My Only Isn’t Lonely

The number of families in America with only children is steadily growing. While you might have multiple children, you are sure to know some only children. Many people have strong opinions about only children and opinions about family size in general. One kid isn’t enough, four kids is too much! Ever wonder what it is like to be the mom of an only child? Here are some heartfelt thoughts and confessions from two of our Daily Moms with only children, Cindy and Kristen. 

From Cindy

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I think the expectation nowadays is that if you’re young and healthy, you’re going to start popping out kids immediately after marriage. But what if you’ve decided to go against the grain and only have one? I drove the naggers in my life nuts by waiting over 6 years into my marriage to get pregnant. Not because I had trouble getting pregnant, but because, honestly, I was perfectly content with simply sharing life with my husband alone for a while. Then when I finally gave my own personal paparazzi the man-child they so desired, the pressure to produce a second started almost immediately. But for my husband and me, one was enough. Our son completed our family, and we don’t feel like anything is missing from our lives by having only one child. We really don’t have any opinions about the number of children other people choose to have; we just want one, though.

Our son is now 9 years old, and the barrage of “when are you guys going to have another?” has finally waned, but there are still the occasional well-intended-but-judgmental comments. My favorites: 

  • It’s so cruel not to give him a brother or sister.
  • But he would make such a wonderful big brother! Such a shame to not give him a sibling!
  • Every kid should have a sibling! 
  • Isn’t he so lonely? Who does he play with at home?
  • Oh, I can’t imagine how sad my life would be without my brother/sister! 
  • He won’t have anyone at all once you and your husband are gone.
  • If he doesn’t have a sibling, he won’t know how to share/love/play/have a conversation/have a friend/*insert random absurdity here*.   

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As a little girl playing dolls with my best friend, I only ever played with one doll at a time. I had my beloved Jesse, androgynously named on purpose so that I could go back and forth between mothering a boy or a girl at my whim… and he was almost always a boy. Even as a child, one was enough for me. Yes, I had a bajillion dolls, but I kid you not, if I wasn’t playing with Jesse, I just pretended I was babysitting for a friend. I think somehow I just knew I would one day be the mom of an only. 

Nine years into my motherhood, I don’t regret the decision my husband and I made for one minute. Sure, I get horribly baby crazy when a friend has a newborn that I can snuggle, but I’m more than happy to dote on and snuggle that squishy baby… then hand him back. For me, it isn’t a fear that I wouldn’t be able to love another baby like I love my son… and I love him more than I knew it was humanly possible to love anyone… because my belief in God has shown me that love is the only resource that can never be depleted: the more that you give away, the more you have to give. No, for me, it’s more the fear that I wouldn’t have enough of ME to give to another child. I had no earthly idea just how much my life would change by becoming a mom. People tell you, but you just can’t hear it until you live it. I give everything I have of myself to our son to make sure he’s happy and healthy and knows he’s adored. At the end of every day, I nearly collapse from exhaustion from the mental exertion of entertaining his inquisitiveness. I know myself; I can’t do this times two. I just cannot.

And my son wouldn’t want me to.

From time to time over the last couple of years, he expresses his longing for a sibling, but he’s never been persistent about the subject (and trust me, persistence is a concept he knows well). He is a classic introvert and truly enjoys his time to himself. I have always made sure to give him plenty of opportunities to socialize, not only with kids his own age, but also with younger childrenBeing an only child has actually opened up a much wider world of friendships for him; as my little shadow, he’s also made several adult “friends,” including a handful of our elderly neighbors. And his cousin, who is an only child, too, spends time with us on breaks from school and during the summers. His two closest friends — a boy and a girl — are also only children, and we see them both regularly. He is not lacking in brotherly/sisterly relationships simply because he is an only child. He loves well, and he is well-loved.

