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Topics: Children, Complementarianism, Family, Feminism, Marriage

The “It Can Wait” Phenomenon

June 19, 2015

It’s a common refrain, isn’t it? We see a young couple enjoying the newlywed life and through laughter encourage them to get their life in order before they have kids, because we all know kids change everything. Or we meet a soon-to-be college graduate, with a promising career ahead of her, and lightly chasten her to start her career before she thinks about settling down with a husband, or even more life altering, children.

Maybe you have done this. Maybe you’ve had this said to you. Maybe you have thought it for yourself. Regardless of where you’ve heard it before, the idea that a husband and children can, and should wait, is one of the prevailing ideas of feminism.

With the feminist movement came a number of advances that opened up doors for women to not only choose something other than marriage after college (namely a career), but also choose to delay motherhood by the simple swallowing of a pill.

Many circumstances require delaying marriage and having children. Perhaps you are waiting to go on the mission field. Perhaps your husband is preparing to enter medical school, and adding a child would not be financially wise at this time. Or maybe your parents are dead-set against you getting married while you are in college and there is no swaying them. Again, these are valuable reasons to consider waiting. But I want to challenge you a bit on this. Obviously, there is no law in Scripture that says you must get married and have children immediately. But for a moment I want to speak not to the woman who desperately wants these things in her life right now, but to the one who thinks they can wait.

Can they? Or better yet, should they?

Kay Hymowitz sees a growing trend among young people:

Under the circumstances, one thing the young grad is not going to plan is a wedding. And children? No way. Spouses and children are a ball-and-chain on the mobility required along the early knowledge-career track. For this reason above all, pre-adults marry later than ever before in history. In 1960, the average age of marriage for women was 20 and for men, 22. Today, for the total population, the median age of first marriage is 26 for women and 28 for men. Those with a college degree are even slower to tie the knot. College-educated women marry closer to 28, and those with graduate training have a median age of marriage between 29 and 30. In parts of the Northeast and Middle Atlantic states—New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Washington, DC, where the percentage of college educated people is particularly high—half of ever-married men didn’t marry until they were past 30.

Feminism’s Options

As I say in my book, The Accidental Feminist: Restoring Our Delight in God’s Good Design, feminism gave women options. It told women they could have it all. They could have the husband, kids, career, nice house, and anything else they wanted. It even promised them that they could have it on their own timetable. The creation of the Pill gave women the freedom to choose when they wanted to start a family. The national average age of marriage shows us that women are getting married later and later. The number of women in college and in the workforce has proven that women can dream big and accomplish great things. Again, this is not all bad. But it has come at a price. Now women are waiting to get married and to have children. Maybe you are one of them. Maybe you have been in a relationship for a while now and the only thing keeping you from getting married is that you just want to get to that next promotion before you settle down. Or maybe you want to finish school, and you just don’t see how marriage and graduating with honors would work together. Or maybe you are happily married and have been for a number of years. You really enjoy your dual-income, no-kid lifestyle and are a little fearful about what a little bundle of joy might do to the well-oiled machine of your marriage. Maybe you feel like you can’t get ahead in life, and adding a child to the mix seems like too much. You want kids, you just want to feel a bit more settled first. You want to finish your graduate degree. You want to gain more work experience. You want to really feel ready, you know?

I will let you in on a little secret. You are never ready for marriage and children. Getting married and having kids are the most life-altering, soul-enriching, exhausting, sanctifying, crazy, wonderful things you will ever do. And they are gifts from God. I don’t think everyone should immediately go out, find a husband, and start making babies. But I do think that one of the subtle ways feminism has affected our psyches, even the most conservative among us, is in our “just wait until you’re ready” mentality. By telling women they can have it all, by giving women endless choices, feminism has sold many women a bill of goods. Feminism promises freedom to have what you want when you want it. But biology doesn’t have the same freedom, and there are limits to what your body can do as you age. Part of being human is recognizing that age, life circumstances, and our very bodies have limits.

It Can’t Always Wait

The truth is, sometimes marriage and children can’t wait. What so many women are sadly finding today is that the pool of men dries up in their thirties, and their biological clocks don’t pause so they can advance their career in their twenties. The reality is that God created us to be married and to be fruitful and multiply. Now, I’m not going to dictate how many kids each of us should have. That’s a personal decision to be made through prayer and seeking God’s direction, and there are a variety of circumstances that will determine the makeup of each family. You also will never hear me say that singleness is bad. Many godly men and women are called to singleness. You will find no passages in the Bible that say everyone should get married. Nor will you find instructions on how many children to have and how to space them apart. But the Bible is clear on this: marriage and children are good things (Gen. 2:22–24; Ps.127:3–5; Prov. 5:18–19; 18:22; Mark 9:36–37; Heb. 13:4).

You are probably already aware that our culture does not value marriage and children much. As Christians, we have the unique opportunity to say the opposite. So ask yourself and ponder this question: Am I acting like the world in how I approach men, marriage, and children? If we waited until we were perfectly ready for marriage and children we would never take the next step. We are never ready. And in the moment that we think we are, God shows us how foolish that thinking is. God is in the business of taking weak people and giving them the strength that only he can supply (2 Cor. 12:9).

Marriages are made by the abundant grace of God. Children are born, raised, and cared for by the mercy of a God who cares for us and our little ones. Maybe you are terrified by the prospect of being a wife and mother. Know this, dear sister: God has your back. The same God who created marriage and creates little babes is the one who will keep you as you follow him down this road. He will not abandon you. He has equipped you and given you everything you need to follow him.

Editor’s Note: This excerpt is adapted from The Accidental Feminist: Restoring Our Delight in God’s Good Design by Courtney Reissig. Copyright, 2015. Used by permission of Crossway Publishers. All rights reserved.

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