Maybe I Should Have a Kid

August 26, 2011

Here’s the thing: my wife and I have been married for five years…

…and we don’t have children.

What Joy I'm Missing Out On

We are very happily married.  I love her to no end.  We were two of the very first among our friends to get hitched.  But now, even though birth rates apparently continue to drop, we find ourselves in an ever-shrinking club of childless friends.  The vast majority of our friends now have their own poopy progeny.

The blog world is no different.  While there are some notable bloggers who remain childless, the vast majority of you are mommy-bloggers and daddy-bloggers.  And while I offer no judgement on you for using your offspring as blog fodder, no one really talks about what it is like to remain without wee ones in the house.

But I have discovered a few very important things about being married, without kids.

The Perfect Conversation Killer

Meeting new people is relatively easy.  There are a few basic questions you can ask everyone.  You can ask them about their job, their home town, and their family.

If you get people going on a roll, they’ll talk to you about their work or where they are from.  But most people need virtually no interest from the other person to prattle on about their adorable little ankle-biters.  Parents are proud.  No one answers the question, “Do you have a family?” by saying, “Yeah, but my kid kind of sucks at everything.  Let’s talk about hockey.”

I am more than happy to hear people tell me about their precious little rugrats.  But then they ask if I have children.  And I have to say, “No…”

“…but I have two dogs.”

Saying “no” is a real conversation killer.

It’s not like I’d have kids just to be a better conversationalist.  Just like I’m sure you didn’t have kids just to write amusing blogs or make them bite each others’ fingers to achieve YouTube stardom.  But it always stalls the conversation when I have to admit that I have not yet impregnated my wife, resulting in a screaming, bloody miracle careening out of her body nine months later.  Not having something in common creates division between acquaintances.  Not having something as huge as a family is like a language barrier.

I’m No Expert

I work with kids.  Lots of kids.  I have worked with hundreds of kids over ten years.

I read books about child psychology.  I purchased copies of a particular book for all the new parents we know because it was so good, I just couldn’t keep it to myself.

But that doesn’t matter to most people who actually have a couple of little bambinos.

I admit I’m no expert at changing diapers.  I have never awakened at two in the morning to feed a child.

But I have also invoked the wrath of many parents when I have presumed to know something about kids on this blog.  Apparently, my experience of being a kid and observing my own parents and working with kids doesn’t count.

We’re in love with the idea that “you can’t know unless you’ve been there.”

So I guess I don’t know anything about kids.

No Child, No Purpose

But more than being a conversation killer or a ding on my knowledge of children, I sense, ever so subtly, that some people feel sorry for us and our “big,” “empty,” three bedroom split level house.

It does sound kind of pathetic when people talk about their little cherubs, and the only thing we have to talk about are our dogs.  Some people try to say something like, “Well, they are your kids.”  No they aren’t.  If I treated my kids like I treat my dogs, I would have child services on my case in two seconds.  (Making kids poop in the yard and eat off the floor is a no-no, from my, apparently, very limited comprehension of children.)  But I understand what they’re trying to do.  They’re trying to make me feel better about what they imagine is my sad, empty life, and also mask their discomfort.

It seems so foreign to us that ancient women who went childless were considered “cursed.”  But in some tiny way, I get the sense that the same attitude exists today.  I’m not quite an adult in the eyes of some because I don’t have any little sprouts of my own.  I haven’t accomplished the “most important” part of life by doing my part to continue the human race…as if the human race needs any help.

Maybe I’m being unpatriotic by not manufacturing new Americans.

Maybe I’m a bad Christian for not expanding the Kingdom of God.

Today’s question is easy.  Tell me about your kids!  Or the kids you don’t have.  Are kids our ultimate purpose, fulfillment, and conversation piece?

90 responses to Maybe I Should Have a Kid

  1. Two dogs!
    What kind?
    Do they bite?
    Why not?
    Do you train them?

    Unfortunately all six of my kids are now over 30 years old and not a one of them can jump in the air to catch a Frisbee in their mouths. What should I do?

    Oh by the way, this is John, Yes, Ginny and I have survived raising six children, all grown and gone, and more or less civilized. Several have married themselves but no grandchildren yet. And none has been arrested yet either.

    There is no secret to child rearing. Ginny says that unfortunately babies do not come with the things a new parent needs most–an instruction manual and an electric cattle prod.

    The Bible says that children are a gift from God and blessed is the man that has a quiver full of them–somehow I get the mental image of St. Sebastian when I read that verse.

    We raised our kids in poverty (food stamps, HUD housing) yet they turned into productive citizens: a nurse, a banker, a computer technician, a highway survivor, a store clerk. All taxpayers. All involved as volunteers in various charities. All a good investment in the country’s future. And now our children are our best friends in the whole world!

    They wholeheartedly support my writing and publishing. And as Ginny and I age, the kids check on us often, they come over and mow our grass, they give medical and computer advice. And they got together to paint our kitchen…

    But we no longer have a dog. Our Sheba, a black lab, died a while back after living with us for 17 years. I miss her terribly. You are blessed of the Lord to be entrusted with the care of two dogs. Lucky man.

    John Cowart

  2. I’m sure you’ve heard this before and I say this not in a condescending way but, enjoy this time man. Seriously.

  3. Your own kids teach you things that others can’t – not a guilt trip, just the truth. When you are a father, you begin to see what a daunting job God has – just sayin’.

    I have 4 kids, 33 Yale Law grad, unmarried and not exceptionally happy in life. I have a 23-year old who is an art graduate – you know where that leads. I also have a 20-year-old that looks like a fishing lure and works at Subway. And then there is Charlotte, the 7-year-old. She is bi-lingual, intense and smarter than all the rest…

    Honestly, I am proud of all of them for diffident reason, but what I care about is their relationship with Christ, and if they walk into the good works that have been prepared for them. The middle two have done missions and brought loads of people to Christ. They do their best to minister to their friends and they hate stupid church with religious rules and boxes for them to fit into.

