I’m Afraid Having More Kids Will Jeopardize My Bond With My Daughter

having another babyAs the mother of a 3 year old, everywhere I go people are asking when I’m gonna pump out the next kid.

“I don’t know” I reply, “Maybe sometime… maybe never.”

Maybe, none of your business, I feel like saying. To me, having another baby is such a personal decision and it’s not something I take lightly. It often feels borderline invasive that so many people (who aren’t close friends or family) are interested in the shape of my family unit. What feels even stranger is that so many people I’ve encountered vehemently disagree with parents making the informed decision to have only one child, no matter what that family’s circumstances or how that family came to be in the first place.

While we haven’t shut the door completely on more children, at this time, focusing my energy on the child I already have seems the most responsible decision I can make for my family, not just for me.

Having babies wasn’t something I had reached the point of wanting (or even considering) when it happened and the adjustment period wasn’t easy. I am beyond grateful for my daughter who is becoming the most amazing inspiration I ever could have dreamed up, but in truth, I am really just scratching the surface of being able to enjoy her. I’ve fully embraced being a mother, but that transition was hard fought. Mountains of financial stress and total mind-fuck of being a parent made the first two years an uphill battle. It’s taken me what felt like an eternity to feel any sense of ease and sometimes those moments are still fleeting.

But having a brilliant child who hugs and kisses me a hundred times a day and loves life so much is incredible. It has taught me about who I am and how to be a better, more meaningful human being in this world. But that doesn’t mean I’m ready to do it all again, even if it means my daughter may grow up without a sibling. And I really think that’s okay.

Plenty of people will say there’s something wrong with that and that children should have a brother or a sister to play and learn to share with, that it’s selfish to have only one child. But I really don’t see that. In my mind, it would be far more selfish to have more children that I didn’t know I wanted. I imagine my kids would end up feeling the impact of that far more than if my daughter was brought up an only child with friends and two parents who love her unconditionally. To me, making the best decision with the information you have at hand is the best thing you can do. To have more kids, just to fit some picture perfect mold of what many believe makes the perfect family, would be doing my daughter a huge disservice.

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  • K.

    I don’t get why this article matters or what it’s trying to say, unless the writer is supremely insecure and wants people to tell her that no, she doesn’t owe anyone any explanation about her family and yes, she can have just one child…Uh, okay:

    If you don’t want more than one child, don’t have more than one child.

    If you’re irritated at other people’s interest in your family planning, then find a way to gracefully shut down the discussion. You can get all grumpy that people ask about future children, but I think you’re going to get grumpy a lot since it’s a pretty common question. The people who ask probably don’t consider it invasive but an innocuous way to sound interested in you–and I can guarantee that none of them are truly all that interested in your reproduction.

    “We’re not sure about more children, but right now we’re happy!”

    “Talk to YOU about it? Man, I gotta talk to my HUSBAND/WIFE about it!”

    “Well, we’re pretty happy with this one so…Maybe!”

    Any of these, followed by a quick, “So how about that weather?” would do the trick fine.

    • Jane

      It’s not that easy to shut down (or shut up) the nosy, judgmental people of this world. What starts as an “innocent question” quickly puts the mother of an only child on the defensive. And really, it IS a poor choice for small talk conversation. There are so many other neutral subjects one could focus on. Activities the person’s child is engaged in, activities the person you are talking to is engaged in, the weather, a variety of current events… This writer has an only child by choice. So while being questioned about itseems to be merely an irritating annoyance, her situation is different than someone who has only by circumstance (i.e., infertility, unable to financially support more children, health issues, any other number of things). For those women, who may want to expand their family more than anything but cannot due to whatever reason, it can really hurt to hear how badly you are screwing up your child by not procreating again. I’ve heard of infertile couples being told, “well…. you could always adopt!” Wow. How very insightful and sensitive of you to insert yourself into a matter that is absolutely none of your business. And with such brilliant creativity!! I’m sure that’s an option this person or couple has NEVER considered.
      To the writer – the questions probably won’t stop any time soon, and neither will the judgment you feel. Just do your best to disregard it because you are comfortable with your choices and being the one to determine what life satisfaction means to you. Beware, pretty soon people will start directing their questions about your family planning choices to your kid. If the interaction you referenced above bothers you, I’m sure that will have you seeing red.

    • K.

      You’re right–I hadn’t considered the situation of women who have fertility issues and I thank you for that perspective. And I can understand that people’s questions take on another level of insensitivity in those situations.

