I’ll never forget when my wife, Michelle, told me we were pregnant the first time. I unwrapped a gift to find tiny baby booties inside with a note that said, “Can’t wait to meet you, Daddy.”
As I recall, I just started laughing. And then I kept on laughing. And then laughed some more. For whatever reason, that was my body’s sympathetic response to the shock of joy and terror that filled my mind and heart. I wondered how on earth I could possibly be up to the challenge of raising a child. Did I make enough money to care for our small, growing family? With a lack of answers to these questions, I could only laugh.
Apparently, the concerns that washed over me in those first few moments of realized-fatherhood are not unique. The United States’ national birth rate is at an all-time low and, according to the Pew Research Center, the weak economy is to blame.
Earlier this week, the U.K.’s Daily Mail covered the story, making note that, “Some couples are missing their window of opportunity to have a baby because they never feel financially secure enough to commit to having a child.”
I understand the desire for financial security, for some assurance that everything is aligned before having a “big commitment” like, you know, a child. But, I have a short and sweet message for all who are delaying starting their families in hopes of a more secure tomorrow: There is no such thing as financial security.
Recently, we made a concerted effort to tighten up our finances and change our priorities a bit in order to meet longer-term goals, like an eventual family trip to Disney World. Naturally, our best laid plans were laid to waste as, instead, we were faced with a $5,000 plumbing repair. That’s financial security for you.
Sure, we can all make reasonable steps to prepare for the future, but nothing is a sure bet. There are no guarantees in adulthood.
So, what happens to the Willistons now? Do we drop to our knees and lament that we ever had children because now we can’t save money to fly the family to Orlando? Do we declare ourselves failed parents because we can’t give them all we want to give them?
No, we adjust. We reconfigure our expectations because, let’s face it, most of the expectations we have for our kids are OUR expectations, not theirs. We put our own expectations of what a “good” life looks like into their heads when, in reality, our kids would be just as happy with a mom and dad who hugged them a little more or glanced at their cell phones a little less.
Culturally, we’ve bought into the notion that, until we can give our kids the lives we dream of for them, we shouldn’t have them. We put off parenting, waiting for the right time. But, really, there is no “right” time and there is no “wrong” time. Parenting isn’t supposed to be easy, which is good, because it isn’t. No magical economic formula is going to change that.
Parenting is giving – and giving is sacrifice. Parenting is the ultimate form of charity, and true charity hurts because it requires something of ourselves.
It doesn’t take much to be a perfect parent to a newborn. In the earliest days of life they don’t require much more than Mom, some onesies, a warm blanket, disposable diapers and love. So stop buying into the notion that you have to have everything “just right” before you make the leap.
Trust me, you figure it out and, in the process, you learn more about yourself than you ever thought possible.