This is a post that has been on my mind for a long time. I’m finally writing after reading some other posts this week by Kim Simon (AKA Mama by the Bay): first, this beautiful tribute to doulas and fighting PPD, then the story of becoming a family of four, and finally, this. Talk about tugging my heart strings!
Kim’s story with her first child seemed so like mine, in many ways, and it was SO easy to get caught up in the healing she found with her second child. Her writing had me in tears; it was, in many ways, beautiful and uplifting, but it sent me on a downward spiral, because, in my heart of hearts, I don’t think her story will be my story, and that was depressing.
THIS is my story. Maybe it is your story, too.
My little boy will turn three in just over a month. In the past ten months, it seems like everyone I know with a similar-age first child has either had a baby or announced a pregnancy — both real-life and virtual friends. So now it’s just me.
I guess because I made it clear fairly early on that G would most likely not have a sibling, I’ve avoided a lot of the, “So, when are you guys going to have another one?” questions, but that doesn’t mean it’s not on my mind.
Most of the time, I’m over 90% sure that one is a really good number. But sometimes I get caught up in wondering: the chance to grow and nurture another life; a re-do of our first year; a shot at another (different?) birth story.
It’s tempting to look at my peers and think, “Everyone’s doing it, so I should, too.”
But my story is my own, and when I really think about it, I can’t think of any really good reasons to have a second child. At least nothing that overrides my looooong list of reasons why, for me, for our family, one is a really good number.
My one child is awesome (and exhausting and sometimes frustrating). Could I handle another one? Could we make it work? Yes. Maybe. Probably . . . . but why? (No, I don’t really want answers to that last question.)
It’s hard to find closure on this when I wonder if I’ll regret it later. And these are still “early days,” in many respects — will I feel differently when G is 4? Or 5? Or 10?
As he gets older — more independent; less needy; more fun, new stages — I’m afraid the temptation toward a second child will only grow, especially when couple with increasing time and distance from those challenging first months and years.
The best answer I can come up with is to live in the present, challenging though that may be for this “have it all planned out” gal. For NOW, one is a really good number (except those times when it still feels like too much — I’m a mommy wimp!). For NOW, I have a sweet, healthy, smart, adorable little boy, and I love seeing the world through is eyes. For now (and, yes, quite possible forever), one is enough.
If I am still living in the present when I am 40, 50, 60 . . ., I won’t look back and regret. The real tragedy would be getting so caught up in the worry and what-if that I miss the amazing, wonderful NOW.
I always assumed I wanted at least two kids, and maybe as many as four (I’m one of two; my husband and each of my parents were one of four). I loved having a sibling; though my brother and I are wildly different people, I also appreciate that there’s someone out there who shared the experience of growing up with our particular parents and who “gets” me (for better or for worse). Infertility, along with time, have changed my hopes and expectations pretty significantly. Not only has becoming a parent to one child become a maybe for financial, emotional, and practical reasons, but as I grow older, I also appreciate the benefits to having one – it’s easier for each parent to maintain some independence without overwhelming the parent who is with the child, there are no concerns about competition and treating the children equally, and major travel and local outings are a lot easier with just one child. Also, though my brother also loves me dearly and (I feel confident) would describe us as close, he and his wife have one and are considering stopping there. I won’t say that having one would necessarily be my first choice even now, but I’d prefer having one to having none (if I get the chance), and I can appreciate the many wonderful things about “onlies” now, one of the many *gifts* that infertility brings if you can open your eyes to see them as such.
I firmly believe that you will know you are done building your family when you know and, until then, the only question is what is the right number for today? Give yourself the freedom to make a different decision tomorrow… or stay the course. Whatever you ultimately decide, I have no doubt that G will know love and you guys will know happiness.
Thanks for your thoughtful comments, Rebecca. I, too, never imagined myself as the parent of an only child, but life is full of surprises. I’m going to check out One and Only: The Freedom of Having an Only Child, and the Joy of Being One by Lauren Sandler. It seems there is an automatic negative perception of the “choice” (which, for some people, is not a choice) to have only one child, and, while realizing many of the benefits of stopping at one, I’m fighting some of those “myths of the only child” in my head.
While this source claims that “single-child families are the fastest growing family unit,” it is clear that they are still a minority — something that I am not familiar with from either my childhood (i.e., all of my childhood friends had siblings) nor present examples.
