Intentional Childlessness

Is it okay not to have kids? My spouse and I have been doing some serious thinking about the whole parenting thing, and we're not sure we want to get involved. How do you feel about childlessness as an intentional lifestyle choice?

No one can tell you what is “okay” or “not okay” when it comes to a decision as weighty as that of bringing a child into the world. But before you deliberately choose to forgo parenthood, we think it’s extremely important that you and your spouse examine and evaluate your motives. This isn’t something you should allow yourselves to “slide” into without careful thought. It’s a matter worthy of serious consideration and discussion.

Biblically speaking, we can’t ignore the fact that God considers parenthood an incredible blessing. As Psalm 127:3 says, “Sons are a heritage from the Lord, children a reward from Him.” And in Genesis 1:28, God tells man to “be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it.” That’s not to mention that Scripture is completely silent when it comes to a state of elective childlessness. It doesn’t appear that the Bible writers ever envisioned married couples deliberately denying themselves children. On the contrary, childlessness was almost universally regarded as a curse in biblical times.

There are, of course, some medical conditions that prevent childbearing. There are others that pose serious genetic risks. If you’re facing these kinds of uncertainties, you might consider seeking genetic counseling from a specialist. Once you’ve received all the relevant information, in addition to pursuing the Lord’s guidance we’d encourage you to get the advice of your pastor or a Christian therapist as you weigh these options.

In encouraging couples to have children, we’re not suggesting that those who suffer the pain of infertility are less obedient to God or less valuable in His sight. What we are proposing is that couples in your position need to take an honest look at themselves. In most cases, intentional childlessness isn’t driven by medical concerns. More often, it’s a question of preserving a certain lifestyle or a certain standard of living. Our recommendation, then, is that you and your spouse sit down and ask yourselves some hard and honest questions. Are you simply being selfish? Are you overly concerned about maintaining control? Are you assuming worries and taking on responsibilities – for example, worries about future finances – that are better left in God’s hands? Are you allowing your choices to be ruled by fear rather than trust?

We realize that Western thinking has been shifting in the direction of ambivalence toward childbearing or outright dismissal of parenthood. We understand that many two-career couples have reasons of their own for wishing to postpone childbearing or skip it altogether. It’s not our desire to sound “authoritarian” or to push our views on others. Still, we have to admit that the current tendency to ignore or dilute the command of Genesis 1:28 causes us grave concern. It seems to be symptomatic of an attitude that rejects God’s design for humanity. So strong are our convictions in this regard that, under normal circumstances, it’s our opinion that couples should make it their goal to follow the divine pattern and look forward to a future that includes children. To state our view more plainly, we don’t favor intentional childlessness.

No doubt about it: parenting is inconvenient. Hesitations about starting a family are understandable. The responsibilities of parenthood can’t be taken lightly. And there’s no denying that kids will bring major changes to your marriage and your individual lives. But the difficulties associated with childrearing aren’t reason enough to choose childlessness. On the contrary, children bring a new dimension of joy and fulfillment to a marriage that can’t be found anywhere else. Parenting forces us to look outside ourselves and act sacrificially for the benefit of another. In this way, it can be said to bring spiritual transformation into the lives of those who are willing to embrace it.

If you’d like to discuss these points at greater length with a member of our staff, we hope you’ll feel free you to call Focus on the Family’s Counseling department.


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