Updated: Jan 13, 2021
My new favorite thing to do is tell people I do not want to have more children and that we are “one and done” to see their reaction. I am often met with the following reactions; “you will change your mind”, “you can’t have an only child”, “do you have a difficult baby”, “did you have a traumatic pregnancy or birth”, “what is your relationship with your sibling” and/or dead silence.
After constantly feeling like I needed to justify my decision to have one child I thought it would be interesting to get different perspectives about having children. Deciding if or when to have a child and how many is a complex and personal decision. My hope is that learning about others journeys will open all our minds to being more understanding and accepting.
The Case For: No Children by BETHANY
I knew I did not want kids back when I was a kid myself, for lots of reasons. My husband always felt the same. Part of why we matched so well was this commonality, and we are legit grateful every day we found someone who we feel so aligned with. Much of it is boiled down to independence. We both like to eat/drink what we want and when we want, we go to concerts and last minute get togethers, we travel together and separately, we spend time with our families, we have hobbies and like to spend time alone, we both work hard at our careers, the list goes on and on. Having a child simply does not fit into the mix of the experiences we value in our lives and how we like to spend our time. The thought of needing to check in and care for someone else for a minimum of 18 years (and sometimes beyond that) is dreadful- I am thankful every day I never had a child.
The Case For: Maybe Having Children in the Future by JULIE
In 2017, when I imagine most of my family and friends were expecting me to announce the arrival of a baby, I announced that my husband and I would be separating after 5 years of marriage. To be 35 and starting over, gasp! Wasn’t I putting my child-bearing years at risk? Didn’t I want to be a mother? Who would take care of me when I was older if I didn’t have kids? To be a woman of a certain age, there seems to be an expectation that you will have children and yet, here I was making a decision that could jeopardize this path. Now, I could go deeper into ideologies and stigmas, but I will spare you that. However, I will say that if there was one thing I knew, I didn’t want to let how I felt at 35, newly separated, dictate my future either.
Never a part of any plan, as, let’s be serious there was no plan, I decided to freeze my eggs. While I knew this was an option, I never assumed it would be one I would be able to afford and to be honest, the very little I knew about the process intimidated me. On a whim, I called my insurance and found out portions of it would be covered, bringing it down to a cost I could wrap my head around. My consultations went well, the process was easier than I expected, and shortly before I turned 37, I froze my eggs. Many people have asked why bother if I wasn’t even sure if I saw children in my future. My response has always been, why not? Why close a door when I don’t have to? If there is anything I have learned over the past couple of years, life takes turns when you least expect it. Maybe when I am 40 I will want kids. Maybe I won’t. My goal is and has always been joy and fulfillment. When you go from being with someone for 9 years of your life to being single again, you are forced to rediscover what makes you happy. This year more than ever, we have seen how life can change in an instant. If my joy and fulfillment come from a different place than yours, amazing. A “one size fits all” approach doesn’t work and that’s okay. We don’t have to mirror each other; we just have to love and support each other. I am happy and I hope you are too.
The Case for: Not Having a Set Plan or Number by KATIE:
Determining how many children, you want to have and when to have them is not as simple of an answer as some may think. I believe there are personal reasons that people choose to have a certain number of children, which ultimately can come from their own family experiences and how they grew up. I grew up as an only child and had a wonderful upbringing. The perception or stereotype for only children is that they are lonely and spoiled. This is not the case for anyone I know who shares this commonality. Ideally, the plan was for me to have a younger sibling however, that card was never dealt. I look back and wonder at times what it would have been like if I had grown up with a sibling. There are pros and cons to both circumstances however the void of not having a sibling fills me with the desire to provide that for my child. There is a comfort provided by the awareness that you have someone in this world to navigate through life with.
If this first year as a mother has taught me anything, it has been that life will take your plans and find a way to smash them into smithereens. My answer to when and if we will be having another child has always been, “I am taking this one day at a time”. Each day as a new parent/caretaker brings new challenges and obstacles. I am still finding my balance between being a mother, wife, daughter, friend and having a career. Am I closing the door on having another child, NO. Does the thought of having two children excite and terrify me, YES. Do I need to know my final number right this minute, NO. I do recognize the benefits that siblings can bring. I do see the benefits to being an only child as well. I also think it is ok to be unsure and pause to be present and in the moment. I want to enjoy my daughter's first year without the added pressure. My focus is on the NOW and we are excited for the future, whatever that may be.
