By Bev and Phil Haas
Last year Oprah Winfrey told Barbara Walters, “I chose to not have children because it’s the ultimate sacrifice.” She went on to talk about how the path she chose let her accomplish her career aspirations. My husband and I are beginning to talk about having a child, and I’m wondering about the sacrifices I’ll need to make when we become parents.
Keep in mind that we live in a culture that doesn’t value sacrifice as much as it values individuality. It’s true—to be a parent you must make sacrifices. But it’s also true that those who choose not to become a parent are sacrificing as well. Sacrifice is about surrendering one thing for the sake of something else.
Sacrifices of Parenting
Parents make many sacrifices, but here are some we think of when looking back on our parenting years:
• Time: The time you used to spend with your spouse and friends and by yourself will be greatly diminished by the responsibility of raising a child. When asked what they need most, a survey of new moms revealed “me time.” Before children, Bev and I used to come home from our jobs to a quiet house where we could relax a bit before starting dinner. Those quiet times disappeared once we had a child. You’ll invest lots of time and energy caring for your child.
• Money: When you are a parent you have to consider the impact of your financial decisions more carefully. The most recent U.S. Department of Agriculture report noted that it costs parents an average of $245,000 to raise a child from birth until age 18. For some parents money won’t be an issue. For many parents, however, finances are a stress. Keep in mind that financial needs usually fluctuate. One season you may be living paycheck to paycheck while the next you’re fine.
• Lifestyle: Once you bring your child home, you’ll instantly have to change your lifestyle. Not long after we had our firstborn, we decided to go out to dinner. We went to one of our favorite restaurants with our baby. Everything was going well until our food arrived. Then we took turns eating while the other carried a screaming baby around. How could we not know that our lifestyle had to change? At least we were fast learners and found a babysitter for our next dinner date. One of the big changes once we became parents was when Bev chose not to return to teaching while our kids were small. Bev’s world shrank significantly for those years. Also in our life before kids it was easy to go for a walk together, sleep in on the weekends, for Bev to get her nails done, for me to complete a home project, or for us to meet friends for dinner. It’s not always as easy once you have kids.
Rewards of Parenting
But we believe for every sacrifice there is an even greater reward for parents. Virginia Satir, a family therapist and author, wrote one of our favorite descriptions of parenting in the book The New People Making: “I regard parenting as the hardest, most complicated, anxiety-ridden, sweat-and-blood-producing job in the world. Succeeding requires the ultimate in patience, common sense, commitment, humor, tact, love, wisdom, awareness, and knowledge.”
Wow, that’s enough to make any parent-to-be pause. However Satir goes on to say: “At the same time, parenting holds the possibility of the most rewarding, joyous experience of a lifetime, namely, that of being successful guides to a new and unique human being.”
We believe the opportunity to successfully guide a new and unique person toward a godly life cannot be matched by any other endeavor. There is an interesting paradox associated with sacrifice: as we foster someone else’s growth, our own growth is also fostered. We become better people as we guide our children to be their best.
It Is a Gift
We have never regretted surrendering our time, money, or lifestyle to have our two kids and now five grandkids. It’s true that you can’t put a price tag on love. The love you give and receive when you have children is like nothing else you will ever experience.
One of the most often quoted verses from the Bible is John 3:16. John reminds us that Jesus loved us so much that he was willing to make the ultimate sacrifice. It may seem costly at times, but sacrificial love has many rewards.
Bev and Phil Haas are involved in education and family ministry in Cincinnati, Ohio. They have two children and two grandsons. Send your questions about family life to Bev and Phil Haas in care of The Lookout (firstname.lastname@example.org). We regret that personal replies are not always possible.