Since all of you only read this blog to find out why there is a picture of Alex in a hospital bed or to find out if I am pregnant, I thought I would write a little ditty on why only one of those two things could be true.
This blog might be controversial. I’m not really sure why, but it probably will be. I mean, if I wrote a blog about how Alex and I were choosing not to mow our lawn or spend money on higher quality socks, no one would say boo. But when you tell people, “I might never have kids” it’s like you’ve said, “I might never taste bread” or “I might never cut my toenails”. People FLIP OUT. I mean, I’ve been punched in the face at least 3 times; Alex had his legs broken; we even had to use our Academy of Combative Warrior Arts training and bite someone on the stomach once. Not really, guys.
But, people really do flip out. Here are the top responses we’ve received:
#1- “Ah, you’re young. How do you even know yet? You’ll change your mind.” Well, for one, in Texas, at least, we’re not that young. Everyone I know is pregnant and/or already has multiple children, including the postman. It’s like if you don’t use your eggs before you’re 25, you might as well close up shop and start working on your cat collection. For two, just because we change our life plans every 30 minutes doesn’t mean that we’re totally incapable of thinking through a decision and sticking with it. We are very happy with the washer and dryer we chose and we still love that Thai place that is in the same strip mall as Auto Zone. So there.
#2- “WHAT? You’re crazy.” No. You are.
#3- Sometimes we get the implied, “Oh, you’re one of those.” Meaning weirdo freaks who aren’t American or Christian. We offend some people’s sense of patriotism with our decision. Obviously, being an American involves- 1)Knowing the Pledge of Allegiance, 2) Going to the 4th of July Fireworks, 3)Listening to a Toby Keith song at least once a year, and secretly 4) Having children.
The Christian community, at least in the South, has heartily adopted this unspoken requirement. Think about it. Ninety-nine percent of your Christian friends want to get married, buy a house, and have children. No one ever said it outright. It’s just what happens here. it’s the norm. Alex and I have prayed about it and decided that God doesn’t want us to play that game.
Instead of writing this in essay format, I’ve decided to do a numbered list of why we don’t feel like we’re going to have kids. I feel like this will help me organize my thoughts about this subject and also it will help you stick with me because I have alot to say:
1) The LOVE-HATE EXPERIENCE- Everytime Alex and I visit friends who have kids (especially more than one child under the age of 5), the parents try to give us their most convincing, “It’s hard but it’s really fun” while their 2-year-old is ripping out their individual arm hairs and gluing it onto the family cat. I’m not doubting the fact that child-rearing is hard or fun. I know that lots of these dual situations exist. In fact, I think that Gracie is cute and fun until she has explosive diarrhea on the carpet or drags my BATHROOM trash all over the house right before the President is supposed to arrive. “Oh, hi, Mr. President. Do come in. Please ignore that lady trash that’s laying RIGHT IN THE MIDDLE OF THE RUG.” I understand that you can both love and hate an experience simultaneously.
We like kids. Seriously. Ask our children-ified friends. I think kids say really funny things. I love holding babies. I don’t mind dancing or running in circles for no reason. In fact, I do that on my own, not under the influence of children. I love reading to kids. We genuinely like kids. We just like being able to hand them, screaming their tiny heads off while covered in poop, back to someone.
2)The screaming– A couple of weeks ago, my mom volunteered to get my cousin’s baby ready for bed by putting her PJs on. I followed along to see how things shook out. Well, my family neglected to tell us that the baby is very modest and hates being naked. That little space in between one outfit and another really freaks her the heck out and she lets you know. Loudly. Jordyn went from a cooing, adorable infant to a tiny, red ball-of-fire in 2 seconds flat. I was afraid that she wasn’t getting enough oxygen. We tried to wedge her pajamas onto her as gently as one can wedge pajamas onto a screaming infant that has gone as stiff as a board but she kept crying. I ran out into the living room to find something to put in her mouth, since my finger didn’t seem to be working, grabbed a bottle, and promptly put the bottle into the open siren. She, almost immediately, fell asleep and forgot the whole incident. I, on the other hand, had high blood pressure for 48 hours afterwards. I would literally die young of a heart attack if I had that to deal with everyday.
