The Pursuit of God

Serious Topics for Serious Christians

Guidance for Christian Women: Is it wrong to not want kids?

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You’re a woman and you don’t want kids.  Does this mean you’re some flawed freak?  Certainly not.  There is no law that says all women must want kids.  In fact, there are many very sound reasons to not want kids, and in this post, we’ll discuss some of the more common ones and perhaps some of these reasons will help you make sense out of what you’re feeling. Realize that beating yourself up over not wanting kids is like shaming yourself for liking chocolate—it’s pointless and self-destructive.  Rather than criticize yourself for something that’s wired in, view your preferences as the educational things that they are.  Your preferences change a lot as you go through life, and your current preferences help you understand who you are, how you think, and what your priorities are.  The better you understand yourself, the easier maturing becomes.  But to understand yourself well, you have to stop telling yourself who you should be and accept who you actually are. 

PRIORITIES

Let’s start with the basics.  Suppose we said to you, “Hey, how about we teach you to become a concert cellist?  It will take you many years of obsessive study, you’ll have to practice every day, and you’ll pretty much have no life beyond your instrument.  What do you say?”  Here you might say, “Wow, no thanks.  I can think of much better ways to spend my life than struggling with an instrument.”  What are you really saying here?  You’re saying that you have other priorities in life.  It’s not that you can’t learn to play the cello, it’s that you don’t want to.  You simply don’t find the rewards worth the work.  Maybe you don’t even like how the cello sounds.  Maybe you don’t want to play an instrument that requires you to sit down so much.  Whatever the reason, you’re just not into it.

Humans are amazing creatures and God has loaded us all up with far more potential than we could ever use in one short little life.  Maybe people in your life have labeled you as dumb, slow or stupid.  Don’t let those labels fool you—you’ve got plenty of skills and intelligence.  There are a billion things you could do and a zillion things you could learn.  But there’s only so much time in a day, so how do you as a human manage your vast potential?  You prioritize.  In life you are constantly evaluating options, weighing cost against rewards, and budgeting your resources accordingly.  This skill has become so automatic that most of the time you don’t even realize you’re doing it.  But the point is, that you’re making choices constantly, and you have many very logical reasons driving the decisions you make.

All humans are selfish to the bone.  This isn’t a terrible thing—it’s the way we were created (see Why God Wants You to Stay Selfish).  Everything we do, we do for self-serving reasons.  We’re very rewards focused, and we don’t like feeling ripped off.  When items are overpriced in a store, we feel ripped off.  But we also feel this way when we invest a bunch of emotional resources into a relationship only to receive no affection in return.  We feel ripped off when we spend a bunch of time and energy doing a task only to have our work be discounted or unappreciated.  We humans are very limited creatures, and we know it, so we guard our resources and try to invest them wisely.  Wise investments are ones in which the rewards end up being equal to or more than the amount we invested.  Do kids qualify as this kind of investment?  If you don’t want them, then obviously they don’t.  Clearly in your mind, you’ve assessed the whole kid package and calculated it to be a losing deal—with far too much work and very little return.  Well, if this is how you see things, then how is it wrong of you to not want kids?  Aren’t you just drawing a reasonable conclusion based on your own assessment of the situation?  Of course you are, so get off your own case.

Women who don’t want kids have rational reasons for not wanting them, and that needs to be recognized.  But while we’re appreciating rationality, we also need to recognize that our assessment of any situation is only as good as the assumptions we make and the things we choose to emphasize.  Then we need to realize that there are many factors which can cause us to overemphasize the negative.  When we do this, we end up cheating ourselves out of some really great things in life, because we’re not willing to invest.  So now let’s talk about common ways that assessing kids gets skewed.

EMPHASIZING THE NEGATIVE

Kids are a boatload of work.  If you’ve got a bunch of girlfriends who coo over every baby that comes into view and just can’t wait to get pregnant, then you’re probably hanging out with women who are overemphasizing the positives.  You see, whenever we skew our assessment too much in one direction or another, we end up making poor choices.  Today many women are foolishly viewing kids as mere toys and status symbols.  They want to get pregnant because they love the attention it gets them.  But once the child is actually born, they try to get out of the work of parenting as much as possible.  Here’s where we see all of these kids getting shuffled off to daycare or dumped on the grandparents, while the parents go running around acting like they’re still single.  Now certainly there is a time and place for daycare, and if you’re a working mother with no options, don’t get yourself worked into a defensive lather.  But let’s get real: the world is growing less mature, and parenting correctly takes a certain level of maturity.

