Maybe you are not in the position to care for yourself, let alone someone else at the time of your child’s conception. Perhaps you are standing there by yourself, rubbing your belly and wondering, how can I do this on my own? Worries flood your mind, like where will we live? How will we get healthcare? How will I afford provisions and clothing for my changing body and my growing baby? And once he is born, how will I maintain a comfortable lifestyle while also providing love and affection for my newborn human being? I understand these fears and the hopelessness that surrounds them, for I once was that young woman standing alone, contemplating those things.
I was in an abusive relationship throughout my first pregnancy. Though the father was present in my life, he was washed up on drugs, leaving me to wonder not only how I would do this on my own, but how I could escape him to begin that journey. To leave him would put me in a helpless financial position and force me to face up to my loved ones that warned me not to marry him in the first place. I had pondered these things during my pregnancy, but once that precious baby was secure in my arms, he gave me the courage needed to swallow my pride and brave the uncertainty of stepping out on my own. He was two months old when I filed for divorce and moved back home with my parents—who accepted us with open arms.
This daring escape was only the beginning of a long, difficult journey. When my dad helped me move out, we had to leave behind many of my personal belongings, including my bed. While my son slept soundly in his cozy crib, I lay restless on the floor, until my grandfather gave me the bed from his guestroom. I didn’t have money for a divorce attorney, but my parents helped me to pay a paralegal to file the paperwork. For the first time since I was eighteen, I could not afford health insurance, so I filed for Medi-Cal to cover our healthcare needs. I also signed up for WIC, which helped me contribute to the pantry at home. The car I drove was soon after stolen from my driveway—with the stroller, car seat, and boppy seat in it. My parents loaned me the money for a used car and I offered to clean their house to a shine once a week for a year to pay it back. Though my parents did not charge me rent, I had basic expenses to cover, and ended up paying my cousin to watch my baby while I worked my part time job—which left me with near to no cash left at the end of a long, exhausting week of work.
Not to mention that during all this, my ex continued to harass me, by phone and in person—only when my dad was not there at my defense. After a few of these frightening encounters ended in violence, I filed for a restraining order against him. Now, my cousin that watched my baby had to carry restraining order papers and keep wide eyes out for the danger of his father showing up, and I had to worry for his safety as I worked to support his survival. No matter how I struggled to supply what my child needed, the joy of watching him growing, learning, and laughing, safe behind the shield I carried, by far outweighed the burden of providing for him and continued to fuel the courage I needed to fight the many fronts of this relentless battlefield.
The divorce took about a year to finalize, and the troubles of getting established continued into the following year. But with the support of my family, friends, and community, I was able to see us through this difficult time, and into the protective arms of my best friend whom I married when my son was two years old. He adopted my son and together we built a loving home where my ex no longer harassed me, I no longer needed government assistance, and my family was no longer depended on for my survival. I understand than not everyone has the family support I had, but while figuring things out I learned that the state as well as many private programs, like pregnancy centers and churches, offer support and encouragement to mothers in need. There are good people out there willing to help you get on your feet.
This difficult time in my life brought out more than just the strength in me but highlighted the good in the world as I had never experienced it before. And the good that God has planted in His garden remains for you to harvest today. The journey will not be easy. You’ll have to be tough—relentlessly. You will get tired and will often cry while your baby cries on your shoulder, but mothers are superheroes, designed by our Creator to provide for the children we create. Fear not the solitude you currently face and seek the light this promising new life shines on the path ahead. In braving that long, difficult road to LIFE, you will find that you are stronger than you ever knew and by letting God in your heart, you will never have to do any of it alone.
If we think we don't have time to be a parent, it's important to consider why. Is our busy-ness based in selfishness? We definitely like to do what we like to do, but interruptions are the things of life and not necessarily to be condemned or avoided. It is just those life-altering, world-shaking things that make us better people in the end, and in the process. The dictionary definition of “success” is “the outcome of an undertaking” and in all honesty there is no greater undertaking than raising a child. In our culture we equate busy-ness with success. This, however, is not always the case. Sometimes much more is gained when we slow down, pause, and remember that life is more than just a busy schedule and to-do list, it's about breathing, resting, serving, living, and speaking into the future through the ears, eyes, and hearts of our children. Let us not discount the success that can be gained in having a family.
