When I was first pregnant, I planned for one baby. All I ever wanted was a little girl. I know it sounds bad. But I was an only little girl. That’s what I know. I was raised an only child. The story being much more complicated than that but the point is I have fond memories of being included in things that you may not be able to do with more than one child for many reasons. Expensive dinners, trips to the theater, private schools, museums, private piano lessons. There were other times, when I found myself lonely and longing for someone to play with. Of course, I didn’t live in a neighborhood that lent itself to playing outside and there was only 1 other child in my neighborhood.
When I planned to have a baby, I initially thought that I would have more than one to break that “only child” stigma– A play-mate. A built in buddy. Isn’t that what siblings are? As I get older, as Scarlett gets older and truly is attached to her dad and I, is a second child is really worth it?
There were many times in my life when I was hit with the only child generalizations. In high school a history teacher said, “we all know about only children and how messed up they turn out.” I, being an “only” was brave enough to raise my hand and say, “Excuse me Sister, (Catholic school–not being brazen) I am an only child and I think I turned out very well.” I was always a little more mature, a little more articulate, and clever. I found friends, (many of them only children as well but not all) who shared these traits. I am not saying siblings are not as bright or well spoken. In fact, I always dreamed of and longed for a sibling. When I had Scarlett my fear was that she too would long for someone to play with.
Why do people have more than one child? Is it just so your current baby will have a playmate, Is this a legitimate reason. I ran down the list possible justifications: playmate, the possibility of having a boy, I want a second baby (pregnancy, sleepless nights, teething). I had to ask myself, do I really want a second baby? I understand 2 kids is the social norm, again, not a good enough reason. If a little girl is what I wanted, I got lucky the first time. Why tempt fate? Finally, I was not a fan of being pregnant.
Moreover, I had to make great sacrifices to have just one. I gave up my job. When I did return to work, my mom came 1700 miles to babysit. Granted, I got to spend 15 months at home with my daughter. If I had another, I would not be able to make this sacrifice a second time. Also, if I had a sibling, my mother would be dividing her time and not be able to do something as self-less as move away from my father for 5 months to help me. That’s a big deal.
I grappled. I thought of everyone I know who grew up, everyday, with siblings. I was looking for that sibling-best friend connection to justify having a second baby which I think I may have romanticized. But my search fell short, sibling buddies being the exception and not the norm. Then, I considered every “only child” I know and discovered that most of them are very close to their parents. This being the norm with a few minor exceptions.
I turned to an expert. One of my oldest and dearest friends who, with his spouse, decided to be “one and done.” His reasons were:
1. Kids are expensive. If you win the lottery and don’t have to worry about college. Great. Have ten. But don’t you want to give one child the best life possible?
3. Only children are closer to their parents.
4. Only children are more articulate. They do more with their parents and learn more this way.
5. There is no guarantee your kids will be best friends. Most siblings are not.
6. When you have more than one kid, you spend less time together as a family. Parents divide the kids and go off to little league, the supermarket. No one is together. This also suggests that maybe parents have multiple kids to avoid having to deal with each other as a couple.
7. Don’t you want to spend time together as a couple? An “only” allows for this more (see item #6).
8. Only children seem to truly value the friendships they have and keep friends longer.
These reasons opened my eyes to what is really important. I left our conversation so grateful for the wisdom of his parenting.
What would I rather have? Two children whom we shuffle through to adulthood with the hope that I have helped foster a sibling relationship that will bond them together for life? According to Wendy Widom, “Why Having an Only Child Rocks,” ” the bottom line is this: I can’t produce another person just to give my kid a companion, someone she may or may not get along with now or decades from now when I’m lying on my deathbed. And I can’t do it because other people think I should.” (Huffington Post). It begs the question, do I focus my attention on our little family, “my only” and make us as tight knit as possible?
I truly enjoy every moment I spend with my daughter. I give her my undivided attention. As it is now, I can listen to everything she says. I can truly be present for all of her milestones without having to care for another baby. I can balance my professional and personal life to make sure I attend all of her special events and school functions. I will be at every sporting event without having to divide my time. This is of top-notch importance to me. I love her watch her grow and learn. As corny as it may sound, I don’t want to miss any of it. I don’t like the idea of having to divide my time or attention with another child who, as an infant will undoubtedly, need me more.
Granted, “my only” is the youngest of my husband’s children. The age differences of at least a decade places Scarlett in her own category. Of course, she will have a bond with his older kids but we are a blended family, our lives are made of acknowledging differences and respecting them. Her experiences will be different from that of her siblings. It is okay to know that and say it. I am not singling her out. She is close to her siblings but as they grow up, she may see them less. They will be in adulthood while she is still a young child. Moreover, Scarlett is my only. I am her mother, not her step mother. There is no “stepping back” with her. She is my sole financial responsibility. If I make this decision, she will be my “only child.” She will be our “only child.” The characteristics of her “only child-ness” will be a little different but the lack of an additional sibling will set her apart. Not to mention, it provides us with more opportunities to expose her to new things. To share in her life and really be present in her experiences. I don’t want to smother her. I want to give her every opportunity I can.
I realize that admitting to only wanting one child is almost offensive to some people. It can be a shock. To that I say why? Give me a reason to have a second. Give me a reason that doesn’t make the youngest child seem superfluous? An accessory? I am intrigued. I wish I could wrap my mind around the justification of having another but the “only” in me keeps coming back to “just one.”