“You need to finish your schooling before you have kids or you’ll never get done.”
“You need to be financially secure before you can even think about having kids otherwise you’ll be in debt for the rest of your life.”
Now how many of you will honestly raise your hands and attest to the fact that you’ve either had this said to you or have said it yourself? There is a growing trend in our society to put off the birth of children until upper levels of education and/or financial security is obtained. I am no different in this matter; in fact I’m almost finished with my Masters in Public Health and will be working for a few years to pay down educational debts before becoming pregnant for the first time. I would like to say though that I am starting to think a bit differently about the societal message that says “wait, wait, wait.”
Something has been tingling in the back of my mind about the message of “wait” and it’s been crystallizing for me over the past year. It boils down to a single question that I found myself asking: what does the Bible say about when to have children? Traditionally in ancient times, when a man became engaged to a young woman, he would go off for a time and prepare a place for her, there’s reference to this tradition in the fact that Christ as the bridegroom has gone to prepare a place for us his bride. When the bridegroom came back, he would whisk away his bride and they would begin to start their own family. So if you look at it there is some truth in preparing financially to become parents, but does it necessarily have to be when you have a quarter of a million saved up?
All of my life I have been dutifully following the “wait” message of the society in which I live. First, by finishing my undergraduate degree before even getting married. Second, by finishing my Masters in Public Health while my husband concurrently is getting his Masters in Divinity. Third, by resolving to get a job after my masters to pay down school debt, and then fourth, by having children after reaching some form of financial stability. A couple of months ago, however, I got smacked across the forehead with a verse in the Psalms:
“Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb, a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are the children of one’s youth. Blessed is the man who fills his quiver with them!” – Psalm 127:3-5a
Children are the heritage I receive from the Lord, the fruit of my womb, my reward. And it specifically mentions that they are from my youth. This hit me rather poignantly because I have been having feelings like those of Sarah and Rachel who were barren for so long. Sometimes I feel like crying out (and have on several occasions) “How long must I wait? When can I have the desires of my heart?”
When it comes down to it, having kids and bringing them up to love the Lord is the most successful thing that I can do in my life. Sure I can have an interesting, well-paying job that would help take care of my family financially and potentially touch lives, but is that really supposed to be my job? Now don’t hear me wrong, I know what it’s like to grow up in a family where it was absolutely necessary for both my mom and dad to work in order to make ends meet, but I remember my mom being so exhausted every day and then having to deal with us younguns’ at the end of a long day at the office. Part of that does have to do with the educational decisions my parents made, but I don’t think that lack of education was the only thing feeding into our situation growning up (besides I’ve already surpassed them in training and the only thing it’s gotten me so far is lots of debt). I’m really starting to come to the conclusion, however, that getting a good education so you can get a good job and be financially well off is not what a woman’s goal should be.
Ultimately, I believe that it’s my job as a woman to be the best wife and mother than I can possibly be. I think I’ve got the wife part down pretty good, or at least that’s what Kyle says, and sometimes the wife thing does mean helping with the finances of the home by getting a job. But when it comes to being the best mother that I can be I sometimes feel like I’m being pulled asunder by the command to “wait.” What is so much more important than my heritage from the Lord that I have to wait until every debt is paid? If I did that I’d never have more than one, maybe two children because they cost money too. That really doesn’t sit right with me especially since I want to have a large family.
Now if the world is saying “wait” and the Bible says “children are a heritage from the Lord,” what is the world really saying if not ‘my priorities about being successful and well off, are more important than God’s about receiving my heritage’? I mean think about it. If we insist on being successful and all finished with school and have no debts and be bringing home $100K a year before we start thinking about having children, aren’t we ultimately being extremely selfish? (I do know some people who have done it that way but I don’t know that’s what we’re all supposed to be doing it.)
In this post I had intended to talk about some of the interesting things that are being found out in the world of science right now because people are waiting longer to have their children. Things like women who give birth at older ages are more likely to have children with Down’s Syndrome, dyslexia and other forms of mental retardation, and older fathers are more likely to pass down dwarfism, autism and congenital disorders, which have been discussed in several online articles that I’ve read from MedPages Today (most recently this article).
But when I sat down to write, the Lord put it on my heart to write this post. And even though I am still planning to wait a bit longer until I get pregnant (after prayer and discussion with my husband I might add), I don’t think that following society’s message of “wait” is the right direction for us as Christians to be heading. We are supposed to be a people set apart for God’s grace to shine through us. What better way for us to shine in a world that says “wait” than to trust in the Lord to provide for everything we need and for the needs of our children? Why should we as Christians be afraid about our financial futures and pass that down to our children? Will not our shepherd walk with us through the valleys as well as the green pastures and beside still waters? Realize your heritage and be joyful in it; I know that I sure plan to. I also plan to train my children to trust in the Lord for their provision of everything and to seek His perfect will for their lives, whether it means they are to wait until after all school is finished to get married and have children or not. God is in control of our lives, not the world, I think it’s about time that we start discovering what God really wants for our lives instead of listening to the world’s insistent message to put off and wait.
7 thoughts on “Older Parents”
I had only one thought in reading this and please forgive a certain amount of maternal pride in Kyle’s excellent choice:
Isaiah 8:18. Here am I, and the children the LORD has given me. We are signs and symbols in Israel from the LORD Almighty, who dwells on Mount Zion.
