I’m nuts for admitting it in public, that’s for sure. I’ve had responses that range from ‘That’s selfish.’ to ‘That’s cruel!’; from ‘You’ll be sorry when you can’t have more.’ to ‘When you’re aged Milla will have to care for you alone.’
There are others, but these are the most common. So let’s look at them.
Note: I’m more than happy to accept that only-childness isn’t for everyone, but none of the above reasons is good enough for me. (Skip to the end if you’re impatient and you want to read the one reason that is good enough.)
THE INADEQUATE REASONS
Maybe. But I don’t believe that any half-decent mom is actually selfish. Motherhood, by definition, comes with self-sacrifice, joyful or otherwise. If I want to have one child and focus all of my attention, love, enthusiasm and energy on her, what’s selfish about that?
I love working full-time to build and run a business I’m proud of. I love putting aside every spare cent I earn, for Milla’s education. Why split myself and my resources? Do I have an obligation to populate the planet? I don’t believe so*.
I’m not choosing to avoid a second pregnancy because I didn’t enjoy [pick one: getting pregnant, being pregnant, getting fat, having a newborn, having a toddler…] I loved pregnancy and I adore motherhood. Childbirth was less delightful, in my experience, but I’m over that.
I’m choosing – for the time being – to have only one child because, in my vision of myself as a mother, I only see the one child I have.
Nonsense. In my opinion, having a child just to guarantee that my current one has a friend shows a tenuous grasp on reality. Yes, it’s amazing when you have two littlies who are close-ish in age and adore each other their whole lives – or even hate each other til they’re adults and then love each other.
But what if they grow into adults who really don’t get on? (I see this a lot.) Isn’t it possible that having a second child as a playmate for the first is the most extreme form of spoiling? Like having a spare child in case #1 needs organs.
People do like to tell me how damaged only children can be. That they’re spoilt, socially awkward, over-confident and/or clingy. I hear lots of unpleasant adjectives, up til I tell people I’m an only child. That’s awkward.
I may be a lot of things, including over-confident, but that’s only one out of a possible four. And of all the onlies I grew up with, every one turned into a giving, friendly, self-assured, capable, successful adult who has an unbelievable relationship with (one or both of) his or her parents.
Yes, I may well be sorry when I’m older. I’m 32 now, so by the time I’m likely to be broody again I may be 36 or 40. Granted, by then it may be much harder for me to conceive. And I may wish I’d hopped to it sooner. But I can’t make a baby now just in case I want one later.
Yeah, this one’s valid. I’m an only child to a single parent and I’ve worried for years about looking after her solo when she’s – G-d forbid – sick or frail. But them’s the breaks. My husband will help me. Milla’s future partner will hopefully help her. Once again, having a second child as insurance against your old age is silly. What if both my children – again, G-d forbid – emigrate?
* In fact, Mother Earth probably wishes we’d have fewer children…
THE ONLY GOOD REASON
The only good reason I can see to have more than one child – or, indeed, any children – is because you and your partner desperately want to. Because you imagine yourself as the parents of two or three or more, and that’s the picture of your future that you hold in your heart.
(Or if you fall pregnant by accident, but that’s another post for another time.)
I was raised as the only one, so that could explain my default setting. But it doesn’t explain my husband’s. I’ll admit there’s a good chance, down the line, when he’s recovered from two (or three or four) years of chronic exhaustion, that he’ll change his tune. And who knows what’ll happen then? For now, though, we have the little girl we wanted and she’s enough for us.
I’ll have to work that much harder to keep her entertained, socialised and in close contact with her cousins. I’ll have to take her friends along on holidays. And I’ll have to guard against spoiling her. But I think we’ll all be okay.
What’s your story? If you have more than one child, why did you? Was it always part of your plan? If you have only one on purpose or because fate intervened, I’d love to know what you think. Please comment.