Should We Have a Baby?
About the Guest
Isn't it time you started your family? If you've been dodging those questions from family and friends, then join us when Steve and Candice Watters, authors of the book Start Your Family, recall their early years of marriage and the fears and anxieties that led them to postpone starting a family right away.
Steve and Candice WattersSteve and Candice Watters founded Boundless.org webzine for Focus on the Family in 1998. Candice served as the Boundless editor for four years until leaving in 2002 to be a freelance writer and editor. She is the author of Get Married: What Women Can Do to Help It Happen. Steve is director of young adults for Focus on the Family. He is the author of Real Solutions for Overcoming Internet Addictions. Together they wrote Start Your Family: Inspiration for Having Babies. The Watters met at Regent U...more
Isn’t it time you started your family?
Should We Have a Baby?
Bob: Did you think consciously—because there are a lot of people today who are thinking, “You look at marriage in kind of two phases—there’s the long ‘just us’ phase; and then, there’s the ‘have children before the clock quits ticking’ phase.” I mean, that’s how a lot of folks are thinking about it. Did you ever think, “Well, let’s go ten years; and then we’ll think about having kids”?
Dennis: No, really didn’t. Barbara began to change my attitude about children, and they started coming one right after another—six in ten years. Before we knew it, we had a quiver full.
Bob: You know what I’m talking about with folks, who are now thinking—
Dennis: Oh, today, it’s a different ball game.
Bob: It’s a two-stage deal?
Dennis: It is. We have a couple here, who have started out their marriage in that ball game. Steve and Candice Watters join us. Steve, Candice, welcome to the broadcast.
Steve: Thanks a lot.
Candice: Thank You.
Dennis: Steve works for Focus on the Family®. He, along with his wife, Candice started boundless.org, which is a ministry of Focus on the Family.
Bob: It’s a cool website. Way to go! I mean, you guys get some great stuff on boundless. You really do!
Dennis: They’ve authored a number of books and have had a number of babies.
Candice: We have.
Dennis: Four of them.
Candice: Four babies, and one in heaven!
Dennis: Here’s the question for you, Steve. “When you started your marriage, did you have a heart like Bob, where you thought, ‘I’m going to be a great daddy. I love kids. I think it would be cool’ or were you like me, clueless?” I was clueless. I really was—about children. (Laughter)
Steve: I was clueless. I actually worried that kids wouldn’t like me because I had hung out with nephews, and nieces, and other kids and just couldn’t connect. It was not the cool, camp-counselor type. I just worried that it was going to be older than water.
Dennis: Candice, when you married him, did you know this; or, had he kind of sweet- talked you into thinking he loved kids and you were going to have—?
Candice: Oh, no, no! He told me what he just told you, but I reassured him that I thought to the contrary. He’d be a great dad because I had a great dad. I knew what made a great dad. I knew Steve had the qualities and that, once we had our own children, I just had faith that he was going to rise to the occasion.
Bob: Were you thinking, “Get married and then have kids?” I mean, “Let’s go for it;” or were you thinking, “This ought to be done in two stages,” like so many couples are thinking today?
Candice: We didn’t have the ten-year-long first phase in mind, but we did think we would wait a while. We wanted to get married. We had brought so much debt together, when we got married, because of our grad loans, and our Visa’s®--our Visa’s to pay for the lattes when we were in grad school. So—(Laughter)
Steve: Our wedding was, “Will you, ‘Visa’, take this ‘Graduate School Loan’—?” You know?
Candice: That’s right!
Dennis: So, you were the voice of reason in the midst of all this mound of debt you were facing? You thought reason would win out?
Steve: Well, I did because Candice and I would have these conversations. We’d talk about short-term plans and long-term plans. You know, when she started talking about having a baby, I thought, “Well, yes, that makes sense long-term; but right now, ‘Boy, look at this debt.’”
We got married around the average age most couples do—late 20s—and had about the average amount of consumer debt and graduate school debt. You look at that; and you think, “We have a lot of work to do before we’re ready for kids.” Then too, had just moved to this great state, Colorado, and thought, “We have some adventures to have before we shift gears and are all focused on baby stuff.”
Candice: Then something happened. My sister called, and she had been married a year longer than I had been. She announced she was pregnant with their first. I was so excited for her, but I found myself sobbing. I hung up the phone, and I was just bawling. Steve said, “What’s wrong, Honey?” I said, “Katie’s pregnant.” He said, “Why are you so upset?” I said, “Because I want to have a baby, too.”
It was like something just clicked inside of me, and these maternal instincts started to kick in. I was married, and we were deliberately stopping the potential for babies. Suddenly, that was bothersome to me.
Dennis: I look at this generation of young families starting out—and what Bob is talking about here—a decade of waiting. How do you all think that came about? Is it merely the practical issues of debt, getting a bigger house, being able to establish a standard of living?
