I remember my first post-delivery check up with my OB. My husband and our newborn son accompanied me to a brief exam with my doctor. All was well. Then, on our way out, the support staff asked us when we’d be back for baby number two.
Folks, at this time I had stitches in my vagina. Think about that. Sorry, but just think about it. Stitches. In. My. Vagina. And I was already supposed to be thinking about baby numero dos. For serious?
The truth is my hubs and I have always figured we’d have just one. It took us a year to conceive our son. We had just started fertility testing when we found out we were expecting. And now, at 36 and 45, it might not be easy to have a second anyway. Financially, it also makes sense for our family to be little instead of big or even slightly bigger than it is now.
But the truth is, I think even if I’d ended up knocked up at 30 and my husband and I were in possession of some serious bank, we would still be planning on just one.
And this shocks people. To be honest, it actually infuriates some of them.
It appears the child-free folks have gained some momentum in earning the respect of others, and I’m glad for that. A person’s choice to breed (or not to breed) is truly a MYOB situation. But despite the fact that having only one child is becoming more and more common, you wouldn’t believe the crap people give us for choosing to have a cozy family of three. So it’s my intent to work through some of the comments I’ve received since my kiddo was born almost three years ago – comments delivered by well-meaning friends as well as total strangers.
“But aren’t only children awful, terrible, selfish people?”
Okay, so maybe people don’t come right out and say this to me. But they come pretty close. I remember a teacher I used to work with. Every time we had a parent teacher conference with the mom or dad of an especially difficult child, she would always ask, “Is he/she an only child?” The implication was that only children are often assholes.
Let’s try this exercise. Think of an asshole you know. Since most people have siblings, the odds are that the biggest asshole you know has a brother or a sister. Yet they are still an asshole. Why?
Because having a brother or sister is not a vaccination against being an asshole.
I’m not suggesting that there aren’t only children who are spoiled and nasty. But only children don’t corner the market on those traits. Research proves as much time and time again, and to suggest otherwise is lazy thinking as well as ignorant and just plain rude.
By the way, that teacher who had her Only Children Are Assholes theory? Ninety-five percent of the kids we had conferences about had a brother or a sister.
“But what if your child dies?”
When people say this to me, I always punch them in the face. Well, I dream of doing so. Then I want to thank them for forcing me to think about The. Very. Worst. Thing. Ever. EVER. You wouldn’t believe how many people bring this sick question up when I talk about not having more children.
I totally admit that people who lose a child and still have others to care for are given a reason to get up in the morning in a way that a person who loses their one and only simply doesn’t have. But I don’t care if you have one child or twenty. When you lose a kid, it doesn’t matter how many more you have. It’s got to be the most horrific experience on Earth. Having more than one doesn’t negate that horror, and to suggest it even minimizes it is insulting to anyone who has lost a child.
A second, third, or fourth child isn’t insurance against immeasurable sadness, people. So please stop suggesting it is.
“But won’t the burden of your old age be on your one and only child?”
Because everyone knows the main reason to have children is to make sure you don’t end up on Skid Row, homeless, infested with ringworm, and gnawing on your own feet, right? Riiiiiight. My first impulse is to ask folks to raise their hands if they know of a sibling group that faced some pretty nasty battles over how to best take care of an aging Mom and Dad. Um hmm. I thought so.
I have an idea. Why don’t my husband and I take the money we would spend on a second or third college education and buy some long-term care insurance instead? We can also hope and pray our son finds a lifelong companion to help him shepherd us into the Golden Years. But again, to have another child only so we can have two people talk about the best time to move us into Shady Pines is not a good enough reason to give birth again.
“But don’t you want them to have the joy of a sibling relationship?”
My brother and sister are two of the coolest people I know. I honestly do not know where I would be without them. But my husband – also an only – has had similarly awesome relationships with very close friends that he has had since childhood. Plenty of people have super tight relationships with their siblings. And plenty of people have horrible, estranged relationships with their siblings. It’s a crap shoot. I can’t justify having a second baby we don’t really want just because my son may or may not have a great time hanging out with that person. Especially when powerful, meaningful friendships that impact an entire life shouldn’t be and aren’t limited by blood.
“But aren’t you being selfish?”
Ah, the old selfish question. My childfree by choice peeps certainly know what I mean.
People who have multiple children have my respect. It takes a certain skill set to have multiple children, and I know myself and my husband well enough to know – we don’t have that skill set. Ever since we were kids, my husband and I both craved solitude, and neither one of us does well with chaos. Some people are meant to have lots of kids, and to them, I say – go for it. Bless you. But my husband and I wouldn’t do well with more than one. And we know this.
There’s nothing selfish in making a choice that makes sense for you and for your family. There’s nothing selfish in making a choice that makes you a better parent, a better partner, a better citizen out there in the world. What is selfish is breeding thoughtlessly or because it’s what you’re “supposed” to do. To me, that’s selfish.
So there you have it. My testimony for having just one. I adore my child, and I honestly can’t imagine my life without him – even if he did cause me to have to get stitches in my vagina. Please stop acting like my choice to have him and only him is anything less than the thoughtful, loving decision that it is, made with care and concern. Thanks.