Don't Make Me Feel Bad For Having an Only Child
I have an only child, and apparently, some people think this is awful. I get comments and questions from strangers on my only-child status — "Oh, she has to have a little sister or brother one day. She must!" (She, meaning my daughter.) Or, "Are you only going to have just one?"
As if one child isn't a blessing or gift in itself. As if just "one" child is an abomination.
Then, of course, there's the onslaught of comments on how "Only children are so selfish and spoiled," or "Only kids get so lonely. They resent their parents later on." Apparently, being an only child is akin to being a leper: a life full of negatives.
To be honest, all of this stuff used to make my blood boil. For the longest time, I felt terrible knowing that my girl would most likely be an only child. After having hyperemesis gravidarum during pregnancy two times and losing pregnancies, I started to consider that maybe it was best if this baby thing was a one-shot deal for me.
And then when my ex-husband and I separated, I figured that sealed the coffin on my baby-making days. I'm in my late thirties, so I would have to meet someone utterly amazing who would take care of me if I had hyperemesis again, convince myself to risk going through that again, and get married all relatively quickly. Since statistically the chances of that happening are pretty small even though the "shop" is still open, I finally came to terms with the fact that it's probably going to be a two-girl show for the rest of my life — me and my kid.
This wasn't something I instantly accepted with the inner peace of Mother Teresa. I grew up in a family of four girls — I'm the youngest — and find long periods of total silence to be insanity-producing. I'm also constantly socializing. When people find others to be loud, I find it comforting. Loud, chaotic, and warm are just a few of the words I would use to describe my childhood. So at first the thought of raising just one child seemed, well, bizarre. The childhood I knew was full of frenzy and women. What would it be like to grow up without someone to tease? Would her life be complete without a sister and her boyfriend to humiliate? But then after grieving this reality — that my daughter (unless she earns a stepsibling) will be the number one star on our planet — I not only accepted it, but I also started to love having an only child. Instead of feeling bad, I love my only-child relationship. Here are six reasons I don't feel bad for having an only child.
Money, Money, Money. Moooney
Before my ex-husband and I split up, money was tight. Now that I'm a single mom, it's tighter. As a child, my family briefly went through money trouble when I was younger, and I remember the stress of that very well. It soothes me to know that with only one child, I only have one extra mouth to worry about, instead of many. That if my daughter wants to do an activity or go somewhere cool like a play museum or a show, I can take her — or manage with her dad to make it happen. If I had another child, I would have to shut down these opportunities for my first kid. We may never see Disney World, but with one kid, I can give her my absolute best on my minimum means.
This doesn't mean that people should "wait" to have enough money to have another kid. If you keep waiting, you'll never have enough. But like the late Michael Jackson said, "If you can't feed your baby — yeah, yeah — then don't have a baby."
I work now. I used to be a mom who stayed at home (most of the time), but now I'm on the clock 40 hours or more a week. Time is limited. I feel guilty as it is when I don't see my daughter either because she is with her father on his days or because I am working. Another kid would simply take away from the limited time I have to offer her, and I'm not OK with that right now. If I have just a few hours to spare, it's all hers to take.
As a kid, I always chased after my older sisters who are nine, seven, and almost six years older than I am. I hated the feeling of being "left out," and of course due to the age difference, I was. Plus with so many siblings, there were bound to be personality or life clashes. It just happens. With my daughter, it's just the two of us. I'm not busy helping another kid do X, Y, or Z. She has all of my attention, and while I'm sure there might be downfalls to that, I think it's great. Getting quality time in a house of three other kids was difficult in my family until my sisters left and went to college. I like that I have the time to learn about who she is as a person and her interests. I can devote time to a fascination of hers — something I couldn't do to the same extent with more kids. I know right now I am my daughter's parent, and I don't believe in "parenting" as a best friend, but one day when she's older, I like the idea of us as best friends forever.
Siblings = Not Always Close
Everyone touts siblings as the BE-ALL AND END-ALL! They're forgetting, however, that not all siblings get along. Granted, siblings do bring so much to a child's life, but a sibling does not mean instant love. Two siblings can clash or be totally disconnected. I haven't heard from one of my sisters since August, despite the fact that I reach out. The other I hear from via text or social media, which is nice. The third I talk to pretty frequently, but we fight sometimes, and then we don't talk for a while. This is how it has been our whole lives. We can't help it. We love each other a ton, but we clash.
You can't make another kid and guarantee your child will have a best friend for life. Of course we all hope it will be that way, but the reality is, it's not always. And while my daughter misses out on all the fun of sibling life, she also misses out on sibling drama. And in place of siblings, she has become very independent and mature.
Yeah, I said it. I am passionate about my career as a writer and performer. I love my day job, too. With one kid, I can devote more time to my pursuits and not feel bad about it — or shortchange my child. I enjoy being a mother, but I also love being Laura, and there's no shame in that. What I do brings me great joy. In turn, my child sees a strong, happy, and motivated woman who believes in herself and goes after what she wants and succeeds. Not a shabby example for her to follow as a wee girl.
I had three pregnancies, and two of those pregnancies I had severe hyperemesis gravidarum, yet I only have one child. As you can tell from the math, I was not a healthy pregnant woman, although getting pregnant was easy for me. Now, I'm healthy and fit and feel great. I'm not sure if I can go through being sick again or go through more heartache and loss. Who can blame me?
One Isn't the Loneliest Number
I fully support anyone who wants many kids, no kids, or just one. I see the joys in all of those scenarios and believe it's not my job to comment. I only wish strangers would stop showing pity for my daughter's "only status." She has the love and rapture of two parents. Not exactly a sob story.
And after such difficult pregnancies, I am so thankful for my healthy just one child and love the bond I have with her. It is a blessing to be her mother, and while it's the hardest job I've ever had, it has brought me more joy than I could have ever imagined.