There’s been a fair amount of media coverage this past week regarding “one child families”, which seems rather timely for me as I have recently been coming to terms with and even finding peace with the idea of joining this part of society and remaining a “one child family” rather than adding to our little brood.
I never thought I would have an only child. It just never entered my mind. I considered the fact that we may not be able to have any children, but never that we would stop at one. That was, of course, before I discovered how truly awful pregnancy is for me and how to go through another one would be to seriously jeopardize my relationship with TJ.
I’m not exagerrating, and I’m not saying that we don’t have a strong relationship. In fact, nothing could be further from the truth. In the 6 years I have known TJ we have been through redundancy (for TJ) and subsequently two career changes, two chemically-induced menopauses (for me) and surgery for my Endometriosis, several relocations, and a pregnancy complicated by Hyperemesis Gravidarum and Cholestasis. Not to mention that in that time both of us has suffered from depression as a result of the strain from all the health issues. We wouldn’t have survived this long if our relationship wasn’t strong.
But, I know we have found our limit. We both do. In fact, TJ knew it long before I did (or rather he was able to admit it long before I was!) To face another pregnancy would be devastating for our relationship and it is that knowledge which helps me put to rest those maternal urges that make me think “I want another baby”. I have wrestled with this a lot over the past 18 months, but I finally feel like I am getting to the point where jealousy no longer creeps in as soon as I hear of someone else adding to their family. In fact I had cuddles with a friend’s newborn a couple of weeks ago and there wasn’t even the teeniest pang of jealousy at all… and that took me totally by surprise!
You see, for a long time I thought that even if I couldn’t expand my family through another pregnancy, then we could look into adoption. But the more I really thought about this the more I realised that it wasn’t just the pregnancy that was an issue for me, but the overwhelming exhaustion that comes from looking after a child. I am exhausted all the time, and though this was true before my pregnancy (Endometriosis and side effects of the hormonal treatments to try and control the Endo symptoms will do that to you) it is most definitely true now that I have Little Man to consider.
Just this past month I have been battling a horrific cold. I’ve had cold after cold since last September, but this one has been a killer. In fact I am now on antibiotics because of the fact that 3 weeks later it has developed into a chesty cough, sore throat, and completely blocked sinuses. And today is the first day that I have dropped Little Man off at the childminder, called in sick at work, and had a day to simply rest on the sofa and try to get better. Gone are the days when a cold could be fought by plenty of rest… it just doesn’t happen when you have a toddler.
And therein lies the key to my thinking… Little Man won’t always be a toddler, he won’t always need this much energy and attention. But do I really want to get to a point where he is becoming less demanding and then go straight back to square one with another child? Unbelievably (to me, at least) I don’t.
For many years I have dreamed of having 2 or 3 kids. I looked forward to those few years when I would be surrounded by all the things that come with young children. Having just one child means that those years are going to be much shorter. And for a long time that was not okay with me. No siree.
But suddenly, I realise that this is something to be enjoyed, not grieved. When those around me are still changing nappies and dealing with childhood illnesses, my little boy will be a much bigger boy and we’ll be saying goodbye to the difficulties of these early years. Sure, we’ll miss out on the fun bits too (I don’t need reminding of that!) but there will be so much more we can do with our only child…
I’ll have time and energy to devote to him that I wouldn’t have were I the mum of a second or third child. If he needs taking to a social group several nights a week it will be no problem, as I won’t have to work it around the whole family, just him. If he wants a big party for his birthday, or a random sleepover, that will be fine because I won’t have to worry about how the other kids may feel left out. And if he needs me to sit with him every night of the week and guide/encourage him through his homework then I can do that, because my time won’t be split between several children.
This isn’t to say that I think having one child is better than having more than one. Had things been different, I would have loved to have a second or third child. But as it stands, this is a positive choice for our family and I am relishing in the positives that come from this choice. It is no longer something I choose out of necessity, but something I am beginning to embrace.
Once Little Man is at school, if we want to up our income I can take on more hours. I’ll not have to take time out for maternity leave or pay for further childcare. We’ll be financially better off and that special trip to Disneyland for Christmas that I dreamed up for Little Man may actually come true!
And looking way into the future, TJ and I will still only just be hitting 50 when Little Man is ready to leave home – that gives us plenty of time to enjoy life as a couple again while we’re still young and (hopefully) healthy enough to make the most of the extra free time we’ll gain.
There are fears, of course, aren’t there always? What happens if Little Man desperately wants a sibling when he is a little older? What happens if he never wants kids of his own and we miss out on being grandparents (this is, of course, his choice entirely, but it would be nice to think that one day we might have the priviledge of being somebody’s grandparents). And what happens when we’re old… will all the pressure rest of Little Man and will he be left with no-one to share his grief with when we die?
But all of these, like most fears, are unfounded.
If Little Man wants a sibling, we will reassess the situation. We are pretty sure that adoption isn’t right for us as it stands right now, but that doesn’t mean we might not change our mind in the future. If it turns out that adopting is a better option for our whole family instead of remaining a one child family then we will look into it. And we certainly haven’t ruled out fostering as something we might like to do when Little Man is older – after all, what better positive could come out of having an only child than having the extra time and energy to give to someone who truly needs and wants that love and attention?
And if Little Man doesn’t want (or can’t have) children of his own, then we will accept that. As I say, it would be nice, but it isn’t something I want him to feel pressure over. I can quite happily be the “honorary granny” to all my friends’ children’s kids and those of my nieces and nephews.
And as for Little Man being alone – well, that is still a worry. But he has 4 cousins on TJ’s side and 1 coming on my side, so it’s not like he’ll have no family his own age around. At the end of the day, having siblings doesn’t always mean having someone around. I know only too well how distanced siblings can become, having seen it happen to others. I truly hope Little Man will never feel alone, but it’s not something I can guarantee by giving him a sibling, nor is it really the only reason to have another child. So it becomes a bit of a moot point.
For all the positives of having more children, I am actually glad that I have found peace in my heart about remaining a one child family. I am somebody who loves to give… all I have to anybody who needs it. I have been frustrated this past year and a half when I have been unable to do more for charity, or when someone has had a baby or been going through a rough time and all I’ve wanted to do is sit and crochet them a little gift to cheer them up a little or celebrate their new arrival. By having an only child, not only will I have more time and energy to give to him (without totally exhausting myself and my limited energy reserves) but I will also have more time and energy to give to others. Of course it would have been nice to give this to another child of our own, but when balancing it all up, I feel that this is a true positive of this choice.
And that’s where I’m at right now, learning to love the idea of being a one child family. It’s not what I expected to find myself saying, but it is all exactly what I’m feeling right now.
I’d love to hear your thoughts on this, if you fancy sharing them.