There are certain things we as a society have unilaterally decided are not okay to ask a person. Things like, “why isn’t your house bigger?” or “why do you wear that color that obviously does not compliment your skin tone?” We have concluded these questions to be inappropriate because they are rude, and the implication behind them is a thinly veiled insult. When someone asks you why your house isn’t bigger, you can reasonably surmise that they think you live in some kind of podunk shack.
So why is it that we as a society have not yet figured out that it is not okay to ask a parent why they aren’t having another child? The size of another person’s family almost never directly affects those outside of it, and we generally know better than to question a parent’s judgement on their parenting decisions without a bit of backlash. However, when it comes to having an only child, people generally believe that they have both your and your child’s best interest at heart when they warn you against it or tell you “you’ll change your mind.”
There are plenty of good reasons not to have more than one child. In our podcast “Only You: A One and Done Podcast,” we ask listeners to write in about their experiences being an only child or being parents of an only child. A lot of parents have written in defense of their choice, others are still on the fence and looking for an outlet for their indecision. Our mission is to normalize whatever the parents decide and empower them to have the family size that feels right to them.
So, before asking why someone isn’t planning on having a second child, consider the following:
Pregnancy is Hard
Pregnancy is a wild ride for any woman, but for many it can actually be very traumatic. There are a ton of different things that can go wrong, and even if they don’t, labor really hurts. Not to mention the restrictions during that nine month period and afterward what it does to your body long term. It is hard and it should be respected if a woman doesn’t feel the need to repeat it.
Infertility And Loss Can Be Emotionally Devastating
One of the things we hear a lot is that miscarriages, infertility or chronic illness have kept parents from wanting to try for a second. A lot of them struggle with the guilt of not wanting to go through all of that again — which begs the question, why are people asking this extremely personal question in the first place?
Eager to Get Back to Pre-Baby Life
This reason is just as valid as any other, yet when people explain that they have passions, hobbies, and professional or personal goals that they want to get back to, they are labeled as selfish. The baby and toddler years are exhausting and a lot of people don’t feel like the person they were before their baby was born. Your child needs a parent who cares for them, nurtures them and loves them. If a parent is giving them that, other people have no right to pressure them into having a second child. We all deserve to pursue the life we want to live.
Only Children Have a Lot of Opportunities
There are a ton of benefits to being an only child. Many listeners have stated that the biggest advantage is that they had 100% of their parents’ time and resources. Extra money for college, both parents at all sporting events, epic slumber parties with all their friends and no embarrassing siblings to deal with; adult only children have generally shared very positive experiences about their upbringing.
Research Says It’s Not a Bad Thing
Recent studies have shown that only children do not have any more trouble making friends, issues with selfishness or brattiness, or risk of depression than children with siblings. There are so many stereotypes about only children being difficult and research rebukes them all. For instance, spoiled children can come from families of any size; that issue is not strictly limited to only children.
One Child Families Are Rising in Popularity
According to Pew Research Center, the proportion of American mothers who had one child at the end of their childbearing years doubled from 11 percent in 1976 to 22 percent in 2015. Census data shows one-child families are the fastest growing family unit in the United States. Numerous factors including couples marrying later in life, growing financial instability for millennials and an inflated housing market are all contributing to this trend.
It’s Really None of Your Business
People shouldn’t feel the need to defend such a personal and ultimately non-consequential decision. There are many valid reasons to only have one child and more importantly, many people don’t have a choice at all. Family sizes are generally not up for debate, in the same way house sizes, work salaries, or religious affiliations are generally not up for debate. Questions about them can be seen as hurtful and impolite because they imply that the decision you have made requires more thought and insight. If someone wants input, they will ask.
The reasons to have one child are as multifaceted and complex as the reasons to start a family at all. These decisions are made with careful thought and planning, and often a little luck, and do not deserve to be scrutinized or judged. So next time you feel the urge to ask a parent why they aren’t trying for a second, consider your own bias and whether it’s really a constructive question to ask. Then pocket it, and save it for your own family planning.