The first time it happened, I was at a family Christmas party. I’d just calmed my screaming 2-month-old son and was juggling him in one arm while balancing a plate of food in the other when a well-meaning cousin approached. After cooing over my baby and commenting on his cuteness, she asked the last question I thought I’d hear: “So, when are you going to have another baby?” Why do people think this is an OK question? Here’s how I responded — and here’s why I chose to only have one kid.
At first, I honestly just stood there speechless for a second. My C-section incision had barely healed, and my son still awoke for feedings every hour on the hour. The last thing on my mind was another baby.
“Actually, this is it,” I explained. “We’re only having one child.”
Now it was my cousin’s turn to be speechless. After a few seconds, she finally responded: “Oh, you’ll change your mind.”
Learning to breastfeed vs. bottle feed, cry it out vs. co-sleeping, stay at home vs. working outside the home — of all the parenting choices I could be judged for, the decision to have only one child has invited the most ire and curiosity from family, friends and even complete strangers.
But I’m not alone. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, single-child households are the fastest-growing family unit in the nation, and the percentage of mothers who elected to have only one child doubled to 22 percent in 2017 over 11 percent in 1976.
My husband and I both grew up with siblings. He has a sister, and I have two sisters, one of whom I shared a room with until I left home. And I come from a big extended family — my dad was one of nine kids — so I get why some people, particularly in my family, can’t fathom stopping after the first child. But while having dozens of cousins to run around with at family gatherings was fun, sharing a tiny room in a modest house with my younger sister definitely caused friction. I believe many of the numerous spats we had over the years could be attributed to simply being constantly in each other’s face because of our close quarters.
For my husband and I, the decision to have only one child was based on a number of factors, from our ages (I was almost 36 and he was 38 when our son was born) to our income to the size of our home. Add to that the fact that I had difficulty getting pregnant in the first place, and we knew that our son would not have any siblings.
And that’s totally OK.
But even though this is the right choice for our family, we still get questions and grief from people who can’t seem to accept that we don’t want more than one child. They tell us we’re selfish for denying our son siblings. They can’t believe I don’t want a little girl too. They tell me I will wish I’d had another when my son grows up.
The key to staying sane and not losing my cool when people say intrusive or insensitive things is to remember all the very good, valid reasons for making this choice. We don’t want to be financially strapped. We didn’t want to go through the difficult medical process of trying to have another. We have no desire to repeat the exhausting, sleepless months of the infant stage. And most important, we feel our family is complete.
On top of all that, there are some pretty great benefits to having a single child. Financially, I don’t envy any of my friends struggling to pay for day care or preschool for multiple children (and that feeling will only grow when it’s time to pay for college). Avoiding that second or third preschool or college tuition means we have a little extra disposable income we can spend on fun family experiences like vacations, museum memberships and concerts.
And when we hit the road or air for one of those vacations, I don’t feel completely overwhelmed by wrangling multiple kids and all their accompanying stuff — one child is totally manageable, even if I’m solo parenting.
Sure, my son doesn’t have the built-in playmates of siblings, but he has cousins, neighbors and our friends’ children, not to mention the pals he’s made at school, to fill that void. And on top of that, he never has to worry about sharing his parents’ attention or wondering if he’s the favorite — he’ll always win that one by default. Plus, I love the relationship I have with my child. I love the one-on-one time we enjoy, and I’m glad that dynamic doesn’t have to change.
Are there times when I wonder what it would have been like to have more than one kid? Sure. But I never feel like I’m missing out or that I made the wrong decision. I know being a family of three is right for us — no matter what anyone else thinks.
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