You know the saying, “If you wait until you’re ready to have a baby, you’ll never have one”? I’m not entirely sure I agree. I agree with the heart of the sentiment: no one is ever totally “ready” to become a parent. That’s the beauty of it–parenting changes you. You don’t have to have all the maturity necessary to complete the journey right from the get-go, because the journey itself will develop that maturity within you.
But I think it’s unwise to suggest you don’t need any form of readiness before becoming a parent. Let me be the first to admit, when I discovered I was pregnant with my firstborn, I had all the enthusiasm of Barney and all the readiness of Bart Simpson. My thoughts went something like this, “A baby!! Ooooh, polka dot bedding!” Suffice to say, there was a steep learning curve when she arrived.
In hindsight, I think there are 3 factors that can make the transition into parenthood a lot easier or a lot more difficult.
We will never be perfect. But the last thing we want to do is have a baby in order to fill a personal void in our lives. Children were never meant to “fix” us. They do not cure loneliness or mend weak marriages. In fact, they do just the opposite–they apply pressure to the already weak areas. Furthermore, it is our calling as parents to shepherd them, not vice versa. And sadly, we cannot give what we don’t have. Which begs the question: Am I in a good place spiritually? How is my marriage? Am I battling any addictions or enslaving sins? Am I involved in Christian community? The goal is not to seek perfection or works-based righteousness. It’s simply to evaluate our hearts before the Lord, recognizing that the call to parent a human being is a serious one.
I think the big thing to consider here isn’t dollars and cents, but what living situation you will have to adopt in order to support a baby. In other words, what will this look like practically? Will we both have to work and put our child in daycare? If so, how do we feel about that? Will one of us have to take a second job? Or drop out of school? How much will we see each other? My husband was in his last year of graduate school and only working part-time when our first child came along. We chose to use up a portion of our savings for one year so I could stay home and he could finish school. It was a costly decision financially, but it protected our marriage and reduced the stress in our household. The question is: Can we make it work financially and still maintain a healthy family life?
This can go a long way toward protecting and even boosting those first two categories. If the budget is tight but Grandma and Grandpa live in town, you’ve just saved yourself a wealth of babysitting expenses. If you’re going to be a stay-at-home-mom and you already have close friends, you’ll probably be a much happier one. Outside support allows you time for yourself, time to get in the Word, date nights with your husband, and clean laundry when you’re too tired to do it yourself. It’s not a necessity, but it will greatly impact the ease or difficulty with which you transition into parenthood. Do I have outside support in this season of life? Do I live near family members who are willing to help? If not, do I have close friends who are trustworthy? Can I count on my husband to be a source of support? Is he excited about starting a family, or have I coerced him into it?
I actually wrote this article several months ago and set it on the back-burner for one main reason: I see the potential for discouragement. What if you’re already pregnant, and one or all of these factors aren’t in place? Dear friend, that was me. Our first baby was a big surprise. We were far from family and hardly in a good place financially, with a lot of growing up to do. But guess what? We survived. Better yet, God used it mightily to accomplish His purposes in our lives. If there’s one thing I’m learning to treasure in my life, it’s the blessing and sanctification that only comes through difficulty.
If you’re in the same unprepared boat I was in six years ago, don’t lose heart! You can take steps to grow in each of these areas. Simply seeking godly community, either through church or ministries like BSF, will help you develop outside support and personal maturity. Turning to the Bible and godly mentors will help you make wise decisions regarding finances and lifestyle changes.
But most of all, remind yourself that only God creates life. From the beginning of time, He has ordained every day of this precious child’s life! (Psalm 139:13-16). And He has chosen you to parent this child, at this time, for His great glory. Surely, you can trust Him to equip you. As Isaiah once wrote in a song of praise: “You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast, because he trusts in you. Trust in the LORD forever, for the LORD, the LORD, is the Rock eternal!” (Isaiah 26:3-4)
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