The Struggle With One.

by Amber on March 21, 2012

I never pictured myself as the mother of an only child. Of course, to be honest, for a long time I didn’t think much about being a mother at all. But when I did, I always pictured myself with two.

Now I’m not so sure.

My daughter’s almost three. Almost out of diapers. Sleeping through the night more often than not. The hardest stuff is almost over.

And I am now 36. In the “advanced maternal age” bracket, as it were.

Add in a financial situation that’s growing ever more tight and common sense dictates that we count ourselves among the “one and done” segment of the population.

It’s not like that’s a bad thing.

My daughter is a beautiful, happy, healthy child. One who I like to think is super smart and super talented. With no other babies to care for, I can focus on her. Play with her. Cuddle with her. Give her what she needs, when she needs it.

With just one child, it’ll be easier to save for things like vacations. More room for extras like dance lessons and soccer teams (or basketball, as she is currently insisting).

More room, period.

And our cozy family does feel pretty perfect, most of the time. When we’re walking down the street, each of us holding one of Tori’s hands, it’s hard to imagine any other dynamic working quite so well.

And when she’s being a monster? It’s hard to imagine adding another child to the mix.

But there are other times. Times when every cell of my body cries out for another child. When it feels like someone’s missing. Like there’s still an empty chair at the table.

I watch her watching other families at the park. Families where multiple children chase each other across the playground, yelling and screaming as they go, and my heart breaks a little. As an only, she’ll never have that.

I think about all the adventures I had with my brother growing up. I remember the day he decided to try and see if he could walk on water, and the lecture we got. I think about the weeks we spent boogie boarding at the ocean, and catching crabs, and dunking each other under the water.

As an only, she’ll never know what that’s like either.

Of course, she also won’t have to deal with the flip side of the sibling experience. She won’t have to deal with the fighting and the hitting and the name calling.

And maybe that’s a good thing.

But as I look at the baby gear still in our garage, or search through her newborn clothes looking for an outfit for her favorite doll, my heart twinges.

Then I hear a friend’s pregnant and it pinches some more.  Even the memory of those brutal weeks after delivery and the depression that threatened to swallow me whole doesn’t make it stop.

I am happy with the family I have. I’m pretty sure my baby-making years are behind me.

But my heart? Still struggles with the thought of having just one.

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{ 33 comments… read them below or add one }

Meagan March 21, 2012 at 6:06 pm

It’s a tough decision to make. Chris was an only. He has some interesting observations about traveling and such. He is often baffled by the boys’ fighting and such because he never had to deal with that.

My sister is 4 years older. We played together some growing up, but we were at such different stages that we didn’t always have a ton in common. So, if it helps you feel better, having another might not mean they would be close.

Two is a little crazy. Doesn’t matter if they are close together or further apart, it’s always crazy.
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Amber March 22, 2012 at 4:08 pm

True story. Shared blood does not mean you have to be best friends. I was just whining out loud, I guess.

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Jen March 21, 2012 at 6:56 pm

Hi!
There are definitely benefits to both, and I feel like I can say so because I am an only child (and I begged my parents to have another baby when I was little! ha) and because I now have two children. Like the previous poster said, even if you do have another it is no guarantee that they would be close (or even LIKE each other for that matter) my father is one of 6 children and he emails his siblings a few times a year and only sees them once every few years !! (by choice. sad, I know)
I think society pressures people to have more than one, so I think it is great that you are being realistic about your desires and wants in maybe being part of the “one and done” segment of parents. Parenting is not easy and it’s not something to take lightly (having another).
BUT, at the same time I have to tell you. Your age should be NO factor. You are ONLY 36!! I had my second child at age 36 and I never thought much about my age, it is not a big deal. Yes it puts you in a slightly higher bracket, but , really that is not something that should concern or worry you. Women are having babies much later these days, even my midwives were not concerned about my age at ALL. They said certainly nothing before 40 is alarming, and my own midwife had her first baby at 43! :)

GOod luck , either way you choose. You and your family are the only ones who know what is best for you!

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Amber March 22, 2012 at 4:07 pm

Thank you. But 43? Wow. I actually know someone who just had a baby at 46…so I have another decade to decide!

