"Of all my children, you're my favorite," I tell my 9-year-old daughter as I give her a hug. She rolls her eyes and snuggles up closer to me. "Oh, Mommy," she sighs.
The joke, of course, is that she's my only child. I'm an only kid; her dad is an only; and my mom—her grandma—is also an only child. We are a singular bunch.
Although I never really missed having a sibling while I was growing up, I later wondered if I had missed out on something. So, when my husband and I talked about having a family, my plan was to have two kids. It seemed like the typical dream of an American family, with one girl and one boy, of course, who would be each others' playmates, cheerleaders, and confidantes. Of course, I know many siblings who actually aren't very close or even can't stand each other, but I decided to ignore that. My husband, terrified of parenthood, was only willing to agree to one child to start. I figured I could change his mind later.
Then, our lovely daughter was born. She was a really difficult baby. She rarely slept until she was 10 months old. She didn't smile until she was 6 months old. She cried a lot. It was exhausting, and frankly, not very rewarding. I felt like a shell of myself who could not master the right sequence of actions to make the shrieking stop. Despite loving my daughter intensely, my interest in producing another one of these draining crying machines waned significantly.
And then, it got better. As a toddler and preschooler, my child was so very cute. She giggled joyously. We played and had fun together. I slept! I felt like a capable mom. I enjoyed being a mom. I liked spending time with my kid. I loved our times together as a trio—mom, dad, and our child. It felt complete.
What You Need to Know About Your Only Child
As the years passed, the idea of having another baby would come up, mostly because people would ask if we were going to, friends were having their second babies, or because we were wondering if we should store or donate our baby stuff. But, life with one child was going great. I really love the dynamic in our family and being able to focus my motherly attention on just one kid. Our daughter is really fun and smart, and it's easy to take one kid anywhere we want to go, whether out to dinner, on a day trip, or for longer. Plus, my husband and I can take her places by ourselves, letting the other parent have some "me time," which, frankly, we both need. We are only children ourselves, after all! And now that our daughter is older, when she goes to a friend's house or an extracurricular activity, we both have free time at the same time! We can breathe, pursue our hobbies, or take a nap. It feels luxurious!
We saw our friends with second kids and oohed and ahhed over holding their babies, but it was always pretty easy to hand them back. I didn't miss having my hands full or having to take turns scarfing down food while the other parent tried to soothe a screaming kid. I was relieved that that part of our life as parents was over. Plus, I like being able to focus completely on the one child I have and not have to manage my time between two (or more) vying for my care and attention. I know parents of multiple kids figure this out, and many do it quite well, but it just isn't right for me.
Strangely, my husband considered having another child more seriously than I did. Somehow we swapped our initial ideas about how many kids to have. But he, too, didn't really miss having an infant and never felt strongly enough about it to even warrant a big conversation. Our daughter, unlike some other kids I've heard about, never asked for a baby brother or sister either. She enjoys her alone time and having her parents' full attention, I think. Plus, she's spent enough time at the houses of friends with little siblings to see firsthand how annoying they can be. She loves their siblings, but like us, she enjoys them for a while and then is happy to hand them back.
My family also lives in New York City, so money and space are a factor—not a huge factor, though. We could have made it work if we wanted to, but we really didn't.
Because my husband and I are both only children, we haven't had to deal with many questions from our families about when Baby No. 2 is coming. The grandparents get it. Other family members and friends would definitely ask about it in the first few years, but because my husband and I were on the same page, it was easy to respond that we didn't want another one and not feel annoyed by the question. To friends who had a second baby, I sometimes wanted to say, cringingly, "You seem frazzled and it looks hard. I don't really want that!" I didn't say it, of course, because that would be rude. But, I'll admit it's often what I was thinking.
So, why did we decide to have only one child? I suppose it's because my husband, my daughter and I are all happy just the way we are. We like it being just the three of us (plus a very needy cat and an easily ignorable pet snail). We like the way our little trio gets to spend its time together—and apart. We are complete. It's really not so confusing. In fact, I'm more confused about why anyone has more than one kid because having an only child is so perfect for us.