I always imagined I’d be a stay-at-home mother to three or four children, but instead I am a working mom of one child. Sometimes reality is a wee bit different than our daydreams, right? 😉
When we talked about having kids, my husband was always in the “Let’s have one, and then we’ll see” camp. After our son was born, he found he adored being a Dad to one. I, on the other hand, still wanted more children. Now that our son is getting a little older, however, I’m finding I’m loving life with one kid! I’d be lying if I said it hasn’t been an adjustment for me to get used to the idea of mothering one child, but when I think about the realities of it all I feel like our family size is just right.
As I’ve talked to other mothers of one child, it seems like admitting the desire or choice to stop after one child is akin to telling some dirty little secret. I often sense the person is feeling defensive or nervous (or both) to share this choice. For some, it’s almost like they feel like they need some sort of permission to not have at least two kids.
If you’re feeling well-intentioned pressure to have multiple kids from family, friends, articles on the internet, strangers at the grocery store — anyone — know that it’s alright to have one child. Really!
After all, there are a myriad of perks to having one child:
- Holding Hands: Our entire family can hold hands and fit on a sidewalk in a single row. A minor detail, but hey, it’s cute and makes me smile.
- One (relatively) brief stint in “baby jail”: I have a friend who jokingly refers to the first couple years of a child’s life as “baby jail”. Your days are ruled by naptimes, early bedtimes, and how many diapers you remembered to stick in your bag. This often translates to being home. A lot. With one child, your time in baby jail is much shorter. It leaves you and your kiddo free to be out and about doing fun activities, without having to feel stuck at home because other little ones are napping.
- Bedtime: My husband and I alternate nights putting our son to bed, so every other day we get an early start on doing grown-up evening things. It’s also a sweet time to be able to provide our son with quiet, undivided attention as we read stories, sing songs, and wind down from the day.
- Leaving the House: No matter how you put it, getting one kid out the door is far easier than multiple kids. Also, logistics of being out of the house (particularly when you’re alone with your child) are easier as you can hold a bag in one hand and a little hand in the other. No worrying about kids running in two different directions! More like going out with a fun little sidekick.
- Finances: Kids are expensive! Yes, you can certainly find lots of ways to keep costs down for day-to-day things like food, clothing, sharing bedrooms, etc. There are real costs, though, when it comes to daycare (for working families), or if you want to provide your child with opportunities for extracurricular activities during school-aged years.
- Car Seats: It’s nice to only have to get one kid buckled, I can place my son in the center of the backseat (increasing safety in a side impact crash), and if I ever have to move the car seat to another car I only have to get sweaty, pinch my fingers, and curse one time (ha!).
- Smaller Car: One kid means one car seat and one set of “gear” (sports equipment, instruments, etc.) as they get older and start participating in extracurricular activities. There’s no need to invest in a minivan or SUV, and there will always be room in the backseat to bring a friend or two home to play.
- Going to Games and Events: When our child gets older and is participating in extracurricular activities or has a school event, both parents can always be there. We don’t have to worry about getting multiple kids to different places at the same time, or choose whose baseball game or concert to attend.
- Less Stuff: With one child in the house, you only have to keep a set of toys that appeal to one age and one set of interests. There are rarely “toy explosions” at our house, and we are able to maintain a fairly simple stock of toys, activities, and books.
- Savoring Each Stage: When you only have one child, you know you only have one opportunity to experience each stage of childhood. While I know all parents treasure each of their children, there is some urgency and desire to really soak in each stage and “first” as you know won’t experience it again through a sibling’s eyes.
Sidebar: This list is not to knock people with multiple children. Far from it. If that is the choice your family has made, I am so happy for you! Please believe me when I say I’m being genuine and supportive. I know you could write a similar post full of all the pros of having multiple kids! 🙂
Becoming comfortable with only having one child can be challenging when you feel pressure to continue expanding your family. Well-intentioned people aren’t afraid to share their mind when they feel you are “depriving” your child of a sibling. Here’s my two cents on a few comments I’ve heard:
- “He/She needs a playmate!” : Unless your child never goes to daycare, preschool, or grade school, and never participates any sort of extracurricular activity (a.k.a. They are alone with you 24/7 their entire childhood), your child will have plenty of playmates.
- “If something happens to him/her, you’ll be childless.” : I don’t ever, ever, ever want to make light of a child dying. I can’t even begin to imagine the pain and heartache that involves. For me, it doesn’t really seem like having a “back-up child” would make losing a child any easier. Not only do you have to deal with your own grief, but you’d have to help your surviving child(ren) grieve, as well. There’s really no good answer to this one, other than I think it’s a terrible argument. My gut tells me that losing a child would be a horrific experience whether you have one child or ten children.
- “When your child is an adult, he/she will have to deal with your end of life decisions alone.” : Well, maybe but maybe not. We have legal documents with instructions of how certain things should be handled, have broader support systems of friends and family in place to support us and our son, and will have discussions with him as we age (something, in my opinion, all parents should do regardless of family size). On the emotional end of the spectrum, he will likely have good friends and his own support system to help him through the experience.
- “My sister/brother is my best friend. I can’t imagine not giving my child the same thing.” : I once saw a quote that said something like, “Have kids if you want them, not because they need each other.” Having multiple kids is no guarantee that they will become good friends. I know plenty of people who have siblings they rarely talk to, and only see on holidays. It’s not always an adversarial relationship (though sometimes it is). Sometimes it’s just two people with different interests and personalities. There’s probably a greater chance of a person finding a friend and/or spouse to fill that BFF role.
- “He/She will be spoiled and selfish.” : While these exact words aren’t always said, there’s usually some beat-around-the-bush version of it. Last year I checked out a book from the library called “One and Only: The Freedom of Having an Only Child, and the Joy of Being One” by Lauren Sandler. The author provides data from scientific studies that show singletons are no more or less selfish than children with siblings. Anecdotally speaking, all the adults I know who grew up without a sibling are lovely, smart, well adjusted people! Somehow the “selfish only child” stereotype continues to perpetuate, but it’s not true.
- “You’re not really a parent if you only have one child.” : Honestly, this one gets under my skin. A parent is a parent regardless of how many children are in your family. If you have someone who you love deep in your bones who calls you “Mom” or “Dad”… you’re a parent. Day to day life may look a little different depending on how many kids live in your house, but we all share similar worries and joys.
If you’re on the fence about continuing past one child, know that your life (and your child’s life) will still be amazing. Do what works for YOUR family!
If you have a friend or family member who has or only wants one child, just be loving and supportive.
That’s really what we should do as parents in general, right? Love and support one another, even if someone is making a choice that is different from yours.
I’d love to hear your thoughts on family size, comments, pros/cons, personal experiences, the whole thing.
Share in the comments below!