I know, I know. I wish I had a good reason for not blogging often. It’s time! I have lots of ideas, but not enough time to get it out.
I promise I will update you all on my 30 Day No Yelling Challenge. Which is almost over, and has been, overall, a good exercise.
We get questions from people, sometimes.
Just one child?
Is he your only?
Most people don’t know that it took us three years, one chemical pregnancy, two surgeries, three fresh in-vitro fertilization cycles, however many frozen cycles, and ten embryos to get pregnant with our son. They also don’t know that after he was born, we spent another two years on three more fresh IVF cycles, a couple of thaws, and ten MORE embryos. Which, this time, resulted “only” in two early miscarriages. No baby.
Last fall we found ourselves in a place utterly without hope. And so we walked away from fertility treatments.
Since then, we’ve been working on getting more comfortable with the idea that Owen will, in all likelihood, be an only child.
Changing our focus on our one son has been good for us in so many ways. Instead of the fail of all the years we spent trying for the family we dreamed about, it’s really made us focus on the family we DO have. I will often look over him and be struck with this thought: we are SO lucky to have him here with us.
And really, there are so many benefits to having a family of three. We’re closer. More focused. Owen doesn’t have to share a room, or his space, or my attention with another sibling. Jeff and I get to parent to HIS personality, his quirks, and we can focus on him when we need to. We can also switch off and get space when we need it.
Which for me, is a big deal. Me time, space, I’m finding, is important.
But it’s also tough in a lot of respects.
Like with fielding the above questions.
People mean well, and often they will ask us if we have more children because they’re interested in learning about us. I do it myself, when I meet people. And arguably, I could be sensitive to the question simply because we’ve struggled so much with family building over the years.
But I have also noticed how it’s phrased. The words “only” and “just” are used; which, to me, infers that there’s something wrong with the choice to have one child.
A couple of weeks ago, good friends of mine forwarded me links to op-ed pieces by Lauren Sandler. Honestly, until I read the articles, I had never heard of her. It seems she has a new book: “One and Only: The Freedom of Having an Only Child and the Joy of Being One.”
In each one of her articles, like the one I read here and here and here, she takes apart, bit by bit, the myths surrounding only children.
Further than that, though, she goes on to propose that having an only child can actually make parents happier.
Since I’ve spent the six months sitting with the idea of Owen being an only child, trying to sort out how I feel about it, this is an issue that’s fairly close to my heart.
First of all, I like how Lauren Sandler addresses what I, too, have noticed. There is this idea out there that only children are lonely, and not well adjusted, and socially awkward. Only children are missing out on something.
I mean, hell, *I* have struggled with this idea. Whenever Owen asks us if we can play with him, kind of longingly, or remarks, Mommy, you NEVER play with me! I wonder. Will he grow up to be lonely? Should I do MORE?
This kind of thinking makes it hard for me to balance fostering his imaginative play – I feel strongly that my adult intervention in his playtime unwittingly teaches him rules that he maybe doesn’t need to learn until later in his life – and making sure I give him the attention that he needs.
And then there’s the worry that I’m giving him TOO much attention. I often joke about being THAT mom, the one my future daughter (or son) in-law would loathe – being too involved in his life, having him orbit my life too closely.
And then there’s the fear that I’m somehow robbing Future Owen. I feel so lucky to have siblings. Maybe not everyone feels like this, but I feel like the three of us have this bond of years of shared history. All of us are similar, yet different – and we have a relationship that will always be there, regardless of distance and history and life.
Owen has his cousins, and Jeff and I, but I worry that he’ll feel like something’s missing.
So I take great comfort in the studies done that reassure me that only children are intelligent, engaging, HAPPY people as adults. Because I don’t have a crystal ball to see the future, I read the studies Lauren Sandler mentions in her articles with relief.
The issue I have with her stance, though, is where she talks about the choice to have one, and that parents of only children might be happier than parents of multiple children.
I’ll be honest: I wouldn’t have CHOSEN to have my one son, if my hands weren’t tied, medically speaking. I still struggle with feelings of being forced into our situation by circumstances not within our control.
That said, I cannot understand how she can suppose that she is happier than any other person, all because she chose to have a single child. Because happiness is relative, and it’s based on criteria that isn’t the same from person to person. Perhaps a career-oriented woman who loves flexibility like she does might be happier than a woman who finds happiness in taking care of people. Maybe she’s happier because she had an element of CHOICE, where we did not.
But it’s not for her to say that she’s better off than any one else.
Ultimately, I’m glad that someone is raising the discussion about the unspoken bias we have as it relates to only children. I feel it whenever anyone asks me if Owen is our only and we answer in the affirmative – that the click of judgment happens in that moment and the person thinks of Owen: Ah, poor lonely, maladjusted child. I love the reassurance in the DATA that my only child will be FINE as he grows.
But I disagree when she says that deciding to have an only child will make you happier.
Because for me, that is not the case.