Blame it on the year that will make me turn 30. Blame it on the wave of adorable tiny humans clogging my social media feed. Or maybe it has something to do with the dream I had the other night about carrying my baby girl around and snuggling her sweetness. It was a surreal experience to wake up and actually feel the loss of something that wasn’t real. My seasons of struggle with singleness have so far been linked to a desire for companionship, but this new phase has taken an unexpected twist. In this novel chapter, I find my heart longing for motherhood.
I don’t think I’m alone. We tend to associate the pangs of unfulfilled desires for parenthood to childless couples, but singleness can offer its own version of infertility. For those of us with convictions about waiting for the ideal situation of child-rearing in the context of a marriage, the options of passing on our noses or tempers on to the next generation or participating in the beauty of adoption are at least for now, off the table. And lately, I’ve had several conversations with 20 somethings of both genders who have a longing to be parents, sometimes more unrelenting than their desires for marriage.
In our millennial age of authenticity, we hear more and more stories about couples who find themselves in the midst of figuring out how to become parents when the natural methods fail. Go Fund Me pages request funds for adoption, surrogacy themes make for moving narratives, and articles debate the ethics of in-vitro fertilization. This variety of trial is starting to get much-needed attention due to people willing to be vulnerable about their stories, but what about those of us who feel option-less? As with all yet-unfulfilled desires, we get an opportunity to lean on Jesus through the ache. Time with Him is NEVER wasted. But are there other ways to at least temporarily calm our instinctive needs to parent? I offer a list of 4 suggestions and mindsets that I have found extremely helpful for my own soul on this road of living, for the time being, childless.
#1 Hold all the babies
I realize this is a temporary fix, but I’ve found it to be incredibly therapeutic. About a year ago, I became a bit burnt out on ministry commitments. When I spoke with my church’s leaders about pulling back to serve in different ways, I requested to just hold babies on Sundays for a while. Not only did it offer a way to serve parents who need that break to focus on the sermon, but baby therapy is real. Want to at least temporarily soothe your need to hear contagious laughter of littles? Volunteer in your church’s nursery or babysit for a couple struggling to fit in a date night. The best part? After you are done snuggling roly-poly sweetness or improv-ing crazy bedtime stories, you get to give them back and enjoy the liberty of singleness a little longer.
#2 Sponser a child
Think it’s hard for us single millennials to pay the bills sometimes? Well, keeping littles happy, healthy, and educated is no financial walk in the park either. What if we gave up a few macchiatos and In-N-Out runs each month to practice the fiscal aspect of parenting? See if there are any needs in your local community. Save up and fund Christmas for a needy family in your area. See what kinds of financial needs there are for children in the foster care system. Contact title 1 schools in your area to see how you can support before or after school programs. Additionally, you could consider different ways to support children overseas. Programs like Compassion International allow children around the globe to be nourished, pursue an education, and know God’s love.
#3 Read parenting books
On the topic of marriage, singles are advised to start preparing for marriage long before vows are exchanged. We are told to “attend marriage conferences, hang out with married couples who seem to have ‘till death do us part’ figured out, and read Biblically-sound books about Solomon’s blush-inducing song!” In the same way, parenting should be trained for long before the sleepless nights of newborn cries or the upgrade to a tricked-out minivan. I’m a firm believer that singleness is a crucial training ground for whatever future seasons hold. You want to be good at parenting one day? Gold medal parenting won’t happen overnight. Pick up a book on childrearing. Ask parents at all stages what advice they would give to potential moms and dads. Whether you are blessed with biological or spiritual children one day, your quest for knowledge won’t be wasted…which brings me to point 4.
#4 Be a spiritual parent.
In the same way that marriage points to the greater reality of the Gospel, earthly parenthood points to the more permanent ties that we have as part of God’s family. In the New Covenant, we are not guaranteed that our biological kids will follow Christ. Since regeneration through faith is the new mode of kingdom-growing, let’s be disciple-makers! Let’s pour into the younger generation while our time isn’t allocated to a spouse and kids. In the grand scheme of things, we could end up with more spiritual kids than any of our married friends with a full quiver. If you dream even bigger, you could be a grandparent by the time you’re 30!
Do you feel like you were meant to be a mom or a dad? It’s quite possible that parenthood will be in your future. But how should we frame our thoughts and actions around our waiting? A close friend of mine and her husband battled through a 10 year journey of infertility and their story relays an abundance of literal pain and heartache. But they see now how God’s timing and pruning served His purposes to bring about a closer walk with Jesus and each other plus a plethora of other seen and yet unseen fruit from that dark time. If you are a child of God, each kind of waiting will serve its purpose. And until we see God’s plan unfold, let’s redeem the time by holding some babies, financially supporting little image-bearers, wising up in the ways of child-rearing, and seeking to live out the way parenthood fits into God’s bigger plan!