      I DO however, think that the issue that the writer talks about isn’t really all that big a deal, at least in the way that she writes about it. It may be inappropriate for people to ask about one’s reproductive plans…but they do. And they will. They do all the time with me. So I’ve cultivated a pithy response that makes it easy to shut it down and move on. And I’m not clear on why the writer feels like it’s not her right to have just one child if that’s what she wants, unless she’s trying to say that questions from strangers make her feel insecure. In which case, my take is that she’s kind of REALLY insecure.

      The other issue is that the article itself doesn’t quite achieve what the title implies. But that’s another discussion.

    • allisonjayne

      Um…by that reasoning, why do half the articles on mommyish matter??? It’s a personal story that others might relate to, which is kinda the point, no?
      As a parent to a most-likely only child, I appreciate hearing other people’s experiences and thoughts. And yes, some people ARE truly that interested in your reproduction, and say really hurtful things (maybe without intending to be hurtful, but being told you are being ‘selfish’ or that you’re ruining your kid HURTS).
      And yeah, as Jane says, if your kid is an only child due to circumstances beyond your control, even the question can hurt. If someone who asks that question a lot reads this article and it makes them think, hey, maybe I shouldn’t ask everyone that question all the time, then I think this article ‘matters’.

    • http://www.facebook.com/houde.veronique Véronique Houde

      How can I image your approach to discussion, K? It’s kind of like if you wanted to sculpt a beautiful marble statue with a jackhammer. Chances of succeeding at having interesting discussions are slim to none ;). Once again, nice try though.

    • K.

      Not sure what you mean here, Veronique; I’m not sure I understand the metaphor of “sculpting a marble statue with a jackhammer”? I’d welcome an explanation if you care to give it, but in the end, I’ll just say that it appears that the writer and I have different temperaments and I realized, probably too late, that this is just not my kind of article because I’m the type to not give a flying fig what other people think about my family planning and that doesn’t make me particularly sympathetic regarding people who do struggle with that sort of thing. That doesn’t necessarily invalidate my thoughts on the article because while they weren’t charitable, they were in direct response to what she had to say; it does, however limit my usefulness to the discussion beyond saying what I already said.

      But you (and others) are right–I’m not particularly sympathetic to the author’s sensitivity to judgement regarding her family planning and yeah, realizing that, I pretty much bowed out above because there’s not much else for me to say. It doesn’t interest me to discuss the relative virtues of
      having one child or to write something in solidarity with the author
      along the lines of yes, she is perfectly justified in making her own
      reproductive decisions, so if that’s where the discussion is going, then I’m fine leaving it as it is.

    • http://www.facebook.com/houde.veronique Véronique Houde

      having a discussion about something is like sculpting a statue – it requires patience, passion, et respect. but sometimes i feel as though, when trying to state your opinion, you just crash into people, and state your opinions so strongly as to completely destroy any opportunity for debate or discussion – like using a jackhammer. i’m just asking you to take it down a notch – you make good points but sometimes you do it in such a way to appear disrespectful and even arrogant. your points would come across a lot more effectively if you went about it a different way.

    • K.

      Probably so–I have strong opinions, I express them using strong language. I DO try to compose thoughtfully, but most days, I do visit the site and comment when I’m breastfeeding and/or pumping and sometimes it’s 3am which makes me less patient. Typing one-handed also really pisses me off as well.

      In part, it is just my style to be argumentative and critical as it is my personality to be passionate about a lot of things. My written style is generally direct and sharp, and yes, I can be snarky. I accept the fact that some will appreciate my voice and others won’t–such is life on a message board. But I will take your point to heart to monitor my aggression, because while I do believe in my strongly-held convictions and positions on certain issues and my right to express them, I don’t want to ruin someone else’s day in the process and I apologize if I did that to the writer of this article or to you or whomever else. It’s a fine balance for me, so thank you for the comment.

    • Dlee

      If it was just the one question (even if it was asked a billion times, though tiresome) and it was dropped as soon as it was answered or when I tried to change the subject, then I’d agree but as soon as you say you’re not sure if you want a second, people DO become that interested in your reproduction. I’ve even been asked if I’m “actively trying” for another one when my child was four months old and the asker told me I “HAD to” have a second. My son is less than seven months old and I’ve already had the discussion multiple times with people, often near-strangers, who feel the need to get into an attack mode and make me justify my reasons. These conversations started before he was born, including one of the nurses while I was actually in labour. No matter how you answer, people pick at it and don’t let you gracefully drop it. So yes, I get “supremely insecure” after I’ve pretty much been accused of child abuse for simply not wanting a second.

