up in your ability to have children and create the next generation. Fertility is your friend.
Of course, you can be fulfilled as a single person or childless couple, but the decision to prevent conception for selfish reasons is, well, selfish, and it robs you of your God-given identity.
It’s time to drag out that important distinction between happiness and joy. Happiness is temporary and changes day to day. Joy is different. Joy is tied to something permanent, fixed, stationary; something that never changes.
Say what you want about dirty diapers and 2 o’clock feedings, but they are evidence of something permanent. They won’t last forever, but the person will. The tedium of work, valuable in itself, is a means to an end.
I remember saying one last goodbye to the couple that had hosted our weekly youth group meeting for years. I was off to college, and Mrs. Ferguson stopped me at the door to say, “You will succeed in anything you do.”
Of course, that hasn’t literally been true, but the confidence she showed in me has seen me through many failures and cheered me on. She could never have known the true weight of those words and the confidence they inspired in me.
It is often others who see our opportunity. One of the joys of raising children is tracing their path of growth, sharing their sorrows, cheering them on and seeing them grow to adulthood. Your greatest opportunity in life is to see theirs and to help them see it.
The older I get the more I think about what I leave behind. It’s not the things you can’t take with you that are important but the things that will follow you into eternity. I’ve pastored three churches, started three non-profit organizations, written two books and won a few awards. While I’m proud of these, they are not my legacy.
A father of two and now a grandfather to three little ones, I have long since decided to separate those things that are eternal from those things that aren’t. The eternal things make up my legacy. It’s a short list that includes my wife, my son, my daughter and their families. Your legacy extends, of course, to all souls that you touch. But chief among them are your family.
Everything else in life can survive failure except this.
I’ve long ago lost track of the money spent to raise our two children. The money now goes toward grandchildren.
After all, it’s just money.
Children are forever.