Thursday, February 11, 2016

How Many Children Should I Have?

I recently toyed with an online questionnaire, "How Many Children Can You Handle?". Obviously the poll is meant for good fun, not as a means by which an adult determines how many children he/she should have. But I do wonder how many people take these things seriously. Judging by some of the comments, it seems many people do.

Anyhow, I answered the questions honestly. I'd rather spend my free time on the couch; and a glass of wine seems far more relaxing to me than reading stories or playing outside on a trampoline; and I really don't like driving a mini-van. I mean, come on! A mini-van?!?! Never mind one that's 16 years old and has stains from "no one know what it is" that have been there since "I have no clue". I like comfort and quiet. I like CLEAN cars and prefer a sedan to an SUV. So, I should not have been surprised at the results of my "test". "You can handle one child."
After a solid five minutes of laughing hysterically at the notion of it (as of this article, my wife is nearing her due date with our fifth!), I started to think a little more deeply as to why.

Why am I, as a person who can only "handle one child", able to handle five (or more!)? After all, the questions and answers, and the result at the end of the questionnaire, are not a far cry from reality. A person who likes peace and quiet and nice relaxing glasses of wine after work is not going to be able to actually "enjoy" those things in a house full of children. So how does a person do it? Why doesn't my world simply fall apart, sending me into a fit of rage or hysteria, as my kids run around the house making a mess of things they just cleaned up only seconds (SECONDS) ago? How am I able to cope with my desired lifestyle when it costs an arm and two fingers to feeds these children with seemingly bottomless stomachs?

There is more than one answer here. But reality and faith come to mind in the forefront. But even more than that, "growing out of my self", and "being a parent" and "what it means to 'live' your calling" rise to the top of the answers.

People who are called to be parents aren't meant to focus on what they want. We are not called to a life of cleanliness and relaxation and ministering to the pleasurable desires of our senses. Parents are called to be...PARENTS. And parents are people who put aside what we want because our *wants* often times get in the way of being a parent. Being a parent means living for someone else. It means sacrificing our own desires and pleasures of the senses in order to raise up children, and care for a spouse, and teach them, and comfort them, and minister to them, regardless of our own wants. Parenthood is about self-sacrifice.

Now, don't get me wrong, I'm not saying we can't indulge from time to time, or that we can't enjoy things. I'm not saying we shouldn't set aside time to really relax or have "me time".  I'm just saying that we, parents, chose a life which puts our "self" a little lower on the priority list. And guess what? It doesn't make us miserable. In fact, parents can find MORE enjoyment out of self-sacrifice than we can through self-indulgence! Amazing, isn't it?! Admittedly, we have to look a little harder to really see it. But it's really there! It kinda makes me think of the way God loves us, and how sacrificing Himself for us didn't take away His enjoyment of "Life"...but I digress.

The poll asks what we "prefer", what we "want [for ourselves]". In other words, if you answer honestly, you are saying "me", and "I want", and "MY comfort over all else". But that's not life; that's a dream...and a lonely one at that.
The results of the poll are only “true” if we intend to (or are supposed to) live a self-centered life revolving around “me” instead of living for others. Yet parenthood (and Marriage) calls us to something far greater: living for others and giving up our own desires. That's why someone who can only “handle one child” can actually handle far more.