We live in a world, where, on the face of it, having children, let alone a lot of kids, seems to make no sense. Why tie ourselves down, spend money and lose our freedom?
It's only after I became a Hasidic Jew and had my own child that I've really begun to understand why a person would, and should, want to have children. At a young age. Lots of them. Seriously.
The following are my top three reasons for having children. Selfish reasons. Reasons I would do it again at this age, or younger, even if I wasn't religious.
1. Children make you more boring.
In the single world, and especially in the single secular world (although it really transcends boundaries), there's a thing called "cool." People strive, and do everything they can, to attain this goal. They wear silly sunglasses that they last wore in fourth grade, they go to parties so they can get drunk so they can meet people that are also cool and pretend like they're best friends. They get tattoos and mohawks.
The moment you become a parent, being cool goes by the wayside.
Can you imagine living in a world where you no longer are beholden to other people's arbitrary judgments of who you are based on what you wear and where you go on Saturday nights? Now, when people ask me why I didn't go to that cool event, or hang out with these cool people I just say, "Well ... I'm a parent." And they all get it. It's amazing. When you're a parent, you're expected to be boring.
I've seen men wear their daughter's pink Disney Princess backpack without looking self-conscious. Mothers fearlessly walk around with fanny packs, even in the most fashion-conscious cities. Such zen can only be accomplished by tuning out all the ridiculous thoughts that come with wanting to be cool, and only having a child around you will truly help you reach such a level.
2. Children give you the most bang for your buck.
There's this idea out there that having kids costs a lot of money. And it's true, I guess.
But the truth is deeper than it appears.
First of all, think about all the things you spend money on. Is that flat-screen TV so necessary? How about all those movies you bought on iTunes? Your iPad?
When you have a kid, and you start making out your budget, and realizing that you have to start making some sacrifices, you realize what's truly important. You realize that, no, you don't need to go on that trip to the Bahamas. There are more valuable things in life.
I'll never forget when, during a Shabbat meal at a Hasid's home in Jerusalem, my wife asked the woman hosting the meal how she, and really all the Hasidim that have anywhere from 10 to 20 kids, manage financially.
The woman answered that they only spend money on the necessities.
And she was right. In the home, there were only books on bookshelves, a table and chairs, and toys for the children. No TV. No computer. Nothing else.
All this, from the outside, may seem extreme. But the problem is, most people don't realize what they're trading all this in for: A HUMAN LIFE! Like, a soul. A soul that came from you and the person you love most in the world. And now this soul is going to sit with you for the rest of your life, get to know you, grow up with your values and change the world.
They say it costs about $100,000 to raise a child until they're 18 (according to Calvin and Hobbes). Do you realize the ridiculous amount of things we spend $100,000 on over 18 years? I guarantee you none of them come close to a living, breathing, incredible, beautiful, piece of G-d placed smack dab in front of you for the rest of your life.
3. You'll believe in G-d.
I'm talking just as much to religious people here as atheists, agnostics, humanists and all the rest. The truth is, even if we say we believe in G-d, we've never actually come face to face with G-d.
Except for a parent.
I'll never forget the moment when I heard that cry. The cry from the other room, when I knew that this was my child. And the moment when I walked in, knowing that somehow, a few minutes ago, there were two people in my family, and now there was a third. Someone that looked at me, grabbed my finger when I held it out to her, someone that sneezed and cried and fell asleep, and did all the normal things humans do.
Until you experience this, maybe you believe in G-d. But you don't know G-d. You haven't met Him. And if you don't believe in G-d, well, you just might. And even if you can't admit it, there will always be a part of you that will be in awe of what you experienced.
And really, that's the same as meeting G-d. When you realize just how wondrous the world is, just how deep it is, and how no matter how much you learn in your life, that this experience is the deepest moment you'll ever have in your life, a moment you'll never truly understand, then you'll really understand what G-d is.
We live in a world where this sort of wonder is snuffed out before it has a chance to be lived. A world where birth control, abortion and more have made us more desentizied to the beauty that is creating children.
I'm not saying these things are bad when used correctly and for the right reasons. But it's good to remember that not all parenthood is meant to be planned. It's good to remember that there is a whole world just waiting for us to transform from cool, thrifty, intelligent people into boring, constantly in debt, irrational believers.
We should all be so lucky.
A version of this was originally posted at Pop Chassid.