Dear Emuna

My wife and I have been married 15 years and have three children. I always dreamed of building a large family. We waited five years between our second and third child and have been waiting seven years now for a fourth.

I know I need to be grateful since there are many couples without children. However, knowing this does not lessen my pain. The sticking point is that I want more children but my wife claims she is not ready. She would probably use the wording “We are not ready.” I feel strongly that I cannot, or perhaps more accurately, that I am not willing, to wait any longer.

I think a part of my wife feels that if she agrees then it's a win-lose: I win and she loses. I've been trying to explain to her, with tears in my eyes and (I hope) purity of heart, that another child would be a win-win: A wonderful experience for the whole family. Even she is not totally against it, because there have been times that she has forgotten to use contraception. She says that if God wanted us to have more children He would have given them. It is true that God will decide in the end, but there is still effort that we can do.

I don't claim to be the best husband and father in the world. I have much to improve, but is what I'm asking for so crazy...to bring more life into the world? There are men who flee from the responsibility of a wife and family, sometimes referred to as OINKs – “One Income, No Kids” and there are couples who selfishly shun the responsibility of raising kids, sometimes referred to as DINKs – “Double Income, No Kids”. I feel that I'm doing the opposite...meaning I've accepted those responsibilities. I often fall short but I'm trying.

I know it may not be a good idea, but I've reached the point where I'm almost ready to give my wife a choice. To agree to continue to build our family OR we will have to part ways. And if we do part ways, I will fight for custody of our children with all of my strength. Can you shed some light on this issue? Frustrated

Dear Frustrated,

I have to admit that I’m a little confused by your letter. I understand that you would like more children (You’ve made that clear!). And of course children are wonderful, each one bringing something new and precious to the family. But the fact that you are ready to throw your wife under the bus and then fight her for custody of the kids suggests something else is at work here. I’m sorry to be harsh but I can’t say that giving your wife an ultimatum like that (or even thinking about giving her such an ultimatum) reflects the purity of heart that you refer to earlier.

In general, while decisions in a marriage should be mutual, we weigh the child-raising decisions in favor of the mother’s opinion. In the very first place, she is the one that has to carry the child and accept all the physical challenges and, yes, risks that entails. In the second place, she is frequently the one most responsible for raising the child – for the carpooling and lunches and homework and laundry, not to mention their emotional needs. Nothing in your correspondence suggests otherwise.

The most important gift you can give your children is not another sibling but a strong and healthy marriage.

Therefore her hesitation, her reluctance counts. Not only can you not force her to have another child, if caring for her and her needs is your priority, you should not want to.

It’s unclear what you mean when you say you’ve accepted the responsibilities – financial? Other? I’m not diminishing your role but you seem to be diminishing hers and holding yourself up as an upstanding role model. I suggest you do a little introspection here; I think you’ve lost perspective on what your role really is, on your need to support your wife rather than badgering her or even threatening her to get your way. Given the tone of your letter and the dramatic nature of your reaction, I would guess that some marriage counseling is required. If it wasn’t before, it certainly is now. It seems like you both need some tools for communication and listening in order to really understand each other’s position and not try to just get your way or force your way.

The way you approach this reflects a need for help and a distorted focus. The most important gift you can give your children is not another sibling but a strong and healthy marriage. You can model for them ways to resolve issue that don’t lead to divorce and fighting for the kids. I hope that things have not already reached that point (although I confess that your tone makes me fear that they have) and that you get help asap.

In the meantime, you need to stop and change direction. If you can build a solid and loving relationship with your wife, a stable and caring and lasting marriage, that will be a much more significant (and challenging) accomplishment than having another child. Please change your way of thinking, speaking and acting (a tall order) before it’s too late. This is the area where you really need to put in the effort that you were willing to give to raising another child. And ask the Almighty to help. From my limited perspective, you’re not ready to have another child, even if your wife would grudgingly give in. You’ve got too much work to do first.