In America, schools used to be orderly and functional.  Now many of them have turned into madhouses.  We used to spank our kids and know the difference between spanking and beating.  Now we act like any form of useful discipline is abuse and when our kids scream, we hand them toys.  What’s going wrong here?  We’ve got whole generations of parents who aren’t parenting.  Kids have become like the latest technology: we want to be able to say we have them, but we only want to use them when we’re in the mood, and when we do interact with them, we want to find the interaction entertaining.  We like being there for the first steps and the aha moments, but we check out when it’s time to lay down the law and hold boundaries.  Well, kids don’t stop being high-maintenance just because we don’t want to spend effort on them.  Kids are very needy, complex little creatures, and when we don’t give them enough of our time, attention, and guidance, they grow up into discontented monsters who plague our lives with constant misery.  Today many sober minded women look around at all the screaming brats and say, “No thanks.  I’ll pass on having that in my life.”  Are these women wrong to be repulsed by the sight of kids climbing all over their parents in restaurants, screaming in stores, and running amuck in public?  No, because such behavior is repulsive.  It’s disorderly, disruptive, and downright annoying.  There’s nothing pleasant about being around some untamed brat.  Human nature in the raw can be quite an ugly thing, and unchecked carnality in adult forms is what we’re filling our jails with.  So not liking brats hardly makes you a flawed person.  But things get out of balance when you view all kids as brats.

Kids aren’t born nice, they have to be trained.  But while many parents are falling down miserably in their duties, other parents are stepping up and doing it right.  They are mixing love with discipline, and their kids are quite pleasant to be around.  Certainly all kids will need reining in, and since they can’t take care of themselves, they’re going to be a ton of work.  But the payoffs can be fabulous, because kids are humans, and humans are the most fascinating element in this world.  The car you spend hundreds of hours working on will never talk back to you, but your child can astound you with his profoundly simple views of the world.  The house you invest so much money into sprucing up can never offer you friendship, but the heart bond between parent and child can be wonderfully rich and mutually rewarding.

Kids are not just work, and they’re not just pleasure.  They’re an intense mix of both.  When you see them as a fun project, you’re foolishly discounting how much work they are and setting yourself up for major disillusionment.  But when you write them all off as pains, you’re being terribly unfair and discounting how much enrichment they can bring to your life.  When you find yourself hating the idea of kids, you’re emphasizing the negative.  You’re so focused on the bad, that you’re not acknowledging how much good there is to be had.  But this is quite natural, for we humans are often quite biased and inaccurate in our assessment of things.  The lesson here is to realize that your negative view of kids could use to be revised before you decide to write motherhood off forever.

DISCOUNTING THE POWER OF POSSESSION

Another classic trap that women fall into is in minimizing the impact of possession.  To get an idea of how this works, imagine seeing a stranger smash another stranger’s cell phone.  Now picture someone coming over and smashing your cell phone.  The vast difference in your emotional reactions to these events stems from the fact that you are far more emotionally invested in the phone that you consider to be your own property.  Possession greatly intensifies emotional bonds.  When you drive by some smashed car on the highway, you think, “Bummer for that guy.”  But when it’s your own car that gets rammed into, you are far more upset.

Many women who don’t want kids are looking around at a bunch of kids who are not their own, feeling a total lack of emotional investment, and then concluding that they’d feel the same flatness towards their own child.  But this is not how it works.  As soon as you mentally associate a child as being your own, your feelings towards that child will greatly intensify.  This principle is often well-displayed in those gut-wrenching movies in which some set of adoptive parents gets their child ripped away from them by the court.  All of the tears and heartache that result demonstrates how a child doesn’t need to be born from your own body for you to feel possessive over him.  There are many ways that a child can become labeled as your own in your mind, and once that happens, your emotional attachment to that child will far exceed the interest you feel towards other people’s kids.  This means that when you note your lack of enthusiasm for other children and assume that you are experiencing how you’d feel about your own child, you’re making a faulty assumption.  Possession is such a powerful concept for humans that even parents who try to avoid having any emotional engagement with their kids end up far more impacted by news about those kids than they do about other kids.

DISCOUNTING POWER

When you’re dealing with another person’s child, you have little to no power.  If some brat is screaming on the public bus, you have to just sit there and endure it.  You can’t take disciplinary action because your culture condemns such behavior.  If you’re trying to talk to your friend while her daughter is throwing a hissy fit, you have to sit there with your ears ringing and put up with being interrupted every two seconds.  No human enjoys feeling powerless in a situation that is making them miserable.  Women who have been forced to clock a lot of time around brats can easily think, “If this is what being a mother is like, you can have it!”  And yet the problem with this thinking is that these women are discounting the power they would have over their own children.

When a child is your own, you have far more options at your disposal. For starters, God wires your child to feel dependent on and bonded to you right from the start.  He fixes it so that your opinion carries enormous weight in that young little mind, and this puts you in a very powerful position.  With your own kid, you don’t have to just stand there enduring their rude behavior.  You can discipline bratty behavior and reward good behavior, thus causing the good to flourish. You can teach manners. You can be present for the sweet moments instead of just being around for the crummy times.

