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One and Not Done

Sarah Preston Gorenstein

It’s odd to think of Preston as an only child since it’s not by our choice. He’s an only child now, sure, but he might not always be. I never thought of my brother as ever being an only child, though he was for the first four years of his life too. (He’d probably say those were the best four years.) I don’t think those old stigmas about only children still apply, since only children are the choice now of a lot men and women, as a result of many things including the economic climate, women having babies later, infertility rearing its ugly head, double income households, more women bringing home the bacon, etc. It’s not as uncommon as it used to be.

I considered for a minute having only one child—mostly because, I may not have a choice. When one month of going through infertility treatments turned into eight months, and then a year, I considered the possibility—one and done? If that’s our fate, I will have to be okay with it. One child is a lot easier than two, after all. It’s less expensive. Makes for an easier way of life. I’m a full-time working mom. Sometimes I think it’s selfish to split my time even further with another child, when I’m already doing that with my career.

There are obvious lifestyle benefits to only children. But I also wondered, is it as fun for the child?

“When I finally came to terms with the fact that I didn't have a live-in playmate, but that I did benefit from an unchecked flow of parental attention, I grew up loving being an only child,” said my middle school BFF Rachel Abrams, 38, a New York transplant who’s expecting her second baby in March. “I only began to see it as a disadvantage when my parents' relationship became compromised, resulting in their divorce, when I was an adult. Then I wanted nothing more than a sibling to share the hurt, confusion and burdens of this heartbreak.” Rachel is writing a book about coping with her parents' sudden, unsettling break-up, as an only child on the verge of starting her own family. In fact, it was the devastating dissolution of her parents’ marriage that also drove her to want more than one child, as well as her curiosity about the sibling dynamic that she never had.

My desire to have more kids is often clouded by what I have to go through to get there—secondary infertility has been a rude awakening. I often say, I blinked and got pregnant with my son, not even realizing I was ovulating when he was conceived. For anyone going through infertility, having kids is a lot of work and pain and money. You have to be very committed to the cause, and put yourself through a lot if you really want it. Thankfully I didn’t have to go through this the first time, but if I had? I don’t know if I could put myself through it again.

Similar to Rachel, the thing that has kept me going is the will to give my son a sibling. It’s more than that—I’d love to have another child—but sometimes I think my desire to give him a sibling is stronger than my desire for another baby. And the last thing I want is to look back and have any regrets.

I suspect there will come a time—soon—when Preston will want to know why he doesn’t have a brother or sister. I’ve been dreading the day I’d have to come up with an explanation for that. Right now he thinks Barkley, our dog, is his brother.

The other day, as we were leaving for school, he stopped to look at a wedding photo of my husband and me:

Him: “Why did you and daddy get married?”

Me: “Because we love each other.”

Him: “So…why’d you get married?”

Me: “Because when two people love each other, they get married…well, not always, but sometimes. We got married because it meant we got to have you!”

Him: “I want to get married too.”

He’s only three.

If he’s an only child, I don’t worry about him growing up to be spoiled, lacking confidence, or becoming an introvert—common misconceptions about only children. I think more about his future, as an only adult. Perhaps because I’m an older mom this weighs a little heavier on me. Having a sibling will make life easier for him, especially as we grow old. He’ll probably be taking care of me one day, wiping my butt—I’d hate for that responsibility to fall solely on him.

How do you feel about siblings? Share below.

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