    We’ll see how the others end up, right now, it’s way too soon to tell. For they are teaching me to be like the Father. 😉

  4. Are kids a blessing? Absolutely.

    Are you required to have them? No.

    Genetically, our ultimate purpose is to reproduce. But I don’t think kids are our absolute ultimate purpose.

    Personally, I have a 3 year old daughter and another baby on the way. Love it! That’s me though. Not everyone gets excited about kids the way I do. That’s cool.

    And I have two dogs. Oh yeah.

  5. We waited 6 years. Wait till you’re ready.

  6. Kids are the best thing that could ever happen to a happy marriage. 😛 Hurry up before your too old and when they’re teenagers, they will eat you for breakfast. :)

  7. So as a side note, you having children would not automatically expand the kingdom of God. First, these hypothetical children of yours would have to become Christians. So you have them, then you evangelize them.

    I think that there can be good reasons to not have kids, and there can also be selfish reasons. And of course, reasons can fall on a spectrum between the two.

  8. I have one kid. Still deciding whether or not to have another, not because the one kid is overwhelming (although he can be), but I had such an easy pregnancy with him that I’m afraid the next one will kick my butt.

    Here’s a couple of things I learned after having the kid–

    1) Other people’s kids are vastly different from your own kid. I can tolerate other people’s kids, even like a few of them quite a bit, but I was never really “into” them–I don’t get all squishy around babies, for instance. For a while, I was afraid that I wouldn’t “bond” with my own kid because of it. It turned out to be quite the opposite. I don’t know how to explain it, but the relationship you have with your own kid is vastly different.

    2) People might act like they’ve become parenting experts after they’ve had kids, but they’re usually lying.

    3) If you think having a kid gets you off the hook from people asking when you’re going to have a baby, think again. Now it’s all about “So, when are you going to have another?”

  9. When you wrote that post on kids a couple of months back, I was one of the parents who responded that you might feel differently when you had kids of your own. And I will continue to stand by that opinion…having a child changes you.

    But, I didn’t imply that you don’t know anything. It would be ludicrous to suggest that.

  10. Be Honest Matt…

    Did You Google every possible “name” for kids? LOL…

    1. poopy progeny
    2. offspring
    3. ankle-biters
    4. rugrats
    5. bloody miracle
    6. little bambinos
    7. cherubs
    8. little sprouts
    9. new Americans
    10. kingdom expanders

    Nice Job Matt! That pretty much sums it up…
    I have a 5 year old princess Genius…and a 3 year old power ranger…

  11. We actually talked about this in a class last year and about how Christians often make an idol out of biological children. The Church is so set and determined for us to have nuclear, typical families that if we don’t, we’re failing at life.

    And for the record, I’ve been married for 2 years (which is no 5 years!) and we’re childless as well. And that’s just fine by us. =)

  12. I have a friend (married friends, actually) that decided NOT to have kids. It seems that decision is like saying you’re into witchcraft and dabble a little in Satanism. To off-set the ‘bound-to-happen’ sermonettes from people who can’t fathom a choice like that, they started saying they couldn’t have children. That was 10 years ago so now that they are well into their 30s, it isn’t so much an issue. Well meaning people still pity them but they don’t get lectured.

    As for me, I have one Boy. He was a surprise after 5 years of marriage AND as I’ve later discovered, he was a miracle baby too.

  13. Thank you for writing this post. I think you address two issues that I have also faced. One, I was married three months ago and people were asking us when we were going to have kids before we even cut the cake! My supervisor has said that she waited five years before having her first child and was told repeatedly by her mother-in-law that she would never find happiness until she fulfilled God’s will and had children. But I am fortunate to have married friends my own age who also don’t have kids. They also get asked the question “when are you going to have kids?” all of the time.

    Second, I know a thing or two about children and their psychology. I studied to be a teacher and two weeks into my student teaching experience realized it wasn’t what I was meant to do, but I still volunteer with children. That means little to my friends with children. In particular, when I spoke up to my friend who referred to her son’s father as his “sperm donor” and other words I shouldn’t mention, I was told I had no right to say anything because I don’t have children and besides a 2 year old doesn’t understand what she means. Needless to say, our friendship ended for this and other reasons.

  14. I don’t have kids.

    And I, also, know nothing about them.

    So when I suggest, about the 12 yr old who still wets the bed, that perhaps there might be better ways to encourage him to do well in school besides (still) spanking him when he doesn’t make A’s… I’m full of it.

    I feel your pain. My youth min degree is really an adolescent psych degree because of the electives I chose, and I, too, have spent the last 10 years in youth ministry.

    Here’s to knowing nothing… *Cheers!*

  15. You’re so funny. I honestly wouldn’t have commented on this post if you hadn’t invited us to talk about our kids… but now I’m obligated!

    We have a 2 1/2 year old girl who is bright and very bossy, and have another girl on the way, who I hope can hold her own with the first. Actually, that’s a lie. I hope she’s so easygoing that she is perfectly comfortable being sweet and calm and letting her sister be the boss. That would be easier for all of us.

    I know several couples right now who are debating whether to have kids, and while I feel sorry for them, it’s not because “they don’t know what they’re missing” or anything like that. My sorrow is that they are divided on the issue and it is a cause of conflict and pain in the marriage.

    I always advise people who aren’t gung-ho about the idea to listen to that gut instinct and not do it just because they are “supposed to.” My mother didn’t really want kids, and she and my dad apparently never talked about it before marriage, so they just had me, and while I turned out fine and have a good relationship with both parents (who are still married), my mom never felt like a good mother and I know that weighed on her and still does in a way. (She has been hilariously ambivalent about both my pregnancies, but loved my daughter as soon as she was born!)

  16. Having no kids does mean you can go where you want, when you want, with whomever you want. But do you know what having a kid means? Leaving when you want, because you find out you aren’t where you want to be with whomever you want to be with. Jakob is our escape from many social endeavors. It’s not the only reason we love him, but it’s on the list. We never really knew how to leave something early that we weren’t enjoying (like dinner at someone’s house) without feeling like or coming off as jerks. Now we just say, “Well, we’d better get Jakob home,” and people totally understand.

