In Defense of Child Rearing

August 26, 2013 at 5:15 am Leave a comment


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Credit: Time Magazine

I’ve been a dad for five months now.  I know that makes me nowhere close to an expert on parenting, but it is amazing how steep the learning curve is when you’re a daddy.  I’ve learned how to change a diaper, how to burp a baby, how to swaddle a baby, how to fasten a car seat, and which brands of formula stain badly after your daughter spits up on you.  But beyond these nuts and bolts lessons, I have learned something else:  having a child makes your life exponentially more complicated.  There are schedules you have to arrange, bedtimes you have to keep, and a whole host of new chores you have to do.  It’s not simple being a dad.

It was this realization that with raising children comes complications that led Lauren Sandler to write an apologetic for childlessness in Time Magazine titled, “Having It All Without Having Children.”  In her article, she notes how people are opting out of parenthood with ever increasing frequency:

The birthrate in the U.S. is the lowest in recorded American history, which includes the fertility crash of the Great Depression. From 2007 to 2011, the most recent year for which there’s data, the fertility rate declined 9%. A 2010 Pew Research report showed that childlessness has risen across all racial and ethnic groups, adding up to about 1 in 5 American women who end their childbearing years maternity-free, compared with 1 in 10 in the 1970s.[1]

Kids, for many people it turns out, are cumbersome – too cumbersome.  There is, of course, the financial burden of raising children:

The rise of attachment parenting, with its immersive demands, and the sheer economic cost of raising a child – for a child born in 2011, an average of $234,900 until age 18, according to the USDA, and $390,000 if your household earns over $100,000 – has made motherhood a formidable prospect for some women.

There is also the burden raising a child puts on one’s career:  “The opportunity costs for an American woman who gets off the career track could average as high as $1 million in lost salary, lost promotions and so on.”  But perhaps the most interesting burden that childhood brings, according to one researcher, is an intellectual burden:

At the London School of Economics, Satoshi Kanazawa has begun to present scholarship asserting that the more intelligent women are, the less likely they are to become mothers … Kanazawa analyzed the U.K.’s National Child Development Study, which followed a set of people for 50 years, and found that high intelligence correlated with early – and lifelong – adoption of childlessness.  He found that among girls in the study, an increase of 15 IQ points decreased the odds of their becoming a mother by 25%.  When he added controls for economics and education, the results were the same: childhood intelligence predicted childlessness.

As titillating at these statistics might be, they generate more heat than light.  Indeed, they are only props marshaled to justify the real reason people do not want to have kids.  The real reason can be found in the words of documentary filmmaker Laura Scott, whom Lauren Sandler quotes at the beginning of her article:  “My main motive not to have kids was that I loved my life the way it was.”  Scott makes no secret of the reason she opted out of parenthood:  her life is her life.  Kids make her life not about her.  And that, she decided, is something she cannot endure.

One has to wonder when it became commendable to be so unashamedly selfish.  The beauty and blessing of giving your life to the nurture and care of another is apparently lost on far too many people.

In the face of such cultural confusion concerning child rearing, it is useful to briefly review what the Bible says about children:

  • Children matter to God which means they should matter to us too.  Jesus’ words and actions express vividly His concern and care for kids.  When people are bringing their children to Jesus to have Him bless them and the disciples try to keep the kids away, Jesus chides the Twelve, saying, “Let the little children come to Me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these” (Mark 10:14).  Jesus enjoys spending time with children and blessing them.  We should too.
  • Bearing and raising children, though it is not commanded specifically for every individual, is generally commendable.  God’s commission at creation has an inescapably universal ring to it:  “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it” (Genesis 1:28).  Though we have plenty of biblical examples of people who did not have children due to one circumstance or another, a disdain for and avoidance of childbearing runs contrary to the biblical estimation of kids.
  • Children, even when they feel like a burden, are in reality a divine blessing!  The words of the Psalmist sum it up:  “Children are a heritage from the Lord, offspring a reward from Him” (Psalm 127:3).

So what does all this mean?  It means simply this:  kids are precious and well worth celebrating.  Past cultural adages such as “Children should be seen and not heard” as well as a present cultural avoidance and diminishment of child rearing are sad testimonies to human sinfulness and selfishness.  Conversely, engaging children can be not only fun, it can also be sanctifying.  And everyone needs opportunities to be sanctified.


[1] Lauren Sandler, “Having It All Without Having Children,” Time (8.12.2013).

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