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I Need to Change the Way I Talk About My Only Child

Photograph by Twenty20

I recently had the good fortune of having a date night fall in my lap—my sister’s plans had been cancelled, and she wondered whether we might like to go out while she watched our kid? Um, yes! I was eager for a night where I didn’t have to think about being a mom.

Soon enough we were on our way to the movies on a Saturday night. To break up the silence in our Uber ride, I asked, “How’s your evening?”

“Ending,” the driver said, “but yours is just beginning, right? You going to what, 3, 4 in the morning?”

“Oh no,” I laughed, “we have to get home to the babysitter.”

“Ah, how many kids do you have?”

“Just one,” I said.

“At least you have one,” he replied, “You have someone to live for.”

What … what was this? In the midst of an Uber ride, an unsheathing of the human heart? I rated him five-stars for the exchange alone. I kept thinking about it throughout the movie. Though I’d started the night wishing not to think about mom life, here I was contemplating the mysteries of and wonders of motherhood after all. Well, at least I had a theatre-sized box of M&Ms.

Just one.

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I regretted my phrasing, because being a mom to one child is more than enough. Oh, just this one, you know? Just one baby who completely changed my life forever. Just this one amazing child. Just her. My response reminded me of people (often strangers) who lead with, “When are you having more?” As if the ones we have don’t count. As if all parents need two or three kids (but definitely not more than that) to satisfy societal expectations.

Some people might yearn for family and the self-deprecating mom humor that we moms love so much, myself included, might actually be a little hurtful to people who don’t have kids but want them.

It also made me think of another time when someone asked me, “What are you up to these days?” and I said, “Oh, right now I’m just a stay-at-home mom.” I'd been careless in describing the most transformative, wondrous and challenging experience of my life thus far.

Why had I minimized it?

I don’t “just” have one child. My one is my everything.

And then, his last comment: At least you have one.

The words revealed our Uber driver's deeply held belief about family along with some thinly veiled sadness. It’s the kind of exchange that simply doesn’t happen between strangers. It’s what caught me off guard, making me want to cast down my smartphone and hug my fellow man.

The short exchange was also a reminder to be sensitive. Some people might yearn for family and the self-deprecating mom humor that we moms love so much, myself included, might actually be a little hurtful to people who don’t have kids but want them.

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"You're right, you're right," is all I could say to him, but with it I meant so much more.

From now on, when people ask whether I have kids I'm going to change what I say. I'm dropping the "just." My answser is, “Yes, I have a daughter.”

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