During the summer of 2010, I met with Brenda, a sales representative for a large company, to talk about leasing some office equipment. During our conversation, I told her I had 3 daughters who were working for my law firm. She asked me if I had any other children. I told her that my wife and I have 7 children – 1 boy and 6 girls. She responded by telling me that she had a son who was 10-years-old and a daughter who was 6-years-old. She went on to say that she would love to have more children, but her husband “would never allow it.”
I asked Brenda why her husband didn’t want any more children and she told me that they had both been previously married. Her son was from her first marriage, and her daughter was from her current marriage. She said that her husband was 51-years-old and had previously suffered from 2 heart attacks. She told me that she was 38-years-old and had been hoping to have another child, but her husband didn’t want the added stress and financial commitment. She said that every time she brought the topic up for discussion he became angry and blew up at her.
I asked, “Does your husband love your 6-year-old daughter?” She responded, “Oh yes, she has him wrapped around her little finger.” Then I asked, “If you had another baby, do you think your husband would love your new baby as much as he loves his daughter?” She replied, “Yes, I’m sure he would.” Then I asked the critical question, “If within the next 10 years your husband were to have another heart attack and die, do you think you would be better off growing old with 2 children who love you, or with 3 children who love you?” She agreed that if she had a choice, she would rather have 3 children around her.
I asked Brenda if she and her husband had a faith and she told me they were both Christians. I then asked her, “Do you believe that God would provide for you and your family if you had another child?” She responded with a “Yes.” I then said, “So money really isn’t the issue is it? You and your husband could afford to raise another child, couldn’t you?” She agreed that they could.
At that point, I told her I wanted to give her a copy of an article I had written during the previous year when my mom was scheduled for open-heart surgery. The title of the article was All Relationships Are Temporary. In the article, I talked about how there is no guarantee that any of our relationships with any individual will ever be permanent; however, the special bond that exists between a mother and her child is “more permanent” than any other human relationship.
Then I looked Brenda in the eyes and said in a firm voice, “You’re a sales professional. You walk into offices every day and sell expensive office equipment to doctors, lawyers, and owners of businesses. You know how to overcome objections and turn negatives into positives. It’s obvious from what you’ve told me that you and your husband love each other. You’re both Christians. You’re not doing him or yourself any favors by avoiding something that’s this important to your marriage and your future. If you really want to have another baby, you have the ability and the obligation to persuade your husband to go along with you.”
At that time, we were sitting across from each other at a conference table in my office. When I stopped talking, she just sat there and looked at me. I don’t think she knew what to say. I got up and told her I would be right back with a copy of the article I told her I would give her. I went to a file cabinet where I have copies of my previous articles and pulled out the article I promised her, along with a copy of another article I had written about motherhood.
After I handed the copies of the articles to her, we scheduled another time for her to return with the information I had requested about the office equipment I needed. Two weeks later, we met again at my office and I signed the documentation for the equipment. She called a couple of times after that in order to coordinate the delivery and installation of the equipment. The equipment was delivered in September, 2010, and I didn’t hear from her again until almost a year later (August, 2011), when she called my office and left a voicemail message for me.
In the message, Brenda told me that she was contacting all of her customers to let them know she was going on maternity leave in September, 2011. She said that if I needed any office equipment before she went on maternity leave, I could contact her. She indicated that she was planning on returning to work after her baby was born, but wasn’t sure when her return date would be. She also provided the name and telephone number of another sales representative I could contact if I needed anything while she was gone. I meant to return her call, but never got around to it. The last time I talked to Brenda was in the fall of 2010, when the office equipment was delivered and installed at my office.
In 1984, when Georgette was pregnant with our third child (Maria), I made the conscious decision that I was going to boldly and aggressively encourage all young couples who had children to continue having children. My decision was the direct result of the numerous unsolicited negative comments we received during our third pregnancy. I can’t tell you how many times we heard the question, “Are you done yet?” I got so sick of answering that question that I decided that in the future, I was going to take the opposite approach with young couples.
I was recently in court for a hearing and the attorney on the other side of the case was a young woman who was pregnant. She told me she was going on maternity leave and asked me if I would be willing to agree to continue the case until after she returned to work. I told her “yes” and asked if she had any other children. She told me she had a two-year-old. I responded by saying, “Don’t stop after you have your new baby.” (I’ve been saying that to young women and men for over 28 years now.)
The attorney looked at me the same way they all look at me. It was one of those puzzled looks that said, “What are you talking about?” After I got the look, I followed-up by saying, “Most young couples stop after they have two children. If you only have two children, when they grow up, your oldest child will probably end up moving out east and your other child will probably end up moving out west. I grew up in a family of 17 children and my wife and I have 7 children. One of the reasons I wanted a large family was because I wanted to make sure we would have at least one child who would be around to take care of us in our old age.”
Believe it or not, these types of comments usually stir up an intelligent conversation about how our culture defines the perfect family as two children – a boy and a girl – and how most people simply accept that definition at face value. I usually always try to also take the opportunity to talk about how our federal and state governments are functionally bankrupt and how the subsidizing of long term nursing home care is going to completely dry up within the next 20 years (or sooner).
I’m not trying to play mind games with these people. What I’m telling them may not be welcome news, but it’s a reality that they’re either going to have to deal with now, or when they reach their “golden years.” Before the contraceptive revolution that began with the industrial revolution in the 1920s, children took care of their elderly parents. As the industrial revolution brought unprecedented wealth and prosperity to America, there was an abundant flow of tax money into government coffers that helped to finance the “independent living” of a large number of our elderly citizens.
We have run out of money and it’s not going to be very long before it gets ugly for our elderly family members. The foundation that built the “safety net” that holds up our elderly people has been crumbling and is about to completely collapse. If the use of contraceptive birth control had not been so prevalent over the past 90 years, our economy would still be growing at a rapid pace, and we would still be able to support our elderly citizens with the services they have become accustomed to.
As Catholics, we know that the “end game” is to do whatever we can to make sure our souls are in the state of grace when we take our last breath. The end game is to make it to heaven where we can spend eternity with our Lord and our loved ones. But there is also an earthly end game that needs to be played out. While most people focus only on accumulating investments that will support them in retirement, Georgette and I have always focused on surrounding ourselves with real treasure – treasure that can’t be lost with a stock market crash or a downturn in the economy.
We’re in our mid-50s now and our “retirement account” includes 7 loving children and 5 grandchildren (one of whom is due to be born in June of this year). And we’re only just getting started. Fortunately for us, our children have chosen to follow the teachings of the Church concerning contraception, so we’re looking forward to a continuous flow of new treasure into our “retirement account.”
Next Week: The Iron Fortress