The decision to not have a second child was not an easy one for us to make. Not initially, anyway. There are several reasons for that. I mean, HELLO. Have you held a newborn? The cooing, the helplessness, the tiny toes?
Now, try to forget that sweet new baby smell for a moment. There has been some guilt about my daughter not having a sibling/s. I have imagined her sharing a secret and giggling with a little sister or running around with a little brother. She’d have a live-in playmate and I’d have some moments of peace to clean the house as they kept each other company. OK, OK. I’m aware that this is not always the reality! There are times that I feel that I am robbing her of the sibling experience: that special bond that only siblings can share. What if someone picked on her? Who would have her back when we weren’t around? And, as morbid as this is, the idea of burdening her with the responsibility of caring for and making decisions regarding aging parents felt terrible. I still struggle with the fact that I might be making a selfish decision.
Another facet of this conundrum is the fact that I have listened to other people’s opinions. It’s incredible that people suggest that my daughter will be lonely, spoiled, or just generally maladjusted because she is lacking a sibling. What surprises me more than anything is that some people have offered this opinion without knowing if it was our choice to just have one child or if was simply the way things worked out and we were not able to have more. But you know what? Some people are always going to offer unsolicited advice. It’s my option whether or not I want to hear it. Now, someone help me remember that!
Of course, we’ve weighed out the pros and cons of having an only child. And for every disadvantage of having just one child, there is also a benefit. Financially, having just my daughter allows us more flexibility. Additionally, she’s in daycare during the day and appears to be pretty well-adjusted socially, so I feel like not having a sibling hasn’t damaged her severely in that department. And going places as a family is just, well, manageable.
This is not to be read as “my-choice-is-the-best-choice”, because I love seeing families of four or more out and about. I myself am from a family of four. I have an older brother that I love dearly, but honestly, with a six-year age difference and totally different interests as we grew up, we weren’t exactly tight when we were kids. So, a crucial part of the acceptance of my decision to have just one child is to let go of the guilt of depriving her of what I imagine would be. Because the reality is that both my husband and I realize that we are happy with one child.
I know that I’ve definitely created a lot of the pressure that I feel, and am responsible for much of the second-guessing of my decision. Maybe if I knew more couples who had an only child, I wouldn’t feel like such an outsider. Because, honestly, sometimes I do. Or maybe I just need to let go of what the “norm” is listen to what works for my family.