This is a tale of two women whose views of children couldn’t be more divergent.
For Renee Bracey Sherman, children are an interruption. If the timing isn’t just right, they are unwanted pests on the ladder to personal achievement. Sherman, an activist, defended abortion to her 5-year-old niece, telling her, “Kids are a handful and sometimes people don’t want to be pregnant.”
Rachel Rink couldn’t see things more differently: she feels “blessed” to have her “hands full.”
Last week, the mother of five made the decision to travel to Atlanta, where her husband Adrian would be running production for a Christian event, the annual G3 Conference. They decided to bring their children along.
There’s no doubt keeping five young kids content is a tricky task, particularly when you’re parenting solo (Adrian worked “nonstop” during the conference). But it doesn’t mean it’s any less worthwhile.
After all, Rachel had done this before — stayed alone overnight with the kids — so she had no reason to be concerned. She and her husband packed their bags (along with a few extra toys and snacks) and hit the road.
“I know our kids know how to sit through church, so no big deal going to the conference without Adrian,” wrote Rachel. “I knew it would be long days, so we just threw in some extra snacks and toys to help.”
Rachel checked into the hotel, children in tow, and headed to their room. Over the course of their stay from Wednesday to Saturday, when the conference ended, Rachel and the kids encountered plenty of people — many of them believers, some of them not. Through the week, Rachel recalled, she heard more than her fair share of comments about how “brave” she was and how “full” her hands were. Most of the comments, she felt, came from a place of negativity.
Over the years, I have certainly made comments like the ones Rachel heard last week. In just about every case, there was no negative intent behind my words. In fact, it’s usually because I’m impressed by the parents caring so well for their children. And the truth of the matter is it is brave to choose to have kids — it is brave to parent them and to live life alongside them, because choosing to love is a brave choice. And it’s worthwhile.
But Rachel’s kids soon began noticing the negativity lurking behind the comments their mother heard. One of her daughters, Susannah, even said, “You aren’t brave, mommy; you just love us.”
“She’s right,” wrote Rachel. “There’s nothing brave about living life with your kids. It’s not brave to bring them to hear the best preaching in the country, maybe the world. It’s not brave to bring them to hear about Jesus. Yes, my hands might be full, and yes, it’s easier to stay home than stay alone in a hotel with 5 kids age 6 and under. But why is having your hands full of children such a bad thing? Why do people, even Christians, feel the need to make discouraging comments? Church, we have to do better!”
In a culture that seems to place so little value on kids, Rachel’s words are refreshing. Being a parent is very hard work, and it’s rewarding work. The psalmist described children as “a heritage” and “a reward” from God.
During his earthly ministry, Jesus himself placed great value on children. When people began bringing their kids to Jesus for him to pray over them, his disciples began shooing them away. Disheartened by his disciples’ actions, Jesus corrected them. “Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them,” he said, “for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.”
At the end of their four-day trip, Rachel said she had never felt so discouraged after hearing so many “negative” comments about her and her husband’s decision to raise five children.
“Thank you to those who kept their comments to themselves, or commented on something other than how hard it is or how we have so many kids, like those who said I was so blessed,” she wrote. “And I am. And so is any other mom you see with her hands full.”
Rachel concluded her post by asking people to please not discourage a parent from bringing her children to Jesus because it’s “too hard.” She did admit in the end her hands were full, but “no amount of ease and comfort is worth giving that up.”