Almost 5 years ago I released my first book, only to become a father for the first time a few months later. Now, as the dad to two children (ages 4 and 2) I can’t imagine having to move my life around to have the time and energy to write another book. Some days of raising two toddlers it’s hard enough work just to eat three meals, much less have time to write.
Last week, while my wife was busy at work all day, I spent the day with our kids. After she got home they were hanging out in the kitchen, I told her I needed a couple minutes just to sit down on the couch. I fell asleep for 30 minutes. This is not an anomaly.
Recently I heard someone instruct a group of soon-to-be-parents that their productivity would drop by 15%-20% for each kid they welcome to their family. I thought that sounded about right, to be honest.
I tend to poke fun at couples who are soon-to-be-parents or who are about to add another child to their family dynamic. Statements like: “You think you don’t have free time now? It gets worse.” Or, “Better enjoy getting your sleep now because that’s about to go away.” I do this in jest, to be sure, but part of it is the harsh reality of parenthood—it’s part punishment.
But this isn’t the full picture of parenting. Sure, becoming a mom or dad is signing up for exhausting days and sleepless nights and the unending array responsibilities that exist for raising a human being. But this is obvious. Everyone knows this.
Too often parenthood is seen only as a chore, rather than a joy.
The Bible describes parenthood as a command (Genesis 1:28). It’s not so much a command that those who do not become parents are operating in some sort of sinful behavior. Some people don’t get married. Some couples are not able to become pregnant. In God’s Kingdom parenthood is a corporate church responsibility, not just a father and mother responsibility, so no one is really exempt from its requirement.
In my church, we often perform what we call child dedications for infants and young children. While much of the charge to raise the child is given to a parent(s), a charge is also given to the extended family and the charge at large.
Parenthood is a command, but we must also hold closely to this command the reality that God never commands something not meant for our ultimate good and flourishing. You wouldn’t have to look hard to find many words written about the punishment of parenthood, but what of its blessing? Does this not deserve even more words? And what if we could be honest about the struggle of parenthood while also acknowledging its blessing?
God’s Word is clear about the blessing of work, of suffering, and of sacrifice, but parenthood is a unique blend of these and many more.
Here’s some unique blessings I’ve been learning through the punishment of parenthood:
While certainly, this is a tension to manage with jobs, relationships, marriages, and hobbies, parenthood forces you to learn how to keep your purpose as an individual while also giving up some of your self-drive agenda for someone else. Raising children is all-encompassing, for it to be less would miss the mark, but the hardest part is figuring out how to maintain your own life within it.
As I’ve learned to give myself to my children, I’ve also found it easier to care for others around me. Slowly but surely I get more comfortable letting go of the desire I have to build something great out of my life and I shift it toward building something great in others. Parenthood pushes the opportunity to experience this others-driven purpose forward at a faster rate.
You’ve been waiting all week to watch this game, but your daughter just got home from school and she wants you to take her to the park. Every fiber in your being just wants to sit on the couch.
Every parent has been there. You know you have a responsibility to say yes. Every good parent would, you think. But sometimes you want to do what you want to do.
Nothing exposes your underlying self-inspired desires like parenthood.
Each of us wants our lives to make an impact. This doesn’t mean we should desire fame and fortune, but it is a godly desire to influence the lives of people. Many people want to change the world, but the greatest opportunity we have for change is with the people we are invested in right in front of us.
Proverbs 22:6 says, “Train up a child in the way he should go; Even when he is old he will not depart from it.” Our impact on the community around us is most forceful through the children we raise.
Maybe it’s my own personality bent toward a “glass half empty” mentality in my weaker moments, but I think it’s easy to look at the punishment of parenthood, all the while missing out on its great blessings.
-For those of you who are parents, spend a little more time considering how God has blessed you through the command of parenthood.
-For those of you who aren’t parents but are involved in the raising of children around you, be sure to point out the blessings a child brings to your life.
In all this let us strive to remember the wise words from the Psalmist:
Behold, children are a heritage from the LORD,
The fruit of the womb a reward.