Often in public, we see children who are tired, bored, and frustrated acting, well, tired, bored, and frustrated.  Those same children have other moments when they are very sweet, but because you aren’t around to witness those moments, you come away with a skewed view of what children are like.  Think about it: your main interaction with other people’s kids is out in public, and usually in places that kids find the most miserable to endure.  Grocery stores where they have to walk around and wait for what feels like an eternity while their parents are focused on other things.  Shopping malls that are large and exhausting.  Restaurants in which they are bored and restless while adults yammer on and on about things that kids don’t care about.  Adult gatherings where they have no one to play with, no space to run around in, and everyone’s ignoring them.  When we take mental snapshots of how kids behave when they are feeling the most taxed and then say that that’s what kids are like all of the time, we’re hardly being fair.  Adults can be just as cranky as kids, but it’s far easier for them to hide their frustration because they’re not being dragged around in public by someone else when they’re out of resources.

When a child is your own, you have options.  You control the resources, and you have intimate knowledge of your child that gives you a different perspective.  When you’re stuck in a lobby listening to some other mother’s baby crying, you’re annoyed and you can easily see the child in a very negative light.  But when it’s your own baby and you understand that she’s got some painful earache, you have a far more sympathetic view of the situation and you are far more patient with her.  When you speak to some wild child in public and the boy blows you off, it’s easy to think of him as a rude little twerp.  But when you see your own child looking up at you with those trusting eyes, hanging on your every word, you’ll find a whole different set of emotions welling up within you.  When it’s your own child, you have the power, and in their minds, your power is infinite.  They look to you for guidance, they depend on you to protect them, and they view you as all-knowing.  When you smash that spider on the wall, or replace that fallen ice cream, you’re a hero.  When you understand the way that puzzle works, you’re a genius.  When you hold them through the loud storm or comfort them after a bad dream, you’re their savior.  It’s a totally different dynamic when it’s your own kid.

FEAR OF FAILING

The fear of failing is another common reason that women shy away from parenthood. Some women have no confidence in their ability to be good mothers, thus they don’t want to get started on a project in which they feel destined to fail. Some grew up with abusive parents and they are afraid that they will pass on what was done to them because it’s all they know.  The problem here lies in self-assessment.  You have more options than you think you do.  You have more resources than you realize.  There is no law that says you must repeat the past.  Plenty of women are pattern breakers: they greatly deviate from the styles of parenting that were modeled to them, and their kids benefit from it.  Other women have to learn to stand up to some manipulative authority figures in their own lives and stop letting negative influences control the way that they parent.  The point is this: we’re always wrong to assume the worst about ourselves.  The future can play out a thousand different ways, and none of us are God, so when we start in with the doomsday prophecies, we’re just spinning out useless theories.  You don’t know what kind of mother you’ll be until you are one, and even if you start off badly, you can course correct.  Before you write yourself off as a failure, you need to remember that you are not the only one in the equation.  There’s also God, and under His influence, there’s no limit to how much you can mature.

WHAT TO DO IN THE MEANTIME

You’re a woman and you don’t want kids.  While you’re taking the time to sort out your reasons for feeling this way, what do you do in the meantime?  Well, a strong aversion to kids creates definite complications for your love life, because marriage leads to sex, and sex can very easily lead to kids.  Also, many men want to become fathers, and as long as you know you don’t want to be a mother, you shouldn’t be dating men who want kids.  Because the desire to procreate is often quite strong within us, being mismatched in this area with your romantic partner will lead to great bitterness down the line.  Because the desire to procreate is so common, it’s tricky business finding a man who really doesn’t want kids.  Often people who claim not to want kids change their minds a ways down the line, and this results in quite a mess.  At the very least, you definitely want to steer clear of men who know they want to be fathers, and you also want to be forthcoming about your aversion to having kids in any dating relationship.  This is a major topic, and you’ll only set everyone up for misery by stalling about discussing it.  “Wants kids” is a terrible match for “Doesn’t want kids” and the sooner people declare themselves, the sooner you can separate and avoid getting emotionally invested in a situation that is only going to end in a mess.

RECOGNIZING IMMATURITY

Part of maturing in life is learning to distinguish between maturity and immaturity.  We humans are selfish, and when we start out in life, we want everything our own way.  Well, you can’t build a functional relationship on these terms.  For any relationship to work, there must be a willingness to compromise and give on your part.  There must be a willingness to be inconvenienced and to consider another human’s perspective to be as valid as your own.  Look at your life as it is today.  Are you seeing a pattern of you trying to avoid any situations in which you have to do some compromising?  Not wanting to have kids is often driven by a bottom line unwillingness to have to give up being free to have your way as much as you can now.