  • LiteBrite

    As I often joke with younger friends of mine: When you’re dating, all you get asked is “When are you getting married?” After you get married, you are constantly asked “When are you going to have a baby?” Then, IF you decide to have children, you are constantly asked, “So, when are you going to have another one?”

    I too only have one child, and the fear of losing that bond is one reason why. It’s also the main reason why DH only wants one. There are times though that I wonder if I’m doing our son a disservice by leaving him an only child. Just this past weekend I found out my brother and SIL are expecting their second child. I told our five-year-old and he asked me when I was going to have another baby. Sigh.

  • workingMOM

    did i write this? thank you for echoing my sentiments! it’s nobody’s business how you handle your family. people should start asking “so, are you planning for your parent’s death? It’s not fair that they should have to live so long all alone…”

  • Jennifer

    My daughter is a pure miracle – seriously. We tried for six years to have her, including two rounds of fertility treatments. We had all but given up hope and ended up pregnant naturally right before I was scheduling my second surgery in two years.
    I get this question from family who absolutely know what we went through to have our Joss. “When are you having another baby?”
    My response is always “Do you realize what it took to get THIS one here?! We may never have another baby!! And if we don’t, it’s fine with us.”
    My daughter is everything I could have ever wanted in a child. She is sensitive, she is loving, she is compassionate. She’s active and silly. She has an amazing imagination.
    If I never have another child, my life will still be complete because I have Joss.

  • jessblumberg

    really like this piece! this article addresses a wide range of concerns—particularly how frustrating it is to constantly be asked those questions. the perpetual pressure from outside sources can end up drowning out what your own family needs and wants.

    plus, when did being an only child become a stigma? i like that this article addresses the positive aspects (individuality, imagination) that are so rarely mentioned.

  • Jenni

    As an only child who only wants to have one child: Thank you! Only children are not selfish soulless children/people. We have all the positives of first born/middle/baby kids as well as having the ability to know how to be at peace with being alone. I didn’t really have a lot of only child friends growing up, but I have friends now that were only children and they are some of the smartest, well adjusted people I know. As long as your daughter gets peer interaction outside the home then she will do just fine. And she will thrive on you being able to spend all your attention on her. I wouldn’t have had half the opportunities in life if I had a sibling. My parents wouldn’t have been able to spend the money for my sports, schooling, etc.

    Just realize though that the one downside to being an only is that when you and your husband get older, it all falls on your one kid to take care of you. But, that doesn’t mean that that wouldn’t happen anyway. Your children can die before you, your kids could hate each other, you could become estranged from one or one could just live too far away. Siblings can hate each other (my dad and uncle) or be ambivalent until they are adults (my husband and sister-in-law) or best buds growing up (brother-in-law and his brother). But, just know that going in that an only child will worry about how to take care of everything you leave behind all by themselves.

  • http://www.facebook.com/alice.longworth.7 Alice Longworth

    Don’t know if it helps but my mom was an “only” and had no regrets. My brother was born when I was 5. I don’t recall ever wanting a sibling before that, and I can remember feeling sorry for cousins who were in large families (Irish Catholic here) and didn’t seem to get much time with their parents. (I mention this to point out that I never felt I was missing anything, not to denigrate large families) Although my brother and I love each other, age difference and personalities were such that we did not play together as kids (often a reason given for Sprog2).
    I think it is just another case of people being unable to imagine anyone’s life not going well unless the person does the same thing THEY did, be it natural labor, breastfeeding, staying at home/working, or having more than one kid. Stick to your guns and do what is best for your family, PIAs be damned.

  • meteor_echo

    Your worry is definitely a valid one. I often visit a Tumblr called “Project Unbreakable” (it’s about rape survivors), and some of the entries there make me feel really happy that I’m an only child. Having a sibling may be harmful for the first child, as well as for its bond with its parents – seen too many examples of that.
    Also, whenever people harass me about procreating (childfree person here), I tell them “When busybodies like you stop asking me questions – which means never!” Shuts them up pretty fast.

  • rebecca eckler

    If this post is about ruining your bond with your daughter, then I will chime in. I had my daughter 9 years ago, and another baby boy 8 months ago. It hasn’t affected my daughter and my bond, but it was just me and her for many, many years….however, to be perfectly honest, I go out of my way now to make sure that doesn’t happen. I make weekly date nights with my daughter and will still sleep in her bed once a week. I also take her on “girl only!” vacations. It won’t ruin your bond, but it does give you less time alone when you have another. As a mother of two, I totally support a woman’s decision to just have one child (and no, they do not turn out spoiled just because they are an only child!)….and I do so love my son.