Which ties in with Psalm 71:7 I have become like a portent to many, but you are my strong refuge.
The words in the NiV for symbols & portent are translated in the KJV as wonders or wonder and means something conspicious. It comes from a root word meaning “bright”.
This choice to treasure & cherish what the Lord would give — and to go against the tide of convention, will make you conspicious but it also causes you to shine like stars in a corrupt generation.
It is true that conventional wisdom can be self-centered and as such not a path to be followed when walking with the Lord. Waiting to have kids for self-centered reasons I also feel is one of them. Not waiting to have kids for self-centered reasons while not conventional wisdom is also not a path to be followed when walking with the Lord. It is good to look to scripture for guidance and hope for your hearts desire. Care should be used not to use it for self rationalization to act on one hears desire. If that is ones intent then I feel is best not to look to it at all for you can find some thing in scripture to self-justify any action when viewed through a self-centered lens.
My bible is not as good as it should be but I believe that is part of the story of Sarah, who you referenced. Sarah hearts desire was to help for fill God promise and have a child for Abram, failing to see it happening she looked to the law and found a way to make it happen by sending her maidservant who did have a child. But that was a self centered action and not what God had in mind. Both Sarah and the world has suffered from that God focused but self-centered action. Abram’s heritage has been great as was Gods promise to him but it was not as he expected in his youth. In his case his quiver ending up having two arrows, one too many.
I urge you not to follow self-centered conventional wisdom nor self-centered interpretation of scripture. I know the Lord will reward you as he has me. It is most frustrating to me when rewards and promises are not kept in my time frame. It was the same when I was a child with Mom and Dad and later with the Lord. I see it from the other side now with Julie. Love the Lord and in His time, after His waiting He will act through you and keep all his promises.
I pretty much agree with everything you said. I do wish I had finished school first, but I don’t have regrets about when I had my kids. I’m at home more than I’m at school, but I wish I had even that extra 20 hours a week to focus on the kids instead. I could have pulled it off if I had made better decisions in high school and did college full time sooner than I did. Gotta love hindsight. It’s likely that I’ll be going straight to work after graduating – after a nice summer break for once!- but I’m hoping to weasel some stay-at-home time after the next kid.
A little perspective from a Sarah/Rachel/Hannah here. I really believe that God has a unique plan for each couple when it comes to children. God’s plan for us was not to have any. While God has not revealed some magical reason for it to be this way I have also seen what God has allowed us to be able to do in not having children. I believe if you are putting your relationship with God in first place I believe he will reveal to you and Kyle when it’s the right time to start pursuing children. I believe many times we all tend to get pulled by societal norms. If you look at Jesus he went totally against most societal norms, in his case some of the Jewish LAWS, and did what the Father told him to do. Going against those norms and laws was the circumstantial path that led him the cross.
Yes, the practical world tells a couple to wait until they are financially stable, have the perfect house, and lots of money in the bank, but lets face it…most people aren’t in that place when the pregnancy test comes up positive. On the other hand some people are so stuck on the “everything must be pefect before we have children” ideal they turn around and they are pushing forty and either have a hard time becoming pregnant or they are so stuck in their ways that a child would be a HUGE intrusion for them. With that said I advocate that if possible you get your education behind you, but that you don’t wait too long after that. There is a huge element of faith involved no matter when you have children. While I have seen many older couples have and raise children I believe the extra energy and idealism you have as a young couple is the reason it’s best to have kids while you are young. I belive you and Kyle are going to make EXCELLENT parents, and while I believe you shouldn’t wait too long God will let you and Kyle know when the time is right. Take it from someone who has been married sixteen years. If your relationship is right with God and your husband it will be uncanny when the Lord says “it’s time.” It wiil most likely be one of those conversations when you Kyle looks at you and says, “I was thinking the exact same thing at this very same moment” or vice versa. That’s how God has worked major decisions out between Eddie and I. He reveals it to us at the exact same time, and it’s truly one of the magical things of having a marriage centered on God.
You are correct, all children are a gift from God, to be treasured and raised in the fear and trembling of the Lord. However, I caution you against seeking your timetable instead of the Lord’s. Remember there are always specific consequences from every decision you make outside the Lord’s will and His timing. Forcing God’s hand is never a good idea.
I can’t speak to the Biblical implications for young’un timing (and everyone else has already done it more eloquently), so I’ll offer this: if everyone REALLY waited until they were completely debt-free and making $100K to start having babies, there’d be a lot more fiftysomething first-time parents out there. Student loan debt, which we both have in spades, isn’t “bad” debt on the same order as credit card hock. Yeah, it’s debt, but it’s an investment in your future—and just so you send in your $200 (or whatever) a month, credit bureaus and home loan lenders are happy.
Also, you’re very correct in the assumption that children are debt themselves. No doubt your youngsters would be as industrious as you are, but most companies frown on hiring 3-year olds, so you’re going to be paying their freight for a while. 😀
While I don’t advocate multiplying while you have fewer bedrooms than family members, nor should you put it off until conditions are absolutely “perfect.” They never will be, and you can miss a lot waiting for them.