Over the last three decades, women have been waiting longer to start having children. In 1970 the average age of a first-time mother was about 21. In 2008 the average age was just older than 25. Here I am in 2014 pushing that average age even higher. I'm a 27-year-old woman, married and without kids.
I always imagined that I'd get married and have kids around the two-year anniversary mark. And I was on schedule . . . until I got a new job a few years ago—a job that I thoroughly enjoy and look forward to working every day. The fact that I now am able to delay parenting is a freeing concept. It gives me a sense of control—yet I know that God is ultimately in control of my life.
So how do I then balance God's will with the ability to plan my family? How do I know when God wants me to move to a new phase of life? Do we live in an age when God must work against all odds to exercise his will?
Praying for babies
These are questions that we all will be forced to wrestle through. Only a couple of generations ago, these were not vexing questions. People assumed that they would get pregnant when God wanted them to start a family.
We see that same idea throughout the Bible—that God is the one who blesses couples with children. In Genesis, "Isaac pleaded with the LORD on behalf of his wife, because she was unable to have children. The Lord answered Isaac's prayer, and Rebekah became pregnant with twins" (25:21).
In 1 Samuel, Hannah poured her heart out to God requesting a son who she could then dedicate back to the LORD, and God answered her prayer (1:11–20).
In Luke, Elizabeth got pregnant because God heard Zachariah's prayer (1:1–13).
God has revealed himself as sovereign, but he has also given us free will in how we choose to live our lives. So my husband, Jeremy, and I have a choice to make for how we will choose to serve God in our lives.
As I've pondered my dilemma, I've also become concerned about something else: Why don't I feel strongly about something so important?
At times I feel strongly to focus on my career. I know the good works that God has called me to (Ephesians 2:10) are partly, if not mostly, fulfilled in the work that I do. God gave Adam work before giving him Eve, before the command to multiply (Genesis 2:15). And while I do desire to be a mom and raise kids, I resonate with Sharon Hodde Miller: motherhood is not my calling.
At other times (mostly when I'm around babies), I feel a strong pull to focus on having kids and building my family.
Scripture often talks about how blessed mothers are and how "children are a gift from the Lord; they are a reward from him" (Psalm 127:3). The church has notoriously focused on serving families with kids more than singles or those married without kids. This bent in the church on having kids is one of the reasons why I feel guilty that I'm choosing not to have any yet: I'm married, at the age to bear children, and financially stable. Why shouldn't I have a few kids in tow with me by now?
In this process of thinking through my future (and yet still acknowledging that God is ultimately in control of my life), I've become a bit indecisive when it comes to family planning
because I feel torn between two very good things God has created: work and motherhood.
Planning for a family
While I know that I can pursue both work and motherhood at the same time—many women have successfully done so, including my mother, and I, Lord willing, hope to be one of those women—I have conflicting motivations that fuel my indecisiveness when it comes to knowing when to start the expanding-family process.
I've found myself attempting to "plan" my future kids around the times of year that would be easiest for me to take a maternity leave. (While I wouldn't go to this extreme, I can understand why women like Mari Smith consider social surrogacy so that their career wouldn't be hurt during pregnancy.)
I've been thinking through how I might be able to work full time and still be able to give our kids the attention they will need—and the attention I'll also want to give them as their mother.
But my husband, Jeremy, and I are choosing to hold off on having kids right now for a few reasons:
1. We enjoy the time we currently have to invest in our marriage, career, and ministry at church.
Numerous times over the past year we've mentioned to each other that we wouldn't have the time needed to invest in the ministries we do at church if we had kids. My husband heads up the 4th–6th graders at church, and I help plan and run several of the women's ministry events. Since kids have early bedtimes and need lots of quality time with their parents, we'll have to downsize our church ministry involvement if we have kids in order to provide a healthy environment for them.
We also enjoy having several evenings a week to invest in our marriage. We have time to sit down over dinner and discuss the day's events. We have time to take hour-long walks to talk about our hopes and dreams for the future. We have time to sit and enjoy a TV show or movie together—to ride bikes or go kayaking together.
Being sans kids has also given us the flexibility to invest in our careers. My husband travels to Alaska for several weeks every year for his work, and I'll travel to Africa later this year for my job. Besides those perks, we've been able to dictate our own schedules to work longer hours certain days if our jobs require it. We acknowledge this won't always be the case, and that's okay.
2. We're thankful for the energy we currently have to invest in hobbies.
It's a lot of work to raise kids. Until we have a family, we're grateful we can enjoy hobbies that refresh us. For me, that's reading, writing, crafting, and walking. When little ones come, neither Jeremy nor I will have the same time to devote to these pastimes like we can now.
3. We're full of joy and happiness in our current stage of life.
If Jeremy and I are fortunate enough to be able to have children one day, we will embrace that season of life fully. But frankly, for now, a little more than three years into our marriage, we're just plain happy. I'm committed to savoring this season and praising God for the joy we're experiencing.
One day, maybe soon, I'll feel ready to venture into motherhood. If God sees fit to let us become parents, I'll praise him with joy in that season too. Deciding if and when to have a family is a personal decision for every couple. There's no one-size-fits-all prescription. By articulating our own reasons for waiting to have kids, I'm more aware of the gifts God is bearing in this season of life—and I'm savoring them fully.
Natalie Lederhouse is the assistant editor for Today's Christian Woman. She serves as Women's Retreat Coordinator, volunteers with the college ministry, and serves on the women's ministry team at her church. Follow Natalie on Twitter at @nataliejean.