The position of the childfree camp is flawed in its myopic view of the pathway to greatest satisfaction and fulfillment. I could never have imagined the power of having children until I was actually carrying one home. I too, in my younger adult life, was convinced that children were too much trouble, responsibility, and mess to be worth whatever benefit they might offer a parent. I had seen enough parents with their bloodshot eyes and their ridiculous minivans and their cumbersome diaper bags to know that I wanted no part of that experience. I had heard as many conversations about daycare costs, consignment clothes, and glycerin suppositories as I cared to hear. I had equated having children to being mugged in the middle of the night by a broken toilet wielding a shard of glass from a bottle of formula. Again, to be fair, parenthood has cost me money, pride, health, and sleep, but truly it has not so much cost me something as much as it has allowed me to invest in something. I remember vividly the first time my daughter acquired a virus. Too young to understand why her little body had mutinously entered such a violent revolt, she cried out in the middle of the night for help, for support, and for some point of reference to allow her to make sense of what was going on. I held her as her body quivered while the effects of the virus ran its course. Fortunately, for us and our rug, she had eaten several bowls of blueberries the night before so we had no trouble seeing where she had been. The next day as I considered what had happened, I was overwhelmed with emotion. Like a city bested by the storm surge from a mighty hurricane taunting its shoreline, my mind and soul were profoundly overcome. I was repulsed by the physical reality of what I had subjected myself to the previous night, but I was filled with a swell of joy that I had the opportunity to do for her what I had never done for anyone else. I had been allowed, by God and life and time, to be her daddy. Without the mess there would have been no need for help. Had I been childfree, I would have gotten a full night of sleep. But, sleepless and smelly, I met the dawn of that morning with a different kind of mettle.
Jesus Christ offered a principle in His teaching that has as much to do with the created order of the natural world as it does with spiritual reality. He gave his closest friends this piece of advice: If you want to find life, deep and meaningful life, you must give yourself away. He could have said if you want true freedom, a freedom you do not currently know, give up the liberties that you grip so tightly and watch uncharted, unexplored, and uncommon spaces open themselves to you. I sincerely believe that people who choose to be childfree do so in order to enjoy life as much as possible, but I also believe that in doing so they forfeit the opportunity to experience the kind of joy they are so desperately longing for. I read something in a book by CS Lewis something that shaped my opinion on this issue. He said, “Love anything and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one…lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, – safe, dark, motionless, airless – it will change. It will not be broken: it will become unbreakable.” As a father, who has seen both sides of this issue, I am convinced that the cost of a carefree life, one that is immune to culpability, chaos, and confusion, is the high price of living with something less than what we long for life to be.