3. The poop– I don’t know that I really have to explain this one much. No one really likes to deal in feces. I have put in my dues. Need me to prove it?
A. That summer in high school, when I baby sat two toddlers, one of whom was in full blown potty training mode. I still remember saying, “Sarah Ruth*, did you just pee in the bath water? I just saw you pee in the bath water that your brother is sitting in” or “Sarah Ruth*, why did you sit on your brand new comforter before you wiped your poopy bottom? I am NOT cleaning that up, sister.” Of course, that was the same summer that, after dealing with potty-gate 2002, I walked into the livingroom to find the two-year-old sitting on the couch with the TV remote batteries lodged sideways in his mouth. (*names changed to protect the innocent, who are now in middle-school)
B. On the first week at my women’s shelter job, I went as a co-leader on a trip to a water park. I was put in charge of the kindergarten team. While I was enjoying watching my “shark” team play on the slides, one of them ran up to me and started dancing around. She said, “I need to go to the bathroom…..Actually, I already did…..And it’s in my bathing suit.” That’s right. Something solid this way comes. So she did a funny walk to the bathroom while I followed, trying not to think about what would happen next. Once we got there, I was kind of at a loss about what to do….until she pulled down her bathsuit and it almost fell out onto the floor. I had to PICK IT UP (with ample toilet paper) and hand drop it into the toilet. Knowing my affinity for butt germs, you can imagine my thoughts until I could find some bleach to cleanse my entire body. Gooooooooooo, Sharks!
C. At this same job, I also had a sweet little angel pull his poopie toilet paper out of the toilet and try to whap me across the face with it. Thankfully, he still needs to work on his aim and it hit the wall behind me. I don’t even have to tell you how frantic that little life experience made me.
4) Our inability to crate train a dog- That’s right. Our dog isn’t crate trained. Well, she might be now but when she was a puppy….Every stinkin’ time we left her in that thing, she pooped her brains out and rolled around it. I don’t even know how a little dog can hold that much poop. Alex, the night shift worker, and Beth, the speech-pathologist aide by day and ESL teacher by night, got real tired REAL QUICK of having to clean out a crate and bathe a dog every time we came home from work. So, we got rid of the crate and just tethered her on a leash to our coffee table. That way, at least we only had to clean carpet, instead of yanking out the yard hose, yet again, to clean a foul smelling dog crate and then physically massage the poop out of our puppy’s fur.
It’s an easy, logical jump from our inability to properly crate-train to our almost definite inability to potty-train. See how easy we gave up with the going got tough? With children, we would say, “You know, why don’t you just wear pull ups until you’re 6? Then we can get you some Depends. Potty training is over-rated anyway.”
5) The Pregnancy- I was tricked into leading a mosaic art class at the ESL center where I work. I stressed about it for weeks because I couldn’t come up with a good, cost-effective project. I made one trivet and someone asked me, as I was working on it, if that was the top or the bottom. Anyway, I eventually figured it out and my class went off without a hitch. I had a few hispanic women and an Iraqi in my class. The topic turned to children, since in most of the cultres I encounter at my job, I should technically already be a great-grandmother. When I told them that I didn’t think I wanted to have kids or (to soften the blow) maybe I would adopt, they all clucked their teeth at me. One woman said, “Bein’ pregnant iz beautiful”…And then she proceded to tell me about all of the horrible things that happened to her when she was pregnant.
EVERY TIME I have a discussion with a mother and the topic turns to pregnancy, I learn a new disgusting thing that I never want to have to go through. I think all my friends have gotten together to make sure that I’m well informed on all that pregnancy entails. “Ooh, make sure she knows about the possibility of pooping on the delivery table during labor while 15 stare on.” I’m choosing the “No. Thank you very much, though” option. IF (and that’s a big IF) we ever have kids, we’ll be taking the adoption route. There are too many kids that need a good home, I love the idea of taking a child that isn’t biologically mine into my family, and making them mine AND…I don’t have to be pregnant for that one.
