“In the most beloved story of a baby’s birth,
there was no decorated nursery or designer crib –
only a manger for the Savior of the world.”
I have been thinking a lot about Elder Neil L. Andersen’s talk since General Conference. When I was a teenager, I thought a lot about being a mother. It was really all I wanted to be. I dreamed of having a house full of kids. Mothering children has always been on my mind.
The thing about having children (in God’s way, at least) is that it isn’t a one-person decision. I don’t get to just decide to have kids, or not to have kids – it is a decision I have to make with my husband, “with sincere prayer and acted on with great faith.”
There are many women in today’s world who want to have children and raise them as a single mother. They don’t see anything wrong with that. I see a lot wrong with that.
The Family: A Proclamation to the World states, “Children are entitled to birth within the bonds of matrimony, and to be reared by a father and a mother who honor marital vows with complete fidelity.” When single women decide to bear and raise children by themselves, they are teaching those children the complete opposite. Sure, it’s hard to be married, and it is hard to compromise and maybe not do things exactly the way you want to, or the way you think is right. But that is where children belong – with a mother and a father who are trying to work together, to be unified. They may not always be perfect, but children are entitled to being raised with a father and a mother who are trying to make things work.
Unity in marriage is another post entirely, but there needs to be unity in marriage for the decision of bearing children – obviously, since neither a man nor a woman can biologically have children without the other. Which means that the choice to have children rests with both the husband and the wife.
Just as the world has succumbed to Satan’s lie that it’s okay for single, unmarried women to raise children on their own (I’m not talking about women who get pregnant from a dumb decision, or a mistake – I’m talking about women who purposefully get pregnant while they are single because they don’t want to get married, yet they want to have children. I am also not talking about women who would get married in a heart beat, but want to raise children and so they adopt or foster as a single woman – those women are to be praised for their courage), Elder Andersen says, “Many voices in the world today marginalize the importance of having children or suggest delaying or limiting children in a family.” I have thought of this a lot – if there is no reason you shouldn’t have more children (you don’t have a job, your health won’t permit bearing children, you are physically unable to bear children, etc – and even in some of these cases, people will bear children), then why shouldn’t you bear children? The world will tell you ___ number of children is enough. I have a boy and a girl, and I can’t tell you how many times the world has told me, “Oh, you have a boy and a girl, that’s perfect, you can be ‘done’ having kids!” What a horrible lie. Sure, I enjoy my boy and my girl, but I have never once thought that I was going to be “done” after two children – regardless of their genders! What a crazy lie the world would have us believe.
I love when the prophets and apostles quote other good Christians at General Conference. Frequently quoted are C.S. Lewis, Charles Dickens (best of times, worst of times), and William Wordsworth, but Elder Andersen actually quoted a contemporary Christian blogger, Rachel Jankovic. I almost fell over backwards when I heard him quote her, and then after conference I had to go look her up. Of course, her quote is now being spread around the internet attributed to Elder Andersen (if you spread her quote, please give her credit). The entire blog post she wrote was very powerful. The part Elder Andersen quoted was this
Motherhood is not a hobby, it is a calling. You do not collect children because you find them cuter than stamps. It is not something to do if you can squeeze the time in. It is what God gave you time for."
Part of me wonders what Rachel thinks of being quoted from the pulpit at LDS General Conference. I took the time to read her entire post that this quote was taken from, and it was excellent. I decided today to go buy her book, Loving the Little Years. That sentiment reminds me of a quote from President Monson in General Conference of October 2008 where he said, “If you are still in the process of raising children, be aware that the tiny fingerprints that show up on almost every newly cleaned surface, the toys scattered about the house, the piles and piles of laundry to be tackled will disappear all too soon and that you will—to your surprise—miss them profoundly.”
The other day I came in to my bedroom where I had laid our two and a half year old to sleep on our bed. She was asleep – next to my journal and my economy Book of Mormon. When I opened up my journal, I noticed she had scribbled on a few pages and on the inside covers. I expected to get upset (my journal is very precious to me) and then I thought about reading through that journal when my little J is grown up and independent and doesn’t need me to snuggle her and put her down for naps anymore. And I thought what a beautiful reminder that scribble in my journal will be of the innocence of her childhood, and the precious child that grew up under my care.
I enjoyed the story Elder Andersen told about Elder Mason’s talk with President Spencer W. Kimball. President Kimball asked Elder Mason “Where is your faith?” When I first heard that story, and that question, I thought differently about it than I do right now. At first I thought that I didn’t have enough faith and that is why we aren’t expecting a third child yet. But now I am realizing that the Lord wants me to have faith that all my righteous desires will be realized. I need to have faith that I will have all those children my heart desires to have. And I don’t need to be bitter because I won’t have what I want right now.
I was particularly pleased that Elder Andersen reminded us not once, but twice “we should not judge one another on this matter… we should not be judgmental with one another in this sacred and private responsibility.” I think that goes both ways – we should not judge people who do not have children yet, and we should not judge people who choose to have many children, even though it may seem that they have “too many” children. It is a very personal decision, and one made between a couple and the Lord.
How have you had to have faith when it comes to bearing children? Do you think there are things that you need to do before you have children? Are children highest on your list of priorities? Do you cherish each child the Lord places into your family?