I'm Raising an Only Child and It's Not the End of the World

by Ally Weinberg January 11, 2017

young girl sitting on sofa with book and teddy bear on floor

My daughter has an imaginary sibling.

Actually, let me be more specific. My daughter told me today that she has three sisters and three brothers. Sometimes it’s just a brother and sister. Sometimes there’s a baby in the mix. Most of the time, they’re her pretend older siblings, and they often live in the mountains or on Mars. One of them usually goes to something called a “Halloween School.”

The truth is, my daughter is an only child, and there’s a 99.9 percent chance she will always be an only child. My husband and I want one kid and one kid only. But most people don’t find that to be a satisfying enough number.

You might be wondering, do people really feel that it’s okay to ask you about your reproductive plans? Why yes, yes, they do. But isn’t that a wildly personal question?

Maybe it goes along with living in a culture that thinks it’s also okay to make decisions about my reproductive rights for me...but that’s a rant for another time. I get unsolicited comments and questions at least once a week about if or when I will be having another child.

It’s one thing for my daughter to ask about this. She is four years old. She’s actually part of my family, and that gives her the right to ask questions about it. And she’s four. Apparently, she told her classmates about her siblings. Soon I had a fellow mom texting me, asking if I was pregnant, saying her kid heard about it from the director of the school. The preschool rumor mill was going crazy!

I think my daughter just wants someone to help her clean her room, quite honestly. I’m pretty sure if she knew what babies entail, she would be less obsessed with us having one.

When I tell people we’re one and done, they usually keep pushing. I know they mean well, but it’s frustrating to feel like I have to qualify my decision to make them more at ease. If I was a stronger person, maybe I wouldn’t. I’d stick by my guns and leave it at that. But as it stands, I still feel like I need to explain our choice.

I offer some canned responses: “It’s hard enough to afford having one kid in expensive California.” “My pregnancy was really difficult, and I’m worried about doing it again.” “I am an only child, and I turned out okay.” “Have you met my kid, and do you really think we can handle another (followed by self-deprecating laughs),” etc.

All of these answers may be true, but the real truth is that my husband and I simply want our one awesome kid. This feels like the right size for our family.

The question of future children does stir a tiny bit of heartache inside that I will likely never lose. It’s the same melancholy that materializes when I see my daughter’s friend lovingly playing with her little sister, or when I notice a funny onesie I’ll never buy for my own future baby. I don’t know if this feeling is biological, sociological, or just simply personal. But I do know that it hasn’t changed my mind about what’s right for our family.

Sure, I’m pretty irritated when people ask me this question. But I can take it. I’m a big girl, and I’m used to it by now. Apparently, we’re disrupting some sort of acceptable social norm by not procreating again, and at this point, I just roll my eyes. But I often wonder how this question affects the people with one child, who are not one and done by choice.

Perhaps they physically can’t have another baby after their last pregnancy. According to the CDC, 7.5 million women in the United States struggle with infertility issues. Maybe they have gotten pregnant, but miscarried. Or perhaps their relationship is troubled, or they suffered from severe postpartum depression.

The possibilities are endless, and that question could be the epitome of a trigger. For me, it’s a trigger for irritation (and as you can probably tell from my tone, a little defensiveness as well). But for others, it might be the trigger for some very deep pain they’ve been masking.

I’ve decided to stop worrying about making other people feel more comfortable with my answer. From now on, I’m either going to say, “That’s not your business,” or if I’m feeling less irritable, “We’re not having another kid because we do not want another kid.”

And that’s it. I owe no one anything more than that.

On the flip side, if someone volunteers to share their reasoning for being one and done, be it infertility or just plain preference, let’s listen and empathize. Let’s normalize the decision and the conversation. If someone wants to share their plans to have or not have another child, I’m sure they will. In the meantime, it’s not your job to discuss it.

I may feel satisfied with my decision, but I do recognize a hollow ache that springs up from time to time when the subject of more children arises. I can’t imagine what hearing this question might do to a fellow parent in serious pain. I’m sure if you are asking, you’re not coming from a bad place.

But please remember, what seems like a simple question to you might be a minefield of complicated emotions to someone else.

Ally Weinberg


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