When we talk about only children in this country, we spend an awful lot of time talking about their happiness. Are they lonely without siblings? Are they miserable stuck at home with only adults to play with? The answer -- to both questions -- is maybe, maybe not. It all depends on the kid.
But what about the people who create the only children? Doesn't our happiness matter? At least a little bit?
I am the mother of an only child, a one and done, as we're called.
My daughter just turned 8 years old, and after a whirlwind birthday weekend, we sat on the couch and I asked her how she was feeling.
As she snuggled into me and launched into a litany of reasons her day was the "awesomest day ever," I felt ... content.
I was happy.
My girl was healthy. She was happy. And my husband and I had made that happen.
I don't often have time to look within. I may be a mom of "just one," but she still keeps me running, as does a fulfilling job, a spouse I love, friends ...
It's at times like the quiet end to a loud weekend with her that I find what author Lauren Sandler calls "the freedom of having an only child." The author of the new book One and Only is both an only child and mother of one, and she's delved into a verboten topic: a parent's own joy at stopping at one.
If you ask many folks out there -- I should point out that I don't, but they're more than happy to give their opinion anyway -- we're supposed to want more kids. Some do. Some parents stop at one because of fertility issues or finances, because of divorce or devastation.
But for women like me, men like my husband, sometimes one is exactly what we wanted.
Our children aren't accidents; we specifically tried to have kids. Or rather, kid.
My husband and I tried for our daughter. She was born. And then, we stopped. We stopped for dozens of reasons, some I've blogged about, some I'd prefer not to share publicly.
But one I share unabashedly is our contentment with our only child.
She makes us happy, and we are happy to be able to do the same for her thanks to the finances of having just one, thanks to the patience of having just one.
Getting pregnant again, we realized, would have put a strain on our finances that would have created a lot of stress, stress that I can't imagine we could have hidden from our kids. Parenting two would have created stress too. I'm not the most patient of people; I work hard to ensure that I "bear with" my little girl and accept that she's just a kid. I accept that my patience is limited and know that I'm a better mother to one than I would be to two.
I accept that I can be a nice mom to one but might be a mean mom to two.
I'm happy that I know my limits. She has a mother who is calmer than I would be with more than one. She has a mother who smiles and laughs.
I'm happy ... because she can have a happy childhood.
Do you feel like your happiness matters in choosing how many children to have?
Image by Jeanne Sager