Ready for Vocation of Parenthood

Looking at a shelf in a used bookstore, a book of crochet patterns caught my eye. Having made hats and scarves to last, I wanted ideas for gifts. Cute Crochet for Tiny Tots was perfect, because almost every month someone close to me has a baby.

The uneasy part is when the question pops up, as it often does, of whether I am thinking of having children.

It’s a delight to be part of communities welcoming these little ones and watching them grow. The uneasy part is when the questions pops up, as it often does, of whether I am thinking of having children. Especially if “whether” is replaced with “when.”

The only honest answer I can give is that my husband and I are still considering whether we want to intentionally begin the rest-of-our-lives vocation of parenthood. In our families and faith communities, we have seen many paths to parenthood, some chosen and some not. We have witnessed couples navigating the challenges and joys of adoption, some after struggling with the pain of infertility.

I have also listened to loved ones and fellow Christians, including some Anabaptists, explain why they abstain from all of the varied available methods to prevent pregnancy, seeing those as intervening in God’s plan for how many children they will have.

But for those of us who may be able to conceive, and who believe we can seek both to do God’s will in all our lives and limit family size, we can still aim for a careful discernment of whether or not we are called to be parents. Families of all shapes and sizes can participate in God’s mission in the world, whether they include children or not. The world does not need more people for the sake of more people.

Yet, population and resource availability concerns are not reasons by themselves to not have children, either. Some may remember Sarah Kehrberg’s MWR column on the question of overpopulation and having children. It is not a biblical view to “define people by what they consume,” she wrote. “You are not what you eat or what you use.”

I say “amen” to that and other thoughtful points she makes, including that it does not make sense to get stuck on the idea of a replacement rate, meaning each person would add only one person to the next generation. A better way to address overpopulation concerns would be to assist parents who wish to limit family size in learning about and getting access to safe methods of birth control.

In the midst of these considerations, I know two things with some degree of assurance

Children are a blessing to their parents and to those who love them and care for them. Our extended families and faith communities can assist those who are called to raise children. And we can gather the harvest of joy and life lessons from these little ones, our guides in how to enter the kingdom Jesus inaugurated.

Parenthood is a vocation that exercises many God-given gifts. (I wish I was as patient with adults who are not having temper tantrums as one of my beloved cousins is when her young children are.) Like any vocation, it involves an at-times- difficult path of listening for God’s guidance and learning how to respond and adapt through the seasons of life. And, like other vocations, not all are called to it.

Each of us can consider carefully how to live faithfully in our whole lives, whether as parents or not. And we can reach out to each other in mutual care, whatever our decisions and unexpected events along the way.

What do you think? Write your response to this article on the Living More with Less Facebook page.

This article originally appeared in the Mennonite World Review.