Remember that old playground song: “Bob and Sally / Sitting in a tree, / K-I-S-S-I-N-G. / First comes love, / Then comes marriage, / Then comes baby / In a baby carriage.”
Even though there is a bit more involved than kissing, there are still lots of new babies in carriages every single day. In fact, worldwide, four babies are born every second. It’s extremely humbling to think about God using us to give birth, adopt or foster other human beings, while also helping form them into adults. In a sense, God entrusts us with the ability to shape our future through parenting.
With such an awesome responsibility in front of us, we would do ourselves a huge favor by preparing ahead of time for this daunting, yet joyful task. And as people prepare themselves to take on the role of parenting, they can be motivated by many great reasons to be a parent, but there can also be some wrong motivations to have children. And those negative motivations are what I want to bring to light.
So, while there are many good reasons to have children, there are, at least, three unfair scenarios for our children.
1. Believing That Your Children Will ‘Complete’ You
Being human means we’re born with a broken nature. We’re born spiritually dead, and only Jesus can make us spiritually alive. This human brokenness means we naturally feel incomplete, as though something is missing from our lives. So we fight against that feeling by continually trying to fill our lives with things, accomplishments, hobbies, relationships and possibly even children.
Really, what we’re looking for is God, for He is the only one who can genuinely and totally satisfy and complete us.
So when we believe—consciously or unconsciously—that children will complete us, we are placing an unbearable responsibility on them. We make kids the center of our world, and often, we worship children without even realizing it.
Think about it like this: No two-year-old should be my god; that’s not fair to him or me. Only God can handle that role in my life, and trying to hold up that responsibility will crush a child. As a parent, I should, of course, highly value and serve my children, but completely centering my life around them or thinking they will give my life meaning is setting them and myself up for failure.
2. Believing That Your Children Will “Save” Your Marriage
What if you approached a counselor to help you work through your failing marriage, and he said, “I know what will save your marriage: You need less sleep in your life, while at the same time adding more responsibility, stress, worry, busyness and bills.” It’s safe to say you probably wouldn’t go back to that counselor.
Often, children may arrive in an unhealthy marriage, and in that case, it’s time to work hard for the well-being of these little ones. However, there are other scenarios where couples intentionally get pregnant, adopt or foster children to help “fix” their marriages.
In most cases, this should not be a realistic expectation, and frankly, it’s not fair to that child. In a way, you’re asking an infant or toddler to be your marriage counselor. Once again, a child should be a child, not your therapist or a means to try to draw your spouse closer to you.
3. Believing That You Can “Live” Through Your Children
Often, as parents, we want to take our weaknesses and make them into strengths in our children. Or, as not-yet-parents, we often plan to make up for our own inadequacies in our kids. In most people, there is a drive to be noticed, popular and successful, and if that doesn’t happen in our own lives, or even if it was a reality in the past, we can attempt to live vicariously through our children.
Let’s be honest though, at the core of living through our children is pride and selfishness on our part. If they notice and praise my child, then maybe they’ll notice and praise me, too.
Again, this is just not fair for your child. You’ve been given one life to live, and so have they: “just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment” (Hebrews 9:27). It’s not right to make a child use their God-given life to accomplish my wants, dreams and goals. They should have their own, and get to live out their own.
God has a very intentional plan for their life that looks different than the plan He has for your life. God has a story for you, and He has a story for them. As parents, we have to be OK with this, knowing that our job is simply to encourage, teach and empower our children to live out their own God-given story.
As you prepare to start a family, or as you think through the way you parent, be sure to guard against these attitudes.
“Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb a reward (Psalm 127:3).”