Thinking of having children? Are you wistful at the sight of a swaddle blanket? Hopeful while gazing at bumper guards and high chairs? Delirious for tiny dresses with delightfully adorable matching shoes?
We crave these pieces of parenting, but will having children make you happy?
Oh, the ache for a baby. It can be something that swallows us whole. After my hysterectomy, I sobbed at my sister’s baby shower. Her children were prayerfully conceived after miscarriages and ectopic pregnancies, and several rounds of fertility treatments. I certainly didn’t begrudge her having the twins, but I mourned the children I would never carry.
Fast forward 4 years, and we were preparing to adopt our daughter. Like most people who struggle with building a family, I had so many ideas about what being a mother would look like. And now, I laugh at that poor misguided woman.
There, I said it. If you’re not a happy person, if you haven’t found joy in your life, which for me means living for Christ, having children is not going to fix you. Parenting is not for the faint of heart.
1. Money is cited as the number one issue in struggling marriages. According to the US Dept. of Agriculture, raising a child to 18 will cost an average of $245,000. What the what? A quarter of a million dollars! If you’re not financially secure, having a child whose needs are non-negotiable will make life more complicated.Wistfully thinking of having children? Read 3 Reasons Having Children Will Not Make You Happy. Click To Tweet
Some experts say that if you wait until you’re completely ready, you’ll never be ready, but having money troubles over a tiny person who needs something new for the rest of forever can tear apart your marriage.
Get some sound financial advice, save up, live frugally. I’m not Dave Ramsey, but Dave Ramsey is, read one of his books.
2. SLEEP! You will never again get the kind of sleep or rest you did before children. I got really lucky and my daughter started sleeping through the night just before she was 3 months old, and other than growth spurts requiring midnight feedings, has pretty much been a good sleeper.
And I’m still tired all the time. Lazy mornings start with a busy routine. My child doesn’t want to wait for me to have my coffee before jumping on my head. If you’re not a morning person, lots of parenting is going to take extra fortitude and perhaps inventing an intro-venous coffee system.
Even when you do get to sleep, a lot of scary parenting things happen at night. The first two years of her life, I listened to the monitor for her breathing. After passing the threshold for SIDS, these little people have coughs, nightmares, and upset tummies at 3 a.m., which is not something you want to sleep through, trust me. You will sleep lighter and less, pretty much forever, as far as I can tell.
Which leads to my last point.
#3. Self comes last because yourself will come last for the rest of your life. She doesn’t want to give me 30 minutes of quiet time before I feed her. Using the restroom alone, yeah, enjoy that. My child can be outside playing with the neighbor, and the second I head to the bathroom, a bat signal must go off somewhere. If you find time to shower, exercise, read a book, it comes out of the time bank somewhere.
There are no sick days. Stomach bugs and vomiting or snot and coughing, they need you to get up to take care of them constantly for about the first five years, 5 years. Your life isn’t yours anymore. And the minute they don’t need you for something, you should probably run to find out what they are doing.
Having children won’t make you happy, but it will bring you joy.
Am I playing semantics? splitting hairs over words? Yes, because words flow out of the abundance of our hearts, and they matter. Our attitudes and expectations are shaped in words.
Galatians 5:22-23a ESV “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control”
Notice the fruit of the Holy Spirit doesn’t include happiness? But the rest of those fruits will have plenty of chances to develop, I promise!
The difference then is what we mean by joy as Christians. Joy is eternal, not based on external circumstances. My child who was just screaming that she ‘needs’ to watch TV isn’t currently making me ‘happy’, but being her mother, guiding and raising her, growing closer to God as I do it, fills me with joy.
Ecclesiastes 3:13 ESV “Also that everyone should eat and drink and take pleasure in all his toil—this is God’s gift to man.”
God wants us to take pleasure in the toil. He calls the toil a gift. A gift? Absolutely. God uses all the hard things to draw us, instruct us, and even love us.
Raising people is hard. They are only tiny and adorable and immobile for a few weeks that go by too quickly. Then the real work starts, training and teaching them to be kind, loving, gentle, obedient, gracious, creative, faithful, Godly.
That I do take great pleasure in. Even, when she eats my share of lunch. Even, when I spend an hour with her at midnight due to a bad dream. Even, when our house is loud, messy, full of fun and plenty of chances to practice conflict resolution. And I am filled with happiness sometimes, but joy all the time.
This verse from Romans sums up parenting rather perfectly.
Romans 12:12 ESV “Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.”
Children are hope, give us plenty of opportunities for patience, and parenting needs constant prayer in our hearts. Having children won’t make life easier or less hectic, but joyful? Always.