Dear Reluctant Potential Dad,
So, your wife wants another baby, but you are putting on the brakes. I understand. When I was in graduate school at the University of Notre Dame, my wife Jennifer wanted another baby. We were only making $10,000 a year, and I felt overwhelmed in a demanding graduate program. In fact, I thought I might fail out and destroy my dream of becoming a professor. But my father-in-law Miles insisted that a new baby would also bring new blessings. I wanted to believe him, but I was scared.
The fear I had then and you have now is a good sign because it shows that you care about your wife and your child and want to give them your best, to provide for them what they need and what they would like.
What I didn’t realize was that having another child is itself providing something that is an enormous benefit to them. You can give many gifts. But almost anything you give now, like a bike, will likely be lost or destroyed or at least unused a decade later. But to give your family a new brother or sister, that is a gift that can keep on giving. Even after sixty or seventy years, they may be talking together, supporting each other, and sharing life together. For many people, among the most significant relationships they have are with their siblings.
You know how much your wife loves being a mom and that she does a fantastic job. To have another child is almost certainly the greatest gift you could give her. Her child will mean more to her than any gift you could ever give her, even the most precious jewels. What wife would not throw any of her possessions into the ocean if that were required to save her son or daughter from death? In giving her another child, she will have someone to love all her life long and, if things go well, someone who will love her all her life long. Indeed, the desire of your wife to have a larger family is normal. There is “Gallup data showing that women regularly wish to have more children than they do.” Unfortunately, nearly half of women come to the end of their child bearing years having fewer children than they wanted.
I should say too that having another baby will almost certainly bring out the best in you. We grow stronger in body when we lift weights and exercise vigorously. We grow stronger in mind when we stretch to seek new knowledge. And you will grow—radically grow—as a provider when you need to support your growing family. You’ll do more work and better work because you are working not so much for a boss as for a wife and children whom you love. That’s why married men make significantly more money than single men. Men supporting families have a powerful incentive to bring their best, and when you bring your best, you grow. I know you are worried about providing, and that shows something good about you. A bad man couldn’t care less about providing for others. But you will make it work. Good fathers have done so for centuries, in much much more difficult times than our own, and you are a good father. That’s part of why your wife wants another baby. She believes in you as a husband, as a father, and as a provider.
Will a new child bring new challenges? Yes. But the new child will also bring something that more than compensates for more challenges, and that is more love. You know your wife will be in love with this baby. And, since you are a good man, you too will love this new baby, and eventually this new baby will return that love. And in the end, isn’t that one of the most beautiful things in the world? To leave this world with more love than existed when you came into this world?
I understand your fears because I felt them too. Indeed, I was scared every time I became a dad. When Jennifer was pregnant with our youngest Mary, I was literally in tears of despair. I thought it was impossible to provide for my whole family on one income in Los Angeles.
But I was wrong, totally wrong. I wish I knew then what I know now. That her brothers and sisters would adore her, that she would be great at art and at arguing, and that one day she would herself get into the University of Notre Dame. If I had known then what I know now, I would have had tears of joy. And that is why I am sharing with you what my father-in-law Miles repeatedly told me: You can do this. Be generous. Give your wife the baby she wants.