It’s a storm that’s been brewing in my mind for quite some time, but I could never quite express why it made me uncomfortable; I just knew that it did. Much of it is cloaked in humour, stemming from the very real frustrations of parenting, but it has a very real and perhaps even dangerous result.
“I don’t know how your Mom does it. I barely manage with 3!”
“I’d go crazy if I had that many kids!”
“I just want this baby out! I want my body back!”
“Nope. After this one I’m done. No more!”
When I would hear parents talk about their children in such a fashion, my primary concern was usually for women and men struggling with infertility or other reasons they couldn’t have children. How does it feel to them to hear the negativity about raising children when they would like nothing more than to have the opportunity to raise a child? But I believe it’s more than just a thoughtless cruelty; it’s dangerous.
We live in a culture where abortion is widely accepted and even promoted, where abortion is advertised as the solution to difficult or unexpected pregnancies. Do we not perpetuate the idea that having children is a burden by complaining about our own children? If even Christians who supposedly recognize that children are a blessing, a heritage from the LORD, and symbolic arrows in their quiver (Psalm 127) but talk about their own children as though they are weights and anchors, or inconvenient “terrorists” as I’ve heard them dubbed, how do we expect the world to see them as gifts rather than consequences?
Of course I recognize that parenting is not easy and that there are aspects of it that I will not understand having not had children myself, so I’m not minimizing any of that. However, can we not agree that these challenges are worth it? I’m in a poor position to give parenting advice, but when we are talking about precious children, beautiful gifts from God, can we not focus on the positive aspects of watching little humans grow and develop, and getting to play such an important role in that growth and development?
My Mom is and always has been one of my heroines. For as long as I can remember, I wanted nothing more than to be just like her. I have a picture of me at about 2 years of age “nursing” my baby, my doll collection by the time I was 10 was equivalent to the number of children my parents have now, and my number one career choice when I reached my teenage years was “Mom”. When I would get asked how many children I wanted, my number grew as my sibling count did: when there were 8 of us, I thought 8 was the perfect family size; when there were 12 of us, I wanted a dozen children, and now that I’m one of 16, I can’t imagine or wish for any different.
I know full well that there is no perfect number of children, that such a thing differs for each family, and that different parents have different abilities. But I also know that because of how my parents have always perceived parenthood, I have only ever thought of children as a tremendous blessing, no matter the number of them.
Of course, my Mom made it look easy. I know it’s not, and I know that from receiving the opportunity to step into her shoes for a week while she enjoyed a much-deserved vacation with my Dad. And when I handed the symbolic reins back to her with an exhausted sigh and a plea for her not to leave again for a very long time, she smiled and told me that when my shoes looked like hers, it would be easier because I would be able to see that it was all worth it.
But in reference to this topic, one of the most important things I learned from my Mom was that children are beautiful and precious gifts. With every pregnancy, her excitement was contagious as we planned and prepared, and each time again put special touches in the baby room. If she ever felt despair at the thought of her workload increasing, I never knew it. In fact, I think when she was expecting twins, her level of enthusiasm and excitement was doubled as well. And I don’t remember her ever begrudging the length of pregnancy and the accompanying discomfort although she went overdue with most of us and had some big babies. When we, in our impatience to meet our newest sibling, would complain that it seemed to take so long, Mom would smile and tell us that “babies don’t due, babies come when ready.” Once the baby was born, Mom would relish every moment spent caring for the baby, never once wishing them on to the next stage of development, feeling that we grew up too fast as it was.
And that’s how it should be. We should marvel at the beauty of it, of creating tiny human beings, and watching them grow and develop and learn. Because if even we who know where life comes from and Who the Giver of life is don’t value that life, how can we expect the world around us to?