Ready or Not

I recently read an article about falling birth rates. The author cited many factors that keep modern people from wanting to have as many children as past generations, and one common reason is that prospective parents just don’t “feel ready.” In fact, the author went on to share a statistic that for a growing number of couples, the only reason they had a child was because of an unplanned pregnancy. 

While my husband and I are obviously not part of this modern trend towards having fewer children or having no children at all, we still wrestled with uncertainty and fears before starting to have children.

Even though we knew that we definitely wanted kids (a minimum of four, to be precise), we also felt unready and frightened by the prospect of the enormous responsibility that becoming parents brings. Despite the fact that we had intended to have our first child after we’d been married for a year to two, every time we’d discuss when to start having kids, our answer was always, “Not yet.” As a result, I wasn’t even pregnant as we approached our second wedding anniversary! I think we felt that we needed to feel ready before embarking on the adventure of parenthood, but time was passing, and we weren’t feeling any more ready. 

Then I got pregnant unexpectedly about the same time that we celebrated our second anniversary. 

Once we recovered from our surprise, we fully embraced what was about to happen and were genuinely excited to welcome our first child. When I miscarried at almost twelve weeks, I was devastated. Rather than taking advantage of the miscarriage to fall back on our previous “not yet” attitude towards having children, we found ourselves wanting to get pregnant again right away. Suddenly we wanted to have children as soon as possible! It’s not that we finally felt “ready” to become parents. We still felt largely unprepared, lacking in knowledge, experience, and wisdom. But our perspective had shifted. The experience of anticipating a child had awakened a powerful desire, and now we couldn’t wait to nurture children together, despite the fact that we still felt intimidated by the enormity of the task. So when we finally welcomed our firstborn into the world about a month after our fourth anniversary, we were overjoyed!

In the fifteen years since then, we went on to have five more children, each with his own quirks and preferences, each requiring a different parenting approach. As I reflect on our journey so far, one thing has become clear. No one is ever ready for parenthood. And if someone thinks they are, they simply don’t understand the magnitude of what they are getting into. The physical, emotional, and spiritual nurturing of another human being is a staggering responsibility, and if it doesn’t terrify you, it probably should. But here’s the thing—you don’t have to be an amazing paragon of patience, wisdom, and insight from day one. 

When you first bring that baby home, all you have to do is care for its physical needs. Yes, it will be exhausting, and you will probably be challenged to the utmost in the area of self-sacrifice, but it will also be a delight and a joy to nurture your little one. In the process, you will start to know his unique personality, and by the time your helpless little baby first learns to defy you by testing a boundary you’ve set, you will have some understanding of how to respond appropriately to keep your child safe and also begin teaching him to respect authority. 

Keeping up with a toddler will probably require more patience than you’ve ever had to muster, but it’s also a super cute stage that will give you unexpected bursts of joy and laughter to keep you going. And the patience you’ll learn with a toddler will serve you well at later stages in your parenting journey. As your child develops greater capacity for speech and deeper thinking, you’ll start to have conversations about all kinds of things, and you’ll get to watch that little mind grow and blossom, even as you expand your own understanding of how to best convey deep truths to a child. As your child begins to interact with other children more, you’ll have even more opportunities to teach important things like fairness, kindness, honesty, repentance, and forgiveness—and you’ll have ample opportunity to practice these qualities yourself!

Everything that you learn at each stage is a tool that you get to carry forward with you. By the time your baby is a teenager, you will have been practicing self-sacrifice and patience daily for over a decade. You will know your child’s likes and dislikes, triggers, dreams, passions, and history, and hopefully you will have established a habit of open communication. If you’re honest, you will also know that for every shortcoming you see in your child’s behavior, you can find another in your own behavior toward them for which you need to repent. So if you are willing to submit to the process, the task of rearing a child will gradually form you into a good parent. Along the way, you will learn many unwelcome truths about yourself, but if you have the humility to face them and grow, not only will you become a better parent—you’ll become a better person.

So I’m not at all surprised when I hear that someone doesn’t feel ready to become a parent. Because the only thing that can ever truly make you ready is taking the plunge and beginning to pour out your life and love into the soul of a child.

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3 replies on “Ready or Not”

Hi Sharon! Thank you for consistently brining encouragement my way. ‘The task of rearing a child will gradually form you into a good parent’- I needed to hear that.

Being kind and patient with a toddler is almost always equated to ‘spoiling the child’ where I am from. I wonder where the balance is? Do you have any thoughts on that?

Hi, Pamela! There’s definitely a balance between being kind and patient and spoiling a child. I think the key lies in understanding your child and interpreting if his/her actions are sinful self-will (I want my way, and I want it now, and I don’t care who it hurts) or just simply irritating. If you don’t detect sinful self-will in the child’s actions, then it might be the place for lots of kindness and patience. For example, if your child is throwing a tantrum, but you know it’s because they are overtired, maybe it’s not a good time to teach them about appropriate ways to express anger. Maybe you just need to show a lot of compassion and get them to bed as soon as possible. But if the same child is throwing a tantrum just to get their way because you said no, then it’s time to be firm and introduce consequences if they don’t calm down. But even as you try to train them, you can still show kindness and patience. That’s not spoiling the child. When Kiyoshi was little and would throw tantrums, I learned to sit next to him and calmly model the behavior I wanted from him. Angrily dictating that he stop it right now was ineffective. (Believe me, I tried that.) While the gentler method I learned to use may have looked like I was being too soft with him, it actually worked. The key is to know each of your children and to listen to the Holy Spirit. I am prone to being too harsh and critical, so I always have to listen to the still, small voice of God telling me to be more patient and kind. Some mothers have the opposite problem of being too permissive, and they need to listen to God’s wisdom about how to stand up to their children instead of letting them do whatever they want.

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