In the wake of Andrew and my announcement two weeks ago, I have been so grateful for all the positive feedback that I have received. I know that there were some people who were critical of our decision to have children right away, but the response to our news has been largely very supportive. All-in-all, people have been absolutely thrilled to learn that two young adults have chosen to get married and start a family together, particularly since we live in a society where such decisions could impede our ability to get “everything that we want.” Will either of us ever be in a six-digit salaried position? Probably not. Will I ever return to school to get my Ph.D or another Master’s degree? I highly doubt it. Will Andrew and I live in a nice, big house with a huge backyard and hired hands to keep our home clean and well-kept? At this point, not a chance. And we’re okay with that. I don’t want to be a CEO of a huge corporation or a well-established lawyer. I’m perfectly content with my job- Andrew and I are not struggling to make ends meet, and I’m doing what I love. I’m also perfectly content with the fact that my educational career is over, or at the very least, indefinitely postponed. And Andrew and I love our little two-bedroom apartment that we have made our home.
Modern society wants to dictate that we should all have certain priorities in our life that will enable us to have “everything that we want.” We should finish school before getting married, if we’re going to get married at all. We should be established in our career before starting a family, if we decide we even want kids. We should have a dog and a house before giving birth to our 1.13 children. There is a proper order to all these things, and the worst thing you can do is break away from that order.
Now, I know that all families, and all couples, are different. It’s obviously a good thing to be financially stable before getting married. Life costs money, and married life often comes with extra costs (having a child certainly does). I know that there are plenty of couples that want to get married, but also know that it would be better to wait. I know that there are couples who would like to have children at some point in the future, but also know that now is not the time. I know that these decisions are not made lightly, and often there is a lot of pain involved. But I also know quite a few couples who have bought into modern society’s vision of the American dream.
I know women who refuse to love another person because love is not conducive to this “misogynist world” that we live in. I know couples who opt to cohabit and remain financially independent because deep-down, they don’t trust their significant other to stick around and protect them. I know children who have lost the opportunity to have a little brother or sister because their parents wanted a faster car or a second honeymoon. I know couples whose idea of a growing family is a new puppy, because children require too many sacrifices that they’re not willing to make. These are the couples who have achieved modernity’s American dream, and many of them seem rather disappointed with their choices.
Many of these people are a decade or so older than me. At this point in their lives, they are committed to their decisions, and are facing the consequences of their choices. Many of them have not found the happiness they hoped for, or else their children are suffering instead. It does not take long to realize that the American dream can quickly become a nightmare.
Andrew and I wanted something different for our lives, and for our family. We wanted to find the happiness that seemed to evade so many of our slightly older contemporaries. Even before we met, we both knew that we wanted to put our marriages and families first. We didn’t know who we were going to marry or what kind of family we would have, but we knew that we would always put them first.
I was fortunate enough to witness the marriages of many of my closest friends before getting married myself. They married “young” in the eyes of modern society- some right out of college. They became young mothers, having one or two children before they were 25. Some of them became stay-at-home moms; others opted to continue working because they loved their jobs and/or needed the extra income to make ends meet. But they always put their families first. And they were always willing to make sacrifices for the good of their husbands and children. Even if it meant purchasing a used car and not a brand-new one. Or shopping at Target rather than choosing the more expensive labels. Or having candlelit dinners at home and not going out to a restaurant for birthdays and anniversaries. These were all sacrifices that my friends were willing to make because they put their families first. And they were profoundly happy as a result.
Even before I met Andrew, I knew that this was the life I wanted. I didn’t mind buying a used car to save money. I didn’t mind cutting coupons before grocery shopping. I didn’t mind skimming the clearance racks for clothing. I was happy to do these things for my future family. I had found a job that I loved, and though I knew that I would never be rich, I understood that this life could make me happy.
When Andrew entered my life, it wasn’t long before we knew that we wanted to get married. In our early days, as we walked around campus at night, we talked about the “big topics”: how many children we each wanted, if I wanted to continue working after starting a family, how we both felt about homeschooling and the education system. As our relationship became more serious, so did our questions. They also became less hypothetical. Our conversations were no longer about “if” but “when.” It wasn’t “if we got married,” but “when we get married.” It wasn’t “if we had children together,” but “when we have children together.” We began to talk about what names we liked, what kinds of parents we wanted to be, how we thought we would discipline our children. Andrew and I began praying for our future children regularly, and we mutually came to the conclusion that we wanted to start our family as quickly as possible.
Everyone has a vision for their marriage and family life. Some envision success in the corporate world, a devoted husband, a little girl, a dog, and a nanny to take care of everyone. Other people dream of a big house, a fast car, and a gorgeous wife on his arm. And then there are people who envision a loving husband, a big family, and a home just big enough to fit everyone. But each of these dreams has one thing in common: when we dream about our future spouse and family, we are always happy in our minds. Unfortunately, our dreams are not always joy-filled in real-life.
In all honesty, reality never lives up to our dreams, but you can still have a happy life despite its ups and downs. Andrew and I understood that truth when we decided to have children right away. We knew that life wouldn’t always be perfect. We knew that we would have days where we felt sick, tired, or frustrated with one another or with our children, whenever they came. But we also knew that no matter what happens, as long as we put our marriage and family first, our life will always be filled with joy. We don’t need a lot to be happy. We don’t need jobs with big salaries. We don’t need a big house and a fast car. We don’t need expensive clothing and toys for our children. We just need each other. We need our family. We need love. We need God. And that’s all we really need.
Mary Help of Christians, pray for us!