    I’d keep going on, but I have to get Jakob home.

  17. I do feel bad for couples that always get hounded with that question. When I got married, I was serving as an associate pastor, and literally the first Sunday after we returned from our honeymoon, people started asking when we were going to have kids. Now that I’m a parent, I try very hard not to do that same kind of garbage to others. In fact, the only time I ask couples if they’re planning on having kids is in pre-marital counseling, just to make sure they’ve talked about it and they’re on the same page, because that can be a relationship killer.

    Jeff is absolutely right about using your kids as an escape trick!

  18. No kids. A failed adoption (of three). A 9-month pseudo-foster of two (which was ridiculously difficult). We do, however, have two rats, five chickens and a frog. We also have kids… like, legit human beings who are younger than us, who spend time with us on a fairly regular basis. I love these young-uns so stinking much it makes me want to cry and laugh at the same time. Sure, it’s not like having a biological child. And it’s not quite like adoption. And it’s not like fostering. But it is mentoring. And it is a blessing (to me, and, I hope, to them as well). So… for now we are blessed with a ton of kids. I gotta say, watching them grow up and move up to Jr. High and College is hard. I don’t want them to leave!


    • We also had a failed adoption/ bad foster situation. Parenting 3 teens is HARD. And while, yes, a few things I just ‘got’ more clearly once I was in the thick of it… I didn’t really learn anything about parenting from doing it that I didn’t already know from 10 years as a teacher, youth leader, aunt, etc. Except why exactly parents are so willing to dump their kids at my youth program for hours on end.
      Some parents love it. They love parenting, they love their kids, and they love the other parent of their child(ren). They’re so happy, they just want to share it with everyone they know. But plenty of parents really want their former life back, but it’s so embarrassing to admit that in public that instead they are hoping you will also choose to have kids and be miserable like them so they don’t have to envy your kid-free life.

    • Luke, you have chickens?? I didn’t know that! What are their names? :) I miss you guys!

  19. My fiance and I have no desire for kids. None. I’m a teacher, he’s a case worker for families in need. We deal with kids all day, every day. They always say it’s different when you have your own, and yes! it is…. people go home to their bratty kids after a day of work, we’ll get to go home to peace and quiet 😉

    But on a serious note, if you believe in eternal damnation, why would you want to have children if there’s a 50/50 chance they’ll spend eternity in hell? There’s no guarantee that a Christian couple will beget Christian children. I know the Word says children are a blessing, but I’d be terrified of having a child who will reject God.

  20. Well, no miracle careening from my wife either, but I am a foster father of 17 kids and soon to be adopted father of one. My conversations get killed all of the time. Mainly because my kids come with confidentiality clauses, so there is a limit to my ability to talk about shared experiences.

    Also, all of my kids have been traumatized. I don’t want to stigmatize them, neither do I want to share parenting strategies when their child has tantrums (because he is three and selfish) and mine has violent rages (because he spent the first three years of his life being neglected and abused… and/or because he is three and selfish).

    Anyway, I think people desire shared experiences. I know I do. I comb through my community, both real and virtual, to find people that “get it.” Because I get tired of people that don’t, or most likely can’t get it. Because pretending that our parenting challenges are the same is sometimes disingenuous but mostly plain inaccurate. As is looking at me like “I know what I’d do if that was my kid.”

    But I have also received the most blessings from my non-fostering friends who will actually ask questions and engage in conversations when our experiences and perspectives are different.

    I say, let people talk about their kids, laud them and encourage them for the wonderful things they are doing, then return the favor by telling them how fulfilling it is to be childless.

    • My aunt and uncle were unable to have their own children, so they became foster parents. I’ve had lots of foster cousins over the years! Even when I was younger, I saw how hard it was on them. But they kept on loving and showing Christ to so many abused and neglected children. They ended up adopting like 10 kids. Their love and patience and trust in the Lord is pretty inspiring. I have a feeling you and your wife are also a living example of God’s love for the “orphans” and the outcasts. God bless you!

    • We have fostered a number of kids (sorry, I’ve lost track) in addition to my own 4. It is a very different sort of parenting – but so rewarding, so painful, so amazing, and so wonderful. God bless you. It is noble calling.

  21. We don’t have kids… I don’t know when and if we will and I am completely okay with that. We do have kitties and honestly they are kinda like kids for us. They are an incredibly important part of our lives. I do get frustrated with many other Christian women who seem to think I’m not being “as christian” as I should be because I’m consciously making a choice not to have children right now. I LOVE kids, I love my nieces & nephews and cousins and friends children… I just don’t have a burning desire to have my own and I feel very confident in that choice. And I feel like I’m an honest, loving down-to-earth Christian and that God absolutely LOVES me and the choices I have made. And I totally understand the fact that it’s a conversation killer… thankfully we have also found some really good friends who also don’t have children and have been married a long time as well and just love the life they are living.

  22. We didn’t have children until we were married 8 years. It is kind of nice because people just quit asking and then BAM – have one and everyone is amazed. :) Having children is amazing. For us, it basically came down to saying okay – I don’t have anymore excuses for not having a child, so let’s give God a year. If we don’t conceive, we were planning to go back to a fulfilling childless life. We conceived a son within a month and have happily enjoyed our new season of life, with children, ever since.

  23. Let me tell you about my kids I don’t have.

    So far, I don’t have three kids, two boys with a girl in the middle. Their names aren’t Caleb Joshua (because Caleb is the coolest male name in the history of earth), Sarah Elizabeth, and David Jonathon. My non-existent wife and I aren’t working on having a fourth, another boy named Timothy Paul (or Paul Timothy; I have time to decide).

    They’re not little angels. Caleb and David don’t fight all the time (as boys often do). After our fourth isn’t born, we’re not thinking about having another one, this time a girl, so Sarah won’t have a sister to play with and hand her clothes down to (Timothy/Paul doesn’t like wearing his sisters old Hello Kitty shirts).

