I have shared previously about the unique experience of knowing from his birth that my first child is going to stay my only child. Today I want to take some time and words to delve into why having an only child is the right choice for us. My husband and I occasionally revisit our decision, and each time we come out of the conversation more sure of and excited about our commitment to being a three person family. I can break our reasoning into a few main points:
We are both introverts to different degrees. My husband less so than myself, but we both need time to recharge after being with others, as opposed to feeling energized by socialization, which is the true essence of introversion. When I was pregnant, I wondered if my child would press on my “introvert bubble.” It was one of my greatest fears going into parenthood. Guess what? He totally does. I say this with love, and if anything it shows the degree to which my son has been a whole person to me from day one. If I thought of him as a subhuman blob, he probably wouldn’t deplete my interaction reserves. By the end of the day I am ready to hole up with my computer, or a book, or just under some blankets. I am all peopled out after a day of intense one on one care. I know this is season of our lives, and that care won’t be that intensive forever, but my husband and I both agree that if we introduced yet another person into our family, even in a few years, there is a very real chance my people energy reserves would be running on empty all the time. While I can survive that way, that’s not the person I like to be, it’s not the wife I want to be, and it is certainly not the mom I want for my son.
We want to continue to live within a modest budget. We currently make things work on my husband’s income alone. If we had another child a lot of things would be off the table for us. Travel as a family, the possibility of private school if there isn’t a good public school fit for our son, being able to afford extracurriculars he might be interested in, being a one (subcompact!) car family, living in the modestly sized home we bought last year, my husband pursuing his Master’s; all of these choices would no longer be options for us on our budget if we had another child. I know my husband already feels pressure as our single source of income, and neither of us are interested in increasing that stress. In our area childcare costs as much or more than I made when I was working, so my rejoining the workforce isn’t the answer either.
We have to safeguard our marriage. This first year of parenthood has been hard on our marriage. We don’t fight, we just rarely have time for each other, and time to connect. Everyone says it will get better when my son is around three or four. If we were going to have another child, that’s when we would do it, so that would mean restarting those intense years of feeling like exhausted ships passing in the night as soon as the first set was winding down. We know a lot of people make it through that, my parents did and are very happy to this day, but when my husband and I have honest conversations with each other, we have to admit we are not sure what our marriage would look like after six or eight years of this kind of living. Ensuring that our son has happy, loving, connected parents is far more important to us than making sure he has a sibling.
We struggled to get pregnant, and then I had an incredibly difficult pregnancy. We tried to get pregnant for over a year before we conceived our son, and it was a year full of anxiety and heartache that included multiple miscarriages. When we did finally conceive a healthy baby, I lost 15lbs from severe morning sickness in eight weeks. Four weeks after my nausea had subsided, I was disabled by a pregnancy complication caused by a connective tissue disorder I already had. I was on “activity restriction” and crutches for most of the rest of my pregnancy. You might think this would be the major factor in our decision, but honestly, if not for all the other reasons, we would find a way around this one. That being said it certainly doesn’t make the idea of having another child any more appealing to think about not only possibly going through all that again, but doing it while parenting a young child.
There are many qualities of only children we really look forward to seeing in our son. There are all kinds of studies on the impacts of being an only child; I am pretty sure we have read them all by now in our quest to be sure we are making the right choice for our family. Only children statistically have higher self-esteem, they are more likely to have “familial” friendships which they give great love and loyalty, they are more likely to question authority, and they are more likely to reach high levels of academic achievement.
I know that having an only child isn’t the right choice for everyone, or even most people. That being said, it’s a choice worth making consciously, and with the knowledge that only kids aren’t statistically more or less happy than kids with siblings, nor are parents of multiple kids happier than those of onlies. Make the choice that’s right for your family, but make sure you’re really making a choice, not just following the trajectory you feel is expected.
Are you an only child? Are you the parent of one? Are you the parent of one and considering whether or not you want another? I would love to hear from you.