Everyone has to do what is right for their family and circumstances but something I would ask you to consider in the coming years is how your son might feel being an only child. I can only offer you the perspectives of myself and my best friend of 26+ years. We are both only children and both regard being only children as the cruelest thing ever done to us. I would literally give my left arm for a sibling, as would she. I have the unique perspective of being both an only child and a child with a sibling because I had an older step-brother for 10 years and nearly half of that time he lived in our house. After the divorce I was happy to be rid of my horrible step-dad but I still miss my step-brother. Amy (my best friend) and I both feel we have been robbed of one of life’s most fundamental relationships by not having siblings. We each have a parent with major heart problems and have had to contemplate our parents’ mortality at much younger ages than any of our peers, so we are extremely aware that when our parents die we will be left without families. I know you’ll say, “Oh well he will have aunts, uncles, and cousins!” For a while, maybe. In my experience everyone retreats into their own family units and forgets about you as the only child. I have already been left out of several holidays as a result of just being forgotten since there is only one of me. I am immensely jealous of the sibling relationships everyone I know has and enjoys and I will never be able to experience. I had a glimpse of it with my step-brother and can categorically say, even a sibling you fight with is better than none at all. Everyone glamorizes being an only child-“Oh you must get so much attention and so many presents!” Yes, because getting a Nintendo for Christmas totally eliminated my desire for a lifelong relationship with a sibling. Like I said, everyone has to do what is right for them but please consider your son’s perspective as well.
Thanks for sharing your perspective and experiences, Jill. We have considered some of what you brought up, particularly G facing our health issues as we age without a sibling. (Of course, there is no guarantee that the sibling would be involved.)
As Cat shares above, sometimes having a second child is simply not the right decision for a family. Given my experience and history of postpartum depression, I have to very seriously weigh the chance of that, and the affect it had (and would have again) on me, my marriage, and my child. Would it be worth it for G to have a sibling if it meant both children growing up with a depressed mother, and either unhappily married or divorced parents?
There are so many factors in the choice to have and raise a child/children, and it is HARD work. Some personalities are more cut out for this than others. From my perspective, having two kids would be AT LEAST twice as much work as having one (actual work and the mental work of planning, figuring out schedules, etc.), and I’m just not sure that’s a wise decision for me or for my family.
You need to do what is right for you and your family. While I can see that some would have liked to have had a sibling, I on the other hand had siblings and would have much rather have been an only. We didn’t get along growing up and we still do not get along now. Just because you’re family doesn’t mean you’ll be close. My husband came from a family like that as well, and so we opted for an only. I’ve never regretted it. My dd is such a joy!
Oy… well, this is a loaded topic if ever there was one! KUDOS to you for wading in.
I am the second child of a mother who really should have stopped at one… or more accurately, a mother who, on some level, really wanted to stop at one but had two because she didn’t like the “idea” of stopping at one. But the reality was that two was WAY more than my mom could handle – either physically or emotionally and it colored EVERYTHING.
My parents’ marriage set on a downward spiral from about the moment I was born, and as I look back on it now it’s very clear to me that my mother suffered through severe postpartum depression after my birth, and that she really never recovered from it. Though she would never admit it, some part of her blamed me for the end of her marriage, and for taking her time and attention away from my older brother (who got very ill shortly before I was born) and for LOTS of other things that went wrong.
I could write a long diatribe about my experiences, but I’ll spare you. None of this means that I think you should stop at one – I don’t really have an opinion. But I do think it’s important to realize that regrets go both ways on this one – and regrets about being saddled with a child that you really didn’t want are MUCH more difficult to come to terms with than the other way around.
So I think you should listen to yourself, and do what feels right for you. It sounds like one is the perfect number for the moment, so I don’t think you need to put yourself under any sort of pressure to add another just to make the “pretty picture” look “right”. If at some point you feel called to have another, you’ll know it. But you’re the only person who can answer this question, and the fact that you’re willing to really look at it so openly tells me that you’ll make the right decision.
BTW – my choice on this matter was to remain child-free. It was a very conscious decision on my part, and I’m sure it was colored by my own experiences as a child But at age 47 I can honestly say that I have NO regrets about my decision. In fact, I think on a very regular basis how incredibly grateful I am that I didn’t give in to societal pressure, because I know that I would have been very, very unhappy as a parent. Once again, that’s not a “vote” for stopping at one, I’m just saying that when you listen to your heart and do what’s right for you, I think it’s unlikely that you’re going to suffer regrets later.
Here’s to the NOW! 🙂 xoxoxo
Loaded topic indeed! See my response to Jill’s comment, but, yes, one of my concerns is basically what you describe with your mom, which is a real concern, given my history of PPD, it’s affect on my marriage, and how long it took to bounce back from that the first time around.
From both the parent and child perspective, it’s obvious that any family size can work and be a good set-up, and vice versa.
I think we should be friends!! We also always thought we would have two, but are now (a few weeks shy of Monkey’s 3rd birthday) about 99% certain we are one and done. For all sorts of reasons. Its so hard though isn’t it??