There’s no doubt about it - parents of only children often get a bad rap. For some reason, people have no qualms questioning them about such a personal part of their life and even adding their own commentary into the mix. Rarely do parents of two, three, even four children get placed under such scrutiny for their family size. Not the case for families with one child - where comments and questions may leave parents feeling judged and even criticized.
One mother put it best with this particular statement: “There are basically two reasons parents will have an only child. Either they made the decision themselves or the decision was made for them. Specific reasons can be extremely personal, even heartbreaking.”
That’s enough to make anyone reconsider questioning a parent of one child. The following article offers further insight into 15 family’s lives where one child happens to be the norm. As readers will see, despite having an only child in common, these parents’ reasons, observations, thoughts and feelings are varied and distinct. There are parents happy with one child, who are wistful, who are forward-facing, who had a difficult time moving on, who made the decision themselves or who had to accept a harsh reality. Perhaps it’ll be enough to give anyone leaning toward judgment, a bit of pause in order to see the situation in a new light.
Continue reading for 15 truths from parents of only children.
While many people who have actively decided to stick with having an only child are happy with their decision, for Shawna*, this couldn’t be farther from reality. For obvious reasons, she was only willing to tell her story under a pseudonym.
“Having an only child is one of the biggest regrets of my life. And what’s even worse is that stopping after one was my sole decision. My husband desperately wanted to try for another one but I convinced him that one was enough and that having another baby would ruin the dynamic the three of us had.
“Our daughter is just about to graduate from high school now and so that may be the reason I’ve been obsessing about not having any more kids. I’ve actually been seeing a therapist which is a help. I guess my advice for anyone planning on having an only child is this: if you feel even the smallest doubt about your decision or a tiny part of you is thinking about having another baby - you owe it to yourself as well as your family to at least seriously consider the idea before simply shutting it down.”
Suzanne* is mother to one son and was only willing to share her story if guaranteed her anonymity.
“Both my husband and I chose to only have one child. I can’t pinpoint the specific reason other than to say that one was enough for us. People assured us that this would change with time . . . but it never did. My heart was filled by my son.
“The only other people in the entire world who know this truth are my in-laws. They are both kind and supportive individuals who have never questioned us or judged us. Even my own parents and sister don’t know the truth. I am a bit embarrassed to admit that when asked, I mislead people by pretending I was unable to have any more children. It’s just easier for me to say “I hoped for more but it didn’t work out” than to tell the truth and possibly get into a heated debate where I am left feeling judged and upset.
"Telling this white lie just works for me. No one ever pushes further. Both my husband and I know we made the right decision by only having one child but I don’t feel like having to constantly defend this choice.”
Happiness comes in all different ways and for Hillary*, it’s having an only child.
“Before my daughter Chelsea* was born, we had no idea how many children we would one day have. Today she is nine years old and my husband and I could not be happier with our family of three. For us, it was the right decision and I have never felt like anything is missing.
“We never actually made a point of only having one child. But once she was born and a few years went by, we just felt like our family was complete as is.
“Over the years, we’ve gotten a few random comments from people with the usual tired old sayings like ‘only children are spoiled’ and ‘you don’t know what you’re missing’. But we’re good. Honestly, I don’t care how many kids other people have so why should anyone care how many I have?"
Melanie M. can’t really put her finger on why she and her husband decided only to have their one son. It just felt right to them both.
“When my son was a few months old, our former neighbor asked us when we’d be having another one. I replied that I wasn’t sure if we’d even be having a second and he said: ‘If you only have one child, you’re not really a family.’ I was dumbfounded and had no idea what to say.
“Other people have made comments like: ‘You probably just wanted one kid so you could spoil him’ or ‘You’re a career woman then’ - assuming my reasons and usually with a condescending tone! It drives me crazy that I’m expected to justify my reasons especially since parents with more than one child don’t have to explain their choice.
“There is a lot of importance placed on sibling relationships. A lot of people mistakenly believe that only children miss out on certain life lessons. But having a sibling isn’t the only thing that shapes who you are as a person . . . far from it!”
