My Husband And I Made A No More Babies Pact — And I’m Struggling With It

only childMy husband and I recently made a pact to have no more children. We have just one daughter, who is still a baby. To some people, choosing to only have one may not seem like a big deal. To me, it’s a huge deal.

Ever since I was a kid I dreamed of having a “big enough family to play baseball.” It used to really upset me that our family of four could never orchestrate a full baseball game in our backyard. But even my wiser adult self longed for multiple children—the thought of epic family gatherings, the fascinating dynamics between us and the somewhat reasonable logic that if something, god forbid, were to happen to one of my children, at least I would have others that would go on living.

Another reason I wanted more than one was because of my own wonderful experience growing up with my little sister, Emily. She’s two years younger than me but we’re as telepathic as twins. We have a tendency to speak broken French and get all existential when we’re drunk. We both know just about every horrible, embarrassing, asinine thing each of us has ever done and we still love each other. When my parents die, Emily will be the only one who will understand what I’m feeling.

So how did my husband and I come to this decision to have just our one daughter? We stepped back and took an objective look at our lives, and what would be best for each of us. I have deeply neglected my husband since our baby’s birth, and it’s taken a sledgehammer to our marriage. I hate to say it, but I fear another baby would push us toward the “D” word. I’m also very career-driven. I know that these things can coexist for some women, but I’m not one of them. The idea of putting my work life on hold another 10 years so I can squeeze out a couple more kids is devastating to me.

And then there’s our daughter. Yes, a sibling may enrich her life. But it may not. And there’s money. Having another baby may mean waiting years until we can buy a house. It may mean skimping on healthy food, or going back on food stamps, which we had to use for the first few months of baby’s life. It may mean having no money for our retirement. It may mean a lower quality of life for everyone. Though nothing compares to that surge of joy when you first lay eyes on your newborn baby, this is what logic is telling me: Having another baby is irresponsible.

Still, I’m struggling to abandon my prejudices against onlies and families of three. This is terrible, but I’ve always viewed parents of one child as weirdoes or a pair who doesn’t really love each other. I’m pretty sure this goes back to my family’s opinion of onlies. I can’t even count the number of times my mom or someone in my family told a story about a bizarre or antisocial individual and followed up with the disclaimer, “she was an only child, you know.”

The family we bought our house from in Texas was a single mother and her only child. Somehow we learned from a neighbor that they used to swim naked in the pool. I got it in my head that this mother and her child were pervs, and it was all because this depraved single mother didn’t bestow a sibling upon her poor daughter. Then there was my mother’s childhood friend, a girl who was always a weirdo and grew up to be a “fat, divorced weirdo.”

“She was an only child, though,” my mom will explain. Duh, everyone knows a lack of siblings is the leading cause of obesity and divorcedness.

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    • Brianna

      I have one brother, whom I am not close to at all. My husband has two siblings that he is sort of close to. It’s just the luck of the draw I think. A sibling is no guarantee of a buddy or even someone you get along with when you’re older. I know when it comes to helping my parents when they’re older, it will be all my responsibility, that’s just the way my brother is.

      Our family is in the same position as you. We have one child, but another would be a very big strain on us. It would mean no healthy foods (not like we do now), and as we are barely scraping by at the moment, most likely no help for the little guy with school, which we would like to do. I really believe it means a better life for all three of us staying a family of three. My husband is also not a “baby” person, so the responsibilities of the second would be entirely on me, and it would be too much. (never mind two kids in daycare…$26,000 a year? physically not possible with our salaries)

      Everyone has to do what is best for their particular family!

    • LiteBrite

      I have three siblings (two sisters and a brother) and four step-siblings. As a child, I hated having siblings. If you had asked me about my siblings 25 years ago, my standard response would’ve been “ugh.” Maybe it would have been better if we had been closer in age (my next sibling is 7 years younger than me, the other two are 12 and 13 years younger respectively). As adults, we’re much closer now, and I enjoy having a family that I’m close to.

      My son will most likely be an only child due to a) My age (43) and 2) The fact my husband does not want another child. I have accepted both of these, but it’s still an emotional struggle. I find myself jealous when I hear of second and third pregnancies, even though, to be honest, I’m not totally convinced a second child is right for us. I go back and forth between being happy with the happy and healthy little boy we have and wishing for another.