    When the kids I don’t have grow older, Caleb and David won’t be very protective of their sisters, who won’t hate it at the time but grow appreciative later.

    That’s not my family in a nutshell.

  24. I’ve been married 11 years, and am childless by choice. I don’t live anywhere near the Bible Belt, so I don’t get as many of the negative comments about my choice, but I do get asked “when” I’m going to have children. Yep: conversation killer. Or, I end up explaining the myriad reasons for my choice, but I still get the look of vague pity, or the “It’s different when it’s your OWN child,” or the “Wait until you are ready.” That’s very generous; thank you. How about never? :-)

    I never had the Mommy urge. My best friend has 3 kids, all adorable (and I don’t often say that about kids). I love them. I just don’t want any of my own. I think I would be a basket case as a mother. I’ve asked God, “If you want me to have kids, please give me that desire.” Hasn’t happened yet, and I’m 35. I’m happy with my choice; it’s other people who might have a problem with it. Not My Problem. :-)

    I do have one friend who is older and has a grown son. She fully understands and supports my decision, and has never even remotely pressured me to reconsider. I think some parents are even a little jealous of and somewhat bewildered by my freedom. :-)

    Enjoy your wife and your freedom from parenthood. And your dogs. :-) Just follow God’s path for you, even if there’s no little angels clinging to your legs as you try to walk it. :-)

  25. My first reaction was “Preach it brother!” My second is that it astonishes me how people feel they have the right to ask. If I ever get into a conversation about having children the only question I ask is , “Are you interested in having any?” Frankly, it’s no one’s business.
    You might have been trying (without success) for ages to have kids and every thoughtless (and sometimes judgemental) question stabs you in the heart.

    I am single, no kids. Welcome to the land of Pity.

    My whole life, as far as I can remember, I have wanted to be married and be a mother. I was going to work for a few years before I had kids…but God had different plans.
    I am now a teacher with 21 years experience and have had success multiple times over with children with behaviour issues and am also the babysitter for most of my friends. Does my advice, (after sought) get listened to? Rarely.

  26. Matt, so I’m a new dad of a six month year old girl and am amazed pretty much every single day about how much I don’t know, how much there is to know that I’ll probably never know, and then in retrospect, how much my parents must not have known either.

    I think being a parent doesn’t “make you know”, more than it slaps you in the face at 2:00 am, then 4:00 am, then 4:45 am, on how much you really don’t know.

    Being an “expert” in parenting is like being an “expert” in social media. Lots of people claim it, without any evidence to back it up.

  27. I know mine will be a minority opinion here, but that’s pretty much the case everywhere when I state this particular one. Please don’t flame me without reading first because this opinion comes from years of study and what I call “percolation.”

    The VERY FIRST thing God says to people is, “Make babies” (that’s my own paraphrase). To me, that says that it is something important to Him. If it weren’t important, He a) wouldn’t have said it at all, and b) wouldn’t have that be the very first thing He said to people, ever.

    Elsewhere in Scripture, children are called a blessing or legacy/heritage/inheritance from the Lord. When else in your life do you say to God, “no thanks – I don’t want to be blessed. In fact, I’m going to go out of my way to ensure that you _don’t_ bless me.”? This particular blessing, however, has become culturally acceptable (and even the norm in many cases) to refuse. How does that make sense? I personally have appreciated God’s blessings (children and otherwise), even if they weren’t what _I_ had planned.

    Similarly, we are not typically given a choice in what our inheritance will be. The one who is giving the inheritance is in charge of that.

    And yes, there is no guarantee that children of Christian parents will become Christians themselves, but (and I say this as a parent myself), I think that’s more an issue with our parenting skills (and our lack of a focus on Biblical parenting) than it is an issue with the number of children we do or do not have. Parenting is hard, constant work. Sure, there’s a chance that even with the best of parenting a child will choose the world, but we’re told not live in a spirit of fear (same with health issues). _God_ didn’t give us a spirit of fear, so maybe those of us who are living in fear need to think about where the spirit of fear is truly coming from. Believe me, having kids only increases your potential for fears. But that means it also increases your potential for trusting God, relying on Him, and learning to be “bold, loving, and sensible” (the MSG translation of “power, love, and a strong mind”).

    But I would love to talk about our three “unexpected blessings!” AJ, our first, got started baking 2 months after we got married. He’s now 4.5 and going strong. He is a sweet, strong-willed, enthusiastic handful of a little man who loves his trains and his baby sisters. Joanna came along just short of two years later (so she’s 2.5) and is busy this week peeing on the floor and pooping in her pants. She looks exactly like I did, but is very much a “girly-girl,” so I’m having to break through my own issues in order to parent her in love. Lucy is 5 months old and already her own, distinct person. Thankfully, she likes sleeping (the others did not). She is the sunniest baby ever when she’s not screaming bloody murder. I would love to have as many as God wants to give us (I’m 35, so I will never rival Michelle Duggar), but hubs was done at 2 (like I said, “unexpected blessings”) and while the Bible does not say “thou shalt have X number of children,” it _does_ say “wives submit to your husbands,” so I will do my best to be content with the 3 God has blessed us with. They have wildly changed my life, my perspective on life, and my understanding of God, and it is hard, exhausting work to raise them, but I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

    • Great comments, Melissa and thank you for sharing about your family.

      Interestingly, though we think of children as a blessing, it does beg the question if the ancient thought is true – that childless people are cursed.

      • If the opposite of blessing is cursing, then I’d say it’s the case.

        In many instances, I would say this “curse” is simply the result of sin bringing our bodies to the point where infertility/reduced fertility is increasing by leaps and bounds….but sadly, in many more instances it’s the result of the personal choice of the couple. Puts a different spin on the idea, doesn’t it? Who _chooses_ to be “cursed” rather than “blessed?”

        But in this world of individualism, “medicine,” and personal freedoms, giving God control over that area of our lives is not only unusual (even in Christian circles), it’s considered crazy. “Good stewardship” has become the god of many believers.

        And yet, what pastor would say anything other than that we, as believers, need to give God complete control over our lives?

