Earlier generations took a fairly straightforward view of the relationship between marriage and parenthood: "First comes love, then comes marriage, then comes baby in the baby carriage." Nowadays, young couples don’t find things quite so simple.

Everyone is different

Some marry and bring children into the world just as soon as God allows. Others, no less committed to the Lord’s will for their lives, wait until they’ve completed their formal educations. Still others feel it’s important to achieve a certain level of economic stability before bringing a child into the world. However they approach this issue, most of them feel obliged to take a number of complicating factors into account before making the decision to step into parenthood – factors and considerations that never would have entered the minds of their grandparents and great-grandparents.

Be in agreement with your spouse

Things being as they are, we can’t prescribe for you when to have children, or how many to have. But there’s one thing we can tell you: these are points on which you and your spouse need to be in agreement. Your relationship is unique, as are the needs, concerns, perspectives, goals, beliefs, and values each of you brings to it. No one else can dictate precisely how these factors ought to influence your decision to begin having children. But whatever you do, you need to be on the same page. So don’t assume anything. Talk as long, as deeply, and as often as you need to in order to come to a meeting of the minds. You’ll be glad you did.

As you discuss your feelings on this subject, remember that not every couple gets to choose whether and when to have children. Those who are infertile but want children know the pain that childlessness can represent. Bear in mind, then, that there’s an important sense in which you’re blessed even to be in the position of wrestling with these questions.

Principles to keep in mind

If you face choices about the timing of having children and the number you’d like to have, here are some principles to keep in mind.

  1. Children need to be born into secure homes with loving parents.
  2. If God permits couples to be fertile, we believe a decision to bear children according to the dictates of their consciences is consistent with the teaching of Scripture. As we’ve already mentioned, this should be undertaken by mutual agreement.
  3. The spacing of children depends more on the parents’ emotional stability and sometimes economic circumstances than on an arbitrarily chosen number of years between births. Consider the steadiness of your temperaments as well as your budget. Has either of you struggled with depression or chronic anger problems? Have previous births resulted in post-partum depression? Is either of you a recovering alcoholic or drug addict with potential for relapse?
  4. Children need your time. Are you committed to frequent business travel or generally overcommitted to your job? If so, you need to re-evaluate your lifestyle before becoming a parent.
  5. There’s a price to postponing parenthood. As couples put off childbearing, they often discover that it’s harder to conceive – and that the chances of miscarriage increase – as the years go by. Female fertility generally declines with age, starting in the late twenties. The likelihood of having a baby shrinks by 3 to 5 percent each year after age 30, and more than that after 40.
  6. Making good decisions requires wisdom, something God promises to give to those who ask (James 1:5). So don’t forget to pray about your procreation plans.

Excerpted from The Complete Guide to the First Five Years of Marriage, a Focus on the Family book published by Tyndale House Publishers. Copyright © 2006, Focus on the Family.

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