One and Done: My Family Size Is Right for Me...Despite The Criticism
Whether at the park, the airport, or the drop-off gate at our daughter’s school, I’m still asked one perplexing question ever since giving birth to our daughter eight years ago: Are you going to have another?
I get it. As humans, we have a tendency to assign labels to everything. Are you single? Married? Divorced? Do you have children? Are you a stay-at-home mom? Do you work? And, for the mom who is seen hanging out with one child– is she your only? Are you going to have another?
I’m not alone when I point out that this is an incredibly personal inquiry. When family members asked my husband and me if we were going to have another child, we explained that we were content with our little family of three. We (politely but firmly) asked them to refrain from the constant barrage of questions around our family planning.
Initially (and since I was six years old), I thought I would want at least two children. However, as time went on, I simply didn’t have the maternal pang I had felt so strongly before having our daughter.
When we look around the dinner table, we just don’t feel an empty space. We are complete. Truthfully, we haven’t wanted to ruin a good thing. We have a healthy, bright, and happy child who fills our lives with unimaginable joy and wonderment. We love to travel, dislike chaos and disorder, and our single child is more conducive to our lifestyle. I’m sure I’d refute this if we had decided to have another, but I truly cannot imagine loving another being as deeply as I love her. My heart is full.
Questions from the in-laws are one thing, but it’s a little tricky to navigate such lines of questioning from strangers or acquaintances. You may think you could just nip it in the bud with someone you don’t know (or barely know) by telling them it’s none of their business, but it’s not fun or easy to call someone out on their invasive prodding. So we tread gently, smile, and listen.
The fact is, we all do it. We are all guilty of trying to figure out where we fit in this world. Who are you? What matters to you? There are many labels. Are you a “good” mom? Or maybe you are a selfish mom. After all, you must be selfish to stop after one because you must feel it is too much “work” to have and raise a child and you’d rather not bother again because you’d rather focus on yourself. Right? Never mind the fact that some parents are not be able to have additional children!
In his book, Maybe One: A Case for Smaller Families, author Bill McKibbon notes that when polled, most parents of two-child households said the main reason for having a second child was so that the first will have a playmate. If I were to play devil’s advocate, I would ask, isn’t that the selfish option? As a mother of one child, I am often placed in the role of playmate in the absence of a sibling (and yes, I struggle with guilty feelings for wanting to just watch television instead). So does that mean that parents of multiple children are off the hook, so to speak? Their children have each other when the parents want to sit and watch that new R-rated French movie on Netflix.
No, no. The fact is, none of the criticism is fair. Whether we like it or not, we are all judging one another.
One mom recently told me, “You shouldn’t deprive your daughter. She needs to have a sibling. She will feel alone for her whole life. What will happen when you and your husband die? Can you imagine how lonely that will feel?”
When a stranger tells me I am doing my only (single) child a disservice by not giving her a sibling, I often wonder if they are seeking some kind of validation for their own choices. Perhaps if my family structure mimics hers, then we must both be good moms who have made the “right” choice (incidentally, rarely does a parent of one child stop and ask me the same question).
I didn’t engage with this particular parent because it sounded like – though well intentioned – she truly believed that the larger families are superior. In other words, her choice is the right choice and mine is wrong. She obviously didn’t agree that families should come in different shapes and sizes. As the late Wayne Dyer said, sometimes the best response is, “Oh, that’s interesting. I’ll consider that. Thank you!”
I am not here to provide the positives and negatives of having one child. Ultimately, a family is not “one size fits all.” The notion that the multiple-child family is superior begs the question – should all families be alike? Why should any family size be preferable to another?
Our intimate family of three is perfect for us, but it may be a few years before the questions fade off (perhaps when our daughter is in high school, or when the nosy parents on the playground learn to refrain from asking whether we plan to spread our progeny further).
What’s your magic number when it comes to kids? And how do you respond to nosy and inappropriate questions? Share with us!
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