  • Daisy

    I had a friend who had a “surprise” baby at 20 years old. She is still together with the father, the kid just turned two, they moved out of her parents’ place and into their own apartment, and they are very happy. But I recently heard her mother pestering her when they were going to have another. My friend responsibly replied, “We would like Baby #1 to have a sibling, but we’re saving up for a house right now, and we’re going to wait till we can afford that.” Her mom scoffed and said, “You don’t need a house to raise kids!” I just shook my head on so many levels. Rule #1 of Mind Your Own Business is don’t ever ask when someone is getting married/having kids/having more kids. Even to your own daughter. Especially when you know they are young and financially not stable… Why do so many people not know that?

  • Jessie

    I don’t even HAVE kids and I completely agree with this article. Whether or not you have another baby, or even have kids AT ALL (in cases such as mine, where all of my friends are starting to have babies and are now pestering me and my husband, who do not want kids, about it), is NONE of anyone’s business but your own.

    Also, I never understood the logic of the “permanent playmate, someone to learn to share with” argument as the reason you SIMPLY MUST have more than one child, because let me tell you something: I have a younger sister, born when I was 4, and for the better half of our lives to date WE HATED EACH OTHER. And I seriously mean HATED, there was ZERO love in our relationship. We were so busy competing for mom’s love, all the “best” toys, and whose Barbie was whose that one of us could have dropped of the face of the Earth and we’d really not care. We are now 24 and (almost) 21, and it hasn’t been until the last eight years or so that we have found common ground and formed a MUCH better relationship, and actually love and respect each other. Up until then, we drove our parents NUTS with our constant fighting (and I mean literally sometimes FIGHTING, fists and everything) and hatred.
    So… Yeah, just because you have another kid does not always mean they’re going to instantly love each other and be the best of buddies. It may actually turn out to be more stress than it’s worth if you end up with a situation like me and my sister were!

    • Jessie

      *dropped OFF. Not ‘of,’ sorry. That’s what I get for typing without my daily caffiene dose.

  • momof3

    We adopted our first child after years of trying to conceive. When we were surprised with a pregancy two years later, we had already started accepting that we would probably have just one and be happy. It took a while to get my husband to accept that yes, another one was coming!

  • Sarah

    My mother was worried about that, too, when I was 11 and my sister was born. Our relationship did change but I think it was for the better. There’s no rush to have a second, if at all. Good luck!

  • Katie

    You shouldn’t feel guilty about the amount of children you have or don’t have.
    People asked me the same questions about when I was going to have another child and I was even called selfish for only having one. What’s really selfish is insisting what another human being do with their reproductive organs.
    The reality is that my parents stopped loving me when my sister was born. They only had enough for one child. Spare me the “I’m sure that’s not true!” crap because it is true. I was 8 years old, I remember it very well. Part of me was always terrified that I could become them so thinking about having another child filled me with dread and anxiety. I don’t ever want to hurt my son the way my parents have hurt me.

  • JenC

    Amen! You’re completely in my head, saying exactly my thoughts and feelings better than I could have expressed them. Thank you for putting words to how my husband and I have been feeling, reacting to others’ imposed judgements on us and attempted decisions for us, and trying to justify our inability to make the decision about another child…right now. Of course I know another child would be welcomed and loved – I’d find room in my heart I didn’t know was there. But having a baby was hard on me – my body, my sanity, my confidence – and our marriage. I’m not there yet, and that is perfectly fine with me. And if I change my mind next week, that’s ok too. So thank you for this honest and poignant post!

  • Ana

    I felt the same way until my daughter turned two and it was like I could see a light at the end of the tunnel – potty training was not too far in the distance, she didn’t demand I carry her all the time, and she mostly ate without my help. Plus the thoughts of having another filled my head during the days, so we tried and I got pregnant. And as much as it’s been the right decision for us, I completely hear you. I think I even went through a bit of a mourning (sorry to be so dramatic) once my son was born for all the days when it was just me and my daughter doing whatever we wanted – playing in the park, going to the aquarium, reading and cuddling, etc. Now in order to have just mommy daughter time it has to be scheduled around someone else being with my son and I truly miss how easy it was before. And of course I’m more tired now, more overwhelmed, more likely to turn on the tv to get things done. It’s worth it because of how much we all love my son and it’s amazing to see how my kids have formed their own relationship of love, friendship, and competition outside of anything my husband or I do. But a second (or third or fourth) greatly changes things and if you’re more than happy with how things are then that’s a good indicator it’s where you should be.