There are many different reasons why a parent may choose to take the one-and-done approach to having kids - and going green is one of them. Reducing her family’s carbon footprint is why Kerri D. and her husband opted to have their one and only.
“People have always asked why we only have our one daughter - and I’m sure they will continue to question this decision until the day I die. And it never fails - they always seem to be shocked by my answer. We decided to have an only child for environmental reasons. That doesn’t mean I judge anyone else for having more - it’s just our personal reason for making such a personal decision.
“I find it tiresome when people get their backs up about my answer. If they have the balls to ask the question, they should be prepared for the response they will get. Some people choose to drive a hybrid vehicle - well my husband and I chose to have just one kid!”
Father of one, Chris M. enjoys the fact that there is no tit-for-tat to worry about when focusing on his son.
“It may not seem like much of a bonus - but so many of my friends who have more than one kid are always stressing about being fair and figuring out how to stretch themselves equally two or three ways. It’s one less thing for me to have to worry about where my son is concerned.
“At bedtime, if I want to lie down with him or talk to him about his day or let him stay up a few minutes extra than usual, I don’t have to think about taking any time away from another child in order to do so. When it comes to my son, I can actually make choices based strictly on his needs and my ability to provide rather than feeling any sort of pressure about fairness and equality.”
While many babies start out life as happy accidents, Maggie* describes her son’s beginnings as a happy compromise.
“I never really planned on having children - I like them fine enough but never felt an internal push to have any of my own. However, my husband didn’t feel the same. Having kids was important to him. Soon after we became engaged, we realized we had different ideas as to the life we saw for our shared future.
“My husband wanted two or three kids - and I didn’t want any. So we reached a compromise and decided to have one. Secretly, I think my husband hoped I would change my mind. And my son definitely opened my eyes to the love I was capable of feeling for another human being. Every day I am thankful that my husband was able to convince me to become a mother.
“But a deal is a deal and one child is enough for me now and forever.”
Having one child is just the way things worked out for Sara H. although it was never a definitive plan of hers.
“Things got complicated fast when I went into labor with my son. Plus it didn’t help that I was vomiting the entire time. I had an epidural but when labor wasn’t progressing like it should have, I ended up having a C-section. That turned out to be a horrifying experience considering I could feel myself being cut open and the doctor rooting around in there - I sh** you not! Oh yeah - and I was still vomiting.
“Long story short, I didn’t die. But half of me was numb for the next 24 hours. So basically, a rough childbirth experience coupled with a lack of family support is the reason we waited a few years after the birth of our son to even try for another one. And even though we did try for baby #2 a few times, no luck. I figured if it didn’t happen by the time I turned 40, then that was it.
“We’ve gotten into a routine with the three of us that works pretty great. And being a family of three has plenty of advantages.”
Having an only child isn’t always a parent’s active decision. This happens to be the situation for Tom L. and his wife who have a nine-year-old daughter.
“I’m an only child myself and growing up I always felt like I was missing out on something. I was a pretty lonely kid and was always envious of my friends who seemed to have much more exciting and fun-filled houses than my quiet one!
“I knew that I didn’t want my daughter to be an only child but sometimes you just don’t get what you want and it wasn’t in the cards. I found the best way for me to deal with this was to focus on what I do have rather than what I don’t have - sounds pretty simple but that’s not always the case. My wife and I sometimes have to work at this.
“Also, we both make a concerted effort to ensure our daughter’s childhood is much different than mine was. We spend a lot of time together and we enjoy each other’s company. Most importantly, we have taken great pains to foster a close relationship between our daughter and her cousins on her mom’s side.”
When it comes to parenting a one-and-only, there are often many factors considered before the decision is made. This is something people should keep in mind before asking a parent probing questions about something that may be a private matter. Mother of one daughter, Callista* sums it up quite succinctly.
“There are basically two reasons parents will have an only child. Either they made the decision themselves or the decision was made for them. Specific reasons can be extremely personal, possibly even heartbreaking.
