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I Didn't Expect an Only Child

There was this girl I knew when I was growing up. She was pretty, smart and sometimes unbearable to be around.

She was an only child, a fact which people would often use to excuse her behavior. “It makes sense, you know…” I would hear the adults whisper. “She’s an only.”

I grew up knowing that being an only was somehow a bad thing. That children who were onlys were destined to be unkind, uncaring and unwilling to share. In adult terms: selfish.

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And while I have met a few onlys over the years who have challenged that way of thinking for me, I have also known my fair share of onlys who fully feed into the stereotype. As, I’m sure, have many of you.

It never really mattered to me though. I wasn’t an only, and with a burning desire to have at least five children, I knew none of my kids would suffer from only child syndrome. So it was a moot point. The curse of the only wasn’t something that would ever apply to me.

Except that now, it kind of does.

As much as I would love more children ... I just do not believe I can be the kind of mother I want to be to two children on my own.

The topic of onlys has been coming up a lot lately in my group of friends. Several in our circle had their first child around the same time my daughter was born. When they all became pregnant, I mourned the fact that I would likely never raise children with my friends – infertility making it seem as though motherhood was far out of reach for me. The unexpected adoption of my daughter changed that, however, and it has been everything I could have dreamed of and more to be able to be in this stage of life at the same time as those I hold most dear.

But now they are all starting to talk about second children, and I can’t help but feel a little left out. As a single mother by choice, I have known all along that I would not adopt again on my own. As much as I would love more children, and as fulfilling as motherhood has been for me, I just do not believe I can be the kind of mother I want to be (both financially and emotionally) to two children on my own. There are women who do it, and I have all kinds of respect for them, but … as long as I remain single, the door will remain closed on the question of more babies.

Which leaves me contemplating the very real possibility that my child will be an only, even as my friends debate the various downfalls of just such a predicament.

You see, they are all pretty scattered on how they feel about adding on to their families. Some seem to really want another, but are held back by infertility. Some are more on the fence, or have just recently brought that second into the world. And some seem completely content with the idea of being done, except for one thing – they don’t want their first to grow up as an only.

Yep, no matter how they feel about having another, they all agree on one thing: Depriving a child of a sibling is less than ideal.

I get it. Having a brother growing up was probably the best part of my childhood. I loved that kid, even when we were fighting. He was like a built-in best friend, and even today, I would do just about anything for him.

I would love for my daughter to have that. I really, really would.

As long as it is just she and I, there is still a pretty fun and exciting life ahead for us.

And who knows, maybe someday she will. But I can’t help but cringe a little hearing my friends debate the pros and cons of having another child, and having the potential of raising a spoiled only forever landing on the con side. Even when I agree with them. Even when I, myself, sometimes fear my daughter growing up with that dreaded only child syndrome. It still makes me sad. Maybe because there is no choice to be made on my end. There are no options. Unless something big changes in my life over the next few years, she is going to be an only.

But rather than focus on the drawbacks of that, I guess I prefer to look at the positives. As long as it is just she and I, there is still a pretty fun and exciting life ahead for us: a life of travel and adventure and teaching my daughter that she can be the master of her own destiny — while also striving to keep her from growing up spoiled, entitled and unwilling to share.

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The good news is, we have our village and this kid is going to grow up alongside plenty of other little ones her age. The amount of time we spend with our friends is pretty substantial, including group getaways and regular slumber parties. Already, these kids behave more like siblings than friends. And for now, I have to believe that’s enough.

That the curse of being an only isn’t unavoidable.

And that my little girl is going to grow up just fine, even if I’m never able to give her a sibling to grow up alongside.

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