By Seth Busetti
Pregnancy checkups. Awkward birthing classes. Maternity leave. Medical bills. Diapers. Food. Child care. School fees. Clothing. Sports equipment. Bikes with no training wheels. Emergency room visit. Swimming lessons. Braces. Car insurance. Collision repair. Prescription acne cream. Prom dress. Kayaking trip. College recruiting trips. College tuition. Wedding. What else? Did we cover it all?
You might see that list and say, “See! Kids are so disruptive and expensive.” You may have read news articles or blog posts confirming your fears. How does you backpacking trip through Europe fit into that list of obligations? Won’t having children interfere with your aggressive debt snowball? True, before you and your loved one fill up the wine glasses and put on that romantic Barry White album, you’d be wise to recognize that spawning totally hijacks freebird (or uber-organized) living. Alexis and I waited six years after being married before having children. We first pressed through graduate school. Plus we travelled liberally. We had hardly any medical expenses, and we went to the gym or jogging whenever we wanted. Very simple. Life changed after children.
So the question is not whether or not life changes with children. It does. More specifically, I want to ask you: Are kids holding you back financially?
There’s a lot of commotion around topics like rising childcare costs, increasing tuition, and gender pay gaps. Without a doubt, some families really are experiencing the pressure. But I don’t want focus on whether the government should be subsidizing daycare. And I don’t want to start the conversation with whether it is fair that a woman’s career might be incrementally held back by taking time off for maternity leave or limited by inflexibility to company demands that interfere with family life. That is all valid and worthy of discussion, but the solutions to those challenges rely on other people changing big systems. What can we do right now about your system?
I want to direct our attention to this oft quoted Bible verse (Psalm 127:3-5).
Behold, children are a heritage from the LORD,
the fruit of the womb a reward.
Like arrows in the hand of a warrior
are the children of one’s youth.
Blessed is the man
who fills his quiver with them!
He shall not be put to shame
when he speaks with his enemies in the gate.
In this passage children are described as (1) a heritage; (2) fruit; (3) a reward; (4) arrows. So let’s talk about these foundational aspects of raising children.
- Heritage – Verse 3 says children should be viewed as a source of pride, a fulfillment of your legacy. Think about it, there’s an expectation that even bigger than your career goals or professional achievements is prolonging your good name. The word literally translated means children are to be viewed as an inheritance. Just like if rich Aunt Ethel dies and passes on to you a generous trust fund, the Lord leaves you children. That means they are of intrinsic, substantive material value. When we spend money or sacrifice career progress on children we are tending to and investing in something of far greater value.
- Fruit – The Hebrew Scriptures repeatedly use the word fruit (“pree”) to also describe something that grows in value (from the root word “parah”). Children are considered by God to be a good earthly investment. In the business world, we often have to choose between two investments. For example, in oil and gas we might have to choose between investing in 1 offshore well that matures in 10 years, or 10 onshore wells that mature in 3 years. They both might be good investments of capital, but we would run calculations and risk assessments to see which is better. We typically prioritize the one great investment over the other good investment. God views children as a great investment. Our children are an investment that is greater than career advancement or professional growth.
- Reward – The word isn’t so much a trophy as it is compensation or payment, as in “you shall receive your just reward.” I am confident that we are not to view this as meaning childless couples did something wrong and God is withholding “payment” in the form of children. But I do think that this provides a framework for how we prioritize our life. If you work hard and are diligent, you will be blessed by being able to enjoy your children. Recently Speaker of the House Paul Ryan announced he didn’t intend to seek reelection, citing at least one motivation was that he didn’t want to be “weekend dad” anymore. In a culture that rails about how companies and governments do not provide sufficient childcare for the career-driven working parent, the Scriptures say that God’s kind of reward looks like more time with your children.
- Arrows – Now this one is odd. Children are arrows, or darts, or spears in the quiver of a warrior? Here I think we have to look at the context. The passage says a man with a bunch of children is not put to shame when he speaks with his enemies at the gate. At the time of the Psalmist, cities were fortified, both for times of war and to regulate commerce – I think the context is also like carts being inspected as they enter the market to do trade. But why would a man be blessed or happy (“asher”) with many children, but ashamed to confront his rivals without them? Fundamentally, I think the Bible is revealing a standard in God’s design. Our source of pride and accomplishment is intended to be our family and the wellbeing of our family. And why would children be like weapons? They are our closest allies, they are our most precious business partners, our protégés, so we build them up, train them, teach them how to discern and act and thrive in the world, and then we shoot them out into that hostile world to make a positive impact.
I believe the Psalmist is telling us that a happy man (or woman) is one who gains fulfillment from family. When the family is fruitful and full, when children and the home are prioritized*, when the home is the foundation for success, then the working father and mother can go out into the marketplace with confidence. So are kids holding you back financially? Not if you view them as the greater investment. Not if you view time with your children as more valuable than time in the office. Are the two mutually exclusive? Not necessarily, and there are plenty of ways to balance home and work life and to excel at both. But that’s another post.
The bigger question remains, is your home your anchor? You may have no kids, or one, or nine, but is your family and your heritage the measure of your success? Or, are you placing your blessed happiness “asher” outside the gates, trying to please outsiders first? If you view the world like the Bible does, you’ll work to sustain and prosper your family, which is so different from a culture that asks our families to accommodate us while we pursue individualistic dreams.
We would love to talk with you about using finances to build your family legacy. We have a number of free blogs and resources, and Alexis’ offers a free first coaching session if you want somebody to talk to. We also have monthly coaching plans to help you reach your goals and provide personal accountability. If you want to work on your own, check out our 90 day workbook.
A few other blogs you might like are listed:
*Note that we don’t support the practice of parents going broke to spoil their children, putting off their own retirement investments to pay for “college self-exploration” or letting 30 year old children move back home indefinitely to mooch off the parents’ good fortune.