        It’s culturally-acceptable (and culturally-expected in many circles) hypocrisy.

        And that’s all easy for me to say because we don’t put it into practice either (Hey kettle? This is the pot here. I’m black too.). Again, the Bible doesn’t say, “thou shalt not use birth control” and it _does_ say, “wives submit to your husbands.” My husband loves me enough that he’s agreed with my desire to only _prevent_ conception (what that means is a whole issue unto itself), but has made an appointment to prepare to be snipped. Makes me sad, but hey…it’s reversible, right?

        • What kind of sin do you think is causing increases in infertility? And is infertility really increasing?

          • I should have made that more clear – I don’t believe that most couples fighting infertility are doing so as a result of sin in their own lives. I’m speaking in broader terms of entropy. Perfect order at creation goes more and more towards disorder, the further away we get.

          • Sorry…forgot the second question….eh…..I can’t exactly cite studies and the trend in advancing maternal age can’t have helped any statistics. Perhaps modern medicine in conjunction with the information age is just making us more aware of it. I know people from all eras historically have looked for cures for infertility. Perhaps its my own “era-ism” that assumes it’s worse for us than it was for our forebears.

        • I am happy for you, that you wanted children and have them. As for me, well… I guess I choose to be “cursed.” And I’m fine with that. If God wants me to have children, I have asked Him to change my heart about it and give me the “mommy” desire. I believe He would if it were important to Him that I, personally, have children. And realistically, birth control sometimes fails. If God wants me to have children, He can make it happen that way too.

          As for God’s command to Adam and Eve, and to Noah et al., He was talking to them, back then, not me, today. He said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; multiply on the earth and increase upon it.” Well, they did. They increased upon it until it was full, and now we have overpopulation. That’s one reason I can’t believe that the command to multiply applies to every single one of us, time without end. If you look at countries that have no birth control, you often see poverty, disease, famine, and a dearth of education.

          I believe in giving God control over our lives, and I also believe that He does expect us to be good stewards — certainly not to elevate good stewardship as an idol, but to use our brains and the resources with which we are blessed responsibly.

          I say this not to flame you; I hope it doesn’t come across that way. I truly am happy for people that want children and are able to have them. I’m also happy for people like myself, who choose not to have children and are able not to have them. Hey, maybe I’m missing out on a blessing; I don’t know. But if God chooses to bless me with children, then He still can. I can hardly stop the Almighty God with something as tiny as a birth control pill. 😉

          • Not flamey at all, and I appreciate that. It’s not always that way, especially through the relative anonymity of blogs.

            This is a bit of a tangent, and I won’t dwell on it, but yes, birth control can fail. God can choose to circumvent and give you children despite your best efforts (see “unexpected blessings” above). So why bother with it at all if it’s really all up to Him anyway? Again…bit of a tangent, but something to think on.

            Poverty, etc.? That exists everywhere, whether birth control is easily available or not. Disease, famine, lack of education? Universal. Overpopulation is a myth. The Russian government is _paying_ women to have more than one child because of negative population “growth” rates. Except for immigration, much of Europe is in the same boat. America is only just barely keeping a birth rate that will sustain the population.

            But as to the meat of your argument (God was speaking to Adam, etc. not me). Where does that reasoning find its logical conclusion? Paul clearly states that he was talking to the Galatians and Ephesians and Timothy, etc. (i.e., not you). Do you throw his writings out? Jesus was speaking to His disciples and “the multitudes,” not me. Do I throw His words out as well? Where is the line?

            And I’m not talking about needing to follow word-for-word everything that is in Scripture. I love me some bacon. Clearly I don’t believe that we should follow every point of levitical law. But that’s because I have a standard of ritual vs. ethical to which I hold the levitical law. If a law was ritual in nature (and especially if there is rebuttal for the law explicitly stated in the NT, e.g., bacon), then I don’t hold to it. If it is ethical in nature (and especially if it is upheld in the NT), then I do (well, I theoretically try to). There is a standard there. What is your standard for judging when “God is talking to you” in His commands to people and when He is not? Is that standard Biblical, or is it cultural?

            These are hard things because the culture has so infiltrated our churches that we don’t even realize where the standards come from anymore.

        • (For some reason I’m unable to reply directly to your later post; there’s probably a depth limit in the threads. But this is in reply to that.)

          You make a good point (about where to draw the line). There is no easy formula. I guess my answer is that I try to follow commandments when they’re clearly universal (10 commandments, for example), and I try to follow the leading of the Spirit when it’s unclear. Either way, I’m very glad that God is full of grace, because I fail sometimes.

          Of course I don’t throw Paul’s writings out because they were written in a specific context, but neither do I make a doctrine out of every verse he wrote… because they were written in a specific context.

          As for why I bother with birth control if it’s all up to God anyway — that’s a little bit like asking why I bother trying to eat healthy and exercise. Because I don’t like the likely consequences if I don’t. :-) Our actions, or failure to act, do have natural consequences. If I shake hands with someone who has a cold, and then don’t wash my hands before I eat, it isn’t God’s fault if I catch a cold.

          Yes, I am obliquely comparing a baby to a virus. 😉

          I guess I feel that the decision to have children is far too important to leave to natural chance. I would really rather leave it to God, and so far I’m getting no indication from God that I should try to have children.

  28. When I was a child, I had only one answer for “what do you want to be when you grow up?” I wanted to be a mom. I wanted to have lots of little ones; natural, foster, adopted, all sorts of special needs. If I couldn’t be a mom, I wanted to be a teacher or a nanny or daycare worker. I love kids.

    So of course I was blessed with infertility. That was really tough. I was blessed with a hubby who due to his disabilities could not work/keep a job. I was blessed with a great job and boss.

    All of those conversations about people’s children, and friends who conceived as effortlessly as walking down the block, felt like a knife twisting in my heart. Those questions about when we were going to have kids weren’t just annoying, they were like a slap across the face.

