"So do you like being a parent?" The question caught me off guard. In our culture, too often children are a sticky, smelly interruption to life. Some couples put off having them for a decade or forgo the idea altogether. I constantly see studies that estimate the average cost of raising a child, as if parenting were measured in dollars and cents. Not everyone should have kids, not everyone can handle the same number of children, and no one should pursue the blessing of having children to an extreme (think 20 kids). But parenting IS a beautiful blessing, in spite of the sacrifice, for at least 5 reasons. They're why I like being a parent.
- Being a parent is rewarding. Every morning I pick Abby up out of her crib, give her a kiss, and see her smile. Those moments are worth more than any amount of money. I've seen her change from a tiny newborn who can barely lift her head to a 2 month old who sits supported and almost rolls over. I can't wait to see her grow even more over the years. Knowing that I have the privilege and awesome responsibility to foster this growth is amazing.
- Being a parent puts you in the spotlight. From the minute she was born, a little person is taking in my every word and action in her presence. The way she interacts with her future husband, her beliefs on everything from God to homosexuality, the way she talks, how much she reads, what she wears, and a million other aspects of her life will be influenced by me. She may not realize it, and as a teenager she may soundly deny it, but it's true nonetheless. Not only do I have God and a "host of witnesses", I have one very small little witness watching me.
- Being a parent forces you to see life from a new perspective. When I traveled, I used to plan exactly what I would wear each day based on who I would see, what I was doing, etc. Now I carefully pack all the clothes that Abigail might possibly need. Then I grab underwear, a couple pairs of jeans, and some long sleeved shirts or sweaters for myself. I used to have a meticulously clean apartment, partially because it made me feel good about myself. Now I still keep it clean, but I do it for my husband and for Abby. I wouldn't want her playing on dirty carpet. I guess it's made me less selfish.
- Being a parent connects you to other people, especially other parents. On a recent trip to Kroger, I noticed the old lady behind me in line smiling at Abigail in the cart. "She's precious," the lady commented. I probably never would've spoken to the lady if it wasn't for my baby. At church, I've gotten to know a lot more moms through the nursery and just by meeting them. My dad has Parkinson's disease, but one smile from Abigail can rouse him from his chair and have him smiling and talking like a boy on Christmas morning. Bring up the topic of childbirth, the cost of baby clothes, or crying and you instantly have a connection to other parents. Even older children seem less threatening to talk to than adults. Children break down our walls of self-absorption and timidity.
- Being a parent is a huge ministry. Parenting is a picture of God's love for us as his children. God loves us unconditionally. God lovingly disciplines and corrects us. God protects and provides for us. God never leaves us. Although I'm not perfect (surprise!), I can attempt the same for my child. Together with her daddy, I can give her a small glimpse of God's love for her. And unlike church ministries where people can leave, she's a captive audience!
So do I like being a parent? Absolutely.