6) The logistics- People say that we would have cute, biological kids. I tend to disagree. If we ever did have a child naturally, the risk of the following would be very high:
1. Being an egghead- Yes, our child would probably be a genius, but only because Alex studies physics in his spare time. But what I actually mean is that the child would have a head so large that its neck wouldn’t be able to support the weight until they were 5. Alex affectionately calls his head and neck area “an apple on a stick”. When getting fitted for our super-awesome band hats, I always had to make the walk of shame over to the boys line because the size of my head just isn’t feminine.
2. Walking like Hitler- What, you say? More than one person has told me that I walk like I’m marching in the German military circa 1945. I throw my arms straight out in front of me and kick my feet out from my knee. I’ve done this ever since I was a little kid. Perhaps it had something to do with my horrifically flat feet.
3. Singing and making weird noises at inappropriate times- Alex sang outloud once when I was with him. On a crowded bus. Full of people staring at him. Thankfully, I never ever do anything that embarassing.
4. Things I inherited from my father (and grandfather): Being one giant freckle in the summer, toes that pop when I walk (especially in the morning), canker sores, bad handwriting, and over-active earwax makers.
Okay, maybe our kids would be adorable, little, public-singing, Nazi-walking, earwax pumping, punkin-head nerds. But is the possibility of having adorable children a good reason to have them? No, I say!
7) The “Time” factor- Alex and I do alot of fun things. I love it when we spontaneously pick up and go to Canton or to Harry Hines to look for a living room rug and/or trafficked women. I have a great job with a less-than-great work schedule (12:00-9:00). We take road trips often and go to things like concerts and movies. I like being able to say, “Hey! Let’s go to the State Fair tomorrow” and actually being able to do it without having to find a babysitter at the last minute or carrying my entire house in a backpack. Neighborhood parties, dog parks, fancy dinners, you name it.
Kids take up alot of time and money. Don’t lie to me. I know they do.
My wise mother has always said, “Wait to have kids until you can’t stand it.” Meaning, you should wait to have children until literally every person you meet appears to have a baby head photoshopped on their body, like the opening scene in my favorite movie, Baby Mama. Well, people, we can stand “it”. In fact, we can jump on “it” and it won’t crack.
We like having money and time that is our own. You might say that’s selfish. I would respond with this: Would it be any better for us to have kids because society (America and Christian society) told us to? Well, son, we were really having a great time but then some people told us that we had to have kids so we could fit in, so we did.
We feel like God is asking us to spend our time and money on other things.
(Addendum: If we ever felt like God wanted us to take a child (and/or dropped a child on our front porch), we would immediately be ready love that kid like there’s no tomorrow. Fo’ real.)
8 ) The Paul factor
This is the real reason. The real, deal reason.
When I was in high school, I always thought Paul had a stick up his butt. Yeah, Paul the Apostle who helped spread Christianity throughout the known world who wrote part of the New Testament. He just seemed to be a fuddy-duddy. “Hey, don’t let me rain on your parade but it’s best if you just don’t get married.”
I was always like, “Escuza me, Paul, but have you seen Abilene? The only fun things to do here are go bowling and get married!” In all seriousness, it really bothered me. That’s what people do! Grow up and get married! Have children! It’s why I’m here writing this blog! That’s why you’re here reading this blog!
Now that I’m married, I understand. Let me first say that my marriage is awesome. God could not have created a better match for me than if He had done it Himself…which He did. I love having someone to share life with. BUT (and Alex would say this too), marriage makes it a little harder to do what you want. You can’t pick up and go on a three month long trip without consulting someone else (or really ticking them off). Sometimes you have to go to Academy to browse the fishing gear, even though you’d rather gouge your eyes out with a spoon. Sometimes, in Alex’s case, you have to get out of bed to go make sure the garage is closed because your wife has OCD and heard a noise. When you get married, you instantly have this other person that you have to take into consideration. You have to put their desires before your own.