    We thought that adopting was a “sure thing”. That all you had to do was fill out the forms and then wait patiently. But that’s not the way it works. First you have to get approved, and not everyone gets approved. The invasion of your privacy is entire, every corner of your life probed. Then you have to get picked, and not everyone gets picked. And the agency would call to ask us if they could show our profile to a birthmom with special circumstances . . . a four-month-old preemie baby who they now decided would probably survive and needed parents . . . twins . . . family groups . . . a mom who was a lap-dancer and positive for std’s . . . and then they would never call back, and it was like we had to bury another dead baby in our hearts.

    We decided we could handle the trauma no longer and we would close our file on my birthday. Our son was born and entered our lives exactly two weeks before my birthday.

    Did we try again? Even after saying “never again”, we did. And we tried fertility treatments, which ravaged my body and just about ripped our little family apart emotionally. It turned out that our “healthy newborn” was actually extremely high needs and exhausted us both emotionally and financially, and there would be no house full of pattering feet. Just the three of us against the world.

    And even now (almost 18 years of infertility and a 13 year old special needs son), we find ourselves on the outside of most parenting groups. In our church and the homeschooling community, there are very few families that only have one child. We are not really “whole” somehow. We are no longer childless, but still infertile, don’t share all of the pregnancy and birthing experiences, and still not a “real family” because we just have this one lone child. We have a stay at home dad instead of a stay at home mom, which is another conversation stopper that leaves people with odd expressions on their faces.

    Will we be “normal” once we are empty-nesters? Somehow I doubt it. Somehow we will always be on the outside, looking in, at people who had normal conception, normal pregnancy, normal children who didn’t squeeze every last drop of energy out of them, children who learned normally and followed the normal paths of childhood.

    But really, who is normal? We’re all different, outsiders, in different ways. There will always be conversation stoppers, people who have followed different life paths, people who disapprove of our lifestyles or something else about us.

    Normal is just a setting on the dryer.

    • The first part of your story is me too. Except, I haven’t been blessed with a hubby. I spend my life being number 3, 5, 7, 9 etc wherever I go. I hate it. I love, “Normal is just a setting on the dryer.”

      What I can’t get over, the more and more I read blog posts/comments (not just this blog) is the judgemental attitude people have been subjected to in some Christian communities.
      We are called not to judge yet Christians seem to do that so often with the disclaimer of the comment being, “in love.”

      No one knows how long the person has wanted to be married or that the couple has been trying.
      Every thoughtless comment IS like a knife to the heart.

  29. I have six children and get the opposite sort of “haven’t you figured out what causes that?” stupid remarks. People need to get a life. Maybe me, too. Having so many children, and this being my “job,” I have no clue about what the rest of the world does. Do they go to the bathroom by themselves and have this “conversation” thing, or is that just a myth..?

  30. Wanted kids when I was in my 20s but didn’t marry until I was 39. By that time, my eggs were coming down in wheelchairs, so we opted to be DINKs. (Which was a very good thing. Even my nephew tells me that my patience meter isn’t so great.) Whenever I would question our decision to be child-free, I could just go sit in a waiting room (really any waiting room will do, but doctors’ offices are particularly beneficial) and there would be roughly a bazillion toddlers with fluids coming from various orifices screaming as if Tonya Harding had just whacked them on their pudgy little kneecaps. Don’t get me wrong – most of the time I love kids . . . as long as I can give them back.

  31. My wife and I have been married for twenty-seven years. We made a conscious decision to wait five years to have children. Looking back, those years seem to be the foundation of where we are now.

    As the father of four, my life as a parent has been a character building experience. I did not understand stress until I lived thorugh my 22 year old as a teenage driver. I did not understand fear until we were told that our 19 year old son probably would not live to be one. I never understood unconditional love until every mistake I or they would make was followed by grace. I never understood joy until I was introduced to the concept of every new ability from sleeping through the night to being accepted to the favorite college was a huge celebration.

    Children are the greatest responsibility that God will extend to you. If you can be all in, children are a blessing; if you can’t be all in, you will be their curse.

  32. Now that I’ve spent all afternoon reading through all the comments…

    Having kids enriched our lives in more ways than I can ever count. Tony (above) said it perfectly. We have two grown daughters. They’ve been married for 3 and 5 years respectively. No kids yet. Our younger daughter just moved away from a small town in Idaho where everyone gets married the day after HIGH SCHOOL graduation and then has as many kids as possible. Our daughter and her husband didn’t exactly fit in.

    Seems that having children isn’t a logical decision, it’s an emotional one. When you add up all the time, resources and stress, and mix in all the ways things can go wrong, no one would ever have kids.

    But not having kids due to fear isn’t right either. God is bigger than our fears.

    Seems the right thing to do is pray about it all, and do whatever God says!

  33. Um… so is it totally awkward to now expect a congratulations on the birth of my first (and hopefully ONLY) llittle ankle-biter, Zoe Lyne Hope? He he he… don’t rush to join the club… but then, maybe I’m saying that because I am up at 2AM for feedings… :-)

    • I’m not the author of this blog, but congratulations! I love the name Zoe. If I ever did have a daughter, that’s probably what I’d name her.

      Like I said before, I’m happy for people who happily have children. It’s just not for me. :-)

    • Of course congratulations! Who do you think holds all of the babies at the family reunions I go to? When one wakes up and needs mom, I return him or her, and pick up the next one . . . at one reunion there were seven babies under 1 yo, 14 under 2 yo. You can be sad and still be happy for someone else’s blessing.

  34. Oh Matt. You had to go and make me cry. I’m tired. I’m tired of being punished and left out because I do not have kids of my own. I have stepchildren, but they were adults with their own kids when I came into the family. That doesn’t “count”. You can only “know” when you’ve “been there”. Yes, and you can only know the pain of insensitive people throwing your childlessness in your face (I’m not infertile – it is a different story altogether) if you’ve “been there”. I guess I’m guilty of wanting my own little club of childless people. There is actually a club for intentionally childless people here in the Austin area, but I don’t really meet the qualifications they have set out, so I’m alone on that front too. Really, as a lifestyle, I don’t care so much. Some people have kid toys all over the house. I have dog toys for our 5 little yappers all over the house. What hurts is when people treat me as if I am “less than” in the Kingdom of the Almighty God because I don’t have children. And I get tired of defending myself. Maybe that is a reason I don’t attend church much?

