I am the mom of an only child. Guess what? I’m fine with that! I don’t regret not having more babies or giving my son a ton of siblings. I don’t lament on an unfulfilled life, an unrealized dream of filling the house with the pitter patter of tiny feet or settling squabbles over who really won the Nerf gun war or which child broke the lamp. I’m really and truly fine with having one child. Let me tell you why, because there seems to be some sort of stigma attached to parents of single children.
Why I decided on just one child
Once upon a time, I did dream of having two children. I always pictured my home as a two-child household. A boy and a girl, a mom and a dad. I’d have my first one at about 24. Second at 26. Two years apart. I’d be 42 when the first graduated high school, 44 when my second went off to college. It was the perfect plan.
Then infertility happened. Nearly six years passed from the time I really started trying to conceive until the moment it finally happened. It was a very long and rocky road. I made bargains. I promised the universe, the gods, basically every “powers that be” that if they gave me ONE child, just one, I’d never ask for another. In November of 2004, at age 29, the second line finally showed up on the pregnancy test.
After a textbook pregnancy for the first 7 months, things went horrible wrong. I had horrible preeclampsia. Jacob was literally ripped from my womb 8 weeks early, complete with a broken arm. You can read more of that birth story here, but long story short, it wasn’t the fairy tale delivery story I always pictured. The first time I held my son was in a NICU surrounded by machines, nearly two days after his birth. I was also sick for a while after his birth. My incision got infected. It involved weeks of home nurse visits and wound packing. Yuck, right?
Jacob was a colicky baby. He screamed for hours on end, for like two months straight. His birth left me reeling and the colic left me feeling like I was a total failure at parenting. There’s nothing worse than hearing your baby scream and not being able to figure out how to fix it. It passed, but at that point, I remember thinking during those long nights “one is enough.” Two years later, around the time I imagined I’d have my second, I was nursing student trying to juggle a crazy school schedule with single motherhood. Things weren’t going great with my husband. He was working out of state and we barely saw each other. I wasn’t even thinking of trying again. Besides, my body can’t conceive without fertility medication.
When Jacob was three, his dad and I split up. I decided that the second baby ship had sailed. I don’t think there is anything wrong with finding love again and having another baby with a second partner. Society used to put such a stigma on it, but my brother and I have different dads. He’s always been just my brother. Not my half brother. For me, though, I wanted to focus on getting my life in order and getting financially stable so I could take care of the child I had. I wanted to give Jacob my full attention and restore stability to his life.
Two years ago, at age 38, I eliminated any chance of ever having a second child when I had my uterus yanked out. It was riddled with issues like fibroids and adenomyosis. After years of battling painful periods, trips to the ER and exploratory surgeries, the surgeon looked at me and said “are you done having kids?” I didn’t even think about it for more than a second. “Yes,” I replied. “Then let’s take it out.”
I don’t regret having just one child because my son is everything I could have ever wanted in a kid. Yes, his birth was scary and the colic was awful. Sure, there have been struggles. But this kid, this one and only kid, he is absolutely perfect. Funny, smart, witty, clever, adorable (if I do say so myself). My life is fulfilled by being his mom just as much as it would be if I had 2, 5 10. He’s not just enough, he’s everything.
The things people say about only children and why they’re just plain weird
Over the last nearly 11 years of my son’s life, I’ve heard some really strange and downright insulting things related to my position as a mom of an only child. Things like:
“Aren’t you worried he’ll be all alone when you die?”
Well, no. Not really. I mean, I’m hoping I don’t die for a really long time, and by then he’ll have a wife and kids of his own. Maybe even some grandkids! Even if I die tomorrow, he has grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins that all love him very much. He’s particularly close to my teenage cousin, who is also an only child. He’ll be fine.
Besides, what kind of morbid question is that? I want to ask “does your family travel everywhere in separate yet equally distributed vehicles to ensure that no one is ever left alone in the event of a tragic accident?” or “What are you doing to ensure that your kids never, ever, ever have a falling out, just in case you die? I mean, if they’re fighting and hate each other, they’ll be left all alone!” I have an uncle who basically made himself an outcast in the family. He might as well be an only child and apparently he gets by just fine.
“I know you can’t relate to this but…”
This is usually followed by some sort of declaration about how busy my friend with 2, 3 or four kids is. I can’t relate, apparently, because I only have one child to shuffle around from parties to play dates (now that he’s almost 11, they are NOT called play dates anymore, by the way), to after school activities. I can’t possibly know what it’s like to do laundry, plan a meal or clean up after kids. Guess what? One child is perfectly capable of making as much of a mess as 2 or 3 or 500. And, get this: he also eats and wears clothes! I actually CAN relate.
“Don’t you feel bad that you’ve robbed him of a playmate?”
Siblings are not magical built-in playmates. I know this. I have one. While I’m close to my brother now, there were years where all he did was steal my stuff (Ryan, I still don’t believe the dog ate those Girl Scout Cookies!), tattle on me and bite me (okay, he was a toddler when he bit me, but you know what, it hurt!).
Once, when Jacob was three, he did ask for a brother or sister. I told him that he’d have to share all his stuff with them and would only get half as much stuff as he gets as an only. He thought about that for about a second, then replied “I’m good with cousins.” Jacob has friends. Friends make good playmates too. In fact, they make great playmates, because if he gets sick of them, I can send them home (and vice-versa). He also has pets. Considering he tries to blame them for things like broken objects and missing food, I’d say they’re just as good as siblings.
“Are you one of those population control freaks?”
Well first, it’s not nice to call them freaks. People who choose to have just one child because they want to keep the population down are doing it for a cause they believe in. As long as they don’t push that belief on others and try to force the rest of the world to have only one baby, I say kudos to them for making a lifestyle choice that supports their desire to save the planet. Second, no, that’s not my motivation behind being the mom of an only. At this point, I disengage, because anyone who asks a question like that is usually close-minded and ready for a fight.
“It’s selfish to have just one.”
I’ve actually heard this and I don’t get it at all. Selfish how? Selfish because I didn’t give him a playmate? Because he’ll be all alone when I die (apparently)? I never even know how to respond to this one. Maybe they’re implying that I decided parenting was too hard, so I gave up after the first one? Except that can’t be right. I mean, it’s not like I’m not parenting the first one! He doesn’t raise himself!
I’m sure there are others. People talk about how much easier I have it (oh, how I wish that were true) a lot. They used to ask if I was trying for another, but now that I’m 40, that question went away. Fortunately, my family is really supportive of my decision to have just one child. Two of my aunts have only children as well. As far as strangers go, I don’t let their weird and occasionally insulting questions get to me. I love my only child.
Are you a mom of an only child? What sort of weird things do people say to you? On the flip side, if you have a large family, do you hear equally odd things?