Single (and childless) people are unattached. They are free to do alot more than those that are anchored by children or a spouse. If Jesus had been a married, father, then He wouldn’t have been able to do half of the things that He did, while still being a good father and spouse.
Alex and I want to go overseas. We want to move to a different country and help people. That is the desire that God has given us. I want to go work with trafficking victims and help them get an education so they can find safe jobs that they will be proud of. “But what about missionary kids, you say?” I’m well aware that you can have children and be effective missionaries. I’m not negating that fact. Here’s how we think about things:
We would like to be able to go wherever God calls us- which might not be a safe environment. It also might not be developed enough to have an excellent school system. If we had children in a place like this, we would 1) be continually worried about our children being harmed because of the work we’re doing and/or 2) have to home-school at least part of the time so that the child can have a good education (because chances are, we wouldn’t be able to afford private school). Guess who would probably end up doing the home schooling? Yep, you guessed it-me. The thing is, God hasn’t given me the desire to move overseas and homeschool my kids while Alex goes out and helps people. I want to see justice done for people so bad that I can taste it and I wouldn’t be content with sitting on the sidelines.
For good reason, kids become your most important priority when you have them. The Bible is clear that it is your responsibility to raise them up to know about God, which takes lots of time and effort. Paul’s point about not getting married (and thus not having a family) was that marriage and kids make things more complicated. Which they do! He’s not trying to offend anyone or tell them that marriage is a sin or having kids will ruin your ability to serve God. He’s just saying, “PRAY ABOUT IT before you do anything rash.”
I fully understand this and I hope that this comes as an encouragement to my single friends and couples that can’t have children. Maybe it’s time to consider that God has you unanchored for a reason. Maybe He wants you to do something that people with children and husbands can’t do.
A few concluding thoughts:
1) Here’s what I am saying: Alex and I personally feel like we couldn’t do the things God is asking us to do, if we had children.
Here’s what I’m NOT saying: If you have children, you obviously can’t serve God and help people. God never tells anyone to have children because having children renders you useless for the kindgom.
In fact, everyone, regardless of whether you’re single, married, a parent or not, is commanded to actively love people and serve God. Jesus did not say, “19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you unless of course, you have children. Then you’re totally off the hook.” (Matthew 28, italics added)
Isaiah the Prophet, in chapter 1 of his book, commanded us to
17 Learn to do right; seek justice.
Defend the oppressed.
Take up the cause of the fatherless;
plead the case of the widow.
See? Not a mention about your family life. It’s irrelevant. All followers of Jesus are called to love people and share God. You can’t hide behind your children and say, “Not me! I have diapers to change!”
Our dog helped us meet neighbors at our old apartment complex. She was a way for us to get to know people because she made us get out of the house. I know God can use children in this way, as well.
2) We don’t really feel like we’re going to change our minds about this, but if God ever says, “OKAY, kiddos! Time to adopt!” Then, we will happly send our time and money packing and welcome any kid that God gives us.
3) I actually read a comment on facebook (by a stranger) that we, as Christ followers, are required to have biological children. His reasoning was the “Go forth and prosper” bit. That sounds like a bunch of hooey to me (aside from the fact that some couples literally can’t have biological children AND there is a huge need for adoptive parents (i.e. caring for the fatherless)). Before you tell us that it’s our biblical duty to “prosper”, please check first with John the Baptist, Paul, Mother Teresa, Mary, Martha, Lazarus, and…JESUS.
Jesus followers aren’t all alike. God didn’t create us to be cookie cutter images of each other. That’s the beauty of the Church is that all of these vastly different people can come together to serve our Creator in vastly different ways.
4) To the people who were anxiously awaiting news that we are pregnant, I’m sorry to break this news to you. To soften the blow, you’re welcome to come over and look at our baby turtle.
Beth, I love that you are standing up for what you believe in. Having children, on purpose, is a calling just like the calling you have to help others. Don’t let anyone be stupid enough to pressure you. I know you won’t, but still. Babies are NOT for everyone and that is OK! God gives us our callings for a reason. I’m glad you hear yours.