      There are pros and cons to siblings though, and there is no guarantee you will all be one big happy family forever. My sister’s husband has two siblings that he can’t stand and avoids talking to at every opportunity. One of my co-workers hasn’t talked to one sister in over 30 years. My grandmother had a falling out with her two brothers and their wives shortly after their mother died. They didn’t even come to her funeral. Even my husband is not close to his brother. So, there is no right or wrong answer for having a second child. You just have to do what’s right for YOU and your family.

    • Elise

      Don’t beat yourself up for your decision. You are making a thoughtful, informed choice about some of the most important things in your life—your child, marriage, and family. I have an only child by choice for all of the reasons you cited and more. She is happy, healthy (knock wood), and while she is secure that she’s loved, she is not “spoiled.”

      Not all siblings are close friends. Only children turn out fine with sensible parenting, ample playmates/activities, and a sense of social responsibility.

      Ignore people who make comments (well-meaning or no). For those who prefer a larger family, my hat’s off to them—but that doesn’t give anyone the right to judge the size of yours. I’ve never been particularly curious about how many children others have, or how they space them; why should others care about mine?

      Good for you that you care enough to struggle with this decision. And you might find this interesting reading:
      http://myonlychild.wordpress.com/2009/10/09/famous-only-children/

    • Shaina

      I have two siblings, and we weren’t very close in childhood and hardly see each other or talk now. I can honestly say I would have been happier without them, we fought a lot and my mother’s very obvious favoritism really soured me on the idea of siblings. I’ve only ever wanted one child because of them. Not that they’re bad people, it just really sucked seeing my siblings treated so much better than me and I guess I’m afraid I might do the same thing.

    • C.J.

      The size of the family doesn’t matter, only that the family is happy matters. I come from a family where every generation on my mothers side has siblings that haven’t spoken in years. I am close with my brother (he isn’t great at handling stressful situations though and won’t be much help) but haven’t seen my sister in years (no one has), she comes around when she wants or needs something but that’s about it. My fathers side everyone is very distant and they all try to avoid eachother. Luckily I have very good friends that are there to support me through good times and bad. I have 2 kids and pray they don’t take after my family. It doesn’t do any good to have siblings if they aren’t around. My husbands family everyone gets along and they are close but only one still lives in the same city as their mom, dad passed already. The rest of us aren’t there to physically help much, all we can do is be supportive. One of my closest friends is an only child, she always jokes that only children are weird. She has an only child herself. She wanted another one but has trouble getting pregnant. They have a very happy family. Families come in all different shapes and sizes. If you, your husband and your child are happy that’s all that matters.

    • http://www.facebook.com/kristinacw Kristina Wright

      It sounds as if you’re not entirely convinced that you want to stick with having one child. And that’s okay. Your first child is still and baby and it’s a huge adjustment that takes months (or years). There may come a point when everything falls into place and a second child will be a wonderful thing for your family, or you may decide that one child really is what’s best for you. I’ve been married for 22 years this month, but we waited to have children until 3 years ago. (Long story, lots of factors involved.) After baby #1 arrived, I was convinced that one was enough. It’s a big, big jump from being a childless couple for almost two decades to being parents (especially when my husband was deployed for the first 5 months of baby #1′s life). And yet, the decision to to only have one child just didn’t feel right– in fact, i didn’t give away anything, including my maternity clothes. And, when baby #1 was a year old, I sort of decided that what will be, will be. Besides, I reasoned, I had #1 at 42– the odds were against me having more children anyway. So if I was only meant to have one child, I’d accept that. Well, one week after baby #1′s birthday, I was pregnant again. No I have an almost 3 year old and a just-turned-one year old and I can tell you this: going from one baby to two babies was NOTHING compared to going from zero babies to one, in terms of energy expended as well as money spent. There was a huge learning curve with baby #1, but baby #2 has fit easily into our lives and after the first three months (when he was sleeping through the night), life in general was much the same as it was with one child. So, it worked for us to have two and they adore each other. (So much so, that I sometimes think about having a third baby– though I’m 45 now and the odds are truly slim, but probably not much slimmer than they were at 42.) Our way wouldn’t work for everyone, but our marriage had the benefit of 2 decades of solid ground on which to build a new family and we’ve managed to do a good job of being parents and partners without losing who we are as a couple. We also have the benefit of financial stability at this point, so two children hasn’t had a tremendous impact on our budget. Weekly date nights help us stay close, and we just went away for our anniversary, leaving the boys for the first time since #2 was born. I know in a youth-driven society it seems best to have children by 30– certainly by 35!– and there are those people (including friends) who think we’re crazy to have kids in our 40s. Plus there are the insensitive people who ask if we’re sad we’ll miss out on grandchildren since we waited so long to have kids, to which I say: I didn’t have kids to have grandkids and there are no guarantees– some young parents never live to see their grandchildren, some kids grow up to choose not to have children at all and some middle-aged parents live to be 100. I’ll be in my mid-sixties when my kids finish college– that’s hardly ancient. So who knows what will happen? Everyone has to do what’s best for them– but if your heart doesn’t agree with your head, remember that you still have a decade (or more) in which to expand your family– or not. Good luck to you!

