“Do you want to have more kids?”
“When do you think you’ll have more kids?”
“How big of a family do you want?”
I remember I got asked several times about having more kids in the first hours of my daughter’s life. I think the first time it happened, I was in my hospital bed and I didn’t even answer, but could only stare at the person asking me the question. I think my husband just laughed. I literally couldn’t fathom any more change happening to our lives at that particular moment. I could barely comprehend what had just happened to me in the present, without adding any notions of future change to the mix.
I’m pretty sure I’ve been asked some form of one of these questions at least forty or fifty times in the last month or two alone. For better or worse, it seems to be a socially acceptable question to ask someone with at least one kid and I qualify. And each time a well-intentioned person, whether it be a friend or an acquaintance or a family member, asks me, something funny happens in my heart.
It does little flip flops and I suddenly feel incredibly defensive. I have to remind myself that person asking me has good intentions. They aren’t trying to ask me a hard question and catch me off guard, even though that’s how my heart responds. In the moment, I usually just sputter out something about the Lord’s timing, because it’s the best answer I have when my heart is doing weird things.
If you’ve ever asked these questions to someone and/or if you’ve ever asked some form of these questions to me in particular, I hope you keep reading. I hope you hear that I’m not talking about this because I’m angry or out to get all the people who’ve ever asked about more babies. I honestly believe that most (if not all) of the people who have asked me are well-intentioned. They care about me and want to know about my life. If you are one of them, thank you. Thank you for caring and loving my family and wanting what is best for us. I love the heart behind the question.
Since I keep getting thrown these questions and every time they feel like a curveball, I’ve started thinking about why they feel so hard for me. Why do I respond with a knee-jerk reaction when I’m asked about more kids by people who care about me?
These questions remind me of what it felt like to be graduating college and to be asked over and over again what my plans were for after college. I was one of the few in my circle of friends who had a job lined up by the end of February, but I still cringed inwardly when my friends were reminded again and again through well-intentioned questions that they didn’t know what was around the bend. I remember feeling like I was cheating to have “the right answer” of a job in hand, when I hadn’t done anything to deserve it. Sure, I’d shown up to an interview and handed my resume over when recruiters came to campus. But so had lots of other people, some of whom hadn’t gotten jobs.
I’m coming to realize that these questions imply something that I don’t think is true. Whether about future kids or post-graduation plans, I think the reason they rub me the wrong way is that I think they might be the wrong question.
I feel like these questions imply that I’m the one that decides. They imply that I’m the one who can make a job appear out of thin air after graduation. They imply that I control my own fate and decide whether or not I work at a coffee shop with a degree or land a job within my field. They imply that it is my husband and I who get to choose when and if we have more kids. Two years apart? Three years apart? 3 kids total? What sounds good to us?
But here’s the thing: I’m not the one who decides. I am not the storyteller. I don’t get to decide how many kids I have. I don’t get to decide how spaced out they are. I don’t get to decide if I get the job I apply to. I don’t get to decide whether or not I barely make ends meet or if I’m directly using my degree.
Sure, I’m part of the process. Without my participation, babies don’t happen. I don’t get struck by pregnancy lightning. Without my participation, jobs rarely fall out of the sky into my lap. There is no occupation lightning. I have to apply to jobs. I have to answer interview questions. I have to show up. But I’m not the one who decides.
I think the bottom line is that I’m not in control. I think these questions are hard for me because they seem to tell me that I should be in control. I know in my heart that I don’t get to decide what happens. I have too much proof in my life, of not being in control, for me to ignore. But these questions feel like they tell me time and time again that I’m the one who holds the power.
I used to think I knew how many kids I wanted. But that was before I was pregnant and had to give birth to a baby. I used to think I knew what I wanted my family to look like. But that was before I was the wife and the mom and realized how little I knew about what I was doing. I used to think a lot about what I wanted and I used to think it mattered a lot.
If you’re one of the people who knows what you want, that’s great. Really and truly. You still aren’t the one who decides.
If you’re like me and don’t always know what you want, that’s great. Really and truly. You aren’t the one who decides anyway.
I remember when my husband and I had just gotten engaged and I had a panic moment. We hadn’t talked about how many kids we wanted! I remembered some Christian somewhere saying that if we didn’t agree on this issue of numerical children, our marriage was doomed. Agreeing on how many kids we wanted was one of the most important things and I’d let him put a ring on my finger before we’d even talked about it! When I broached the topic, he said that he thought it was a stupid question. He said that it implied that we got to pick and we don’t get to pick. He said he wanted to have as many kids as Jesus wanted us to have. I breathed a sigh of relief. I hadn’t made a mistake by getting engaged, and I was marrying someone who helped put me back on track. How right he was.
My story belongs to Jesus. And I want it to stay that way.
The decisions I make for myself about my story are with limited information, often driven by fear.
The decisions Jesus makes for me about my story are with the full picture, and are always driven by love.
I know it would be unorthodox, but I think we need some new questions to show that we care about one another’s stories without forcing the author’s pen into their hand. I don’t think new questions hold the perfect solution, but I do think they can help shift our mindset from being our own authors to letting Jesus write our story.
I know people ask because they care. I know people ask because they want to tell me they love me. These questions are a few I came up with that I think might hit a little closer to the mark of pointing me back to Jesus and telling me I’m loved. These aren’t perfect or all encompassing, just something to point towards what’s really true:
- Where do you see Jesus doing things in your life right now?
- When you think about your future what gets you excited? What makes you nervous?
- Is there anything you’re hoping for right now?
- What does it look like for you to trust Jesus in this season?
- What does it look like for you to think about [fill in the blank, ie. more babies, post-graduation plans, etc.]?
When I think about asking and being asked these kinds of questions, my heart relaxes. There is no pressure to control things out of my control. There is space to share and be known and to talk about what I can see of the story Jesus is telling.
And that’s the story I want.