  • feva

    I think there are a lot of valid reasons to only have one child and a number of them were stated in the article. However, I don’t believe intentionally wanting to make sure all of your attention and love is focused in one place is one of them. This is what contributes to entitled and obnoxious brats. Of course being obnoxious is not only the realm of the only child but any child with parents who thinks having another child will somehow destroy a bond they have together, and not provide another beautiful and loving relationship their child can share with someone new, is helping to create a self-centered monster. I really don’t think fear over another child somehow ruining your relationship with your existing child is a healthy way to look at planning a family.

  • Sweetfury

    I read the comments and I was amazed at the number of people who truly just wanted one child. While that is a personal choice and the right thing for many families, I thought I would post from the viewpoint of coming from a larger family. The oldest of seven children to be exact. My mother had 3 little stair steps, myself, 22 months later another little girl, and 1 year and 4 days later a third little girl. My mom says that when we were little that it was the best years of her life. I was like okay mom if you say so. But then I thought how different my life would have been without my siblings and realized that growing up with them were the happiest years of my life. In 1964 the first son was born into the family and by then I was old enough to be mom’s helper. I changed my first diaper and got peed on. Back then cloth diapers were the norm and trying to fit a diaper snug enough without sticking the baby was quite an accomplishment for a 7 year old. I was so confident in my skills that I carried the baby from his bassinet and made a safe spot for him on my bed and began telling him stories just like my parents told to me. My mom was frantic when she went to check on the baby and he was gone. She came into the bedroom just to find that her three daughters surrounded him on each side, giving him plenty of room. This brother of mine walked at 7 months old and ended up being six foot five inches tall. 14 months later in April of 1965 the second son was born. The next child to be born was one who I have always called little bit. My father never got to see his last child as he died suddenly in January of 1967 and she was born in June of 1967. Mom has often said that if she had not had all of us children to keep her busy her life would have turned out differently. Mom remarried and her last child was born in 1970. Another little girl. I inherited 2 step sisters and a step brother as well. Mom had a way of making each of us feel we were the most loved. Being in a large family a person never knew from day to day what was going to happen. Especially at the dinner table. I’m sure all of you have heard that if the lights go out don’t try to get a piece of meat from the platter. Mom had cooked up two whole chickens in the oven. No sooner than we had sat down to eat that the lights went out for perhaps 30 seconds. My oldest brother had stabbed a whole chicken and put it on his plate. This same brother who at 15 drank half a gallon of milk a day and ate a whole box of cereal. When we did something wrong everybody but D_____ got a spanking. That was because she could climb the rope on our tire swing and sit up on the tree limb all day long. One day after I was grown I asked mom why my sister didn’t a spanking when she got down. Her answer was that she could punish herself much worse than she could. There were hard times as well and mom and I would make clothing, alter old clothing that someone out grew. It was easy to add a little something that made it look like a totally new outfit. But mostly now that I am in my mid fifties I enjoy having siblings who are my best friends. I had two daughters, who are now grown that have given me all I could ask for and that is love and grandchildren (Their choice). I feel that by coming from a large family, that when Mom passes away I will be able to look at her life and know it was as she wanted it to be.

  • Joaan

    “Maybe, none of your business, I feel like saying. To me, having another baby is such a personal decision and it’s not something I take lightly. It often feels borderline invasive that so many people (who aren’t close friends or family) are interested in the shape of my family unit. What feels even stranger is that so many people I’ve encountered vehemently disagree with parents making the informed decision to have only one child, no matter what that family’s circumstances or how that family came to be in the first place.”

    Now you know how people who don’t want kids feel.

  • Katie

    The best thing my parents ever did for me was giving me my sister and brother. There is nothing so beautiful as watching two people you love love each other. If you choose to have another child, you will give your daughter a relationship that will live on after you and your husband are gone; a friend that will understand her past, present, and future in ways no one else ever can. In the words of Mary Schmich: “Be nice to your siblings. They’re your best link to your past and the people most likely to stick with you in the future.”

  • Miranda

    I have two kids and am currently pregnant with my third. That said, my oldest son was born when I was sixteen, so he was nearly four by the time he had a sibling. I feel like he benefited from his time as an only child, and even though I chose to have more children, I think he still would have been just fine if I hadn’t.

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