One and Done…?

by Ginger on May 23, 2013

in Mom Thoughts

For the most part, I don’t get baby fever. I don’t ache to hold a newborn, I don’t think wistfully of new first smiles and milestones. I don’t dream of another. My general reaction when someone announces they are pregnant is “Congratulations” followed by a very clear thought in my head of “better you than me.”(in a good way! Not snarky way! Promise!)

There are moments of course. Moments where I think how fun it might be to have a little girl, for example, to experience things differently than with my little boy. Or where I think a family of four seems nice and symmetrical. Or, randomly, where I find myself missing nursing (I know, who knew?). Or when I think about how I always wanted two kid (until I had a kid). Or that it would be good for Jackson to have a sibling. Etc.

But they are moments, blips in the day to day. Life feels so good right now. I’m in a good place. Both N.C. and I are in good places with our careers. We’re in a good financial position. And let’s not forget that things with Jackson are all so much easier–he can eat by himself, go to the bathroom by himself, play by himself. He can tell us what is wrong. We can (sort of) reason with him. Certain things get harder but the basics, oh the basics are so so much easier.

There’s this expectation that you’ll have more than one. That the natural way of things is for siblings, and you are hurting/depriving/shortchanging your child if you don’t “give” them a sibling. Or that you “must” have the matching set. The questions start fairly quickly after you have your first, and they increase in loudness and frequency as your child ages. You don’t get asked “if” you’re having a second, you’re asked “when” you’re having a second. It’s the default expectation, that you OF COURSE have more than one (but not more than 3 or at the outside 4, because my goodness, there’s a limit. We clearly have very specific ideas of what constitutes an appropriate family in this society).

And of course, there are the implications and accusations that get assigned to only children all the time: spoiled, incapable of sharing, lonely/loners, selfish to name a few. As someone who grew up as an only child (my half sisters were born when I was 16, and we never lived together), I always cringe a little at those statements. Haven’t we all figured out by now that a good chunk of those claims have to do with how a child is parented (uh, I SURE as hell wasn’t given every single thing I asked for just because I was the only kid, and I SURE as hell was expected to share), and their own innate personalities (yes, I can be a loner. But I know plenty of people with siblings who are loners too. And frankly, I think we’ve all heard enough about my needs for therapy to put myself first rather than everyone else.)? Whenever you claim that about only kids, you know you’re insulting a whole lot of people with nothing to back it up, right? Sarah wrote a great post on the misconceptions of only children, and I basically fist-pumped during it because yes, yes, yes.

All that to say, those things have never factored into my thoughts one way or the other about having more kids. My parenting will take care of some of that, and my kid’s personality will take care of the rest. What HAS factored into my thinking:

*income and our ability to provide for our family
*while maintaining a life we enjoy
*my career
*my husband’s career
*Jackson’s needs
*my mental health
*our ability to provide more than the basics for whatever children we have (activities, college, vacations,etc.)
*our own personal needs as individuals/grownups and not just parents

Now, our thoughts on those things are likely different from your thoughts on those things. Because we’re different, and have different backgrounds and different circumstances and different priorities. But for some reason, it’s kind of…unsavory to people that you would think of building your family based on more than just “do you want another one.” (And omg, heaven forbid you don’t even HAVE kids, or want them. Because, again, we clearly have very specific ideas of what constitutes an appropriate family in this society).  But what’s right for me and my family isn’t the same as what right for you and yours. And, despite the way it get’s talked about, that includes what’s right for my kid. Financially, mentally, personally, we’re all better off right now

Right now, at least, he’s an only child. Right now, at least, we’re happy with our family of three, and adding to that doesn’t make sense FOR US, for a LOT of the reasons above. Are we closing that door completely? No. No, that door still has a crack in it, and probably will for some time. We’ve sort of tabled the discussion of more until Jackson is in Kindergarten, so we’re not set on a family of three. I don’t get baby fever, but that’s not to say that won’t change someday.

I know I can’t make people stop asking “when” we’re going to have another. But I can make it clear that, no matter what the size, my family is the perfect family for me.

Jennie May 23, 2013 at 2:52 pm

I reserve the right to comment in person, over drinks, NEXT WEEK, but it’s always personally refreshing to feel not so alone in our decision. So, thank you for sharing.

