I’ll never forget chatting with a friend during a walk at a neighborhood park about six years ago. We pushed our babies, hers several months older than mine, in our strollers. We chatted about diapering and sleeping arrangements and breastfeeding. We exchanged birth stories, my induction and her emergency c-section, and how our husbands were now doing with fatherhood. We had turned around and were heading back when she asked me a question.
“So how many kids do you want to have?”
I paused. This was unexpected. I thought it to be kind of an intrusive question, and by some accounts a rude one (depending on who’s doing the asking), although I knew my friend wasn’t trying to be either. She wanted more children, and she assumed I did too. We had been chatting about all things motherhood, so why not future plans as well?
But, you see, I wasn’t planning on having more than one. One was great. One fit into our lifestyle the best. I wasn’t interested in balancing more than one. I wasn’t interested in the environmental impact of more than one. (Full disclosure: my husband and I would go on to have a second, completely unplanned and unexpected).
Here’s the thing: when my friend assumed I wanted more than one, there was another assumption made, an unspoken, silent one: that I should want more than one. That only children are weird. I don’t mean to single out my friend. Many people had given me strange looks or made comments when I told them my son was going to be our only. That he would be lonely. That he would have trouble adjusting (what does that even mean?) That he’d need a sibling. That we’d want a second in case “something happens.”
Here’s the thing: don’t. Just don’t. When your friend/relative/daughter tells you she is planning on having one child, don’t say any of the above. Greet the news with support and without judgment. Because those aforementioned assumptions automatically come with your comment or strange look. They hang in the air like burnt popcorn. If you’re really hung up on it, remember: research has shown that only children do better academically, are more successful in a career, and have less stressed parents.
After my friend asked me her question, and after I had taken a moment to reflect, I replied, “Just one” and left it at that. We kept going and chatting about other things. Because, to all the mothers of oners, you don’t need to explain.
Previously published here and reprinted with the author’s permission.
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