Tim Challies’ Path to Family

We’ve had the privilege of getting to know Tim Challies through his blog, Challies.com, and most recently, through his interview with The Boundless Show podcast. Now we’re glad for the opportunity to get to hear from him and his wife, Aileen.


What emotional or practical hurdles (if any) did you or your spouse have to overcome in order start your family?

We never had any doubt that we wanted to have children. The only questions in our minds was how long we would wait after getting married and how many children we would have. Aileen comes from a family of two children, Tim from a family of five. Hence anything more than two seemed like a lot to Aileen while anything less than five seemed small to Tim.

Our initial plan was to wait several years after marriage before actually trying to get pregnant. As it happens, we didn’t quite make it through the first year before we decided that the time was right. There may have been part of us that was anxious to spend the early years of our marriage working, building up some bank accounts, and otherwise enjoying each other. But we soon realized that we were so poor that we would have no money to do any great vacations or buy a house in the near future. So instead we decided to front-load our relationship in the hope that when we’re older we’d have time to do a few of those things together. We think we made the right decision.

Did your wife (or you) have any unusual cravings during pregnancy?

Aileen experienced the occasional craving for Big Macs or chocolate. But she did not have the kind of cravings people may think of with pregnant women. No ice cream and pickles at any rate. Tim was entirely free of cravings.

What surprised you most about becoming a parent?

I suppose we were concerned, as many parents are, that introducing another person into our family would somehow divide our love for one another. And with subsequent pregnancies we may have worried that another child would divide our love more ways still. But we have found that love multiplies rather than divides.

Aileen’s biggest surprise was how much love you have for your child, from the moment that child is conceivedthe strength of the love a parent has for a child, even though you have never met.

What’s the most annoying toy or children’s show/video that parenthood has brought into your life?

We are very deliberate about trying to avoid toys or programs that are obnoxious. When relatives give us such things, it may just happen that the toys mysteriously disappear in the middle of the night.

Aileen votes for Barney! That show came on once and was immediately slapped with a lifetime ban.

How has having children affected your marriage?

I think the better question is how having children has not affected our marriage. I really don’t know that there is any area of our lives that hasn’t been somehow altered by the presence of our children.

Aileen says “I agree. Although I would say that one area of struggle for me, as a mom, is striving to make sure I put my husband first in our day to day living. Especially as a new mom, when a baby is completely dependent on you, it is so difficult to remember to follow the biblical command to put your husband first.”

How has having children affected your relationship with God?

I try to be very deliberate about thinking through what my children do and how I react to this. I learn an awful lot about myself by seeing how my children behave, by seeing what they love, by learning how they love.

Aileen: It has helped me to understand God’s love for me. It is astounding to consider in light of how much I love my children, even in their imperfections, how much more God loves me despite my sin.

What have you learned through the highs and lows of starting a family?

Tim: I have learned why God always refers to us as children. You can learn a lot through your relationship with your children about God’s relationship with you.

Aileen: I have learned a lot about trusting God for everything. I tend to try and take care of everyone by myself, and tend to forget to rely on God for all. Through some of the difficult times in pregnancy, and especially in times when the kids aren’t well, I’ve had to learn to trust God for the outcome.

When do you find time to read as a parent?


I (Tim) am an early-to-bed, early-to-rise kind of person and I have done most of my reading in the early morning hours. I also try to read in the evenings when and if I can. I try to give Aileen time in the evenings to have a bath or otherwise escape from the rest of us for a few minutes and she almost invariably uses this time to read.

Aileen: It is difficult especially when I have little ones demanding my attention, (and little ones that get up at night!) to find time to read. It has been a long season for me where I’ve been in a bit of a desert when it comes to reading time. But, I know and am seeing now, that it is a season. My kids are that much older now, and I’m starting to find time again to read.

What advice would you give a couple considering starting a family?

Aileen: Make sure your relationship is a priority. It is so easy to forget about each other when you have a baby who is demanding all your attention. For moms, the baby needs you to survive, but in a way, so does your husband. Make sure he is a priority as well.

Tim: Listen to Aileen.

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Tim Challies blogs at Challies.Com and edits Discerning Reader (www.discerningreader.com), a site dedicated to discerning reviews of books that are of interest to Christians. A self-employed web designer, he lives in the outskirts of Toronto, Ontario with his wife Aileen and their three children ages 9, 6, and 3.