Don’t get me wrong, I love my kids, but I could have made better decisions. I am literally paying for, as a forty something single father, decisions I made in good faith, with trusted advice, when I was 19 to 25 years of age. I did everything right…mission, temple marriage, kids coming “naturally”, full time work, full time school, encouraged my wife to stay at home and raise the kids…. Funny how things change. Student loans, post divorce custody battles and IRS audits, exponentially increasing student loan debt, demolished credit, bankruptcy, financial aide for kids to go to school, hospital bills, tickets, fines….ad freaking infinum.
In an alternate universe, I may have chosen to stay single well into my thirties, take my time and get a solid degree, a lucrative job and a comfortable lifestyle. I may have dated women around my own age with the same level of achievement. With that as a solid base, we could have afforded to give our children everything they needed for success in this life. That would be nice. I like that universe.
I was a True Believer. The men of my generation were encouraged to marry within a year of their mission ending. They were encouraged to have children and were told it was alright to go into debt for school and a home. They were admonished to allow their wives to stay home and raise their children. I was told, in plain language, by my Mission President, that I was expected to be married within a year. I attended BYU and was completely bombarded by leaders reminding me that my time was ticking away…that I was in danger of being a “nuisance” if I remained single into my mid twenties.
I married within that year. In the married ward I attended, the focus was on “letting children come naturally” instead of planning and using birth control. We were repeatedly indoctrinated to keep our wives out of the work force. That meant credit cards, medical bills, student loans, multiple jobs in order to survive…and I was only 22 years old. I was a child myself with no sense of who I was or how to make it in the world. I didn’t understand finances, interest, compounded interest, penalties, spiraling debt…
I could barely balance a checkbook and pay rent. I had no business marrying and bringing children into this world. Really. I have caused, through my naive adherence to terrible advice, a great deal of anger, hurt and missed opportunity for my children. They will have to rise from poverty and make their own way because I am unable to assist them. That isn’t fair to them at all. The responsible, humanistic approach would have been to get my life together and find out who I was before I dropped a couple of unwitting souls neck deep into my search for identity.
Advice from a twenty one year veteran father… don’t have them until you can afford to give them every opportunity they deserve. If you do, you are serving yourself and your own selfish desires. Wait a few more years. Date a few more people. Find your self. Learn about the world and figure out how to live in it. You can’t throw someone a lifeline from a sinking ship. I’m just sayin… None of those leaders that preached irresponsibly from the pulpit and in the classroom has ever been there for me when the dust settled. Their advice, however, and the natural outcome of adherence to it has stared me in the face every day for the past twenty years. They were not inspired. They were irresponsible. And I was a dumb, trusting, young father trying my best to follow the words of the brethren. Coulda, shoulda, woulda…twenty years wasted in stress and worry.
Will you be able to put them through college, pay for their weddings, help them with starting a business…??? It seems like a long way away when they are in diapers, but it comes skidding up to you and suddenly they are men and women ready to face the world, like you young parents are right now. Clueless, lost, trusting, scared and looking to their leaders for guidance. Scares the crap out of me just thinking about it.