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Rebecca March 21, 2012 at 7:00 pm

Play dates are awesome and wonderful for chasing friends who look like siblings at the park.

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Amber March 22, 2012 at 4:06 pm

There is that, for sure. And then the extra ones go home!

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Emily March 21, 2012 at 7:10 pm

My husband and I used to go back and forth all the time about whether or not we wanted to have another baby; it’s a gut-wrenching decision. But remember, you can’t really make a wrong choice here. Your daughter will be fine no matter what you decide. You just have to go with your heart.
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Amber March 22, 2012 at 4:05 pm

Thank you for the good advice. You’re all right, I know it!

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Jen March 21, 2012 at 8:46 pm

Maybe you should just let the universe decided. Stop preventing a baby but don’t really try and if you are supposed to have one then you will and if not… you are happy.

Just my 2 cents. :-)

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Amber March 22, 2012 at 4:04 pm

I have thought about that, believe you me. We’ll see…

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Robbie March 21, 2012 at 9:19 pm

I think many parent struggle with how many children to have…whether it me #2 or #6. Finding what works for each couple/family is different. I would have loved a larger family but we got started late..i was 37 with #3 and another pregnancy would be too risky for me. Good luck in whatever decision you make!
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Amber March 22, 2012 at 4:03 pm

Thank you! Whatever happens, everything will be fine. I’m sure of it!

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Shell March 22, 2012 at 3:10 pm

This is a hard decision to make. I have three and sometimes, it’s just hard. We have to make decisions for the group instead of for the individual. Everything’s expensive. And wow, do they fight.

But, they also love each other.

It’s something you have to figure out. Not an easy choice at all.
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Amber March 22, 2012 at 4:02 pm

No, it’s definitely not easy. It would be, if I knew I could swing daycare for two, but…well, you know.

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Jamie March 26, 2012 at 1:11 pm

I am the same way. We think our daughter will probably be the only one. Sometimes when we’re playing or planning the future I am happy that it’s just the three of us. Other times it just seems so unfair to her. We’ll see.
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Amber March 27, 2012 at 2:22 pm

Yep. Right there with you. We’ll see indeed. I guess we just have to trust it will all work out the way it’s supposed to.

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Missy @ Wonder, Friend March 26, 2012 at 11:23 pm

It’s one of the harder decisions we ever have to make, I think. I struggled with whether to have a third, and ultimately decided we were “two and through.” But for a while, the weight of the decision hung around us, coloring an awful lot of my waking time (and even some of my sleeping time).

Thank you for sharing this.
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Amber March 27, 2012 at 2:20 pm

It is harder than I thought it would be. Much harder. But sooner or later we’ll make the decision and I’m sure it will be a relief.

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Linda M. March 28, 2012 at 7:00 pm

Thanks for sharing. I think this is a subject many couples struggle with, especially in this economy, where in most cases, both parents have to work, so unless they can balance their schedules, or still afford day care… My brother is 4 years older, and we got along pretty well, but I’ve hard many times that siblings are not even friends, or hate each other. I like th e idea of not trying to prevent a pregnancy, and not really trying either – then it really is up to the “fates”. I agree – whatever you decide, it will be the right choice for your family.

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Amber April 1, 2012 at 10:01 pm

Yep. Fate is a beautiful thing. But I’m going to stay in control for a while yet. There’s too much going on in my life right now!

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Kizz March 29, 2012 at 11:13 am

As an child free only child this is a subject close to my heart. I wish people wouldn’t frame the decision as “for” the kid they already have. It’s a decision you’re making for yourself (and for/with your spouse) that will have repercussions for your kid but it’s not for her. It’s not a gift like wrapping up a doll she’s longed for and handing it to her. It’s like wrapping a box that someone else packed for her and letting her open it to see if it’s full of flowers or soil. Both good gifts. Widely differing expectations when unwrapped. It’s also interesting to me that when parents talk about this kind of thing it’s often about how the mythical kids will mythically feel while they’re kids. It’s relatively rare for someone to continue thinking about what it’s like in adulthood.

But that’s not so relevant.