“I have been questioned about having only one child and even been called selfish on occasion. There are several reasons my husband and I decided on just having the one - we experienced a chromosomal issue during my pregnancy (everything worked out fine!) and there was my age to consider as well (no comment!).
“Whatever the case, a family of three just worked out for us. I wouldn’t have it any other way.”
Sometimes a parent has to endure a boat load of red tape when it comes to having even one child. Which was the case for Serena* and her husband.
“After three miscarriages and an unsuccessful in vitro attempt, we turned to adoption. After another couple of years dealing with lawyers and adoption officials, it looked as if our efforts were about to pay off. We would soon become parents to Russian twins - a boy and a girl. We had photos, the nursery ready, and even names picked out. And then it all fell through. I was devastated.
“But then like so much else in life, fate took over when I seemed to give up. And just over a year later we adopted our baby girl from Russia. That moment when I first held her in my arms is one of my happiest. I wouldn’t change a thing about the long and arduous process we had to endure in order for us to welcome her into our lives. But I also know I could never put myself through it again.”
Mother of one, Marina A. had no trouble whatsoever conceiving her son. But when it came to having baby #2, it wasn’t as smooth sailing for her.
“We got pregnant on our first try - I had a pretty awesome pregnancy, labor and childbirth went great and our baby was an easy one from the get-go. So when he turned one, my husband and I tried to have another one. I was surprised that it just wasn’t happening as quickly as we hoped. Then after about 10 months of trying, I got pregnant again and was ecstatic. Except the next day, I miscarried and I was devastated.
“Then we learned that I had a condition that would make it extremely difficult for me to carry a baby to full-term. We had lucked out with our first!
“The miscarriage was such an awful time in my life that I knew I didn’t have the strength to go through that again. I figured that I was only meant to have the one. My husband had a vasectomy and we’ve never looked back!”
For Nancy*, financial issues came into play in the decision to only have one child.
“Both my husband and I had many discussions about having kids before we even tried getting pregnant. Neither of us makes very much money and probably never will. Plus, my husband’s line of work is very unstable which makes it sometimes difficult for us to plan for the long-term.
“Having one child was the best decision we could make for our family. Our daughter is now four and even though money is still tight, it’s not a struggle. If we had another child, I know that our finances would take a beating. Plus, as a family there’d be a lot we’d have to give up - our second car, the house we have, any vacation plans. Also, I want to be able to provide my daughter with a paid-for university education. We’ve been putting money aside for that since the day she was born!”
As much as Farah N. loved motherhood, she just didn’t feel the same about pregnancy or childbirth.
“My son is about to turn eight. And as much as I love him, I hated being pregnant with him. I was nauseous the entire nine months and had to be on bed rest for the final two months of my pregnancy. My labor was deemed high risk so I was stressed about that and then I ended up having an emergency C-section.
“Afterward, every time I looked at my son I would feel this warm feeling of joy but there would be this awful dread in the back of my mind like ‘Oh no - I have to do this all over again’. Honestly, I would get queasy and an awful headache just at the thought of going through pregnancy and childbirth a second time!
“One day, my husband said to me that he was perfectly happy just having our son. And there was no reason we had to have any more children. As soon as he said this, it was like a giant weight was off my shoulders!”
An awful childbirth experience left Reagan* with an only child as well as a pessimistic state of mind. But all that changed after an eye-opening visit with a relative.
“There were complications during my labor and I almost bled to death. I ended up having an emergency hysterectomy. I was so upset with the finality of this that I could barely even enjoy my brand new daughter. I was a mess - and my husband had to take a leave from work so that he could take care of the baby and me.
“The turning point for me was when my husband’s aunt and uncle came to visit us and meet the new baby. His aunt took me aside and basically told me to focus on what I had rather than on what I couldn’t have. I went to see my doctor a few days later and she diagnosed me with postpartum depression. But already, I could feel the cloud lifting.
“Sometimes I still think about and even mourn what could have been. But the difference now is I don’t dwell or obsess over it. It is what it is.”