As the mother of an only child, I cannot tell you how many times I have been asked when I am going to spawn another from my loins. My daughter recently turned four, so and I am often reminded that if I wait much longer there will be too big of an age gap, or my uterus will prune up like a plum in the sun. If I am going to have more kids, I better get into the bedroom and start making some noise. Now.
The thing is, I don’t want any more kids.
When I tell people I am “one and done” they look at me as if I abused a kitten.
“But don’t you want your child to have a sibling?”
“Isn’t she lonely?”
And of course “It is so much easier with two because they play with each other.”
I don’t refute any of those statements – I have considered them countless times myself. Siblings can be wonderful. I have an older brother who was like a God to me growing up. I adored him and my parents had hours of free time while we played with his He-Man toys in the basement. There have been times when I observe siblings hugging, playing, wrestling and feel a wave of melancholy that my daughter won’t have that bond. By not producing another child, I am denying her of a unique part of the human experience. This does make sad sometimes. Yet giving my daughter a brother or sister is not a reason to have another child when I don’t want one.
Is that selfish? Yes and no.
Everyone parents in their own way, and in reaction to the parenting they experienced as a child. Both my parents worked when I was growing up, so I was a latchkey kid who spent a lot of time alone. My brother was three years older and after a certain point, he didn’t find his little sister to be the most desired companion. He wanted to hang out with friends, read books, play video games, or do whatever 12-year old boys do in their rooms with the doors locked. I had a sibling, but he wasn’t put on this earth to entertain me and my parents were busy with their own lives. I was often surrounded by people, but still felt lonely.
When my daughter was born, I committed to be present with her in a way I never experienced. I’m not a helicopter parent who hovers over my kid like the NSA, but I have thrown myself into the process unique to her being an only child. Knowing this is my one opportunity to be a mother, I have made certain decisions I wouldn’t have otherwise. We co-slept, I breastfed until she was three, and I dedicate ample uninterrupted time to her every day. I have fully devoted myself to my daughter in a way my parents never could, simply because I was another kid to deal with.
My child won’t know the closeness of growing up with a sibling, but she shares a distinctive bond with her parents. I know some people believe that being the single focal point of mom and dad makes only children selfish, greedy egomaniacs – yet I have observed the opposite. My daughter has a sense of security and self-assuredness that comes from knowing she doesn’t have to compete for attention, toys, or most importantly, love. Starting at a young age, my daughter embraced the concept of sharing because she also understood her friends would soon leave and everything would be hers again. This awareness allows her to be more patient and giving than many of her friends with siblings.
Having only one child has also allowed me to integrate her into my life rather than always relying on childcare. There is a certain freedom that comes with managing life with just one kid. We spend a lot of time together because she seamlessly accompanies me while I teach classes, go to meetings, or attend social gatherings. Her exposure to my adult world has resulted in her ever expanding intellectual facilities because of so much one-on-one attention. Similarly, her verbal skills are beyond her age as a consequence of having grown-ups as her primary conversational partners.
While there is a special joy that comes with being a part of a large family, this is also true in a small one. My daughter recently asked when I was going to put a baby in my tummy so she could have a sister. My heart raced as I told her that wasn’t going to happen. She responded with the one question every child asks, “Why?” I swallowed and braced myself. “Well,” I explained, “I am happy the way things are. I love my life with you and don’t want things to change. Is that okay with you that I don’t want to have another baby?”
She thought about it for a moment than hugged me tightly “Yes mommy, it is. I am really happy, too.”
Related post: 10 Reasons I Love Having An Only Child