Steve: Well, that’s a big driver; but people don’t want to just do it because their parents and grandparents did it. They really want this sense of, “This is absolutely the right thing to do and the right time to do it.” That’s a pretty high-pressure position—that, “All the stars have to align before it’s finally right,” versus parents and grandparents who said, “Well, this is what you do.”
Dennis: Well, that’s okay if you get married at 19 and you take ten years because you’re still very much in the child-bearing years.
Dennis: But Candice, you know the age is creeping upward—mid-20s, later in the 20s. So, if you wait ten years—
Candice: You may just find that you can’t have kids. We got married at what’s now the average age of 27—almost 27. For us to say, “We’re going to wait five years,” puts us well into our 30s. It was interesting that, when I got to the age where we had said, “We’re going to wait,” I started having some secondary fertility problems.
I just look at that, and our story, and I think, “If someone hadn’t come along and challenged us, there’s a chance we might not have had kids; or, we might have only had one baby.” The tragedy is—couples who say, “We want to have kids, but we’re going to wait.” Then, when they decide they are ready, they realize they can’t have kids.
Bob: I want to go back to something you said. You said, “You know, it is okay if you get married at 19 and you wait until you’re 29 because you still are very much in the child- bearing stage.” If somebody came to you—young couple just got married—she’s 19, he’s 20—and they said, “We think we’re going to wait ten years because we’ll still have plenty of child-bearing left.” Would you say, “That is a good plan—go for it”?
Dennis: No. (Laughter) No, I wouldn’t.
Bob: Because it’s not just a matter of whether you’re still going to be fertile or not.
Dennis: No, it’s a matter of getting on with life and what a marriage and, ultimately, a family are all about. I think God commanded us in Genesis, Chapter 1, to “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth....” A lot of people think this is the one part of the command of God we’ve gotten right. Well, it’s not just having children—it’s having godly children. It’s about having children who are messengers, carrying the Gospel of Jesus Christ to succeeding generations.
So, back to your question, Bob, “If you got married when you were 19”—I think a couple of years to get your marriage legs under you and then begin your family is appropriate. That way, you can enjoy your grandchildren. You know, Barbara and I—we’re enjoying our grandchildren. It’s a hoot—it really is fun! If we would have waited to have children, it would have meant we would have been delaying the privilege of spoiling, and ministering to, and building into the lives of our grandchildren.
Steve: Well, my dad was telling me he got married at 19; and they had kids quickly. He was telling us—he said, “You know, people do the math and say, ‘Well, if we get married at this age, let’s see, we’ll be about here when the kids go to college.’” He said, “Do the math for the grandparents, too, because kids need grandparents in life who can get down on the floor with them and still be able to get back up.” (Laughter)
Bob: Why is it—again, back to it—why would somebody who gets married, whether it’s at 19 or at 29—We’ve talked about the debt issue being one of those things that folks say, “Well, I’m not sure we should have kids yet.” It’s bigger than that though; isn’t it? Isn’t it a fear thing more than a debt thing?
Steve: Well, when Candice and I were talking about it, this older couple had come alongside and started talking about fertility and other issues. I really focused on the money because that was a good way for me to hide some of the other fears that I had. I enjoyed getting married, and I was excited about all the new benefits of life by being a married person. But I knew things were really going to change when kids came along—the time I enjoyed with Candice, the intimacy we enjoyed, the ability to finish a conversation. All those kind of things were going to change.
I knew I was going to have to give up a lot of freedoms and things I enjoyed from the pre-kids years. So, it was real easy for me to talk about, “Oh, let’s get our financial house in order. Let’s do all these things (that sounded noble),” because I could hide some of those other fears.
Bob: —which had its root in some selfishness. Is that what I hear you saying?
Steve: A little bit. I think guys out there respect what’s expected of marriage and kids. Most guys know something’s going to have to change, but they’re intimidated by that new responsibility.
Dennis: So, here we have Mr. Reason over here—Steve; right Candice?
Dennis: He’s married to this powerful woman, who is slyly smiling, knowing that she can change the course of the river of his heart. (Laughter)
Bob: Of history! Yes! (Laughter)
Dennis: It’s like, “You don’t know what you’re in for, Buster!” How did it happen? You went for a walk, actually, didn’t you?
Candice: We went for a walk with the same couple who mentored us when we were dating. I was walking with Mary, and Hugh and Steve were walking behind us. We were walking through this park in Colorado—Ute Valley Park. There were signs, along the path, that said, “Beware of rattlesnakes”. I know, Steve will tell you, that he was thinking—what did you say, Steve?
Steve: Well, I was more afraid of the conversation I was hearing in front of me than I was those rattlesnakes!
Candice: That’s right!