    • Justme

      I had a terrible bout of PPD after the birth of my daughter – so terrible that I frequently declared that we would NEVER have another child. EVER.

      But time went on and I got better and that NEVER has changed to a NOT YET. And that NOT YET might change back to a NEVER.

      I’m just not sure what the future holds for my family but I know that right now is not the time to produce a sibling for my daughter.

      Maybe it’s the verbage that you’re using that feels so final and causes stress. Could you change your “never” to a “not right now?”

      It’s worked for me. I’m able to live in this moment and enjoy my family of three without the stress and worry of becoming pregnant again, but at the same time the door is still open for the possibility of expanding our family. Or not.

    • CW

      I would never agree to say “never” when it comes to having another child. Personal circumstances can change, and while having another child might not be the right decision for you now, things may be very different in a few years.

    • Yves

      It’s a personal choice. I am 27 and my boyfriend and I plan on starting a family within the next year. I want multiple children for many of the reasons listed. And even reasons that would see convoluted and “dumb” to some. I am a nurse. I don’t want my child to be alone while me and their father may be dying a slow death at the hospital. I can’t imagine only having 1, but some people can’t imagine having 3 or 4 either :)

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Christine-Thompson/100000191450036 Christine Thompson

      Ya know, I was nodding along, feeling your pain, until I did the math. You were 10 in 1996. So you were born in 1986. You are 26!!! You have one baby!!! Who is STILL a BABY!! You have an easy15+ years of fertility to change your mind on the baby plan! Get an IUD and relax, then in a few years re-evaluate.

      • zeisel

        shabang! That IS young, I’m 32 and have an 8 month old and was relating to this article, because time will start ticking if I wanted to wait 5 years when my daughter is in school full-time to have the second… I was feeling all the different pros and cons listed above as well; however if I was 26 I don’t think I would feel as much pressure with some of the cons.

      • WinWin

        But lots of people also feel pressured to have the second baby soon so that the age gap between the two is not huge. I am personally in that boat..I am about the same age as the author and I feel like I have only a few months left to make the decision to have another kid or just give up on the idea. I don’t know how true it is, but loads of people keep telling me “Don’t wait too long! If they are 6 or 7 years apart, they will never be close and it won’t matter that they even have a sibling!”
        It could all be part of where I come from..families have kids close in age and never too far apart.

      • C.J.

        I’m closer to my brother who is 8 years younger than me than I am to my sister who is closer in age. I have a friends that have children that have a big age gap and they are close. My kids are close in age and they are close but they have friends with siblings close in age who are not. The age difference doesn’t always matter.

      • LiteBrite

        I got the same pressure. (“Oh my God! You HAVE to have another baby. You can’t let your son be an only child. And you have to do it soon so there isn’t a huge age gap!”) Once I hit my 40s the pressure eased up, but I still get it occasionally.

        My next sibling is 7 years younger than me, the other two are 12 and 13 years younger than me. I admit we didn’t get along when we were younger, but despite the age gap we’re all pretty close now. Having kids close in age is no guarantee they’ll be close either. My husband and his brother are two years apart and are not close at all. (BIL is kind of a dipsh*t though, so I guess I don’t blame my husband.)

        Unfortunately there are still a lot of people who think having only one child is “selfish.” In fact, I just read a Dear Abby column where a MIL wrote in complaining her son and daughter only want one child and was wondering how to express to them how much this upsets her. Dear Abby rightly told MIL to mind her own beeswax.

    • Kylie Gillis

      I have just one child, and I haven’t reconciled to the idea that he’s the only one yet, although he’s ten, so if I do have another one, there will be such an age difference between them that I suppose it will be like having two only-children. I have to say though, I look at his life, and it’s so much better than mine was, growing up in a family of five children. His life is so peaceful, we engage in adult conversations, he has his own room and his own things and so much space to imagine, create, and think. I remember longing so much for those things in my chaotic childhood. He has really close friends and cousins who he spends lots of time with, but when they all go home and the house is his again, he reclaims his soul. Sometimes I thought he felt the lack of a sibling, but I know the peace in his life is something I really missed in my childhood. I’ve recently gotten him a puppy, and I think that’s just about perfect for him. He’s very well provided for, but not in the least bit spoiled. He’s much better behaved than most kids I know with siblings. And the best bit about having only one, is when we travel, we can afford to take him along. That we can afford to travel at all! When you just have one, you really have to incorporate them into your adult world, because it’s all they’ve got.