The Case for: 1 Child by DONNA
In the beginning of our (very short) journey of getting pregnant, my husband and I always said we’d be happy and lucky to have one healthy baby, and agreed that two would be our absolute max. I got pregnant pretty much the first time we tried, and we were beyond grateful, acknowledging all of the struggles so many women near and dear to us have gone through. Within two months of being pregnant, and again multiple times throughout my pregnancy, I told my husband that I would “never be doing this again.” Pregnancy is a wonderful and beautiful thing and words don’t begin to describe the amazing outcome, but I did not enjoy one second of it. No, I wasn’t sick. No, I wasn’t in pain. I just personally didn’t like it - many women don’t think it’s ok to admit this. It’s ok to not enjoy pregnancy and still feel immense gratitude for what your body is doing. It’s also ok to admit that you don’t want to do it again, pushing the pressure of friends and family members away of “giving him a sibling”. I had a beyond easy delivery, my baby has been an absolute dream from day one, and I still can’t picture us doing it all over again. We are thriving as a family of three and are beyond happy and grateful for what we have. ONE & DONE!
The Case for: 2 Children by NICOLE
When deciding to start a family, I always knew that two children was the magic number and the correct fit for my husband and me. Growing up with a younger brother, I quickly learned that having a sibling relationship is important and special. I feel that two children is relatively manageable when it comes to traveling, dining out, other activities, and generally enjoying life the best we can as a family. We can easily “divide and conquer” and are not outnumbered by small people. Our children can enjoy each other’s company and entertain one another.
Having two children relatively close in age, definitely comes with challenges. Most days are a whirlwind filled with constant mess, chaos, noise, but mostly joy and love. Being able to watch my son and daughter play and grow (and fight) together over the past few years, has easily outweighed the chaos and challenges. I’m grateful that they will always have each other as they travel through life.
Even though I feel that two isn’t “too many” and the perfect number for us, I can easily see why other couples choose more or less children. There is no “one size fits all” option when it comes to deciding what is right for your family.
The Case for: 3 Children by NICOLE
I always knew I wanted three kids. I am guessing it has something to do with the fact that I am 1 of 3. It’s all I’ve ever known, so it’s safe to say that is where I came up with the number. My husband is also 1 of 3 and while he initially didn’t have a number in mind, he agreed that 3 sounded right, but that we should take it one baby at a time and see how we feel. After having my first and second baby, I was obviously over the moon, but I didn’t feel complete yet. After baby #3 I finally felt whole. I knew that three was the magic number. I will say though, the thought of a 4th baby and an even bigger family has been crossing my mind recently. The only thing holding me back is the fact that I have high risk pregnancies. I just don’t think I can put myself and my family through that anxiety and uncertainty again. While the thought of another baby sounds nice, it’s just not in the cards for us and that’s okay. I am overjoyed and in love with our beautiful family of 5.
The Case for: 4 Children by KIM
Four kids in five and a half years. My husband, who is number four of five boys, always wanted a “bunch of kids.” Me? Same. I guess? But not until I met him did I realize that. We always knew four was our number (though I don’t think I will ever feel comfortable admitting we’re done).
We had three boys in just under three years; which was somewhat of a “welcomed surprise” and we were definitely feeling a bit overwhelmed. But just like having your first baby, it’s all an adjustment. (In my opinion nothing compares to how hard having that first baby is)
My husband works A LOT. But once I got the hang of being completely outnumbered, I.E. going to the grocery store with a baby, a one and a half year old and a three year old, we all adjusted.
It worked for us.
I went down to working two days a week, at a job that I love so much, so I could be home more yet still not entirely give up working. We also committed to sleep-training all of our kids from the beginning, which makes life MUCH more manageable. We followed Dr. Weissbluth’s Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child and by now I swear I could be a professional sleep trainer! We decided to go for baby #4 when our youngest was a year and a half old-- all of our boys are 18 months apart so for us that felt like a huge age gap.
Our sweet baby girl was born in March, almost exactly two and a half years after our youngest!
People continuously tell us we’re crazy but honestly if I could’ve hand picked my life—this would be it! I thrive on chaos; I love the toddler stage, I LOVE how full our home and hearts are. Yes, grocery bills are insane and there is literally never one second where someone isn’t whining, or talking or needing me for everything.. BUT, I have learned how to comfortably accept the noise (and block it out when need be) and embrace all of the laughter that goes along with all of the chaos. I’ve learned how truly short-lived the baby years are and I am soaking up every second of the madness. To be honest I dread the day when these little humans won’t need me for everything.
