It is such a controversial statement, especially living in southwest Louisiana. Almost worse than saying you want no kids. You don’t say it out loud, in case someone unplanned will hear you. Confessing it in an anonymous forum is better than letting people you know hear it from your lips.
I purposefully only want one child.
No, I do not have any fertility issues. I have no life-threatening diseases. I didn’t even have a traumatic birth. I love my baby incessantly and think she is the greatest thing that has ever happen to me, right on par with meeting my husband. But still, I do not want another one.
The questions are the worst. “Are you thinking of another one?” “She needs a sibling.” “When is number two coming?” “You think this is hard, wait until you have another one!” On some level, I get it. It is filler conversation, a handicap to lean on to help make conversation. But it’s also such a deep, personal question to ask someone. Family planning is an intimate and personal plan, one that is shared between partners, and in the best of times is just intrusive. Take into account the number of couples who experience miscarriages or infertility, and it can be downright painful. Still, our culture has made it the norm to ask this question. But for people like me and my husband, it becomes so tough to navigate.
When we do feel comfortable enough to admit to a close friend or family member that we are stopping with one, many times all our confidant can ask is “why?” with disbelief in their wide gaze. There are truly many reasons for this decision. I do not enjoy pregnancy. Unfortunately, I’m one of those who get terribly sick and lost more weight than I gained. Children, as we all know, have never required more financial commitment from daycare to diapers to extracurriculars. That’s not even touching saving for college. The truth of the matter is we will have the ability to pay for more extras for my daughter than we would have if we did have more children.
As a working mother with a husband who also works, it’s also very challenging to find all the time to successfully be a great mom and great employee. For families who have additional help with grandparents or other family members, this may not be an issue. Unfortunately, we do not have this luxury, so it can be a hard balance of making sure our child is taken care of when sick or daycare is closed but also making sure we are being a punctual employee who won’t put their job in jeopardy.
There is, of course, the sibling angle. And we’ve heard it all. That she will be spoiled. That she needs someone to play with. That it is the best gift we could ever give her. That this will be her best friend when she grows up. This could very likely be true, but I’ve also seen many siblings who aren’t close with each other and never talk. It always seemed counterintuitive to me to just have another child so your firstborn can have a sibling. Instead, parents should have another child, because they truly want another child, not just to check off a sibling box.
I know that we will be choosing a more difficult path in some ways.
We will need to make sure that she is spending lots of time with her cousins or inviting friends frequently to our home or for family vacations. This will help her build lasting relationships as well as make sure she doesn’t feel lonely being in a family of an only child. But I think we could still make this happen.
While I say all this, I know there are so many parents who make this work. Not only do they make it work, they make their lives look so effortless. They are, without a doubt, thriving and growing their families passionately and successfully. I look up to these families and have more respect for them than I could possibly say. But the older I have become, the more I realize one size doesn’t fit all, and just because one family can happily and healthily manage five children, doesn’t mean that it is what I’m meant to do. Of course, that’s the beauty of life – our families come in so many different shapes and sizes, and not everyone is supposed to look the same.
Being a parent has made such a profound difference in my life, and I will be forever grateful for my daughter making me a mom. Each time she calls me mommy, says she loves me, and cries for me, my heart grows a little bit bigger.
But the more she grows, the more I balance out my new parenting role within my authentic self.
I am more than a parent and there are so many experiences I love taking in life. From career to traveling to developing life-giving friendships. There are certain treasured practices I had pre-baby, and each month that goes by, I am able to experience them again-slowly but surely. I’m also keenly aware that this could all go out the window in a few years. I could completely change my mind, become pregnant unplanned, or maybe even finally achieve my dream of adoption.
But if that doesn’t happen, and until then, I continue to hope that we can create a society and culture that doesn’t stigmatize those who opt to have only one child.
I hope one day the immediate gut response isn’t “But your child will be spoiled! Don’t you want to give your child someone to play with?” and instead, acceptance and understanding each family can and will look different.
April 12th is recognized as National Only Child Day, so I’ll celebrate silently for my daughter. While that may change, this is our current reality, and it is still an adventure we are enjoying every single day.