    • Just wanted to tell you that I’m sorry people have been so insensitive towards you! I would never assume that you “know” less than me about kids or childcare. Seriously. The statement that, “you don’t know til you’ve been there,” is thrown around far too often and it is really untrue. I think most often parents say this when they feel insecure and defensive (or they are just jerks). Hugs to you. :-)

  35. No kids here, I think you need a woman to help you do that.

    However, my sister just made me an uncle. Here’s a picture:

  36. Matt, while I really like your writing and this blog was pretty hilarious, I have to say I am tried of this topic. Kids? No kids? Who gives a shit! Seriously. The real issue is whether we (AS ADULTS) can learn to be more selfless and affirm and appreciate people who have different experiences and plans for their life. After all, if we really believe the Lord guides our steps (those of us who claim Christ) then shouldn’t we learn to value the different experiences and lives he plans for all of us vastly different folks?! What we can share in and always affirm one another in is the grace we exist in, the truths we live by and the union Christ brings us into (I know this is all easier said than done!!). I may have a two yr old, but I am sincerely interested in the life and experiences of women who choose to not have kids, or end up not being able to. I think the deeper issues here are more interesting. Like for instance, how do we respond to parents who turn parenting into a form of idolatry and therefore end up judging people who are childless? :-( Or, how do we respond to people who choose not to have kids out of selfishness :-(, rather than a known conviction not to have have kids, or the inability to? These more specific questions are important for us to get into, I think :-). What do you think? Does that make any sense at all?!

  37. Thanks for this! Being happily both childless and *gasp* single, I am viewed as knowing very little about anything by some.

    And you are right about the blogging world. I often find myself thinking “Oh, this looks like it could be an interesting blog…..Oh…it’s another ‘mommy’ blog.”

    Not that parents aren’t also interesting, but it would be great if there were a bit more variety among bloggers.

  38. I think people in the US don’t really care for kids. We don’t really want them around much of the time, but we still want to possess a few of them for our own.

    I have two girls, 4 and 6. They are awesome and drive me crazy all at the same time. I also have a CKCS that is nearly a year and he is my sweetie pie who also manages to drive me crazy from time to time. My dear husband drives me crazy too come to think about it.

    I am in no hurry for kid free couples to reproduce. That’s your business, not mine. I was a teacher before a mother and I thought I knew a thing or two about kids. It truly is different when you have your own. Although I did know that 6 hours a day of video game playing was not the best of ideas for educational training.

  39. Do you have grandparents nearby ready to babysit? If not, rent some THEN have kids.

    I still remember the night one couple told us the grandparents took the kids overnight *every* Friday. I congratulated them but cried a little inside because I couldn’t remember the last time I ate a meal without a tantrum (plus the kids have them too.)

    • I second Gina. We used to be 500 miles from the nearest grandparents–close enough for a four day weekend drive, but not close enough for free babysitting. Now they are 1800 miles away. However, there is a faint glimmer of light as our oldest has turned 12. We experimented having a dinner with a couple at a nearby restaurant while letting our oldest “babysit” with the help of a movie that kept them quiet for the whole date. So far, so good. In another year, we might have a bona fide, built-in babysitter.

  40. I think our 11 years of childless marriage have your five beat, really. And our kids were a bit of an explosion into our lives, all at once, and life hasn’t been the same for three and a half years.

    I think the apparent stigma of childlessness is (a) harder on women, ’cause they’re the ones who are supposed to have the “I make people” superpower, and (b) worse when you WANT kids but can’t HAVE them.

    I’ve experienced both.

  41. We’ve been married for 12 years. No kids. We’ve pretty much decided that since we never did much to prevent them, if we didn’t have any, then that’s just the way it worked out.
    The first 10 years of marriage we were overwhelming busy in ministry. I saw how the other people I was working with struggle to make any time with their kids. I didn’t want to put my kids through that.
    And during that time we were on staff at at church where the Pastor and almost everyone else were “keep the quiver” full types. We took some heat for not reproducing.

  42. So, my husband and I have been married 5 years, and have not yet taken the “plunge” into parenthood.

    “Do you have any kids?”
    “Nope, not yet. We have a great cat. His name is Mojito.”
    “Ah. (Tick tick tick.) Well, isn’t he just a cute little kitty? Does he love his mommy?”
    “I don’t know… we got him from a shelter. But I’m sure he loves his owners.”

    Yeah, it drives me crazy when people call our cat our “kid.” He’s an adorable cat, but what an UGLY kid! And stupid, too… he can’t even communicate well, and he’s 2 1/2 years old! Not to mention the tail… Anyways, I wish people would be happy for us that we have free time and a wonderful cat, instead of pretending our lives are different. I think most childless couples would agree that it’s less awkward that way. :)

  43. I have no problems with anyone’s decision not to have kids, and I won’t say you don’t know anything until you do, I promise! What I *will* say, with the experience that comes from having both kids and a dog, is that comparing having a pet to having a child is ridiculous. That is all. :-)

  44. I’m late in commenting because I was enjoying the cool 80’s in the White Mountains of Arizona. Now that I am back in the Unbearable Sauna of the PHX-ish area, I would like to apologize because I am pretty sure that I made one of those commments that you don’t really know until you have a child yourself. My perspective is that really LIVING with someone is the only way you get cred for being able to give advice because you don’t really KNOW them until that point. That also applies to dogs.