We are a deeply selfish culture preoccupied with chasing the things we want; and a helpful way to cure ourselves of this self-centeredness is to have children. As a friend once said to me, “God gives us children so that we will grow up.” True. We learn so much about and improve ourselves when life throws us what we think are interruptions. When we enter the world of parenting, we suddenly and swiftly realize that the world doesn't revolve around us, nor should it. If we strive to be better people, having children and embracing its challenges is a great way to work toward that goal. Sally Clarkson, a mentor of mine, says, “When you find interruptions to the expectations of your life, look at them from God's point of view and understand that they just might be a divine appointment.” There is no doubt in the universe that children fearfully and wonderfully made by God are indeed a divine interruption to our lives for our own, and their, good. We make time for the things that are important to us. Perhaps we need to refresh our perspective of parenting and children as the blessings that these things are.
Having children does indeed change your life. But the great thing about kids is that they can be pretty mobile. Many years ago when I was working on various projects, I stressed out about what to do with my children when I had to work. Some of the best advice a fellow mom shared with me then was “keep them with you,” and so I have. What fun my boys and I have had together, and what unique experiences they have been exposed to as a result! I, for one, like to make my mark on the world, and now I get to make my mark through and with my kids. “The hand that rocks the cradle is the hand that rules the world.” (William Ross Wallace)
“What a wonderful power [parents] have in their hands!
We may say that we don't have time to be parents, but the truth is that we don't have enough time to be parents. Nor do we have enough time not to be a parent. One of the most rewarding experiences in life is in raising children. Our childbearing and child-raising years are short. And when one thinks about the span of one's life relative to the history of mankind, then we must acknowledge that our time is indeed short. The window that we are given on this earth is, as the Bible says, “like a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away.” (James 4:14) We ought to be actively pursuing parenthood especially if we indeed find that we have something to offer to the world. To take the wisdom and truth we have been entrusted with and to impart it to the next generation ought to be perpetuated.
Always in the repertoire of comedy movies and shows is a skit of the ill prepared dad being handed a baby. He holds it either as if it will break into a thousand pieces, or at arms length, hanging like a garment just sprayed by a skunk. It plays upon the old adage, men have “no idea” how to care for babies. And while it can’t be argued that God gifted women with a spirit of adeptness for child care, both men and women are necessary components within His design to grow children into happy, well adjusted adults. But the old comedy line plays upon an underlying feeling that sits under our skin waiting for the opportunity to reveal itself. When the struggle, or even the thought of struggle, presents itself in the scenario of child rearing, the feeling breaks the surface and we say to ourselves, “A baby? I don’t know how to take care of a child. I have no idea what I’m doing.”
When my children try something new and want to give up before they even start, often the reason is they feel like they don’t know what they are doing. But, when starting something new, who does? Having a baby is no different! It is important to read, study, go to classes, or spend time caring for other’s children, but you will still arrive at the birth of your child feeling ill prepared. Feelings aren’t fact. The truth is, we don’t need to know what we are doing. What we do need to know is the One who will get us through. God’s grace is good and He will walk with us in the journey of caring for our children. As long as He knows what He is doing (and He does) we are in the right place.
I believe this myth can work two ways, some believe that you cannot have a full life while being a parent (See Myth #6: “I will have no life as a parent.”) or my life will not be full without being a parent. We can be easily deceived to believe that a parental status determines our life’s value.
Some people think, “Life is not worth living if I don’t become a parent.” They believe that a magic spell of “purpose” will be cast over them. Although parenting can be extremely meaningful, it does not become the exclusive meaning of your life. Many parents who put all their value into parenting often find themselves completely lost when they become empty nesters. Is this the way it is supposed to be?
The exclusive purpose of life is not to be a parent. The purpose of life is to know Jesus and bring Him glory. You will never be content as a father or mother until you know your Heavenly Father.
Some may reply, “But I am doing God’s work by being a parent.” That is very true but does it consume you to the point of forgetting your primary purpose? We can do so many good works and forget why we are doing them in the first place- to love God.
Revelation 2:2-4 “I know your works, your labor, your patience, and that you cannot bear those who are evil. And you have tested those who say they are apostles and are not, and have found them liars; and you have persevered and have patience, and have labored for My name’s sake and have not become weary. Nevertheless I have this against you, that you have left your first love.”
Parenting is not a “rite of passage.” It is not a box on a checklist waiting to be checked off. Parenting is an opportunity. While you will often find being a parent fulfilling, it’s designed purpose is not to fulfill you, it’s to change you.
Parenting is a daily pouring out of yourself and the only way that you will thrive is by being poured into by your Heavenly Father. If you do not have an inlet, you will rapidly dry up because parenting is a daily pouring out.
Parenting will bring purpose to your life, but it will feel hollow without first finding your primary purpose as a child of God. You cannot be a godly parent without first being a dependent child of God. Let His love fill your heart so you can pour it into your children.