With our first son due in a couple months, my wife and I have spent a lot of time talking to parents about parenthood. And I’ve come to one conclusion. Parents are serious bummer deals.
No, honestly. It seems like everyone we talk to about raising children comes ready to fire away with a long list of parental grievances. If I only listened to the reviews, I’d be left with the conclusion that I should stay as far away from parenthood as possible. (Not that we have this option anymore.) And I believe them.
I believe that my infant will keep me up to all hours. I believe that my God-sent child will wail for no foreseeable reason than to test my patience. And I believe that this entire process will string my nerves out so thin, I’ll be ready to snap like a hair-trigger bear trap. In short, I completely believe that in six months I will be as ready to dole out complaints as my friends.
Yet I am excited for parenthood. And I believe—yes, seriously—that even when getting cloth diapers seems like the worst decision any human being has ever made, that I will still love being a parent. There is only one source powerful enough to leave me with this level of irrational optimism. I am excited to be a parent because of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. So here in no particular order are the seven ways the gospel gives me a positive outlook on parenthood.
1) One purpose of life is to gain experience
Well, with that eternal perspective, going through the quintessential human biological experience or parenthood seems pretty crucial. Sure it might be tough, but isn’t that the entire point? Also the purpose of life for our child will be to gain experience, and that experience will include putting up with two entirely imperfect parents. Takes a little of the pressure off (a very little).
And hey, when we do screw up, as parents are wont to do, we can always teach him the important biblical lesson that he should forgive us seven times seventy times. Four-hundred and ninety forgivenesses should get us through at least the first few weeks. In all sincerity, though, knowing that screwing up is part of the plan and that we need to learn to forgive each other, and in turn will be forgiven by God makes parenthood feel like an adventure to dive into, rather than a perilous tight rope to walk across.
3) Children house eternal spirits.
In the great councils in Heaven our little child decided to come to Earth. He wanted to be here. Which is kind of a relief. And before coming here, he grew and learned. He is ready. Of course he has lots to learn, just like his parents do, but that’s exactly why he’s coming. And since he has an eternal spirit, he won’t be affected exclusively by our time together.
4) One purpose of life is joy
There is one image of parenthood that has to motivate even the most curmudgeonly. A little baby looking up with at you with a smile. If men are that we might have joy, how could you not be excited to have a child. The Psalms make it clear “Children are an heritage of the Lord. . . . Happy is the man that hath his quiver full of them.”
5) The Law of the harvest
It’s an eternal principle that you reap what you sow. I believe that as we pour our love into our child, he will in turn pour his love back to us. When you’re as young as I am, it is easy to forget that you are mortal, but having a heritage of children to love you can be an enormous blessing in many decades.
6) Families are forever
Listening to everyone complain about struggling with their infant, being a parent forever may not seem like the best deal. But looking at parenthood from an eternal perspective helps you realize that as a parent you are doing no less than the work of our Heavenly Parents. You are helping one of Their children begin charting a path back toward them and exaltation.
The gospel teaches us of the power of love, and the power that family love has on the eternities. The only way to experience unconditional love of the type that our Heavenly Father has for us is to experience parenthood. You give more to your children than you ever thought you had to give, and you ache more than you thought was possible. It’s entirely different than any other kind of love, and teaches you more about God and His eternal plan than anything else in this life. It makes us more like Him, and helps us to understand His love for us.
Am I scared to be a parent? Well of course, and anyone who says differently is fooling themselves. And when you’re in the trenches changing dirty diapers, and struggling through long nights it will probably be difficult to maintain an eternal perspective. But I am glad that right now, in my well-rested, entirely unfrazzled state, I can see the many blessings of parenthood.