Q When we were first married, I hoped to have children immediately, but my husband wanted to wait two years. I deferred, thinking 32 is a safe age to conceive, but now he's still trying to delay. Is it common for men to be anxious about starting a family?
A Tom: It's not unusual for men to be apprehensive. However, he may have a skewed perspective concerning the lifestyle changes a baby will bring. While there will be sacrifices to make, the rewards are so much greater. Comparing it to the transition to marriage might help your husband. His single friends may have more lifestyle freedom, but are they happier?
When we get married, we give up so little to gain so much. It's the same with having children. Your husband is likely thinking of the burdens we associate with infants: dirty diapers, sleepless nights. He may need to reconsider the long view of family life — the playfulness of toddlers, their blossoming into adulthood, the camaraderie of adult children and the rejuvenation grandchildren bring.
Long after his career has come and gone, it's his family that will remain to love him unconditionally. When my father died of cancer last year, it wasn't his boss, college roommate or poker buddies at his bedside when he passed away. It was his six adult children.
Caroline: When we were pregnant with our first, Tom was worried about providing financially for our family. But if we all waited to start a family until we felt totally confident and ready, the human race would die out! Instead, we must trust what our Lord promises: that “we may receive mercy and find grace to help in our time of need” (Hebrews 4:16). Whom God calls — and he's definitely called you to openness to life in your wedding vows — he also empowers. I'm happily pregnant with No. 3, but right now I honestly don't feel like I have the strength for three.
What I'm counting on is that the Lord will supply my every need, as St. Paul says.
Don't whine or complain about this issue to your husband; that's a bad strategy in any marital difficulty. First, redouble your efforts in prayer, asking God to bless him with the graces he needs to be a good husband and father. (St. Joseph is a great intercessor here.) Pray too that you will grow in virtue so that you can be a better helpmate. Then pray that you will both know God's will for your family.
Reassure him that you think he'll be a great dad. Tell him you can't wait to have boys just like him. Make friends with strong Catholic families with excited, kid-loving dads who could be good role models for your husband.
Finally, I've learned that a strategically placed book or article may help (try the bathroom!). Tom was particularly moved by Scott Hahn's new book on the family, First Comes Love. We'll be praying for you.
The McDonalds are the Family Life directors for the Archdiocese of Mobile, Alabama.