I was never a day dreamer. I did not start planning my wedding as soon as I hit puberty. I did not have a timeline in mind to have exactly 3 kids by the time I turned 30. I just went with the flow, pursued my career, met a great guy from a great family, dated him for a while, and had a small (and really fun) wedding. About a year or so after we got married, my husband and I thought we would give parenting a go. We are a smart, accomplished couple. Why not?
Within weeks of our daughter’s birth, people started asking about “number 2.” It always amazes me how much liberty people take in sharing their opinions on another person’s womb. Everyone has an opinion about the perfect family size and child spacing. And they do not hesitate to share. It usually goes something like this:
“Hi, [insert distant relative here]! How long has it been – 4 years? Have you met my daughter?”
“I haven’t! She’s gorgeous. It must be time for number 2? You don’t want them to be too close/too far apart in age. Everyone knows 2/3/4/6 years is the perfect age gap.”
We talked about a second. We considered it. We made pro/con lists. And we felt the pressure from everyone. How could one be enough? All our friends were having more – maybe they were on to something? Do we want to put the burden of caring for us late in life on one kid?
But it never felt right, until I met a total stranger.
When our daughter was 6 months old, I had to make a quick day trip for work. I don’t remember where I flew to, but I remember the guy sitting next to me who probably has no idea what an impact our conversation made on this mama. Shortly after take off and exchanging pleasantries, Mr. Plane Passenger shows me the picture on his phone of his wife and teenage daughter. I asked him if they had any other kids. He said she was their only and he wouldn’t have it any other way. After months of hearing the “number 2” question, this was refreshing to hear. They never had to divide and conquer weekends, with one parent going to soccer while the other goes to basketball. They could afford to send their daughter to a prestigious summer ballet program. And they could both go with her to NYC for the summer and spend their time together as a family.
It sounded amazing. It sounded just right.
Family size is a personal decision based on circumstances unique to each parent. Some couples suffer through years of anticipation, disappointment, heartbreak, medical intervention, and have one amazing rainbow baby. Other families adopt the child they have been waiting a lifetime for. We were lucky – got pregnant quickly and naturally. I had an uncomplicated pregnancy and a smooth delivery. We would not shy away from doing it again.
But at some point in the last four years since the birth of our daughter, my husband and I decided our family is complete. For us, it is by choice, not necessity. She is confident, she is secure, and she knows she will never have to compete for toys (note to self: teach daughter how to share). My husband and I have truly been able to integrate into her life and be present. She may not have a sibling to share a life-long bond with, but the intimate bond between an only child and her parents is incredible. (Or maybe I have watched too many episodes of Gilmore Girls.)
My closest friend is an only child, and she is one of the most confident, reliable, well-adjusted women I know, and her bond with her parents is strong through adulthood. Only children have to take the initiative to make friends, teaching them to approach uncertainty with confidence. I hope my daughter will find sisterhood in friendships and will always consider me to be her safe place, her person. Our hope is that one day, our daughter will appreciate how comfortable she is with alone time and how independent she becomes because she didn’t have a sibling leading the way.
My friends with multiples always say they remember how easy it was with just one. I used to get offended at the statement, because we all know that even one kid is a lot of kid. There’s a lot of juggling involved, especially for a house with two working parents and without family close by. But I know now that what we have is a beautiful dynamic. We have already started fielding requests from our curious 4 year old about a baby, as her class mates start celebrating little siblings. Our answer to her is the same as it is to everyone else: Families come in different forms, and ours is a family of three.