What is the purpose of having children?

by Rachel Held Evans Read Distraction Free

So I’m actually glad we veered a little off topic in our discussion following the last entry because I’ve been wanting to write about parenting and children for a while, but figured there would be little interest in the subject. I guess I was wrong!

At the heart of the issue is this question: What is the purpose of having children?

This seems like a really simple question at first, but in addition to your comments, a few things have made me appreciate its complexity recently:

1. The Duggar Family of “18 Kids and Counting” on TLC—I don’t normally watch this show, but it caught my attention last night when I was flipping through stations and I saw that the Duggar Family was in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee (which is just “down the way” as we like to say here in East Tennessee). What I found especially interesting about this family was that all 18 children were biological...which means that Michelle Duggar is either superwoman or certifiably insane.  The Duggar family appears to be financial stable with a loving home and strong values, but they sparked a discussion here at the Evans household about whether or not it is responsible to bring as many children as possible into the world, especially considering how many children are waiting to be adopted.

2. Adoption—I’ve always been a big fan of adoption, and considering James’ admonition about how true religion in the sight of God is caring for orphans and widow in their distress, I have always felt that as a Christian I am obligated to either adopt myself or strongly support organizations that make adoption possible.  However, as I’ve gotten older, I’ve developed a less idealistic perspective on adoption, realizing that adoption carries with it its own set of challenges, challenges I don’t want to take lightly. Anyway, I got into an interesting discussion with a friend of mine about this recently. She said she thought it was a bad idea to adopt based on conviction or compassion – that a family should only adopt if they cannot conceive or if they want a larger family. (My friend is pregnant with her second biological child.) This led to a conversation about whether or not becoming a parent is something we do for our own benefit or for the benefit of the prospective children. I couldn’t help but wonder why I would want to make more children if there are so many out there in desperate need of a home.

3. Octomom/In-vitro/Designer Babies—Yes, this stuff has been out of the news for a while, but it does raise questions about our society’s preoccupation with kids as wish fulfillment. I often wonder what might happen if we get to a point where we can choose a child’s sex...or even hair and eye color. Again, it raises the question—do we have children in order to make ourselves happy?

4. Babies everywhere!—I’m at the point in my life where most of my friends have children or are pregnant...and I’m absolutely loving it! I’ve grown super-attached to these kids, and have learned so much about parenting and child development over the past three years. I feel more at ease around children than ever before and am growing more confident about how Dan and I will parent together, as we’ve had opportunities to discuss discipline and get some hands-on experience while babysitting for our friends.  Knowing that I am capable of being a good mother has made me feel a lot better about the future.

5. "You will never be ready—When asked, Dan and I tend to say that we are not quite ready to have kids. (We are very fortunate to be on the same page on this.) Of course, if we found out tomorrow that I was pregnant, we would be ecstatic, but we’re not exactly planning around such an event. I feel so blessed to be able to do what I love for a living, and I’d like to get a few more books under my belt (as well as pursue more speaking opportunities) before embarking on the full-time motherhood journey. Yes, I know I can technically do both at the same time...but most of you have no idea how bad I am at multi-tasking! Similarly, Dan would like to see more passive income flowing before we have kids. Our goal is for both of us to work from home while raising children together. Usually, when we tell people this, they smile and say,“Well if you wait until you are ‘ready,’ you will never have kids.” Sometimes I think they are right; sometimes I think they are wrong.  Sometimes I worry that we are being selfish for waiting. Other times I think it is selfish for people to have kids before they are financially stable or when they end up resenting their kids for “holding them back.”

6. The biological clock—I’m 28, so I can hear a faint ticking. I know that we will have to make a decision about all of this relatively soon.You don't have to remind me! :-)

As I said at the beginning of the post, it all comes down to this question: What is the purpose of having children?  Is it ultimately an act of selfishness or selflessness...or both?

What do you think?

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