Ideally Bahá’ís go into marriage deliberately choosing one who is pleasing and then assessing the character. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if couples took family planning into just as much consultation? If they did, what principles from the Bahá’í Writings would help them make a decision on the best time to have a child? Let’s take a look!
The Purpose for Having Children
The primary purpose of marriage is the procreation of children who will know God, observe His commandments and carry forward an ever-advancing civilization:
All men have been created to carry forward an ever-advancing civilization. (Baha’u’llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, p. 214)
For Bahá’u’lláh explicitly reveals in His Book of Laws that the very purpose of marriage is the procreation of children who, when grown up, will be able to know God and to recognize and observe His Commandments and Laws as revealed through His Messengers. Marriage is thus, according to the Bahá’í Teachings, primarily a social and moral act. It has purpose which transcends the immediate personal needs and interests of the parties. (Shoghi Effendi, Lights of Guidance, p. 345)
Children are the most precious treasure a community can possess, for in them are the promise and guarantee of the future:
Children are the most precious treasure a community can possess, for in them are the promise and guarantee of the future. (Universal House of Justice, Ridván Message, 2000)
They are a trust no community can neglect with impunity
They are a trust no community can neglect with impunity. (Universal House of Justice, Ridván Message, 2000)
Children bear the seeds of the character of future society which is largely shaped by what the adults constituting the community do or fail to do with respect to children:
They bear the seeds of the character of future society which is largely shaped by what the adults constituting the community do or fail to do with respect to children. (Universal House of Justice, Ridván Message, 2000)
Parents endure the greatest troubles and hardships for their children; and often pass on to the other world before they see the reward of the care and trouble they have undergone for their children:
Also a father and mother endure the greatest troubles and hardships for their children; and often when the children have reached the age of maturity, the parents pass on to the other world. Rarely does it happen that a father and mother in this world see the reward of the care and trouble they have undergone for their children. (‘Abdu’l-Baha, Baha’i World Faith, p. 329)
So given the importance of children to the future of the planet, wouldn’t it make sense to bring them into homes whose parents have prepared a place for them to grow, flourish and take their place in carrying forward an ever-advancing civilization?
6 Things to Consider Before Getting Pregnant
1. What Are Your Motives?
Many people make a decision to have children because:
- they’re lonely
- they’re looking for unconditional love
- their friends are all having babies
- they think it will fix their marriage
- they want to quit their job
- they think it will be fun
- they think it will give them a purpose; or meaning in their life
- they think it will make their husbands more responsible
- they want a male heir
- they want something new to obsess over
They want to have a baby because they think it will fix everything, but this simply isn’t true!
The best motives are all about the child and about God: to “bring forth him who will remember Me” and to “carry forward an ever-advancing civilization”. As long as your motives are about you, you will never be able to fulfil the child’s purpose in life, and will only trade this set of problems for another set, to be added to what you already have.
So it’s important to examine your motives and see if any of these are factors.
2. Do You Have The Right Attitude?
- an all-embracing love of children
- the manner of treating them
- the quality of attention shown them
- the spirit of adult behavior toward them
- the courage to accustom children to hardship
- not to indulge their whims
- not to leave them entirely to their own devices
- lovingly but insistently guide them to live up to Bahá’í standards, to study and teach the Cause
An all-embracing love of children, the manner of treating them, the quality of attention shown them, the spirit of adult behavior toward them – – these are all among the vital aspects of the requisite attitude. (Universal House of Justice, Ridván Message, 2000)
Love demands discipline, the courage to accustom children to hardship, not to indulge their whims or leave them entirely to their own devices. (Universal House of Justice, Ridván Message, 2000)
They must lovingly but insistently be guided to live up to Bahá’í standards, to study and teach the Cause in ways that are suited to their circumstances. (Universal House of Justice, Ridván Message, 2000)
3. Are You Feeling Pressured From Others?
Sometimes women feel pressured by their husbands; their mothers and other family members; by society; by hormones and/or a ticking “biological clock”.
God wants us to trust Him and to look for His Will, and if we cave in to the pressures around us; we risk losing the approval of God! YIKES!
. . . at all times seeking the approval of men is many times the cause of imperiling the approval of God. (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Star of the West, June 24, 1915)
Let’s look at each one of these tests separately:
Mothers: want only what’s best for us and her way of showing love might be by giving unwanted advice. She is probably also eager to have a grandchild for her own reasons. This is her test!!!! Let her have it!
Husbands: If the husband is a Bahá’í or if he had a Bahá’í wedding, he promised to “abide by the will of God”. This means at all times and under all conditions!
I beseech Thee . . . to grant that I may, at all times and under all conditions, lay hold on thy cord, and be rid of all attachment to anyone except Thee, and may keep mine eyes directed towards the horizon of Thy Revelation, and may carry out what Thou hast prescribed unto me in Thy Tablets. (Bahá’u’lláh, Baha’i Prayers, p. 48)
If he didn’t make this promise, this is still the standard for Bahá’í marriage. If he decides to leave you because you won’t get pregnant, he will have to stand before God and be judged for not honouring his vows. This is his test! Let him have it!
