Why Children Are More Than a Drag

August 22, 2016 at 5:15 am 1 comment


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In our household, I am the one who usually gives our kids their baths.  And last week, while I had them both in the bath one evening, my daughter decided it would be fun to start hitting her daddy – playfully, but strangely forcefully – while my son was fussing loudly in his infant tub because he had just filled his diaper.

Ah, the perils of parenting.  Yes, it is tiring.  Yes, it can be dizzying and overwhelming.  Yes, it is ridiculously time consuming.  And yes, I am very much aware – and a bit fearful – that, as my kids grow older and begin to assert their independence in sometimes dangerous and derelict ways, parenting can also grow to be heartbreaking.  And yet, parenting is nevertheless wonderful.  I would not trade my vocation as a father any more than I would trade my vocation as a husband or my identity as a child of God.

As it turns out, however, not everyone feels the same way I do.

A revealing article appeared in the National Post last month featuring Calum and Tina Marsh, a married couple who is repulsed by the idea of having children.  In fact, “repulsed” is probably too weak a word to describe their loathing.  Calum, the author of this piece, writes:

A few weeks ago one of my oldest and closest friends told me that she planned to have children. Or rather she mentioned it, almost in passing, with the idle nonchalance of a remark about the midday heat: she planned to have children – and she planned to have them soon. I was dumbfounded. Children? Those fleshy barnacles of snot and mutiny? Those extortionate burdens? Those shrieking, dribbling, bawling horrors? Not for me, thank you. And not – I rashly assumed – for anyone else in my peer group. That my friend could want a child seemed to me unthinkable. It was as if she’d said she planned to invade Poland.[1]

It used to be a given that, barring some radically extenuating circumstance, having children was considered to be a generally natural outcome of marriage.  But according to Mr. Marsh, children are nothing short of “extortionate burdens” and “shrieking, dribbling, bawling horrors.”  Wow.  What kind of trouble could any child possibly cause to earn such an awful reputation?  Mr. Marsh explains:

I value my lifestyle, and I like having the means to maintain it. I value my free time. I’d like to re-read the complete works of Shakespeare, and get around to tackling Proust; I’m keen to learn Latin and modern dance; I wouldn’t mind visiting Locarno, Ankara and Bucharest. I also enjoy the freedom from responsibility childlessness affords me.

Let me try to sum up Mr. Marsh’s explanation as to why he does not want to have children and why he thinks they are “shrieking, dribbling, bawling horrors” in two words: he’s selfish.  In other words, Mr. Marsh has things he wants to do, money he wants to spend, and places he wants to go, and kids would throw a wrench into his plans and desires.  For Mr. Marsh, the most important thing in life is, well, Mr. Marsh.  Mr. Marsh is extolling selfishness, not as a vice, but as a virtue – a posture toward yourself that allows you to enjoy life more fully.

Don’t misunderstand me.  There are good reasons why a couple may not have children.  Sometimes, it is a heartbreaking medical condition that prevents a couple from having children, even when the couple may desire them.  Other times, a couple may not have the means to provide for a child.  In certain instances, foregoing the raising of children may even serve a spiritual purpose.  Both the apostle Paul and Jesus Himself did not marry and did not raise children because of particular calls God had placed on their lives.  There are plenty of good reasons not to have children.  Mr. Marsh, however, does not provide us with any of these reasons.  He simply wants to live his life for himself unencumbered by anyone who would ask much of anything from him.

One of the paradoxical principles of Christianity is that it is selflessness – not selfishness – that leads to a fulfilling life.  Indeed, this is the very pattern of the cross.  Christ emptied Himself in His death for us so that we could be called, coincidentally enough, His children (Galatians 3:26), and through that emptiness was exalted to the Father’s right hand as One equal to God (Philippians 2:6-11).

The apostle Paul is clear that Christ’s way of emptying Himself should be reflected in our lives as well:

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus. (Philippians 2:3-5)

Children offer a unique opportunity to practice ruthless selflessness because they demand so much more than a passing act of a service – giving a donation here, or joining a relief effort for a couple of days there.  They demand that one places his own priorities aside daily for the sake of someone else.  This is not an easy way to live, but it is a good way to live.  Indeed, one of the more troubling questions raised in my mind by Mr. Marsh’s article was this:  if Mr. Marsh doesn’t want kids because they are an inconvenience to and an inhibitor of his preferred lifestyle, how would Mr. Marsh react if Mrs. Marsh were to become an inconvenience and a drag on his dreams?  Selfishness, you see, has a funny way not only of preventing relationships – like the relationship you could have with a son or daughter – but of destroying the relationships you already have.

Mr. Marsh concludes his article by saying:

I can’t begin to imagine the burden not only of time and money but of authority and influence – of being accountable for a human life. It’s lunacy that so many people are comfortable with it.

I have news for Mr. Marsh:  no parent is ever comfortable with being responsible for his child’s life.  Just ask any parent who has reached over to his daughter’s basinet in the middle of the night and put his hand on her chest just to make sure she was still breathing.  Being comfortable isn’t the point when you’re raising children.  Loving and caring for a life that God has given you is.  And that’s a privilege I’ll take over comfort any day.

_______________________

[1] Calum Marsh, “‘Children? Those shrieking, dribbling, bawling horrors? Not for me, thank you’: Why fatherhood is not for everyone and shouldn’t have to be,” National Post (7.15.2016).

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Is Being Christian the Same as Being Religious? Using Kids to Kill

1 Comment Add your own

  • 1. christin.olivarez  |  August 23, 2016 at 7:40 am

    After 2 daughters and 3 grandchildren who are still small I say Amen. 

    Sent from my Sprint Samsung Galaxy® Note 4.

    Reply

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