While at times it’s incredibly challenging, I find it incredibly rewarding. Nothing in the world can compare to the amount of love and magic there is in our lives right now. Being so close in age- all of our kids have very similar interests and are entertained by the simplest things. They are extremely empathetic and sharing comes naturally to them (after all they don’t really have a choice). It makes things a lot easier! Watching the four of them love each other and grow together is something I will always cherish.
I know having four kids is not for everyone and I completely see why but for me, personally, having a lot of kids in a short amount of time was exactly what worked for me/us. Because of them I am my best self. And as a complete control freak-- let me tell you how little control you have when you have four kids in five years! It humbles you. These kiddos forced me to “let go,” to ask for help, to realize I can’t do it all alone nor do I need to... and that it’s true what they say, it takes a village.
Raising four incredible children will forever be my greatest joy. And this life that we are in right now is exactly what it is supposed to be.
Now let me break down everyone’s concerns for our decision to only have one child. It Is very similar to Donna’s experience.
You will change your mind: I think my partner and I knew from the second we found out I was pregnant that we would not try to have more children. Secretly we would have been thrilled to have twins. When we decided to find out the gender of our baby, I knew my heart would be heavy either way because we were not having more. I did not have a preference and knew I would be ecstatic for both. No matter how “ideal” my pregnancy and birthing experience was I did NOT fully enjoy or embrace them. My husband said he cannot believe I went through this once and acknowledges how challenging it was on my mental and physical well-being. He said we would not even have one baby if he had to do the childbearing! The only time we would change our mind is if we had a “surprise” in the future.
You can’t have an only child: Yes, we can! Only child syndrome is a myth. They are not selfish, maladjusted, antisocial, or lonely. In fact, research shows the opposite. My husband and I figured this out easily with a quick google search. Some of my closest friends are only children and they are kind, successful, social, empathetic, loving, and well-adjusted. This is a misconception that has been drilled into our psyches.
Did you have a traumatic pregnancy or birth and was your baby difficult: If you read my other pieces you know my baby journey was textbook. It could not have been more ideal (minus the global pandemic). We understand nothing is guaranteed if we have more children. Just because I did not have complications conceiving, carrying a child, birthing, or recovering means absolutely nothing. I was fortunate. My son is a saint for the most part. He was an “easy” newborn. He had a tongue tie that complicated breast feeding, but other than that he ate well, slept excellently, was healthy, and most important he was happy. My favorite line that you will hear me say repeatedly is “even when it is easy, it isn’t easy”. I am still exhausted. It is still groundhog day every day. My patience gets tested and there are difficult times. I struggle to find time for myself. As a (mostly) stay at home (quarantined) mother the days can be long, but I am grateful for every second I have with my son. But it is not easy.
Do you have a bad relationship with your sibling: I have an amazing relationship with my brother! Growing up we were four years apart and that age gap did not foster the closest relationship. It was not until after college that the age gap seemed to dissipate. As adults my brother and I support, help, and care for each other. We are probably closer than most siblings. We have traveled to Europe together, just the two of us, several times. I know he is someone I can always depend on. We have a great bond that is unbreakable, but that is not the case for all siblings. I have several friends and family members that have tumultuous relationships with their brothers and sisters. Or their relationships are not healthy and balanced. As a mother it would break my heart if my children did not get along.
Dead Silence: Selfishly, I loved my life prior to having my son. We traveled. Our schedules were flexible. My credit card purchases were way more exciting (diapers and formula are F%&*@$# expensive). I never felt the need to have a child to be complete. I liked who I was before I had a baby and I do not want to fully lose that part of me. I want to continue to have a healthy relationship with my spouse. I want us to be able to take the time for each other. Also, having one child puts less of a burden on us financially. I am a firm believer money does not solve problems, but we will be able to give and do more for our son than if we had multiple children.
Deciding to have one child does not make me less of a mother. Deciding to have ten children does not make you a better or worse mother than someone with two. We should stop telling people who have made a conscious decision to not have children that they will “change their minds”. If the original family plan is modified, that is okay too. You are entitled to do what is best for you! We need to move away from social stigmas and appreciate everyone’s journey even if it does not align with ours. We need to stop passing judgement on others that take a different path than us in life. The way people feel about having no children, two, three, four, or more children is how I feel about having one. We know what is right for us and our family. Also, I respect and understand the rationale for all these choices. Everyone’s story is unique and that is what makes life so special. Societal norms are changing, and the nuclear family needs to evolve. We should support the modern family no matter what it looks like!
X0 – Amanda & Katie
*some names have been changed to respect and protect individuals’ identities