Recently, on an older post about exhaustion, I received this comment:
“I don’t want to offend anyone but why do people keep having more kids if they are already exhausted with the 1 or 2 they do have?”
There are so many answers I could give, but for me, it all boils down to this:
Anything of value is exhausting.
Planting and keeping a garden.
Writing and publishing a book.
Developing strong relationships.
Maintaining a healthy body.
Learning a useful skill or earning a degree.
And yes, having and raising children.
A COMMON ATTITUDE, OFT-UNSPOKEN
I don’t want to come down too hard on this anonymous commenter, because I think this question comes from a common feeling in our culture. I’ve heard it asked from a variety of angles:
- Why would you keep having kids if they’re so tiring?
- Why would you have so many kids if it keeps you from owning nice things?
- Why would you want more kids if you’re not going to be able to pay for them all to attend college?
- Why would you have more kids when they’re so expensive?
We’re all fed these ideas from different sources. From our parents. From our friends…
…Even, sometimes, from our pulpits.
And certainly, from the media. Multiple times a year, Yahoo! presents me with a headline, wanting me to click on an article, that will give me some egghead’s latest calculations of how much it takes to raise a child. And it’s always an eye-poppingly HUGE amount.
As a mom of six-going-on-seven children, let me tell you how much kids cost: NOT THAT MUCH. Well, not after the first kid of each gender. And even the first kid of each gender can require a wildly divergent amount, dependent NOT on the child, but on the parent.
A child is just as happy to play in a 75 cent slightly-faded t-shirt from a thrift store as he is to play in an on-trend $35 one from Gymboree. He doesn’t care if his carseat, nursing cover, and playmat are decked out in the latest pattern, last year’s chevron stripes, or the geometric print with giraffes on it from several years back.
It is usually the parent’s preferences, rather than the child’s, that makes ‘having a child’ expensive or not.
BUT WHAT ABOUT HOW *TIRING* THEY ARE?
Yes, children are tiring.
You know, though, I still remember: I was tired after having my first. It took me about six months to feel anywhere near “normal,” and even then, it wasn’t the same “normal” I’d had before having him. I was tired. The workload was far more than I’d anticipated. The wear and tear on my body (which was larger than it had ever been) was considerable.
If I’d let being “tired” stop me, I’d have missed out (and the world would have missed out, and their future friends and spouses would have missed out) on the additional five-going-on-six wonderful people God has placed in our family.
- Their humor.
- Their creativity.
- Their curious engagement with the world around them.
- Their hard work ethics.
- T[he way they bless our neighbors and friends.
- Their unique skills and perspective on the world.
If “tired” was what controlled our decision-making, we all would have missed out on one-of-a-kind gifts from God.
There’s a parable about the “treasure hidden in the field”– the treasure is the Kingdom of God, and once the man finds the treasure, he does all he needs to do, selling possessions, and making whatever arrangements necessary, to obtain that treasure.
It’s like that with anything we truly value.
When you find something wonderfully valuable, tiredness doesn’t really have a whole lot to do with whether or not you pursue that thing.
- When I wanted a degree in political science, sleepless nights of study and preparation didn’t keep me from it.
- When we wanted to live in DC, the fact that the apartment we could afford required an hour’s metro ride and a 2-mile round-trip walk didn’t discourage us.
- When we wanted to move abroad, the very real prospects of jet lag, culture stress, weariness, and raising our children without family nearby didn’t keep us from following through.
When we value something, we do whatever it takes. Exhaustion shouldn’t dissuade us from pursuing what is worthwhile.
WHAT DO YOU BELIEVE ABOUT CHILDREN?
Much of this, honestly, comes back not to tiredness, but to what you think about kids.
And this isn’t a big-family thing. This is a heart-level thing for any of us to consider. Whether you have 0, 1, 5, or 25, how do you view children?
Here’s how Doug & I view them:
- They are precious eternal souls.
- They are each unique creations of God, created for His purpose and glory.
- They are gifts from God that we must steward well, and raise with sobriety and humble dependence on God.
- We are richer, having them in our lives, than we could ever be without them, whatever our financial state.
And the other truth, specifically about exhaustion, is this:
I was tired with one. I was tired with two. I was, perhaps, the most tired with four kids six and under. And now, yes, guess what?, I’m tired with six-going-on-seven.
But you know what? While my body is tired (and I think that’s true of most 34 year old moms, no matter the number of children in their home), my work load is LIGHTER now than it was when I was 6 years younger, with 2 less children.
How so? Because I’ve gotten better at managing the things God has given, and I’ve also trained up little people who are beginning to contribute to the home management, rather than solely being consumers.
The story is never over on your tiredest day.
God gives grace to the humble, and strength to the weary, and new mercies each morning. He deals gently with those who are with young. He has been so kind to us, and I’ve experienced His fathering and sanctification through these wonderful gifts He’s given.
Exhaustion, tiredness, is not the end of the story.
God… His mercy… His goodness… His sufficiency– HE is the end of the story.
MY ANSWER TO “WHY?”
These are some of the reasons why I keep having kids, even though I was tired with the one or two I had, and even though I’m tired with the (six) I have.
Though my human supply (of energy and money) is limited, my God supplies every need and gives such great joy through these children that He gives, that I am willing and even (sometimes) eager to have more. They are a treasure to me, and each one of them will (I pray) make eternal contributions to this world. Above all of that, my incredible, merciful God gives grace in my moment of need.
God’s grace, rather than my human exhaustion, provides the answer to this question.
Thanks, anonymous reader, for asking an honest question, and for giving me the opportunity to contemplate more deeply the “whys” behind our choices.