My husband and I have one daughter, who is four years old.
At this point we’re not planning on having another child. I never say never for anything in life — having learned enough lessons — but it’s not in the short-term or long-term plans.
When people ask me when we’re having another (and I’ve noticed that it’s almost always “when” and not “if”) I say that we might just be done with one. This is usually greeted with utter surprise or treated as a joke. “No way, really?!” (Unless of course the question is asked by my parents or grandparents, in which case the answer is greeted with a long lecture about how they need another grand/great-grandchild or how crazy we are to not have another great kid like the first one.)
But a few times in the past year when I said that we’re likely having only one child what I heard back wasn’t just surprise, but judgment, and harsh one at that. After we moved I went to a new OB, who was taking the usual medical history when she asked me what our plans were for more kids. I said that I wasn’t sure we had those plans to which she responded by telling me about all the benefits kids gain when they have siblings and the difficult only children that she knows. Mind you, how this had relevance for my pap smear I don’t know.
Then there was a mom I’d met at a networking event. After I told her that maybe one is it for us she proceeded to tell me about a friend she has with one child who constantly tells her how much she regrets it.
Or our neighbor, a mom of a grown only child, who doesn’t miss a chance to tell me that I am making a horrible mistake thinking about just having one.
I try not to let what strangers say get to me too much but to be honest, I am getting really sick of this. Why is it such a crime to only have one child and why in the world is it anyone’s business to talk to me about my family’s size?
In the interest of full disclosure I should tell you that I am an only child. I have as many “issues” and idiosyncrasies as the next “normal” person, but for the most part, I think I am fairly well-adjusted, non-narcissistic, non ego-maniacal, thoughtful and caring person. I point all of this out not just to pat myself on the back — although it feels nice — but because these are some of the many qualities I’ve been warned about when I say that we might just have one child.
I just wrote a paragraph about some of the reasons my husband and I think we might just have one. There was something in there about the fact that having one and juggling not just our careers and interests, but our own relationship, has been very challenging and something about none of our families having great sibling relationships. But I deleted it because I don’t think I need to defend or explain our choice. If I said we’re thinking of having two kids no one would ask me why.
The thing is, while we think we will only have one, I am extremely conflicted about the decision. Having a sibling could definitely benefit our daughter, now and later in life, and I feel a lot of guilt about not giving her a sibling. Having more than one kid would reduce the chance that we become over-bearing parents who put too much pressure on her. Hey, it might even be good for me because it could cause just enough chaos to force me to give up my anal-retentive planning and perfectionist tendencies once and for all.
But it shouldn’t matter. It’s nobody’s business to question the number of kids my husband and I will have or to tell me horror stories about families with only children. Just like it’s nobody’s business to question why I work or why another mom stays home full time, why I breastfed for only six months or why my friend didn’t do it at all. These are extremely personal choices and I really wish everyone else would butt out.
Which, of course, doesn’t answer my questions: Why is it such a crime to consider having just one child?