Before starting a family, I never really had an idea of how many children I wanted. I teetered between not wanting any children at all, because my freedom and selfishness felt so good, to wanting an entire brood of kids to follow me around. With every changing wave of my life through my teenage years and well into my 20s, I never really made up my mind. That is, until I had a child of my own. Although becoming a mother has transformed my life in ways I would’ve never imaged possible, I am completely OK with having one child and that’s it. But even though the make and size of my family is something I chose, other people have shamed me for being a "one and done" parent, and it's absolutely unacceptable.
I wish I could pick out just one or two passing instances where people in my life — ranging from friends, to neighbors, to coworkers — have shamed me for only having one child, instead of hurriedly planning the second or third, but unfortunately, it's happened with such startling frequency that it's stopped being surprising to me. Throughout the last four years of my son's life, I've been shamed regularly when I tell other people that I don’t see more children in my future, and that I'm OK with only having one kid. Speaking to a casual acquaintance last year, she asked me when I'd be "making my son a big brother." Laughing, I shrugged it off and said that I couldn’t see myself with anymore children. That's when she looked at me sternly and said: “You would make your kid an only child? That's pretty selfish of you, don’t you think?”
To be honest, I was completely caught off guard by her question. I didn't know that a woman who chose to have just one child was somehow selfish. I didn't know what I do (or don't do) with my body and my uterus was up for debate by friends, loved ones, and even total strangers. I'd never really stopped and considered what other people viewed as necessary for my own life. Children, for me at least, are not these little play things who you create out of obligation to anyone. They're a lifetime commitment and in giving birth to my son and caring for him these past four years, I've felt it was actually that raising him is the most selfless act I've ever done.
And, to that point, I made the choice not to have anymore children because I'm not emotionally, physically, or financially prepared to raise any additional kids beyond of the one I have.
The biggest critics of my parenting choices are not the people who'll be responsible for the life I create, the finances required in doing so, or the emotional strength it undoubtedly takes to raise child. They can insist I give my son a brother or a sister. But they don't have to deal with the effects of what that means. I do.
It's become a sad reality of my parenting that people feel the freedom to criticize the choices I've made for my son, myself, and for our family. And honestly? I don't ever want to feel like I'm put in a position where I feel obligated to have more children because of the judgments of others. It'd be horribly, horribly wrong of me to create another life I know for a fact I'm not ready for.
When are we going to trust women to be the decision makers of their own lives?
Everyone asks me, "Why don’t you have more children?" and tells me that my child is "going to maladjusted being all by himself," as if I am oblivious to the benefits of having siblings. I have five siblings of my own, so trust me, I get how important and wonderful having brothers and sisters can be, but the biggest critics of my parenting choices are not the people who'll be responsible for the life I create, the finances required in doing so, or the emotional strength it undoubtedly takes to raise child. They can insist I give my son a brother or a sister. But they don't have to deal with the effects of what that means. I do.
Now that I'm four years into this whole mothering-an-only-child life, the comments and attempts at shaming me roll off my back. I refuse to put myself, my current child, and any unborn child in a situation where we aren’t all able to thrive. Unlike my critics, I know myself and what I'm capable of. Some women want a basketball-team worth of children. Others give birth to one child and feel totally complete. There are even women out there who — gasp! — never have any children of their own and are absolutely fine with choices.. Who are you to judge what they choose to do with their life or their bodies? When are we going to trust women to be the decision makers of their own lives?
Some women are able to create basketball teams worth of children and be perfectly happy. Other women give birth to one child and feel totally complete. There are even women out there that never have any children of their own and are absolutely pleased at the end of the day.
My son is a well-adjusted, smart, beautiful, and an incredibly sweet and loving little 4 year old. Even though he doesn’t have siblings, he'll still grow up to be a perfectly well-adjusted, normal person.