When feeling pressured by others to do anything you aren’t ready to do, say this prayer:
O Lord! Protect us from what lieth in front of us and behind us, above our heads, on our right, on our left, below our feet and every other side to which we are exposed. Verily, Thy protection over all things is unfailing. (The Báb, Baha’i Prayers, p. 134)
Hormones: If your hormones are out of whack, prayers for healing combined with a trip to the doctor, and following his advice is all in order:
It is incumbent upon everyone to seek medical treatment and to follow the doctor’s instructions, for this is in compliance with the divine ordinance, but, in reality, He Who giveth healing is God. (Abdu’l-Baha, Selections from the Writings of Abdu’l-Baha, p. 156)
Biological Clock: This pressure often responds well to faith and trust in God’s timetable, combined with patience:
No matter what happens, nothing is as important as our feeling of trust in God, our inner peacefulness and faith that all, in the end, in spite of the severity of the ordeals we may pass through will come out as Bahá’u’lláh has promised.
(Shoghi Effendi, Lights of Guidance, p. 237)
Bahá’u’lláh defines “the course that is praiseworthy” as “the exercise of patience” (Bahá’u’lláh, The Kitáb-i-Aqdas, p. 210)
4. Is your marriage stable?
Having a baby changes the dynamics you’ve been accustomed to. There will be more financial strain on the family; less “me” time for each of the parents; or for you as a couple. Equality issues will emerge in new ways as you learn to consult about
all the decisions that come with raising children. If the marriage isn’t built on a firm foundation; and the reasons for having children well understood, it will put strains on the marriage that will stretch it to its limits. The stronger the bond each of you have with God; and the depth of commitment each of you have to the marriage, the more likely having a baby will deepen your bond.
Here are some things to consider:
- Everyone in a family has specific duties and responsibilities. Are these well understood and integrated?
The members of the family all have duties and responsibilities towards one another and to the family as a whole, and these duties and responsibilities vary from member to member because of their natural relationships. The parents have the inescapable duty to educate the children — but not vice versa; the children have the duty to obey their parents — the parents do not obey the children; the mother — not the father — bears the children, nurses them in babyhood, and is thus their first educator. (The Universal House of Justice, 1980 Dec 28, The Relationship Between Husband and Wife)
- Balance between service to the Faith and service to families:
Surely Shoghi Effendi would like to see you and the other friends give their whole time and energy to the Cause, for we are in great need for competent workers, but the home is an institution that Bahá’u’lláh has come to strengthen and not to weaken. Many unfortunate things have happened in Bahá’í homes just for neglecting this point. Serve the Cause but also remember your duties towards your home. It is for you to find the balance and see that neither makes you neglect the other. We would have many more husbands in the Cause were the wives more thoughtful and moderate in their Bahá’í activities. (Shoghi Effendi, Lights of Guidance, p. 220)
- Effect of Divorce on Children
He feels that you should by all means make every effort to hold your marriage together, especially for the sake of the children, who, like all children of divorced parents, cannot but suffer from conflicting loyalties, for they are deprived of the blessing of a father and a mother in one home, to look after their interests and love them jointly. (Shoghi Effendi, Lights of Guidance, p. 227)
5. Can You Afford a Child?
The primary responsibility for supporting the family financially is placed upon the husband:
Similarly, although the primary responsibility for supporting the family financially is placed upon the husband, this does not by any means imply that the place of woman is confined to the home. (The Universal House of Justice, 1980 Dec 28, The Relationship Between Husband and Wife)
The amount of time a mother may spend in working outside the home depends on circumstances existing within the home, which may vary from time to time:
In relation to your specific queries, the decision concerning the amount of time a mother may spend in working outside the home depends on circumstances existing within the home, which may vary from time to time. Family consultation will help to provide the answers. (Universal House of Justice, Compilation on Women)
It’s important to consider the financial costs and how they will be handled. With the mother as the primary educator and the father as bread-winner, how will you be able to meet your obligations, both spiritual and financial?
According to government estimates, the average middle-income family will spend roughly $10,000 on child-related expenses in the first two years of life and nearly $150,000 to raise a child from birth to age 18. Some experts suggest that figure may be too low.
Where is this money going to come from?
Have a look at these calculators to give you a realistic look at what things will cost and help you to budget:
6. Are You Emotionally Ready to Have a Child?
Children don’t always do what they’re told; and once they start to assert their independence, parents need to know when to discipline; and when to set them free to make their own mistakes. If you don’t have the emotional wherewithal to find the balance, you might need to do some growing up before having a child.
It is really all remarkably like a family the child grows up, begins to assert lots freedom and the loving parents see it getting hurt and making mistakes which, if only it would listen, would not happen! But the child will not always listen and the parents cannot live its life for it. (Ruhiyyih Khanum, A Manual for Pioneers, p. 21)
In certain cases separation of children from their birth parents may be better for the child than to continue living with a parent whose conduct and character make him unworthy of this sacred function:
It is clear that the separation of a child from its natural parents is a tragedy that society must do its best to prevent or mitigate. It is also clear that in certain cases the actual separation may be better for the child than to continue living with a parent whose conduct and character make him unworthy of this sacred function, for the Guardian has explicitly stated that the severing of family ties and renunciation of responsibilities between parents and the children is, in certain cases, permissible under the Law of God, but that the Universal House of Justice has to make the law governing such matters. (Universal House of Justice, Lights of Guidance, p. 140)
In making a decision about when to start a family, consider:
- The financial costs and how they will be handled
- The emotional costs to both you and your husband; and to your marriage when your time and attention needs to be fixed on the baby
- The physical costs to your health
- The spiritual costs and responsibilities of becoming parents
How has this been helpful? Post your comments below!