Why do we feel obligated to explain our choices to other people? Is it that we fear or wonder if we are being secretly (or not so secretly) judged? Are we looking for validation for the choices we’ve made? Or do we just not want to feel alone?
Take, for instance, the choice to have only one child. Heaven knows, I have been questioned and lectured to and judged for this choice, but why? And why do I always feel the need to have to explain myself, as though I have done something wrong by not choosing to have a second child?
Many a well-meaning soul has asked about why my son is an only child or has felt the need to explain to me that I am basically ruining his life by not “giving” him a sibling. Here are just a few of the wonderful comments I have heard about this:
Questions I’ve been asked about my “only” choice
“Who will he play with?”
Well you know, there are these things called friends, people he chooses to play with instead of being forced to. He also has cousins that he loves dearly. He is a very social kid, so don’t worry, he’s got no shortage of playmates around.
“You do realize that he will be all alone when you and your husband die, right? Think of how difficult that will be for him.”
Thanks for your concern and that lovely morbid thought. I really hope that by the time that happens he will be at least a middle-aged man with a family and support system beyond his parents. Having just lost my Dad, I have to say, having a sibling did not make that loss any less terrible. My sister does not replace my dad.
“How could you be so selfish? All kids need a friend and playmate built right in.”
Well, I would rather be here for the one kid that I do have than to try for another with a high-risk pregnancy that could result in a devastating loss. To me, this is the very opposite of selfish. Plus, there are no guarantees that. I could even get pregnant again anyways. It is not selfish to choose life and health.
“Isn’t he lonely?”
Nope, not as far as I’m aware. He has a large group of friends, both from his school and ones he has met throughout his life. He has cousins whom he adores and looks up to. He has younger friends that he sees himself as kind of big brother/mentor to. He has teammates and friends from martial arts and the list goes on and on… You are only lonely if you choose to be.
“You are not thinking about him, you know. All kids want to have a brother or sister.”
Actually, I am. He is all I think about. Both for my son and what is best for our family.
“All of the only children I know are just horrible, spoiled brats.”
Clearly, you haven’t met my kid. He is thoughtful, kind, compassionate, empathetic, generous and friendly.
Why do I need to justify my only child?
Why, though, do I feel the need to justify this? It is my life and my body and my family. More times that I can count I have explained our situation to people. I have told them how he weighed less than 5lbs at birth and spent nearly two weeks in the NICU. I have told them how both my OB/GYN and my GP strongly advised me after he was born to not have any more children, as my risk for another preemie was greatly increased. I have explained how the doctors told me that I would be deemed a high-risk pregnancy from the get-go and would be monitored constantly and potentially be on bed-rest for a good chunk of any future pregnancies. I have told them that we are happy as a family of three and that our family feels complete as it is. But yet that is still not enough.
Being an only child is not ruining my son’s life in any way. He is loved. We can devote our attention to him and give him opportunities that we might not be able to otherwise. We can travel and have adventures and live our life as we see fit because we are content. It is the right choice for our family. Choosing to have one child is no more selfish, right or wrong than choosing to have a larger family.
I am happy if you were able to fulfill your dream of having three children, a dog and a house with a white picket fence. If that is what you felt best for your family then in my eyes, that is awesome Or maybe you have two kids, or five because you remarried and blended your families. Maybe you have eight or nine. I have a friend who always wanted a big family and ended up having nine kids. If it works for you, that is great. I just wish others could have the same respect for my choices.
Having only one child does not make you any less of a mother than having more than one. I feel lucky and blessed that we got the one that we did. I had always thought that I would have two kids, but sometimes life has other plans. Some people are never even able to be blessed with one, so I thank the powers that be every day for the one we did get.
Have you ever felt the need to defend or explain the choices you’ve made when it comes to the size of your family?
This post originally appeared on One Crazy Kid. Reprinted with permission.