How does the saying go? First comes love, then comes marriage, then comes the baby in the baby carriage. Do you notice anything missing? When does the second, third, or fourth baby in the baby carriage come in? The big question after getting married is, “When are you going to have kids?” It’s never, “When are you going to have a child?”
Our society seems to have determined that you must have a second if you have one child. But many parents can not or do not want to have more than one child. And that should be okay. We as a society should stop shaming parents for deciding to only have one child.
Why Some People Choose to Stop With An Only Child
There are many reasons why someone may choose to complete their family with only one child. A primary reason is fertility issues. Some families try for years to have a child. It takes a lot of time, money, and emotional stress to go through this journey. It might be enough for a family to have been successful once and not desire to go through the uncertainty and turmoil again.
Another reason could be timing. Some people may have children young, or some wait until they are older to settle down. Either way, their life plan may not include having children after or before they decide to. For our family, we felt like we had to decide whether to have a second very quickly after our first was born. We considered many factors. Not only our age but our retirement years, our potential children’s college years, and many other things that came far down the road. Some people may find they just don’t have the time to devote to more than one child.
Pregnancy Can Be Challenging
Thirdly, pregnancy and postpartum can be very challenging for a woman’s physical and mental health. Numerous health conditions can occur to a woman in the nine months she is carrying a child, all with varying severity. Postpartum depression and postpartum anxiety, among other things, are very real, very scary, and very serious postpartum complications. Some people may go into their first pregnancy assuming they will have a second. However, having a traumatizing experience can change their mind.
Expense is another reason that people choose to have one child. Some families may want to travel, live a particular lifestyle, have only one partner work, or not want to have two children in daycare. Unfortunately, it is hard to balance finances and family in the world we live in today. Having one child may allow parents to have the best of both worlds. When we were looking into the cost of daycare, it was half of our mortgage. It would have been nearly impossible to manage two children in daycare financially with student loans and other bills.
Family is Complete
Lastly, one child might be all that family needs to feel complete. It’s not a crazy idea to think that a family may be content with how one child fits into their life.
How to Respond to Questions About Not Having a Second Child
Regardless of whether it is appropriate or not, many people will continue to comment on your decision to have only one child. How should you respond? I reached out to a few friends who have chosen to have only one child regarding this issue. Here are some of the ways they mentioned they respond:
- “Questions like this put a lot of pressure on us. We are comfortable with one, and that’s our personal choice.”
- “We are really enjoying soaking in all the memories/moments with our only child.”
- “Our reasons are private.”
- “That is a very personal question that I do not feel comfortable discussing.”
- “We are very happy with the way our lives are now. Thank you for your concerns.”
What to Avoid Saying to Someone Who Has Only One Child
Also, here are some things to avoid saying when someone has only one child:
“So when are you going to give ______ a sibling?”
Remember, some people have problems conceiving or have had horrible pregnancies. Asking questions like this can bring up trauma from the past that the parents are trying to move forward from.
“Being an only child is so lonely!”
This is just speculation. There are plenty of only children thriving off of friendships, cousins, aunts and uncles, or other family members. Being an only child is not a lifelong sentence for being lonely.
“I feel bad for him/her.”
This is very forward to assume that a child will miss out on life because they do not have a sibling. Many times the reason for having only one child is financial. Adding another child could possibly mean the children having much less than the family can afford for one child.
“Aren’t you worried about him/her being spoiled?”
This is a direct attack on a person’s parenting style. You assume they aren’t teaching their child about sharing/helping others.
“You’re missing out!”
Again, this is a personal opinion. Whether a family feels that they are missing out on something is their opinion and business.
The bottom line is that it is no one’s business, except your own family’s, to decide if you want one or ten children. It is already a hard decision for many women/men to start a family. So please let’s stop shaming women who choose not to have a second child.