Please don’t call me Selfish
I discovered a great essay by Susan Newman over at Babble that made me think a lot — again — about being the mother of An Only Child. The title was “Is it Selfish to Have One Child?”
The idea of being labeled selfish stopped me, made me read, made me share with friends via Facebook. (Lots of feedback there on that one…)
I’ve never thought of myself, other moms of Onlys, or the childless by choice selfish. If anything, those of us in this category by design (because not everyone picks this box by choice) have made a conscious choice to have an Only child.
I imagine some have thought of me as selfish, or pitiful, or sad, or something.
But, here’s the story. I feel like sharing it. Maybe just to add to the record and chant that the families we’ve created, small in size, are big and wondrous and wonderful in their own way.
I didn’t really ever know how many children I wanted. But, I remember being very young and in love and planning a marriage and dreaming up the names of two future girls.
And then I married someone else and I went into it knowing it was possible there would be no girls with ringlets and solid English names. The man I married wasn’t sure he ever wanted children, but eight years in, he agreed to having one child.
I took the bargain.
And then, to my great shock, I had to poke my belly with drugs and suffer indignities under florescent light just to conceive.
I prayed to la virgencita that the drugs and ovaries swollen with multiple ripe follicles would send me twins.
God sent me one perfect daughter, instead.
After Maria was born — in the 10th year of my marriage — my spirit grew calmer, settled, complete. The person I had been missing had arrived and I was going to enjoy every minute. Mostly, I have. (Just being honest here…)
I have been asked many times when we were going to have a second child. I don’t think my husband got asked as much. I have been asked if I feel badly about not having more children. I always say I do, a little. But, I offer up my age (now 44) and explain that infertility treatment isn’t something I plan to go back to. Plus, we’ve aged out of adoption options, as my husband is much older.
End of story.
No Pity, Please
It shocks me to think a stranger who doesn’t know my story, or friend who does, would think me selfish, or pity me, for having an Only. Not to mention pity my happy, healthy, delightful daughter. Those of us with Onlys don’t merit pity, I promise you.
And listen, if someone says they were too selfish to have children, or have more than one, freaking applaud them. Applaud their ass for being honest and self-aware.
Deciding to get pregnant requires commitment, plus even more commitment after the kid gets here. We all know these kids are not a daily, happy, fabulous, miraculous stroll in the park. If you start out the relationship iffy, well then, who knows if you’ll ever be in with both feet? Pity the child then.
And, we could say that having four or six or seven or 20 is selfish, right? Tables always can be turned.
Embracing the Choice
Let me tell you how any uncertainly about having an Only went away.
When a friend was struggling to have a second child, I asked her why she kept trying despite the hardship.
“Our family does not feel complete,” she said.
I looked at my trio and realized it was complete.
I missed no one.
I longed for no one.
My peace over having Just One really settled in.
And, my friend had her second…hurrah.
It all works out.
The moral of this story: Don’t judge.