I am for the most part a rule-follower, especially with the big stuff. Stay in school, you said, so I stayed until I got a PhD. Get married and have a family, you said, and I half-joked to please say it louder so my boyfriend would hear. But now you keep telling me to have more kids, and I need you to stop.
Look, you aren’t even family . Our actual family has been perfectly respectful and understanding about our decision to be “one and done” parents. You’re the mom I just met at the park, you’re my hairdresser, you’re my acquaintance from back in high school, you’re the complete stranger commenting on the same social media thread. You, madam — and yes, you’re always female — you really, really, really need to shut the fuck up.
Our amazing daughter is 3 years old, and we feel satisfied and fulfilled. I can’t promise that she won’t long for siblings when she’s older, just like I can’t promise she won’t feel a thousand different ways about a thousand different things. But I can tell you that my friends who grew up without siblings for the most part were fine with it, and they all agree being badgered throughout their lives about how bad it must have been was the worst part. Before I had a child of my own, their complaints about fielding endless questions about loneliness seemed strange. Not anymore.
Because you never fucking stop. It’s to the point where when anyone asks me if I want more kids, my stomach sinks because I know I’m likely to get a lecture.
And trust me, lady, I’ve heard your goddamn lecture. I am a selfish, horrible mother who is dooming my daughter to the life of a maladjusted, isolated weirdo. When my husband and I pass away, she will be terrified and alone, cold and whimpering while she rocks herself in a corner, old photos of us clutched in her hand as her only comfort left in this world. I get it. You fell in love with your firstborn even more once you saw them playing with your second, I know, I know, I know. I’ll change my mind, once she doesn’t “need” me so much anymore. I’m creating a sad situation.
It isn’t as if I can’t understand how having siblings could be an amazing thing. My younger brother is one of the most important figures in my life, and one of the most beloved. In fact, I enjoyed growing up with a sibling so much that it never occurred to me I’d have just one child. Yet having more just doesn’t feel right.
But like I told you before, I am a rule-follower, and when you — so, so many of you — tell me I’m hurting my kid, well shit, it’s hard to not let that sink in a little. So, at the end of last year, I decided to try for more.
I did it all. I talked to my OB-GYN and my primary care physician about the risks of pregnancy with my serious chronic illness. That’s right, some of us have medically complicating factors when it comes to pregnancy , but it must be nice to have that so far from your mind that you’d disregard the possibility when talking to a complete stranger! Any pregnancies I ever have will be high-risk, but regardless, both doctors said they were comfortable with my moving forward to have more kids. So I started popping the prenatals, and my husband and I got to work.
And I got depressed. Really, really depressed. An almost teenage type of depression, wriggling throughout my body, electrified with anxiety, overwhelming and dreadful. I didn’t want to be pregnant. I didn’t want a second child. It’s a lot harder to be a good mom when you’re depressed. But I trusted you. There are just so many of you, and you’re all just so, so confident.
Oh, sure, there were possibilities of it all turning out wonderfully. There were all kinds of possibilities. But it didn’t feel right.
I want to say that again, so you understand. Deep down inside me, having a second child didn’t feel right, for me or for my family. I took about a dozen pregnancy tests before my period came and felt sick to my stomach before the results popped up. Once it said “not pregnant,” I’d feel relief for about two minutes until the panic would set in again that maybe it was just too early to tell. It was the complete opposite of how I felt trying to get pregnant the first time. My husband and I stopped after one month, both of us feeling very happy with our decision, and grateful we tried because now we really know how we feel. And this is such a spectacularly joyous time in our lives aside from you meddling mamas.
I know what you’re going to say, because it’s your favorite thing to say: That it isn’t about what I want or even about what’s best for me — it’s about what’s best for my daughter. Again, I am going to have to request that you, seriously and swiftly, shut the absolute fuck up.
Who the fuck are you to tell me what’s best for my child in a situation that is entirely a gray zone? You’re seriously going to tell me that what’s best for me isn’t connected to what’s best for her, as if my happiness and my stress aren’t going to affect my parenting, and as if my parenting isn’t going to affect her? And who the fuck are you to tell me how my child will feel in the future when you don’t even know her now?
Also — and it’s crazy I even have to add this — you especially need to stop telling me how sad only children are in front of my only child.
Anyway, it’s time for me to respond directly to your concerns. Will she be lonely as she grows up? I don’t know, but I’m sure sometimes she will. I was lonely at times growing up, despite having a magical sibling. But maybe she will have friends and other relationships that help stave off the loneliness. There are a ton of possibilities between super-close siblings and super-depressed-single child. Will it be hard for her when my husband and I pass away? Uh yea, of course. But I hope she has her own family by then — a spouse, and perhaps children of her own, as well as those friends I was mentioning before. She will have cousins, aunts, and uncles, and possibly nieces and nephews. She will have a life that she has built for herself. That’s my hope. Your experience, and the experience of your children, may have been fantastic, and I hope it was. But it wasn’t the only way to have a fantastic experience. I know people who have siblings who are their best friends, and I also know people with siblings who don’t speak to them at all.
Oh, right, and your last concern: Aren’t I worried she’ll grow up to be weird, the way that, you know, only children are weird? And yes, it’s true, only children do tend to grow up to be weird. But guess what? People with one sibling tend to grow up weird too. I’ve noticed a similar trend with people with two siblings. People with three? Fucking weirdos. The fact is, I’ve never met a normal person in my whole life. Not one.
So seriously, just take it easy, and shut the fuck up. Or have an extra kid for me, I really don’t care, because the size of your family is, actually, believe it or not, your business and yours alone.