Alexis May 23, 2013 at 3:11 pm

“we clearly have very specific ideas of what constitutes an appropriate family in this society” <— This! As if there are rules: you must have more than one, but not more than three unless they are all the same gender then you must try for the other gender….*me banging head on keyboard hoping it all stops* Two was right for us (no we don't NEED a boy TYVM), seven might be right for someone else (not us) and a third person might feel zero is a great number of kids to have (also not us). If one feels right, then one is the answer, at least until it is not the answer, but only you can know when/if that time may/may not come. As with all things parenting, the pros and cons mean the only right choice is the one that feels right to your family.

Ginger May 23, 2013 at 9:53 pm

“If one feels right, then one is the answer, at least until it is not the answer, but only you can know when/if that time may/may not come.”

EXACTLY. I just don’t understand why that is so hard for society in general to grasp.

april May 24, 2013 at 7:15 am

ha! Same for us! NO, we don’t need a girl, TYVM! (two boys here)

jodifur May 23, 2013 at 3:23 pm

I love this, so much.

Nonsequiturchica May 23, 2013 at 3:36 pm

I don’t know what it is about our society- what makes it okay for people to assume certain things- especially around kids and family building? It’s always fun to put those people in their place.

melanie jean juneau (motherofnine9) May 23, 2013 at 7:51 pm

This post is brilliant- well written, from the heart and it flows seamlessly. isn’t it odd, I struggled with feeling condemned for having a large family and you fell judged because you have only one child? We discovered joy raising nine kids on a farm, rich in blessings but cash poor inspite of the gibes and misconseptions aimed at us and you might discover your fufillment out in society with jobs, writing and a full rich life which your son will be part of but many will find fault with. honestly, there are people that are impossible to please

Angela (@Aferg22) May 24, 2013 at 7:17 am

So well written. It took a little while for me to feel comfortable with my family of three because we had wanted a second child, but now I couldn’t imagine it any other way.

Lisa May 24, 2013 at 7:22 am

I can’t love and promote and praise this post enough. Yes, yes, yes.

“But for some reason, it’s kind of…unsavory to people that you would think of building your family based on more than just “do you want another one.””

We get the “but, don’t you WANT more” question often. And if I say yes, but explain why more is not wise, then I often get a laundry list of reasons it will be OK. Yesterday (in a conversation related to pregnancy, but not to family size) someone told me that any correlation between melanoma and pregnancy probably has more to do with age than with pregnancy itself. That most women get much more medical care during pregnancy and post-partum, so that is why doctors catch “adolescent and young adult” cancers. Which I can see, but melanoma isn’t typically a “young adult” disease. So, it’s hard for me to *personally* ignore that whatever tentative relationship might be there. Even as a stats and science loving skeptic, wooooo buddy, do those personal anecdotes hit home sometimes.

I know people mean well. I know when they say your health will be fine, or the money will work itself out, or pregnancies are different and the next one might be great…they mean well. They want to help. I can appreciate that, but MAN, it is such a personal decision. I really wish more people just understood that planning your family size is FINE and any reasons for your conclusion is also FINE.

april May 24, 2013 at 7:34 am

I am always curious about other people’s family choices, but I try hard to leave any judgment out of the question (because I really don’t feel any judgment but I know it’s a judgmental sounding question). I ask do you want any more? Do you plan any? If no kids, do you plan on kids? If you have a lot, was that a planned decision? Did you come from a large family and dreamed of a large family? Every decision is the right one for yourself and you are the only one who knows. Like I’ve said before, two is probably the right number for us but I have the door cracked for number three. I don’t need a girl or need another child, but I haven’t put it completely off the table because who knows how I’ll feel in a few years? I do value my sleep an awful lot…

kakaty May 24, 2013 at 8:04 am

I may be naive but I really do think people come at situations with the best intentions, and I look for that. When a person has an experience they enjoy, or was life changing, they want others to experience it too. Heck, when someone runs their first marathon they do everything they can to get other people to start running – talking about the “runners high” and generally trying to get other people to their state of enjoyment.

The statistical fact is is that most people either have siblings and/or have more than one child. If they enjoy either of those experiences they would naturally want the same for others. But, the number of households with one child is growing and as more people see that or live it, it will become much more “normal”. Of course, this can seem judgmental – as if not being in a similar situation is not good enough. But I really do think that when someone is asking about another kid they are doing so out of genuine curiosity and while their phrasing may seem off, they are not coming from a place of judgement. At least most of the time.

I also think it’s so hard for anyone to not project themselves into the situation of others… As a parent of 2 (and that’s it, no more) when I see a family with lots of kids I don’t judge at all, I simply think “wow, I don’t think I could handle that” (which is exactly what I think when my husband runs a marathon). It’s not a judgmental statement, but just a reflection on if that situation is one I would want for myself.