    I have four perfectly wonderful kids (so I am told) from six years old up to twelve. Knowing them intimately, sometimes I forget this fact and see only the things that drive me crazy. God helps me remember that these kids are blessings frequently by whacking me upside the head with his heavenly 2×4 called “grace.” I homeschool my kids, which means that I am with them 12/7/360ish days. I can’t say I am with the 24/7 because there are times we separate for sleep, outside activities on everyone’s part and church. I can say that God has taught me more about Himself and sanctified me more through my kids and my failure as the perfect mother than He ever could have through just my husband and my church.
    If you want to know more about my kids, read

  45. I’m a little late to the party, but I’ll throw my 2 cents in anyway:

    I’m 31, been married 9+ years, and have a 7 year old son and a 4 year old daughter. I love my children, and I am glad we were blessed with them. That being said, having kids does permanently change some things and possibly delay some plans and dreams, so I don’t go around telling everyone they need to have kids, whether it be on a specific time frame or even at all. Before moving out of state, my wonderful hairdresser was a Christian, and he and his wife were in their 40’s and childless, as their choice. I didn’t find this at all odd. Their life is no less important by virtue of having or not having children. (I would like to note that he volunteered this info to me– possible problems with infertility, miscarriages, etc, are other reasons I don’t delve into personal questions about why or whether people plan on having children).

    The only thing I would suggest to people who know that they do want to have children “someday”, they just don’t know when— please do consider that it can become more difficult to conceive as you become older. My sister waited until her 30’s to have children and at the time had difficulty conceiving because of some health conditions. And, as it turns out, I seem to be developing health conditions that effect fertility now that I am in my 30’s, so it is likely that if I had waited until now to have children, it would have been difficult or near impossible. Sure there are more options for those with fertility issues now, but having watched siblings and friends work through those, they are expensive and by no means a guarantee.

    I only offer that to those who are certain they want to have children– since it is wise to consider all aspects! If you don’t want or plan to have children, it does not matter.

  46. Serving God is our ultimate purpose in life. Children are blessings. Paul and Jesus talked about those who served the Kingdom and were not even married, let alone had kids. Each of us has a part to do for the Kingdom. Some of us will be parents and some not.

    I really have nothing more to add than that.

  47. Cynthia S. Teears Van Cleve January 24, 2012 at 4:56 pm

    One thing you should remind people if you feel they are judging you for not having children is if you read the details of Revelations it clearly states that even the Lord himself will pity the women pregnant or with small children. Meaning it is not going to be a happy place or even considered a blessing anymore by the time we as a people reach that time period.

    I’m not saying the world is ending right now. I’m just saying there are plenty of good reasons to chose not to have children if that is what the Lord is leading you to do in your life. Listen to the Lord and He will tell you and inspire you to do what is right for you as an individual and a couple.

    Just so you know I am not simply addressing this specifically to you personally. I can tell by what you’ve written that you are confident and secure in your decision making skills. I just wanted to add my two cents for anyone that may be reading these comments and show my support for your personal decision.

  48. I know what you mean. My husband and I do not have any children either. I have had the same conversation stoppers as you have. When you say you don’t have any children people don’t know how to deal with it. They don’t know what to say. It’s like they should be saying what you say when you speak of someone who died. “I’m sorry for your loss.” We are normal people. There is nothing wrong with us because we didn’t have children by our own personal choice or by God’s design. It doesn’t make us any less of a person because we don’t have children.

    There is a scripture in the old testament that people seem to forget in Isaiah 54 verse 1 – “O barren one, you who did not bear; break forth into singing and cry aloud, you who did not travail with child! For the [spiritual] children of the desolate one will be more than the children of the married wife, says the Lord.” This scripture is also cross referenced to one in Galatians 4:27 that says – ” For it is written in the Scriptures, Rejoice, O barren woman, who has not given birth to children; break forth into a joyful shout, you who are not feeling birth pangs, for the desolate woman has many more children than she who has a husband.”

    I know people with children of their own really don’t mean to hurt the feelings of those of us who do not have children of our own. We have dogs, and cats, and possibly nephews and nieces. We still have opportunities to influence in a positive way the children around us whether they belong to us or not.

  49. Hannah (culture connoisseur) June 1, 2012 at 8:45 am

    We think of kids as Paul would. He said “it’s better to be single, but if you must, marry.” My husband and I agree that getting married was a great decision, but as two people both led to missions, it put a bit of a damper on the ease with which we were used to moving around. We love each other,and know this was God’s plan even, but we both know that there would be a whole lot more freedom in singleness.

    For us, kids are the same way. Sometimes we want them, but we just wonder if there would be more freedom to serve in the capacities we would like if we didn’t have them.

    Would having kids be bad for us? Absolutely not. Of course it would be a blessing.

    Would kids make moving overseas to difficult places a little harder to say “yes” to? Absolutely it would. And that’s the catch.

    We still haven’t made up our minds.

  50. Hi Matt!
    I just started reading your blog and ran across this one. My husband and I just got married 10 months ago and already my church friends and even some family members have been asking about when we plan to have children.
    I must say, I really do want to have kids someday, but my husband and I both have rather intense jobs that require a lot of time and travel. We also agree that we want to spend time as a couple before we bring other humans into the world. I don’t think this is selfish because I know that the strong foundation we are building now will only benefit our kids (when we do have them or adopt them).
    But I did identify with this blog post, especially with it being a conversation killer. I am sure it will only continue to get worse, as my hubby and I don’t plan on having kids for at least another 8 years. So hey! Rock on with the couple-only life!
    Thanks also for this blog; it’s fun and inspiring and I’m picking up some tips for my own blog (which I need to update more frequently).
    Anyway, thanks!

  51. And these other commenters thought *they* were late to the game! I don’t care, this sentiment is still relevant. Just wanted to let you know I appreciated stumbling upon this post today.

    I’m 33 and my husband Joseph and I have been married for 6 years. We aren’t opposed to the idea of kids but it just hasn’t happened and we’re mostly ok with that.

    I find that sometimes it’s a conversation-stopper and that’s kind of annoying. But what really gets me is when people actually say things OUT LOUD like “you’d better hurry up” and (since hubby is an only child) “gotta carry on the family name.” Or ask ME when I’m going to give our parents a grandbaby, nephews cousins etc. I get that they’re trying to relieve the tension they feel with humor, but it’s not funny. It’s not like going to get a puppy; there are so many more factors and complications.

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