Babies soil their diapers at inconvenient times.  They rob you of sleep and cost a ton of money. They need constant attention and supervision.  The immature woman will consider these facts and feel utterly repulsed by the thought of having to be so personally inconvenienced.  The immature woman wants life to be all about her, whereas the mature woman finds joy in sharing her resources with others.  Maturing helps us become more outward focused.  We’re still selfish, but we grow out of obsessively hoarding all of our resources and we start finding honest joy in sharing what we have with others.  The mature woman finds joy in helping others because she likes the idea of using her surplus to help those with less.  The mature woman doesn’t find it some chore to put off her own goals for the day in order to be there for a friend in crisis.  The mature woman finds satisfaction in knowing she helped her kid out of a jam, and that satisfaction outweighs the fact that she didn’t get her own goals done that day.  The mature woman says, “I’d rather lose sleep myself than have my baby go hungry.”  But the immature woman says, “Life is about me and what I want.  Anyone who encroaches on my goals needs to leave my life.”

So think about your own life.  How are you doing in the relationship department?  Do you find yourself avoiding dating altogether because it’s too much work?  Do you find yourself dumping relationships once they turn serious? Are you the friend who can’t be counted on in a crisis because you’re only there for the good times?  Are you a person who never wants to lift a finger for anyone else because you’re so consumed with getting your own goals met?  Don’t get all hung up on guilt here, but be honest with yourself.  Where are you at in life?

We all start off totally immature, and many of us remain that way for a long time.  The importance of recognizing signs of immaturity in yourself is so that you can have a better understanding of where you need to grow and what you need to avoid while you’re growing.  When you know you’re not yet ready to share your life and resources with anyone else who is going to make demands on you, then you’re not ready to date, and you’re definitely not ready for marriage or parenting.  Some of us aren’t even ready to take care of pets, because we’re simply too self-absorbed to really care about another creature’s quality of life.  If you can’t treat a goldfish or a hamster well, then you’re definitely not ready to take on a human.  But it takes time to mature, and this is something God must do to us.  We can’t mature ourselves.  Is it bad to be immature? No, it’s human.  Immaturity is a natural phase of life, but we don’t want to stay parked there forever.  We want to keep growing and changing.

Comparing yourself to other women is a waste of time. Other women are not some golden standard which you’re supposed to be striving to meet.  You need to focus on God instead, and realize that He has a wonderful maturation program all worked out for you.  Ask Him to make you all that He wants you to be, and He will mature you at His own pace.  There are some cases in which God simply doesn’t want women getting tied down with marriage and kids because He has other priorities He wants them focused on.  Because God loves variation, we can’t say that motherhood is some litmus test of maturity because it’s definitely not.  Plenty of women desperately want to be mothers only to have God block them at every turn.  Other women are terrible mothers, and many wonder what God was thinking to give them kids who they would treat so badly.  Well, God always has good reasons for what He does, and happily it’s not your job to figure out what His purposes are for other people.  You just need to focus on you and Him and not close your mind to any experiences which He feels would benefit you.  Here’s a useful prayer for women who don’t want kids:

“God, I want to please You with my life.  Right now, the thought of being a mother seems very negative to me.  But if this is something You want in my life, help me to embrace Your will when the time comes.  Perhaps it’s not Your will for me to be a mother.  Either way, I realize that being closer to You is what matters in life—not the kinds of human relationships I have.  So please help me to make You my First Love in life, and make me all that You want me to be.”

When you pray a prayer like this, you’re practicing submission to God. You’re asking Him to have His way in your life without trying to define what that must look like.  Practicing submission to God is always beneficial to our spiritual health, and when we’re counting on Him to mature us, we’re in the best possible position.

Is it possible to have a rich, satisfying life without ever having kids?  Absolutely.  Soul satisfaction comes from God, not humans, and trying to fill His place with children and spouses never works out.  It’s important to realize that the concept of family is limited to this world.  While we’re here, it’s very beneficial to use labels like spouse and parent to help divvy up the responsibilities of taking care of each other.  But in eternity, there won’t be family units.  In eternity, your husband won’t be your husband, he’ll just be another soul that God has made.  Your mother won’t be your mother, and your kids won’t be your kids.  Focusing on the eternal perspective now helps us invest in the right things.  Your relationship with God is the only one that will last forever.  He is the only Constant in your life.  All other humans will come and go, and your interactions with them will be limited to seasons and chapters.  We need to be cherishing our relationship with God first and foremost.  We also need to recognize that God uses our human relationships as tools to help us mature and grow closer to Him.  The humans are never the end goal: God is.  Ask Him to help you embrace His priorities for you in life, and you’ll end up in a fabulous place regardless of whether or not you ever function as a mother in another soul’s life.

FURTHER READING:
Choosing the Right Priorities: How does God want us to treat our brothers?
Dating Essentials: Real Love vs. Infatuation
Gentle & Quiet: The Ideal Wife According to Peter
Boundaries in Marriage: Inappropriate Submission

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