Long before I married my husband, I knew I wanted a large family. I grew up as the oldest of four children in a nurturing Christian home. God used that healthy example to plant in me the desire to marry and start a family of my own. At age 30, when I finally met my husband, Kevin, I was delighted to discover that he, too, had been dreaming of being a parent.
Six months after we married, we discovered we had a baby on the way and at the end of the year, we welcomed our first child, Josiah, into our lives. During the next decade, Kevin and I welcomed three more babies, filling our home with the chaos, laughter and love of a young family.
For us, the timing of when to start a family wasn’t a difficult decision. From the day we tied the knot, Kevin and I already envisioned children in our near future. In fact, one of our primary goals as a married couple was to establish a godly family that would know and serve the Lord.
For many couples, deciding when to start a family isn’t so simple. Couples must consider many factors including the strength of their own relationship, finances, maturity, employment and health. The three couples below made different choices on when to start a family. They share the insights they’ve learned through their decisions.
Ray and Joi: waiting a few years
Ray and Joi met while serving together in high school ministry at a church in California. When Ray moved back home to Colorado due to health issues, the two parted as friends. But as Ray began dating in Colorado, he found his mind wandering to Joi. One day, he called her up and said, “Come marry me in the mountains.” God had been working on Joi’s heart as well, and five months later the two were wed.
“Ray wanted kids right away,” Joi says, “but I was adamant about us waiting a few years to get to spend time alone. We went from being just friends to being married in a matter of months, so we needed to learn how to be a married couple before we learned how to be parents.”
Ray adds, “Joi wanted us to experience marriage without kids, so that when our ‘nest’ is empty someday, we wouldn’t be totally confused on how to live outside of parenting.”
Three years later, Joi became pregnant with twins. Despite the couple’s planning, the babies arrived at a stressful time in their lives. Ray’s boss, a dear friend and mentor, had just passed away unexpectedly, and as a result Ray had assumed a new position as children’s pastor at the church where he was working. The couple had also just closed on their first home.
Even though they were overwhelmed, the couple was thrilled to welcome their twins, Elijah and Eleni and credit their church family for helping to lighten the load through practical support.
As the twins approach their first birthday, the couple is still getting the hang of parenting. “I think a couple is ready to start a family when they both can learn to be flexible, patient and honest,” Ray says. “Parenting children comes with quick change, and you and your spouse will both make mistakes. You have to be honest with each other about how you’re doing and when you need a break.”
Joi says the twins have brought incredible happiness into their lives. “I love that our home is centered on Christ and that He is gracious with our shortcomings,” she says. “I love that Elijah reflects Ray’s personality and Eleni reflects mine. I love that we are imperfect, because it reminds us and shows others that we all need the gospel every day.”
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Tyler and Ashley: starting right away
Ashley was in her early 30s when she married Tyler, a seminary student she met through a mutual friend. “I fell in love with him because even though we were very different, we saw the world through the same lens,” she says.
Ashley says the couple talked about the timing of children during their engagement and agreed to begin trying right away because of Ashley’s age and some concerns about potential infertility.
“We knew having a baby in the middle of Tyler finishing seminary would be a challenge,” Ashley says, “but we also figured we’d never really feel ready to have kids so we’d just see what happened and figure out a way to make it work.”
The couple became pregnant nine months after their wedding, and their first daughter arrived later that year followed by her sister two years later. Ashley says that having children so soon after marrying Tyler has kept the couple flexible. “We hadn’t had a lot of time to form habits that would have to change once kids arrived,” she says. She also says that having parents who live nearby has been a substantial help.
Tyler explains that having kids right away did come with challenges but was still an incredible blessing. “Regardless of our financial situation or our lack of free time, God is still good,” he says. “The great joy and blessing of children is not mitigated by the things we perceive we’re missing out on.”
And to someone who’s unsure whether they’re ready to start a family, Tyler says, “If you’re willing to model repentance to your spouse and your community, then you’re ready for children. We are, after all, big sinners teaching little sinners.”
Grace and Abe: holding off for a while
Grace and Abe met while attending a leadership training course at a Christian organization. They married in their early 20s and decided to wait at least a few years before starting a family. But the couple discovered they enjoyed their “footloose lifestyle” of travel and relaxed evenings and weekends, and seven years went by.
“I knew I eventually wanted kids,” Grace says, “so the decision to get pregnant was more on behalf of ‘future me’ than ‘current me.’ I was content with my life as it was.”
Grace and Abe, who now have an elementary-aged son and daughter, say that waiting has afforded them some benefits. “Having kids is a lot of work and it does change your relationship,” Grace says. “We look back fondly on our pre-kid days and the memories of that life.” In addition, the couple feels like they were more prepared financially for the expense of having children than they would have been in their early 20s.
Abe says having a realistic understanding of the amount of work and responsibility that goes into having a child is key to preparing to start a family. “Also, you both need to be on the same page on the timing,” he says. “You don’t want anyone to feel pressured into the decision.”
While the couple is fully supportive of couples who choose to remain child-free, they do admit to sometimes feeling like they missed out on years they could have enjoyed with children. “If you’ve waited to have kids and aren’t sure if it is for you, it’s true what they say,” Grace says. “You will be totally and completely obsessed with your new baby and willing to sacrifice everything.”
Kevin and I have never regretted our decision to jump right in and start a family. We’ve discovered that children are a blessing regardless of timing or circumstances. And during the transition to parenting, like all other times of change, God promises to give wisdom and guidance to those who follow Him.
Proverbs 16:9 says, “The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps.” Couples making family-planning decisions can find comfort in that truth. Whether children come into a marriage right away or years down the road, God oversees the steps of those who trust in Him.