"Why have kids?" That's a question couples are increasingly prone to ask. If you were to ask your grandparents or great-grandparents why they had children, they would probably give you a baffled look and say, "That's just what married couples did." Today's couples, however, stop to ask, "Why?"
We don't just do things out of tradition or expectation. We don't just have kids because that's what's expected or because it's what our parents did. We are more likely to have kids as a statement, as a lifestyle choice. But the choice to have children now sits on a shelf in a growing supermarket of options, prompting couples to ask why that particular choice is better than any other.
Couples weighing the decision to start a family are increasingly surrounded by books, articles and Web sites spotlighting the costs and sacrifices ahead of them. Those messages encourage couples to think long and hard about the world they'd be bringing children into, and remind them to count all the costs before making such a monumental decision.
Caution and preparation are helpful, but sometimes it seems that's all couples can find on the topic of having kids these days. Churches, as well as some pro-family organizations, often have little to offer on this subject. Even friends with strong families and children of their own seem unable to articulate why young couples should pursue what they have.
Plenty of people have started their families without some sort of great vision. Increasingly, though, it takes vision for "why" to overcome the growing – and often compelling – arguments for "why not."
To that end, here are four positive reasons why when it comes to starting a family:
Babies require a great investment from parents. The expense of their care, as well as the opportunity costs resulting from lost income, can be daunting even for marriages in a strong financial position. Those costs can seem more overwhelming for couples struggling through an economic downturn. Starting a family requires couples to show good economic stewardship, but raising a child need not be out of reach even in tight times.
Unlike many of the depreciating assets people take on, babies are a source of wealth, delivering a return on investment that is beyond measure. No cost/benefit analysis can capture the true value of a new little person. Children are truly priceless.
One of the few welcome side effects of the economic crunch that hit in late 2008 was that people became more likely to look beyond their wallets in order to experience the truly good things in life. After getting the message for so long that children stand in the way of exotic vacations and a catalog house filled with cool gadgets, many couples discovered that it's those (often disappointing) pursuits that stand in the way of experiencing the joys of parenthood.
The Bible tells us that children are a blessing, but that message seems at odds with the headaches our culture insists children bring. Yet new life continues to offer the wonder and goodness that often eludes us. It gives us a chance to see the world through fresh eyes – restoring the magic and innocence that tend to fade with age. It teaches us more about the "life of love" that God calls us to as His "dearly loved children" (Ephesians 5:1-2). And it gives mere mortals an opportunity to touch the divine – to participate with God in making a new creation in His image.
Babies require great care – especially as they transition from toddlers to teenagers. Parenting is not for the faint of heart. It is grueling at many levels, and this can be intimidating for many couples who don't feel particularly mature. But it's when committing to the needs of a new life that couples are stretched into greater maturity. Children shape our souls like few other things in life, conditioning us to be more other-centered and to take a longer view of life. The demands of children that frighten so many would-be parents are in fact a crucible that can bring out the person God designed them to be.
Many couples reading today's headlines are convinced that this world is too unstable – how can you subject children to such a place? And you can hardly blame them. Trying to raise a child in our current culture can feel like trying to raise a flower in the crack of a New York City sidewalk. But while fear and anxiety are natural emotions for would-be parents, the choice to be fruitful is an enduring and courageous encounter with hope.
In his book The Mystery of Children, Mike Mason describes babies as "renewers, groundbreakers and world-shakers, bearers of new seed, heralds of a new age." Instead of letting the problems around us frighten us away from having children, we should recognize God's pattern of using new life to fix those problems, to bring renewal and fresh hope.