Most of us, when we get married, are looking forward to having a family. In the book, The Adventist Home, p. 159 it says, “A childless house is a desolate place.”
Before children are brought into the world it is important to be ready for them. Far too many children have been born and faced hardship because their arrival was not planned. Their parents looked at them as an unwelcome burden. The Spirit of Prophecy is very clear on this point, as we read in The Adventist Home, p. 162–165.
Factors to consider:
- Mother’s Health—In The Adventist Home on page 162 is a very strong statement. “A Grievous Wrong to Mothers, Children, and Society—There are parents who, without consideration as to whether or not they can do justice to a large family, fill their houses with these helpless little beings, who are wholly dependent upon their parents for care and instruction. . . . This is a grievous wrong, not only to the mother, but to her children and to society. . . .
“Parents should always bear in mind the future good of their children. They should not be compelled to devote every hour to taxing labor in order to provide the necessity for life.
“Before increasing their family, they should take into consideration whether God would be glorified or dishonored by their bringing children into the world. They should seek to glorify God by their union from the first, and during every year of their married life.” p. 162
- Care and Education—“If you do not govern your children and mold their characters to meet the requirements of God, then the fewer children there are to suffer from your defective training the better it will be for you, their parents, and the better it will be for society. Unless children can be trained and disciplined from their babyhood by a wise and judicious mother who is conscientious and intelligent, and who rules her household in the fear of the Lord, molding and shaping their characters to meet the standard of righteousness, it is a sin to increase your family. God has given you reason, and He requires you to use it.” p. 164
- The Economy—“Parents should calmly consider what provision can be made for their children. They have no right to bring children into the world to be a burden to others. Have they a business that they can rely upon to sustain a family so that they need not become a burden to others? If they have not, they commit a crime in bringing children into the world to suffer for want of proper care, food, and clothing.” p. 164
When can you afford to have a baby? This is a very hard question. If you wait until you have everything you need, it will be too late, so you will have to find a middle way. How much does it cost to have a baby? Recently there was an estimate on the news where it was said that it cost $250,000 to take care of a child from 0 to 18 years of age. If everyone would wait until they have a quarter million dollars in the bank, there would not be many children born.
When we had our son, people said, “It is expensive.” Then they gave us a long list of all the things that we would need. It was not half as bad as we were told. Friends helped a lot. There were friends from church who gave us clothes and toys. We got a playpen from someone and borrowed a crib from someone else. Yes, Franziska had to give up her job for a while, but you also have to be realistic in your wants. If you cannot afford new clothes, you can buy used; if you need furniture, buy inexpensive or used; cook your own food, do not go to a restaurant. If you have friends over, serve them simple food like you eat every day. Remember, this is the healthiest anyways. Do not think you have to spend a lot to entertain your friends, if you do not have enough for your baby. This little person is part of your family and this is your first responsibility.
When a baby arrives, your life changes. It is the greatest wonder of creation, to see how every limb is developed, the ten little fingers, the ten little toes, eyes, nose, and ears, etc.; to see how a little child grows—the first smile—and to experience how this little baby looks at you with so much confidence; how the child takes the first steps and learns how to talk. No joy in life can be greater than that. It will teach us many lessons of self-denial and lessons of caring for someone else. To be a real mother and a real father is the most important position in the world. Not only to take care of a helpless little baby, but also to educate and teach the children as they grow up.
It always impresses me to see little children, and how willing they are to help you. Here, I believe, is one of the greatest challenges in our days. We all know it is so much easier and faster to cook and clean when the child is somewhere else, and you can quickly do your job. I realize that sometimes we need to remove the children from danger, but sometimes we try to get them out of the way because it is inconvenient to have them around. Where possible let the little one be where you are and let their little hands keep busy helping you. When our granddaughter was small, she often came to our house and she loved to be where grandmother was. She would like to hide in the cupboards and bang on the pots. If I was with her, it was the same; she loved to help and go with me everywhere. Some of the first words she learned to say, was, “I can help.”
One day I said, “I am going downstairs, you stay here, I will be right back.” She grabbed my hand and said, “I come.” And together we went downstairs to get whatever we needed. How smart they are at a very young age! One day I could not find something and I explained to her what I was looking for and she said, “I sawed it,” in her baby language; she took my hand and led me exactly to the place where the item was. She must have been about two years old.
Throughout her writings, Ellen White encourages parents to take time with their children, showing interest in their little joys and sorrows. It is so important to show that you are interested in what they are doing. Praise them for their accomplishments. You can gain much more if you praise them for the good they do, than you can by criticizing them for what they do wrong. Of course, you must be honest with your children, and if they are disobedient or naughty, there must be consequences; but watch that you do not constantly complain, because they make mistakes, or have small accidents. You will hurt their feelings and you will damage their self-confidence and they will not feel confident in your presence. You want your children to love to be close to you, to be happy when you are there. That way you establish a bond and a trust. Let them know that you understand if they have an accident and something breaks.
Too often the little ones are asked to go out of the way, to play with their toys, or even worse, to go and watch TV or some other electronic gadget while the parents are doing their work. If this pattern continues for a long time, if the children live in their world
and you live in yours, when they are teenagers and you want them to help, they are not interested in your life, not interested in your problems, not interested in your jobs; the connection is broken and hard to repair.
Our modern society is not good for our families. Often both parents work outside the home; the children are in daycare and often the children only see their parents for a couple of hours before bedtime and an hour in the morning. At the same time the parents have to cook and clean and get ready for the next day. How much time is left to communicate with the children? Often very little.
I do not have all the answers, but when I look back, I know I should have spent more time with our son, even if it would have cost some loss of income. Life is so short, the children grow up so fast and suddenly they are in high school, university and working somewhere. Only God can give us, as parents, the wisdom we need in order to manage our time so we also have time for our children.
What about couples that cannot have children? Reading from The Adventist Home, “An Appeal to Childless Couples—Some who have not children of their own should educate themselves to love and care for the children of others. They may not be called to go to a foreign field of labor, but they may be called to work in the very locality in which they live. . . . Let them give their attention to little children whose character they may mold and fashion after the divine similitude. Place your love upon the homeless little ones that are around you. Instead of closing your heart to the members of the human family, see how many of these little homeless ones you can bring up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. There is an abundance of work for everyone who wants work to do. By engaging in this line of Christian endeavor, the church may be increased in members and enriched in spirit. The work of saving the homeless and the fatherless is everyone’s business.
“If those who have no children and whom God has made stewards of means would expand their hearts to care for children who need love, care, and affection, and assistance with this world’s goods, they would be far happier than they are today. So long as youth who have not a father’s pitying care nor a mother’s tender love are exposed to the corrupting influences of these last days, it is somebody’s duty to supply the place of father and mother to some of them. Learn to give them love, affection, and sympathy. All who profess to have a father in heaven, who they hope will care for them and finally take them to the home He has prepared for them, ought to feel a solemn obligation resting upon them to be friends to the friendless and fathers to the orphans, to aid the widows, and be of some practical use in this world by benefiting humanity.” –Ibid., p. 168–169
Here is a great a work for those who feel they have that gift. Some years ago, Franziska and I were considering being foster parents. Some of these children come from terrible conditions and have no understanding of right or wrong; you may have them for three months, half a year, two years or whatever, and suddenly you have to give them back to their birth mother. We did not think that we could handle this and so we never tried.
May the Lord give us all wisdom to take care of our children in a way that can be to His honour and glory. Amen.