The NHS Trust in the town of Walsall, east of Birmingham in what was once the heart of Britain’s industrial Midlands, has produced what has got to be one of the most vacuous advertisements for the year to date. With the slogan, ‘Bware da baby trap – use a condom’ the national healthcare service provider has pictured a video game controller (for the boys) and a stiletto and lipstick (for the girls) with the statement ‘Would you give up this? For this?’ in juxtaposition to a baby’s dummy.
Ah, so this is what we’ve come too now. Although I must say, I’m kind of surprised that no one has been triggered by the unambiguous gender stereotyping! However, being a father of six myself, neither my wife or I regret missing out on either of these things. Nonetheless, let me outline ten reasons why child-rearing is a really good idea:
First, having children is the best investment. A lot of people talk about the ‘legacy’ that they want to create and then leave behind in the workplace. But let’s face it, hardly anyone is going to remember us when we’re gone. No one is unreplaceable. People might say that when we retire, but the reality is our position is quickly filled and the organisation goes on and adapts. Quick question, if you don’t have kids, then who’s going to receive all your hard-earned cash? And will they remember you as fondly as your own children will?
Second, having children is a blessing. Once again, not just to the parents involved, but to a range of different people that your child comes to know and relate too. I often marvel how different each of my children are even though they have exactly the same gene pool and environment. But they bless my wife and me, as well as others not related to us through their interaction and presence.
Third, having children means you’ll never—hopefully at least—be lonely. One of the tragedies I have observed as a minister of religion is the isolation that often exists with people confined in nursing homes. They long to be connected to their biological children. Often that’s impossible due to distance or work commitments, but their presence and care is what gives the elderly great comfort.
Fourth, having children means you can live vicariously through their achievements. I know, I know some parents take this too far. But it’s terrific to be able to rejoice in what your child is able to do, often in areas that you could never have achieved yourself. In sport, academics, music or art they often have a talent that makes you ask, “Where did that come from?” With mine, it’s often from their mother, but I still get to bask in their success.
Fifth, having children develops character. I sometimes think to myself what I would have done with my life if I hadn’t have had children. While a few different things come to mind, I am certain that none of them compare to raising a child. Each one has grown and shaped me into the person I am today more than anything else. And while that has also exposed my weaknesses it has also moulded my character and curtailed my innate tendency to be selfish.
Sixth, having children is far more interesting than watching TV. I not just talking about the act of actually making them—although that’s pretty great too—but the time and energy that goes into relating and preparing them to be self-sustaining human beings themselves. Yes, their lives can be a soap opera, and oh my goodness they can push one’s buttons, but I’d much rather hang out with my children than play video games on my own.
Seventh, having children is meaningful. Not just to the biological parents but to the grandparents and extended family. Speaking sociologically, the nuclear family is the glue that holds all of society together. And as such, it creates meaning and purpose for a whole host of people who help to raise the next generation with the love, patience and wisdom that they themselves have received.
Eight, having children is intrinsically good. I know that sounds pretty basic—and I could have even had this point first—but there is not only something inherently worthwhile, but fundamentally ‘human’ about raising kids. It humbles you on a profound, even existential level. I challenge anyone to be emotionally unmoved by the birth of their own flesh and blood. But even more than that, it makes us ask the big questions of life, death and how we should live in between. Without them, it’s all just ‘stuff’.
Nine, having children is interesting. That can be taken a number of different ways, can’t it? When your children are essentially compliant then it’s wonderfully enjoyable. But when they’re not as accommodating…well, you understand what I’m saying. One thing I will say about having children, though, and that is, it’s never boring. They might get bored, but it’s always an adventure in trying to figure out what to do with them next!
Ten, having children is beneficial to society. Remember when Peter Costello encouraged everyone to have one for mum, one for dad and one for the country? There is a basic economic necessity that we need to reproduce as a race simply to sustain what we currently have. Following on from that, it is our children who are the carries of our culture and values which make our community what it is. But if we don’t have them then we leave that space open for others to come in and fill.
All of this is incredibly brief and somewhat light-hearted. But what is serious is that having children is one of the greatest activities a person can be involved in. And as such, I’d choose the baby—and not just the pacifier—over a video game or a pair of expensive new shoes any time. Because ultimately it’s a matter of them over us. And that’s always going to be a sacrifice worth making.
Mark Powell is the Associate Pastor of Cornerstone Presbyterian Church, Strathfield.
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