I hope you have all had a lovely festive season and were fortunate enough not to have had a panic inducing weight gain like I had. These things happen and, armed with my new trusty Fitbit Charge HR 2 and a photo of the current state of my stomach, I shall be back to my svelte self within a month.
I wish that this could be a happy post but, alas, I am upset again. I recently started following The Mighty which I highly, highly recommend. It is such a wonderful site, dedicated to encouraging understanding and support on a range of issues to do with health. The tagline “We face disability, disease and mental illness together” just about sums it up. Even if you do not have to deal with these issues, reading the articles written by those touched by it can only help to breed understanding and inclusion. There are also great articles on how to help people in those situations as well as ones of gratitude to those who have unwittingly made a huge difference. I, myself, have learned so much.
This morning, on my Facebook page, there was an article that started with the line “I’m Only Having One Child Because of My Mental Illness – and That’s OK“. The title was enough to set me off. I read the article out of curiosity but I was already feeling my high horse riding into view and my legs were getting jumpy. Quite frankly, why is this woman feeling like she has to write this article? I’ll tell you why: because when you say you are only having one child, some people will try to convince you otherwise or give you a strange look like you are causing your child harm by making her or him a singleton. I should know. I’ve had that conversation with people. Short of saying “well, if you hit perfection the first time, there’s no need to try again”, I tried to be polite. Most people assume that the reason we didn’t have another child is because of Moo’s medical issues but if I really wanted a second child, that wouldn’t have stopped me.
I did look into egg donation and ended up having a conversation with someone who asked the one question that I don’t think gets asked enough: “do you want a second child the way you wanted a first?”. For me, the answer was no. I wanted another child because I couldn’t imagine what being an only child would be like. I couldn’t imagine a life without my sister or brother. I wanted my daughter to have that kind of relationship. As was pointed out to me, you can’t force a close bond between siblings and I know too many cases where siblings are not in touch because they just don’t get on or have nothing in common. Having another child as a playmate for the first is not a reason to bring a child into the world. Every child deserves to be desired the way I desired my first. I was utterly driven in my need for a baby. I would have walked over hot coals, I would have tried everything to have her or I would have adopted. I was desperate to be a mother and have a baby. Turns out that once I had her, I didn’t need or really want another.
I have a dear friend who went through hell to have her first child and then, subsequently, had a very similar hellish experience in her quest to have a second. I remember talking to her and asking her “why are you doing this? Why are you putting yourself through all this heartbreak and heartache?”. Her answer was “because I want a second baby the way I wanted the first. I am aching for one”. When she said that, I had two thoughts: 1) “well, then, I have your back.” and 2) “oh, thank God, I don’t feel like that!” Thankfully, she went onto have the cutest little boy and her family is complete.
The fact of the matter is that the size of one’s family is no one else’s business. Why do people think they have the right to condemn such an intimate decision? You know what, couples who decide not to have children are not going to regret it later. I bet they took making that decision very seriously. I admire people who decide not to have children. They know what they want in their life and kids are not it. At least, they aren’t bowing down to the pressure society seems to put on people and having unwanted, unhappy kids.
As for only children, it might shock people to know only children are not lonely children. It depends on the parenting. That deeply entrenched belief in society is based on research that took place at the end of the 19th century and has been disproven over and over again. Research has proven that only children do equally well in social situations and education, if not better. And one of the reasons is because they often have a stronger self esteem, which in today’s society is somewhat key to survival. If you don’t believe me, I highly recommend you read this book which gives a very balanced view of being and raising an only child: Parenting An Only Child. The author has spent over a decade studying only children and has raised one herself.
So the message here is the size of someone else’s family is none of our business and we should not condemn them for their decision of how many people to bring into the world. Being an only child is not torture. These children do not suffer as a result of no siblings. For a start, they have no sibling rivalry to contend with. Childless couples may or may not have had a choice as to whether they had children but their lives are not any less rich than those of us with kids.
And, yes, when I found out that a friend was going to have her fifth boy, I did think “oh my word! Has she lost her mind?!” but that was a reaction based on my experience of parenthood and how hard I find it. She, on the other hand, clearly relishes it and wants a big family. Good on her. Each to their own. And I swear that she’s one of the most beautiful pregnant people. This is her fifth! By rights, she should look like a big bloater with puffy ankles and the works, but no. She’s positively glowing with a nice tidy little bump. Post Christmas, I look more pregnant that she does and she’s due in March!