What’s relevant is, I’m an only child and, not only did it not bother me, I liked it. I still do. Is it easy being an only child of divorced parents who are aging? No. But I’ve seen plenty of people with siblings bear heavier burdens than mine with no help from those sibs. I also have friends that I would walk through fire for. People who help me with my parents, are my emergency contacts on important bills, whose kids I count as cherished nieces and nephews. It’s different than having a sibling, I know that. But, after a long time fighting the way people think about only children (I think this is changing for kids who are lone rangers today) I finally feel comfortable saying being an only child rocks. I hope more kids get to try it.

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Margaret March 31, 2012 at 11:07 pm

Thanks for your .02 Kizz. We’re in the same boat as Amber. And yes, in some way, I do indeed think about adding a baby to the family so my 5-year old girl can have a sibling. You addressed some of my concerns for her future if she were to stay an only child. I thank you for sharing your experiences!

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Amber April 1, 2012 at 10:05 pm

I agree! It’s good to have an only child’s perspective on these things.

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Amber April 1, 2012 at 9:59 pm

I think it’s definitely changing. Only child households are more common than ever! And just to be clear, I don’t really want another child “for” her. It would be for me…

But I definitely value your perspective. And you’re right, just because you have a sibling doesn’t mean you’ll be close, or have any help. I’m sure whatever happens, she’ll be just fine.

Thank you.

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Jean March 29, 2012 at 12:16 pm

It’s never an easy decision. I knew I wanted 2, but my husband was content and afraid to rock the boat. We each have older siblings who are our best friends, and he wanted that for our son, but again, loved things as they were. While we were still debating fate took over and we got preggers, now have 2 boys. I finally feel complete. I know I’m done now. But it is very hard some days. Good side, they’re close, they entertain each other, and watching them together is so awesome. Down side, little bro is a brute, and I’m so over potty training and diapers and terrible 2′s. I have no time to myself. Whatever you do will be what was right for you. It’ll be as it should be, and your daughter will be fine either way. Only you can decide what is right for your family. Good luck, and trust your heart and instincts.

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Amber April 1, 2012 at 9:56 pm

Thank you very much. I kind of hope Mother Nature tells us what to do too!

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Lucinda March 30, 2012 at 5:19 pm

Finding the right balance for your family can be a challenge. What is best for your family may not always be what your heart had hoped for. I wanted three and ended up with two. It was the right choice for our family and I firmly believe that but I still sometimes wish we had been able to work it out for three. I think being uncertain and wondering what if doesn’t mean you made the wrong choice.

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Amber April 1, 2012 at 9:51 pm

“what is best for your family may not always be what your heart had hoped for.” That may just be the best perspective I’ve ever gotten. Seriously. Thank you for putting it that way…

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Mandy w March 31, 2012 at 7:45 pm

We almost stopped at one and now we have four! While being practical is good. Sometimes we are so planned and “cautious” we can miss out. If you want another baby. An to me it sounds like you do, go for it!

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Amber April 1, 2012 at 9:49 pm

Four! Wow! I don’t think I’ll ever be that brave. You do have a good point, though!

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Angie Kinghorn March 31, 2012 at 8:40 pm

Wow, Amber, what a powerful piece. The decision about how big to make your family is so hard, and you really explore all the factors: financial, emotional, the risk of PPD again, AMA, your child’s experience … talk about a lot to consider.

All I can say is that this is one of THE most personal decisions you’ll ever make, and that you and your husband will know in your hearts what the right thing for your family will be.
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Amber April 1, 2012 at 9:48 pm

Thanks, Angie. It’s something I’ve been mulling over for a while, but our decision is always changing. We’ll just have to see, I guess.

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Krista April 4, 2012 at 12:20 pm

This is exactly what is going on for me on a daily basis. My son is about to turn two, and I have always pictured myself having two children. My husband, however, wants just one. He has come around to a maybe, but I am still set on another…

But then there are days when I think about potty training exhaustion, spending a night in the hospital because Simon has croup, whining with overtiredness, and on the more positive side, the special attention he gets from being our only. I have days where I could see us staying the way we are, but as he gets older I am not sure I will stay convinced.

I am in my thirties now, and if we do have another, I;d like a 4-5 year age gap, which would put me on the brink of “advanced maternal age” by the time we had another. Lots to think about.

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