For the most part, I approach the secular parenting dialogue with a grain or two of salt. The answers to my questions on parenting aren't going to be found in the glistening pages of the newest family magazine or in a Google search result. As far as my own two cents goes, I doubt the women beaming at me from the pages of said magazine would much care to hear what I think about raising children. I do, however, have a good bit of curiosity for the current thought trends and that curiosity was piqued by a recent study.
Are you ready for it?
"Want to be happy? Have two daughters Having two daughters is the key to a happy and harmonious family life, according to a study."
No, ladies and gentlemen, I'm not going to be able to pass this one up. I read about the study a week or so ago and it's been gnawing at the back of my mind while I wash dishes and vacuum. Indulge me while I spend my two cents.
This study, as you can read in this online article, informs us that if we want to spend our childrearing years in parental bliss, two girls is the way to go. Two girl households scored "high in every category" such was being easy to handle, getting along well, and generally not making too much of a fuss. The rankings went down from there, with families of four girls being blackmarked as the worst possible combination. According to this study, if you have more than two children-- especially if you have the dreaded Four Girl Household-- you might as well buy a suite at a mental health clinic along with that minivan.
The study goes on to describe the benefits and disadvantages of each combination of children with the tone one might describe the benefits of different auto insurance plans or vacation packages.
What struck me was how accurately-- and tragically-- this sums up our culture's attitude towards children. Without a biblical rationale for reproduction, society is left to hammer out its own reasons for embarking on the immense undertaking of parenting. God, in His grace, has built into most humans, especially human women, the desire to be parents-- to nurture, to foster life, to pass on something of our traditions to a new generation. That's part of what it means to be human. But as with many things in this Me Generation, parenting has become more and more about self-gratification. Much like climbing Mount Everest or going on a walking tour of Europe, raising children is added to the list of Things To Do Before You Die. People view parenting in terms of what it can do for their emotions, their self-image, not to mention that gaping hole in their soul where God is meant to be. Baby stores get this. The thousand dollar cherry stained cribs, the three hundred dollar bedding sets, the eight hundred dollar stroller system....it's all made to feed into the idea of parenting as a means of personal happiness
This study just manages to quantify an idea already out there-- that parenting is about you, the parent, and you should take every step to plan your parental journey with your happiness and ease in mind. When you factor in that the average childbearing age is steadily on the rise, the stakes are even higher. You'd better create the perfect family because this is your one shot. You've searched for satisfaction in relationships, in corporate success....now you have this one chance to really find something that makes you happy and you'd better not screw it up by having children willy nilly.
Let me clarify a few things. I'm not saying God wants you to be miserable, nor that He wants every Christian parent to have children ad nauseum. His plan for each set of parents is unique, right down to the number, gender, and spacing of their children. I'm not saying that some family dynamics present more obvious challenges than others. I'm certainly not saying that parents shouldn't be happy because of course they should. Parenting is indeed bliss. But it's real bliss, the kind in which you are exhausted and possibly spit-up covered at three in the morning for the third night in a row but you are at peace to the very marrow of your bones because you know you are doing something eternal. This kind of bliss opens your arms and your heart to your whiny preschooler and your clingy toddler even though you are trying to cook spaghetti because this is something vital.
And that's the crux of this matter.
Without eternity in view, without any knowledge of God's commands or His plans for family, self-fulfillment mixed with a few noble humanist aspirations is really all there is to parenting. Without that compass, parents are as lost as any other member of secular society. When your viewpoint is eternal, you realize you are raising children as God's instrument in their sanctification just as they are His instruments in yours.
That's right. The screaming fights over toys, the juice spilled in that hard-to-reach part of the backseat, the days when just getting everyone dressed involves thirty minutes of tears, arguing, and discipline. That's for you.
There are things that God wants to teach you that you can't learn without kids. And there is an entire world of things He wants to teach them about Himself through you. Whether you have one child, two girls, two boys, or ten girls, or any combination thereof, God has in mind both your heart and theirs. Those afternoons of "screaming sanctification" are His way of refining your heart just as much as those sweet almost-asleep cuddles.
Studies like this one can't understand that fact.
It's like trying to get a colorblind man to tell you the difference between peach, mandarin, and mango fabric. Asking a deaf man to delineate the differences between Beethoven and Bach. You can't trust the results.
I am pregnant with a third child so I've skipped out on my parenting nirvana already. Something tells me I won't miss it so much.