Sometimes, late at night, when all is quiet and I’m thinking far, far ahead, I do wonder how it will be for him to not have a sibling as an adult. It is in those moments that I pray. I pray that he will marry a wonderful woman of God who is from a huge family. I pray that God would give him a friend who is as close as a brother. I pray that his relationship with Christ would sustain him any time he feels lonely. I pray that he can look back on his childhood as an only and remember how very much he has been loved since the day we knew he was on his way into our lives. And I pray that it was all enough… because he is enough for us.

From Kristen

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I am a mother of an only child. I am happily the mother of an only child. I have known since I was about 12 weeks pregnant that this would be my only go at this making a baby thing. My son, now in the prime of being a preschooler at four, fills my days, my arms, my heart and my mind. When I have one of those moments where I feel as if I am watching my life from the outside, those moments where I just take it all in and relish in what I am a part of, I feel complete. My family feels complete.

I don’t dream of another child. I don’t feel a yearning for a baby when my friends announce second and third pregnancies. When those babies are born, I honestly don’t want to hold them. I love the precious little lives my sweet friends have brought into the world, but I don’t want to pick them up and reminisce of when my son was that tiny. The day that God has given me today is right where I need to be and the family that I am blessed to serve and be a part of is exactly the family I need.

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Because I am still technically in my childbearing years and my child is still the age where people expect you to have another child any day now, I get asked if or when I will have another child. We live in a culture that views the sibling relationship as a necessity for a full life. However, just as I am able to feel fulfilled with one child, my son will live a full life without a sibling. I don’t owe him a brother or sister. He will still know how to function in society growing up in a home without other children. The myths about only children are just that, myths. My son has a sweet and kind heart. Even as an unpredictable preschooler, he loves his friends deeply and plays well with them… most of the time. I am confident in the little boy that he is and in the man he will grow to be.

The opinions of other people are like static on the radio. I know what I want to listen to, my own heart, my own body, my own mind, but the other voices – the static – just annoy me. Unlike listening to the radio, I will not be changing from my station to make the static go away. I am happy with my frequency. I like my station. My station in life as the mom of an only child works for me. I am not going to adjust to quiet the static. I just assume the static will slowly fade away as the years go on. In the meantime, I am going to enjoy the beautiful sounds of the life God has given to me and to my family.

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If you are one of those static causing voices who tells a parent of an only child that they need more children, please consider stopping this. The size of another’s family is not up for discussion. To be perfectly frank, it isn’t anything you even get to have an opinion about. You can never truly know the whole picture behind someone’s choices, especially choices about why or why not they have children.

I have my reasons for choosing to not have more children, but I am not going to present them here because my decision needs no defending.

If a mom tells you there are medical reasons or infertility to blame for not having another baby, that seems to be good enough. If a mom tells you she just doesn’t want to have another baby, that she just feels “done,” you try to talk her out of it. You might say why you think she should reconsider, or worst of all, you might guilt her. Why are we putting guilt on women for something we shouldn’t even have an opinion about?

The guilt has gotten to me momentarily. I will feel this little cringe of fear in my gut, like I am making a mistake. Maybe I will be filled with heart wrenching regret one day but I doubt it. Then the beautiful song of my life plays louder than that static and I feel joyful and complete and can dance through my day.

There you have it, honest feelings and thoughts straight from the hearts of two mamas with only children. We would gently ask you to put yourself in the shoes of another mom the next time you find yourself wanting to share your opinion on someone else’s family size or making a judgment about a child based on birth order or lack of siblings. Every family is different, just as every child is unique in their own ways. There is no right way to make a family!

Did you leave behind a career when your child was born? Here’s another heartfelt post from one of our Daily Moms, What I Wish I Had Known When I Put My Career On Hold For My Kids.

Photo Credits: Cindy Haley, Kristen D. 

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Kristen Douglas
Kristen Douglas
Kristen lives in Alabama with her handsome hubby and sweet son, along with her cat who thinks he’s a dog. Happily, she left behind the life of a Washington D.C. attorney to be a stay at home mama in the south.

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