I read a post at Project M the other day about why couples desire to have children. I thought it was really beautifully written and brought up a lot of points that my own husband and I have come to as well. In summary, Kathleen describes how the desire to share her love with her own children comes naturally from the abundance of love that she shares with her husband (although she says this much more eloquently – so you should go read the article!).
I’ve been trying to put down in words for a couple weeks now why my husband and I want to have children and why its so frustrating to not be able to in the mean time (in case it isn’t obvious!). The thing is, over the course of coming up on the short end of these desires month after month, I’ve realized that some of the reasons I have are incomplete. That maybe I should re-evaluate why we’re trying to start a family in hopes that I’ll develop less frustration at our current situation and more peace in why we’re here, as well as develop other possible life routes since, as we all know, fertility is not guaranteed. For simplicity, we’ve come up with a couple reasons why we desire children that fall into these two basic categories:
- We want to pass on our genes. I like my husband enough to think that this world would be a better place if there were more people with his qualities! And I don’t think I’m too shabby either :) And OH how I would love love love to see little mini Michael-son’s running around, a perfect little blend of our physical features as well as a literal, tangible reflection of the love we have for one another! We could enjoy them being all cute and tiny and tolerate the bad times knowing that the overall package was worth it! We could be kids again as we’re with them growing up, what fun! It would be an easy career path for me to choose to stay home to raise them and I wouldn’t have to think about what else to do :) In short, we want children because they’d be incredibly cute (as a result of our genetic mixtures, of course we’d think they were perfect!) and provide us with loads of entertainment as we raise them.
- We want children in order to become less selfish. This is actually probably my husband’s number one reason to want children. And he says this often. We’re both afraid of becoming more and more selfish as we grow older and only having ourselves to worry about. With children comes great responsibility, not only with our time and emotions, but also physically and financially. I really believe that these sacrifices are necessary to help guide you towards greater treasures (the heavenly kind) and help teach you to value human relationships greater than material wealth. Nothing worthwhile is easy and we all know that raising children isn’t a walk in the walk! This is ultimately what I feel we as Christians are called to do, to build up the kingdom of God. With greater incomes and more opportunities to spend money on ourselves, we might be tempted to take more elaborate vacations/buy nicer things than we would if we had many tiny mouths to feed right in front of us. Would that really be the best use of our resources? We know that the sacrifices in having children are far outweighed by the benefits we (and the rest of the world) gain from having them. We would partake directly in building up the kingdom of God by raising little souls to glorify him! What greater calling is there than that!
Ok, so, while I personally am inclined to think that the second reason for wanting children is a little more noble perhaps than the first, I’m realizing that there are major problems with each reason. Let’s look at them again.
- We want to pass on our genetic material. Ok, if that came across as really cold and incredibly egotistical, that’s probably because at the root of it, it is. There’s no other way to get around it. As cool as we are, we’re really not that amazing (I know, shocker, right?). The world will survive without our little genes running around. There’s really not too much else to say other than I think this is the hardest reason emotionally to tackle. I think this is a natural desire biologically to pass on your genes, but having children that look like you is not necessary to serve the kingdom of God. I don’t think there is anything wrong with wanting these things and this is how God designed procreation to happen and these desires are not intrinsically evil! I guess I do see it becoming wrong if my intense desire for these things causes me to sin, i.e., be envious of those who have this, etc. (Wanting to have children to enjoy childhood again seems like an OK thing if that’s something that I like/enjoy/am good at, so nothing really wrong there!)
- We want children in order to become less selfish. Yes, I still do believe that having children is one path towards becoming less selfish, but just because you have children, it doesn’t follow that you’ll become less selfish. There are plenty of stories of mom’s and dad’s out there that make you cringe with how selfish the parents are. The biggest irony in wanting children to become less selfish, as my husband and I have discussed and we both agree, is that its not a good sign when your pursuit of children makes you selfish (since that’s what you’re trying to avoid!). How awful is that! I guess I’m saying that parenthood is not the only path to sainthood. In fact, it seems the majority of saints weren’t parents (probably for a variety of reasons, but maybe one is because its that much harder!). I should want to spend my money/time on others without being forced to! And to use children as your personal path to sainthood just doesn’t seem right, maybe since that’s an entirely utilitarian approach to something that seems so sacred.
Which brings me to my point. Partially through my involvement with the Ruth Institute and partially from my own experiences, I’m realizing that one of the most detrimental things we can do is treat children as commodities, in the same way that we treat our fertility as a commodity. Children aren’t ours to create when we want because we just want them. Children are ours to accept – not demand – as gifts from God. It seems that viewing children as commodities is the same mentality that’s responsible for creating that weird possessive, controlling, hovering parent (as opposed to a parent that recognizes that they are merely a shepherd guiding a soul in this life) and the “must-have-children-or-bust” infertile woman/couple (as opposed to someone struggling but still trying to accept their sub/infertility and/or other routes to parenthood).
We can’t think of children as accomplishing something for us, although they may sometimes and oftentimes do do awesome things for parents (and may play a part in helping them get to heaven), ultimately that’s not their main purpose. A child’s purpose is to ultimately grow up to glorify God and find salvation through Him for themselves. In the same way that someone can use a boy/girlfriend or drug to fill a vacancy in themselves, we can use children. I’m starting to really trust that if God requires me to have children to get to heaven, I will have them, biologically or adopted. If not, I won’t, and I’ll find another way to serve Him. God wants me in heaven, so, I should be at peace with either way. I know I’m not there yet, but I hope one day I will be completely at peace with this because right now it still causes me a lot of anxiety.
Which brings me to my next point. I watched this video on CNN.com and words can’t really describe what I’m feeling. A mixture of being angry, sad, disgusted and disheartened is probably close. No one is entitled to children as they are a gift. But I do thank that video for helping me sit down and finally articulate why viewing children as commodities is so detrimental. Such a slippery slope.
I’ve said it before, but I really do intend to post more on same-sex “marriage”. Maybe I need some encouragement? :)