    • http://www.facebook.com/jackie.hammerscrowell Jackie Hammers-Crowell

      My daughter, who will be four a few days after Christmas, is an only child and she will continue to be so, biologically at least. We do intend to get our foster care license once she is older, and adopt if the right situation arises. For us, the baby phase was beautiful and wonderful in many ways, but also exhausting and confining. While we would be open to parenting more children, we don’t feel the need to start with an infant again. Carrying a diaper bag everywhere, using special seats in the car, and waking up in the middle of the night to do feedings just don’t appeal to us, now that we’ve been there and done that already.

      Perhaps people will take that to mean that our daughter was difficult. In fact, she was an incredibly easy, happy baby and is still one of the most delightful, obedient children anyone could ever hope to meet. This is what makes me so certain that we should not produce any more babies. If I was already tired and frustrated with what might be the world’s easiest kid, I don’t even want to think how I would feel if I had to deal with “normal”.

      I volunteer with teenagers from foster care and it has been my dream since I was a teenager in foster care, to help people of that age make a better transition into adulthood. For this additional reason, I cannot fill my home with biological children. There won’t be any room left to foster, if we have a houseful at all times.

      My daughter definitely has an “oldest child” personality, so we want to wait until she is older than the children we want to foster before we can pursue our license. This will give us a good number of years to enjoy her and focus on helping her become the adult she is meant to be, before we start raising more children. I don’t feel guilty about this and I don’t think it makes her spoiled. Spoiled is what happens when children are raised without gratitude and that can happen in a family of any size.

      • C.J.

        People like you are an inspiration. Not everyone is equipped to take in older children who may have come from homes that were damaging to them. Those are the children that need a loving, caring home the most, because they often have never had that. Being a parent is more than just producing a child. The children you choose to parent will be lucky to have you to love and care for them. I’m sure you are making a huge difference in the lives of the children you volunteer with and you will make a huge difference in the lives of the ones you choose to foster/adopt. They won’t be your biological children but they will still be your children.

    • To Celebrate Women

      Whatever works, Amanda. You don’t need to apologise to anyone for your reproductive choices.

    • Jo

      It looks like you’ve probably received all the support you need from the other commenters who beat me to it, but for what it’s worth, I grew up an only child – and a naturally introverted one at that – and I was and am completely fine. I had friends, and the beauty of that is they’re people you choose, and who choose you. I’m also in the exact same situation as you now, but am at peace with the decision because a) others will always find something to judge about you, 3 kids or not, and b) focussing on quality rather than quantity is FINE. I think too many people have kids just for the emotional payoff without factoring in all the really important things you’ve considered. Plus, forcing your husband to do something he doesn’t want (especially something so life altering) – probably not a good idea. Best of luck to you and your family and congratulations on your little one!

    • March

      Well, I really can’t say that you’re wrong in any way, shape or form. Your case is clear, the risks are great, and you’re quite happy now. Right? Here’s to the absolute minimum of vague regrets and what-if-broodings!
      (And if your daughter ever asks why she can’t have a baby brother or sister… I’d say, just explain. As soon as she’s old enough to understand, she probably will. And if not, don’t pile guilt on your head, yeah? :) )

    • sarah

      We are a onr child family as well. I have five siblings myself and would love to give my boy at least two siblings, but in todays world….your story is a mirror of my own. 100%. Best to you and your family

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    • Storma

      So glad I found this article. My boy is 4 and due to go to school in Sept. I work full time as does my husband and at the moment childcare is a strain. The only bright side is that we won’t be paying for childcare once he goes to school and then we can actually start saving a small amount of money and maybe go out for dinner once in a while. Plan a holiday even. My problem is that we agreed to stick to one. He has older (21 and 24) children from a previous relationship and there is 15 years between us, so while I feel the pull for another, he most certainly does not. He felt so strongly about it that a few months ago he had a vasectomy. This was done with my permission and consent, and after a lot if discussion and deciding that sensibly we could not afford another child. Issue is, my heart is crying out for another. I actually cannot be near to babies for fear of bursting into tears and trying to quiet the pain in my chest. Will this fade with time or will it grow and grow?