To be honest, I am quite comfortable with people bombarding me at every opportunity with the question “So, when are you having the next one?”.
Now, it’s probably obvious, but I should clarify. They are not asking about when I am next having a latte, Botox injection or root canal. They are enquiring, not surprisingly so, when I will be with child again.
You see it’s ok to ask me the question because the pram I am pushing acts as green light for the barrage of questions. The fluorescent sign above my head glows brightly with the words “ovaries working just fine” and does its job equally well. I have produced one offspring and surely nobody wants ‘just one’, do they? Well, I am not ashamed to admit, I want only one and will tell anyone who asks exactly that. Surely that should be the end of it right? The fact that I, a grown woman of sound mind am saying this with an audible conviction in my voice, should be enough to convince anyone. But of course it is not. The broody brigade has come out to play and there shall be no respite.
“He’ll be asking for a sibling soon”, warns one friend. Seriously? Are we STILL doing this? The thought that a fully grown woman with a child of her own thinks I should take advice on expanding my family from a two-year-old just fills me with dread. Her toddler asked her for a biscuit last week, which, she refused him. Yet I am expected to produce a human because my child demanded so. What do I do when he tells me to send his sibling back? Am I supposed to take his demands into consideration then too? He is TWO YEARS OLD. He is going to ask for a lot of things in life and frankly I can say most of them, he won’t be getting. Should I feel guilty? Hell no! Ok, he is a smart little boy but with over thirty years of life experience advantage, fair to say, I’m having the final word on this little debate.
I am ok with being asked “when”. The answer is simple enough. Never. There, we are done. I won’t drivel on about how my family felt complete when we brought our son home. I won’t bore you with the unspoken truth many of us mothers feel but daren’t utter. We are genuinely, utterly happy with just one and have complete confidence that our only child will grow and thrive just like any other.
I am ok with being called “selfish”. I hold a high regard for my welfare because I know it is intrinsically interconnected with that of my child. We all know that forum fueled adage, “happy mom, happy baby”. My limit is one, yours might be three. We can still eat cake together and share sugar free muffin recipes. There are no losers here.
I am ok with being told he will grow up “spoilt”. Are there a lot of spoilt only children around? Of course. Does giving them a sibling guarantee they will grow up riddled with generosity and compassion? Don’t be silly. We all know that some of the most selfish, entitled people we encounter are unapologetically so, despite having siblings. One particular lady I know who has more siblings than a five a side team, grew more selfish, arrogant and entitled with every bundle of joy the stork delivered. It is fair to say the ratio of siblings to sensibility is not a precise one.
What I am not ok with is being told that my decision is one that I have taken lightly. One that is all about me and not taken with careful consideration of the welfare of family as a whole. That is probably where I’d have to ask you to pull up a chair and take a seat.
The implied notion that my choice not to produce a sibling for my little one is directly impacting my child’s welfare and chances of thriving is something I will no tolerate.
The questions are fine. The problem starts when saying you want only one is simply not enough for some. People assume that you must have struggled with a tempestuous relationship with your own siblings. My relationship with one sibling is strained while the one with my other two thrives. I had seven years of blissful existence as an only child followed by another 30 of equally enriching sibling companionship. I’ve pretty much lived both sides of the fence. Like almost everything in life, there are pros and cons to both.
Once you’ve put that bug to bed people suddenly become experienced auditors of your financial and emotional reserves. You’re a great mom (thank you), you’ll do fabulously second time round (huh?). This isn’t a tournament. There are no gold medals dished out for every child vacating my vagina. You’re both financially flush, shame to not have another. Having a bit of spare cash is a good reason to donate to a charitable cause. It may even be a good reason to add a few items to a Net-a-Porter cart. What is most certainly is not, is a reason to procreate.
I dream of a day when I can simply meet with friends who have multiple children and not face an onslaught of petition points concerned with placenta perpetuation.
I am under no illusions that having siblings is not without advantage. But unlike most of my friends with more than one child, I don’t believe that those advantages outweigh those experienced by an only child. Just like only children can sometimes feel lonely, those who have to share their parents’ emotional resources with siblings are at risk of feeling very alone at times. And that is ok. Like all things parenting, it just needs to be “managed”. I understand the extra effort involved in ensuring my child has an active social life is something I must take seriously. No more seriously however than the meticulous scheduling one of my friends has to undergo to ensure she is spending quality one to one time with each of her three children. Either way, it’s hard work, for both of us. We’ve just decided to tow different lines. Not better, or easier, just different.
The reason I want only one child is simple, straightforward and absolutely makes sense. It is also my own. I don’t have to share it with anyone. I don’t have to justify, explain or elaborate. I don’t have to put down the choices of others. I don’t have to turn up my nose when my friends pop out child after child. It’s fine. If it is what they want and if they are happy I am happy. People rarely enlighten those who constantly expand their family on the implications of the difficulties they may face, or highlight at every opportunity the disadvantages (and there are many) of having more than one child.
People will say my son is missing out in life. I say they’ve got white picket fence syndrome, where they believe happiness can’t be achieved without a family friendly pooch and 2.4 children. Oh, and the picket fence itself, of course.
My husband and I have a plan, a path we want to follow, a way we want to live our lives. Our decision to have only one child fits comfortably within the realms of the life we are striving for and we are not sorry. Our son is thriving and living life the same as the millions of children with or without siblings.
So to all you parent of only children out there, don’t worry. You’re doing just fine. Your choice to have only one child is exactly that. Yours. There is no blueprint for the perfect family, you can only do what is right for you.