(I really fear I’m not explaining this well and it’s coming off all wrong. I sincerely hope not).

Ginger May 24, 2013 at 4:26 pm

You know, I hear you. And I do tend to give MOST people the benefit of the doubt. I think MOST people don’t mean it as a judgment call. (Although, on a completely different note, I do wish people would realize that there are some really really personal and painful reasons why someone might not have a kid, or more kids, and that the question alone can open some wounds unintended. But that’s a different conversation/side thought).

But at the same time, when someone answers the question about “when are you going to have more kids” and the answer they hear is “BUT…” it gets hard not to take that personally after a while. “But aren’t you worried he’s going to be lonely?” “But aren’t you afraid he’s going to end up spoiled?” “But what if something happens to him?” “But why NOT?” said with a tone of shock and dismay. Not everyone is like that, no. And I don’t necessarily even think people realize how those questions sound–as you said, they may be projecting their lives, or their enjoyment, or their upbringing, and it’s often not coming from a MEAN place. But that doesn’t mean it’s not still tinged with judgement whether they mean it or not.

I brush most of the questions off, because really, I know people are just curious. And I don’t get worked up (ok, I get worked up about the “if something happens to him” question. But that’s kind of a trigger for me anyway), and honestly, am happy to have a conversation about it as long as someone is really interested in knowing MY choice, not just why I’m NOT into their choice. (did that make ANY sense?)

Michelle May 24, 2013 at 12:22 pm

YES YES YES. Eventually I’m going to write about this myself, because why the heck not, but for now, here’s where we sit.

Neither of us really loved the baby phase (I mean, we love HIM, just not the infant-ness of it all.), and aren’t wanting to go back to sleepless nights and how difficult that stage felt for us. We like our life how it is, and it feels “right”. We are now getting to the phase where we can go and do spontaneously like we did before Jonas was born. Like, skipping a nap isn’t the best, but it’s most certainly no longer imminent terrible doom like it once was.

We can provide so much of the things that we want to provide if there’s only one. We can travel more, and to more exciting places. We can provide him the type of education that we want him to have instead of feeling trapped (if that’s the case in the future, we don’t know). We can provide for ourselves to do the kinds of things that we want to do – music festivals, traveling, having the things that we want without going into debt or feeling guilty for wanting something for ourselves.

Also, I’m personally not sure that I can successfully mother a second. I know people say that it works out, but I feel so strapped by the end of the day now, the thought of another makes me freak. So, it’s possibly not for me.

One feels complete, and I don’t believe for one second that only children are always spoiled or malcontent. (I happen to know plenty of people with siblings who are both bratty and malcontent still, as adults. So I don’t believe siblings have anything to do with that.) One is right FOR US, and that doesn’t mean it’s right for anyone else. 19 might be someone else’s “right”, but it’s absolutely not mine.

Devon May 28, 2013 at 10:20 pm

You are so right! You never know what life may have in store for you down the road- and frankly – it’s your body. I believe a woman’s body was able to handle the birth of a child but let’s not put aside the affects it has on the mom. I knew after three I couldn’t bear the pain again.

I just have to mention a girl who was recently in my class- 11 yrs old – only child to mom and dad. Her mom has remarried and is pregnant with number 6. Mind you her 5th child was born in Nov and the others are under the age of 4. This is not a religious thing- merely poor parenting and living off of welfare. It is so sad! Society will be paying for those children, yet cast a look for only having one.

Devon May 28, 2013 at 10:20 pm

You are so right! You never know what life may have in store for you down the road- and frankly – it’s your body. I believe a woman’s body was able to handle the birth of a child but let’s not put aside the affects it has on the mom. I knew after three I couldn’t bear the pain again.

I just have to mention a girl who was recently in my class- 11 yrs old – only child to mom and dad. Her mom has remarried and is pregnant with number 6. Mind you her 5th child was born in Nov and the others are under the age of 4. This is not a religious thing- merely poor parenting and living off of welfare. It is so sad! Society will be paying for those children, yet cast a look for only having one.

clara June 9, 2013 at 5:37 pm

Like any decision, it’s yours! Just yours. Only yours. Holy cow. I always wanted two, I am lucky enough to have two, if I got pregnant again, well, let’s just say I have nightmares (and we’d have a vasectomy doctor to sue) — that’s me. You’re you.

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