Steve: Babies, fertility, and timing, and all this kind of stuff. (Laughter)
Candice: Well, Mary and I were talking and she just said, “So are you thinking about having kids?” We’d been married about six months at this point. I said, “Oh, yes, we want kids someday; but you know, we have things we need to accomplish.” She said, “Well, what are you waiting for?” We said, “Well, we have all this debt; and I just started this great job.”
She just looked at me, stopped, and said, “Candice, how do you know that when you decide you’re ready, you’ll still be fertile?” I just stopped because I had never had anybody challenge me on that. I’d never had anyone suggest to me that maybe there were some limits to what my body could do.
This notion wasn’t out there in the popular culture the way it is more now. People are more aware of this now, but I think the other thing—people are aware of all these stories and headlines of, “First-Time Mom at 40”, “First-Time Mom at 45”, “First-Time Mom at 60!” You think, “We have technology. We have medicine. We can make our bodies do whatever we want them to do.”
Really, this comes back to the birth control culture, and it’s that issue of control. We think if we can turn our fertility off when we want and say, “No,” to babies, that we can just as easily turn it back on and say, “Yes,” to babies. Sadly, for many, many couples, they’re finding out too late that there is no control. It’s an illusion.
Bob: So, at six months you are having this conversation; and she’s challenging you. Did you go home that night and say, “We have to get going, Steve. Come on!” (Laughter)
Candice: It wasn’t quite that fast, Bob. We went back to the apartment and had a conversation as couples. Steve was able to share his anxieties, and that was really good for me to hear. I didn’t realize, from a male perspective, what it means for a man to become a dad—and this notion that, “I’m really going to have to be a provider. I’m going to have to step up as the protector,” because that role really kicks in, once you start having babies.
Dennis: Here’s a key question for you, Steve. Did you have a mortgage that demanded both of you having to work?
Steve: Not yet, but we did a few months later. It was one of these things where we went into the mortgage knowing, “I should probably just qualify on my salary;” but then, they kept showing us all the upgrades—all the nice things you could get. We thought, “Well, surely we could go ahead and do that; and then we’ll figure something out. “
Then we said, “You know what? We should pray about that. We should go off and do a prayer retreat.” We scheduled a prayer retreat. Then, we got so excited; we went ahead and signed the papers before the prayer retreat. We said, “We’ll just go to the prayer retreat—”
Candice: Ask God to bless us. Father, forgive us! (Laughter)
Steve: I think it was two months after that we found out we were pregnant.
Candice: This is the disclaimer, “Don’t do what we did!”
Steve: This is a morality play. This is a warning. That is some serious pressure because I realized we were putting ourselves in a position where I wasn’t going to be able to easily take on all that responsibility to give Candice the option of bowing out of the workplace so that she could concentrate on being a mom.
Bob: You know, as you are talking about this, I’m thinking back to the early 1980s when Mary Ann and I were married. She’d had a job as a nurse. Nurses were making pretty decent money. I was in radio; okay? Radio guys were not making a whole lot of money. (Laughter)
Candice: Do the math.
Bob: I don’t know that I had the thought about how it all works out until after she had showed up at the station one day and said, “Guess what—we’re going to have a baby!” It was probably a few months after that I was starting to go, “Now, wait! If she comes home, after she quits nursing, we go from two mouths and two incomes to three mouths and one income.”
Dennis: Welfare! (Laughter)
Bob: Yes, and I do remember thinking, “How does that work?” Then, there’s something about—I don’t know if it’s faith or just naïve optimism—but I just thought, “You know, the Lord will work it out.”
Candice: You know, it’s probably both, really. There’s some naiveté there. I just met you, Bob; and I just can tell—sensing! (Laughter)
Dennis: Trust me. I’ve known him for a while; it’s okay! We all have that side to us.
Candice: No, God is the provider! He is our example of what provision looks like. He owns it all—everything comes from Him, everything’s through Him, and for His glory. I think, what you see, when you start to submit to His plan and His design for marriage, which is fruitfulness, you recognize that He rewards those who obey Him.
Steve: Thank goodness He’s gracious and forgiving, too, because, I think, what we’ve seen is—we, in our experience, and so many of our friends’ experience, we’ve seen God provide; but we’ve also had to learn some lessons. We’ve had to realize His stewardship principles make sense, even if it takes you a while to come back around to them.
Bob: Here was the big shift that happened for us after our daughter, Amy, was born. I remember thinking this through because I was doing the math and trying to figure out, “How is this going to work?” and going, “Okay, we’ll trust the Lord.” But what I remember happening is—before Amy was born, we were much more fluid with our money and self-indulgent with our money.
I remember, we had this house; and I thought it would be cool to build a deck out on the back of this house. So we did! I mean, we could. So we did. When Amy was born, all of a sudden the things that I was most interested in were less about us and more about the “new us”.
