The question of when to start a family is an issue that comes up often for me in my ministry. In fact, it is an issue that my wife and I had to wrestle with not all that long ago. There are many factors that should be taken into consideration before having children, however I cannot help but wonder if many couple are waiting too long to have children. It is an issue that I have wrestled with in my own mind, and I was excited to see a new book come out on the subject.
Start Your Family: Inspiration for Having Babies by Steve and Candice Watters is book that encourages young couples make children a priority in their marriage. Steve and Candice based much of this book on their own experiences as a young couple. They were waiting to have children while they pursued careers and “becoming established.” That is, until a godly couple helped them to see the biblical priority of having babies. This book builds on the authors’ experience, and adds some helpful wisdom from God’s word.
I found Start Your Family to be a very helpful read, primarily because it addresses so many of the cultural norms that Christians have simply accepted over time. One of the points that is made in the book is that young couples often develop an idea of what marriage should look like based on a “Pottery Barn catalogue” rather than what the bible teaches. To this the Watters remind their readers:
The inertia of lifestyle, financial goals, and continuous birth control make it easier for couples to overestimate the flexibility they have in their timeline. In a day when marketers and self-help gurus tell us limitations are only in our minds, we can grow unfortunately naïve about how much life, energy, and fertility we really have left for the venture of parenthood. (80)
What about the couples that want to wait “until they are established” to have children? The Watters would give this advice:
…Many now have the mentality that getting established—a common prerequisite for having children—means attaining the standard of living that the parents spent decades accumulating. (78)
…It’s okay to start your family without having detailed answers to every question. By saying that you don’t need a detailed plan, however, we’re not advocating that you just plow into all the logistical details of launching a family fueled by a blissful hope that everything will come together. …What we are saying is you don’t need a detailed plan, but a few timeless principles can make all the difference. (103)
What about the idea that couple need time to get to know one another before they can have children? The Watters give this advice:
Instead of seeing children as a threat to the other blessings of marriage, we can embrace that God created all the good things of marriage to work in harmony. (40)
Such sentiments drive more and more couples to think of children primarily in terms of their cost—they way they drain their parents financially and psychologically. In that frame of mind, the way that the Bible describes children can seem like an odd assessment. In Psalm 127, Solomon writes: “Sons are a heritage from the Lord, children a reward from him…. (44)
This book deal with many more common questions that couples have when they think through this issue, but there is one in particular that I especially want to mention. Steve Watters puts it this way:
The worst mistake that I made a provider was in the early years of our marriage was when we bought a home that required both of our incomes to qualify. (114)
Candice was suffering both the curse related to the pain of childbearing as well as the thorns and thistles intended for men (115)
Based on their own experience they give this advice:
Ours is a cautionary tale for couples that have the option to plan smart from the start. Start living like you plan to be parents—refocus your income and budget on whatever it takes to make your second income optional. That’s not going to be easy in a day when budgets are more dependent on two salaries. It will invariably mean sacrificing the lifestyle many of your peers enjoy. In the moment, it can fell like too high a price to pay, but you’re investing in a family-rich future. (115)
The Watters, by God’s grace, were able to overcome the obstacles they created! That is why I would add that their “tale” is not just cautionary; it provides hope for many who may regret previous decisions.
On a final note, I need to add that this book’s primary strength is in the area of practical wisdom. When it comes to theology and biblical interpretation the Watters are not experts (they do not make that claim either). They do a very good job of dealing with this issue. However, there are a few minor points of “imprecision” that surfaced in the book. That being said, I would highly recommend this book to anyone dealing with the issue of starting a family.
*UPDATE*: These are some general principles that are mentioned above; principles that I think are biblical. However, this does not mean that it is wrong for a mother to work. Sometimes this is necessary. The general wisdom above does not take into account all situations.