I have one 5-year-old boy with no immediate plans to have more.
This isn’t something that we planned or expected — especially given the
deep-set societal assumption that only children are awkward, spoiled and
lonely. We always imagined a second baby making its way into our lives, because
isn’t that what all parents want?
And yet another baby hasn’t been possible. To be honest, I
haven’t had an overwhelming urge to even want another. I’ve felt like I should want one — that after a certain
amount of time (two years ... three years ... four years?) I’d be struck with the
feeling all mothers seem to have. I mean, I love my son, I love being a mom; so
what’s wrong with me?
Despite the “shoulds,” I’m quite content with the one, and
he’s doing just fine. He has cousins close by, a neighborhood of friends in and
out of our house, soccer teammates, weekly play dates — and no sibling rivalry
to battle at home. We have plenty of one-on-one time, and I even have leftover
energy for interests (gasp!) outside
Some people might assume I’m selfish and ignorant, that I
don’t know what I’m missing, but I know my limits and I’m grateful for the
simple, manageable family I have.
That doesn’t stop the comments from rolling in. They started
when my son was about 2 years old — the “Soooo ... What are you waiting for?” icebreakers.
I’d like to say that the comments diminished at a certain point, but I had a
family friend ask me just yesterday, “So you just have the one still? What
As if he expected me to respond with, “Crap. I knew I was
forgetting to do something!”
So on behalf of all parents of onlies, here are 10 things we’re
totally sick of hearing:
1. “Have another one!”
As if you can reach into a cookie jar and pull out another child.
Some people want to have more, but fertility issues make it
impossible. Other people have lifestyle circumstances that get in the way of
having more children.
It’s not always as simple as “Have another one” — as if you
can reach into a cookie jar and pull out another child. For most families, the
decision to have another child is personal, complicated and not something we
want brought up at yet another family gathering.
2. “Kids need siblings.
It’s the best gift you can give him.”
I’d argue that the best gift you can give a child is
healthy, sane parents. And I know, without a shred of doubt, that I’m a better
mother without the chaos of having multiple kids in diapers.
Being my healthiest, happiest self is a gift for my child,
3. “Hurry and have
another while they’re still close in age.”
I’ve been told to HURRY ever since my son turned 2 years
old. Nothing like putting pressure on a person to make a life-changing
decision, because if siblings aren’t close in age what use could they possibly be?
I know siblings who are seven years apart and super close.
My dad and his brother were 11 years apart, and he couldn’t imagine a life
without his brother’s support and love. Plenty of kids are two years apart and vehemently
hate each other for the first 25 years of their lives.
It’s all a crapshoot; can we at least be honest about that?
4. “Are you going to try
for a little girl [or boy] now?”
I think it took approximately 72 hours after my son was born
for someone to say, “So do you want to try for a girl next?” As if my life
wouldn’t be complete without one of each, the yin with the yang.
I’ve heard it every year since.
5. “Only children are so
lonely. Don’t do that to him.”
Don’t expect to know how every only child feels.
It’s easy to project your own experience — or the
experiences you’ve heard about — onto other people, but don’t expect to know
how every only child feels. Yes, he
knows how to play on his own, quietly in his room after his friends have left
and it’s just him and us. But he’s learning how to battle boredom, he’s
developing a relationship with himself, and he has a deep imagination to get
lost in. It’s not all bad.
6. “Uh oh, the only
Being an only child isn’t a “syndrome” with specific
symptoms and consistent results. It’s simply a different lifestyle experience —
with the same ups, downs, pros and cons of anything.
If my son is a spoiled, self-absorbed tyrant, then that says
more about my parenting than how many siblings he has at home.
7. “Ugh I hated being an
only child. It was the worst.”
Some comments are better left to yourself and your
8. “Just think about
what will happen when you die. Then they’ll be all alone.”
Ugh. This is the gut-punch comment that every only-child
parent hears and wishes they didn’t. We don’t like thinking about our mortality,
about the pain and grief we’ll leave behind. And while I understand the appeal
in having a sibling who shares your childhood memories and can bear the burden
of funeral arrangements and such, this doesn’t seem like the best reason to
bring another life into the world. (“We had you so that you could help your
older brother when we die!”)
And it’s not like we have much control over whether our kids
get along, if they’ll outlive us, if they’ll be a support system for each other
or a toxic burden. We just don’t know.
9. “You’re not a real
mother until you have two.”
I am a real mother, and I don’t have to prove that to anyone.
I’ve heard this from at least a dozen people, including my
own mother. As if motherhood is defined by stress and competing schedules and
numbers of diapers changed.
I am a real mother, and I don’t have to prove that to
Maybe I’ll have another in a year or two, maybe not. For now
I’ll enjoy the one I have, be grateful for the perks, and politely ignore the
inevitable, well-intentioned comments that come with the only-child territory.