My priorities started to change and God, again, supplied; but all of a sudden, we weren’t spending money as selfishly as we had. It was okay; I didn’t need the stuff I thought I needed when we were single. We didn’t eat out as much. Life changed for us, and the money reflected some of that.
Dennis: How did your priorities change in terms of Mary Ann working after the baby was born?
Bob: Well, we did talk about, “What was her preference? What was her desire? What did she want to do?” She said, “I want to be able to come home, if I can,” and I said, “Well, that’s what I’d love for you to be able to do.” So, we stepped out on that to say, “I’m not sure how it’s going to work; but we’re going to take that step, knowing that she’s a nurse. If she needs to get back in the job market—if there’s something that comes up—” I was pretty committed—once I saw her at home with the baby, once she was at home with the baby—if that meant, “You have to downsize,” if that meant, “You have to make some adjustments—”
Dennis: You were ready to do that?
Bob: We were just looking at it saying, “This is good, and we’d rather have this than a bigger house.”
Dennis: Steve, you and Candice, you decided to have a child. Did you clear all these issues off the table before you got pregnant?
Steve: No, in fact, I think there was an excitement we saw in all the new technology that was making it possible to work from home. We thought, “Wow! Well, maybe we can keep living the lifestyle we’re living, and enjoying all the things we’re enjoying, and just keep bringing in her income through an at-home work situation.”
She got a great opportunity. She was an on-line editor from home; but we then started dealing with this idea that, “It’s hard to fit this new life, even with her working from home, into two full-throttle careers—trying to keep going and trying to live the same lifestyle.” It was eventually a train wreck.
Dennis: Eventually, you found out, “You can’t have it all.”
Steve: And that’s hard.
Candice: We had another baby. (Laughter)
Steve: It’s one of these things that we’ve heard in our generation, “You can’t have it all.” We knew that, in our grandparents’ generation, women realized that their place was in the home; and they didn’t have the great opportunities in the workplace. The next generation—they realized they had great opportunities in the workplace.
Often, it was our generation who kind of missed out on mom because she was out in the workplace. Then the next generation said, “Well, surely there’s a way you can pull all those things together.” We heard a lot in our generation, “Maybe you can’t quite have it all;” but we thought, “Maybe, if you’re creative enough—maybe, if you use some technology”—and all these things.
Dennis: Ninety percent.
Steve: Yes, so we came up with the phrase, “You can kind of have it all;” but, in doing that, we recognized, “You can only be so creative. You can only use so much technology. Eventually, there is something that has to give because this new life is expecting something of you.”
We started reading some things about what our peers were going through and realized the struggle was, “People want to hold onto as much of the before-child-years experience and lifestyle when the kids come along.” That doesn’t quite work—that you have to sacrifice something.
Candice: Those babies want all of you—you are their favorite toy. They don’t care about the stuff; they don’t need the designer stroller and the designer everything. They just want Mommy.
Dennis: You know, when we started having children, what I was unprepared for was how a child really is like a parent’s heart walking around—
Candice: Out there!
Dennis: —walking around, outside their body. It reorients your universe!
Candice: If you let it—yes.
Dennis: I think in the right direction—around denial of self, towards something much bigger on a grander scale than you could ever imagine. That’s why, when I got a copy of your book and I started looking at it—Start Your Family—I thought, “That is a book whose time has come,” because I’m really concerned about a generation of young families today who are starting their marriage in the wrong direction—not really thinking about how their decisions are determining when they’re going to be able to do what you talk about in your book, Start Your Family. You all are really giving them solid, wise counsel when it comes to that.
Bob: I think the book gives courage, too. I mean, there are a lot of young couples who look at their circumstances; and they think to themselves, “We just couldn’t think about starting a family right now, given the circumstances we’re facing.” Some of that may be legitimate, but some of it may be based in fear.
You address that in the book. We have copies of the book, Start Your Family, in our FamilyLifeToday Resource Center. We would not recommend that parents get a copy of this book and send it to your daughter or your son-in-law, or your son or your daughter-in-law, as a gentle hint about grandchildren; but we do think a lot of young couples would benefit from reading what Steve and Candice have written here in the book, Start Your Family.
Go to FamilyLifeToday.com for more information on how to get a copy. Again, the website is FamilyLifeToday.com. You can also call us toll-free at 1-800-FL-TODAY; that's 1-800 “F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word, “TODAY”. When you get in touch with us, let us know that you’d like a copy of the book, Start Your Family; and we’ll make arrangements to get a copy sent to you.
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And we hope you can be back with us tomorrow. We’re going to talk about starting your family. We’re going to talk about some of the couples who would love to start a family and, for whatever reason, just haven’t been able to. We’ll talk about that and talk about what the Bible has to say about that tomorrow with Steve and Candice Watters. Hope you can be back with us, as well.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, and our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine. We will see you back tomorrow for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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