Parents of an only child constantly get flack for not wanting or not being able to have more children. When someone talks to a new parent, the first question is when more offspring are coming like having an only child is a grievous sin. There seems to be a double standard—fecund is fabulous, barren is bad. What no one thinks about, however, is why or how the decision of one came to be and how someone feels when you ask him or her about it. Here are things you should never say to a parent of one.
- “When’s his little sister or brother coming?” Yeah, this phrasing is never a good idea because it sounds like you’re accusing a woman with a baby weight belly of being pregnant. After some awkward fumbling and setting right what is actually intended, the mother must now explain there are no more babies coming, ever. That response is usually never enough for nosey strangers who won’t let it go, which brings us to number two.
- “Why not?” When a parent of one tries to respond with the “one and done” joke, she probably is just trying to avoid a longwinded discussion or a subject that may be sensitive. When you press with a “why not?” you’re forcing the question further. I’m not sure about you, but I don’t like to share personal information about my body to others. Basically, there may be a real reason why they are only having one child. Some kids may be adopted and it may not be affordable to adopt another. Some parents had complications that almost killed them or may have striped a woman of her baby making ability. Some women may have had grueling attempts at battling infertility and finally were successful. The point is, you could be rehashing past turmoil for someone. For some, pregnancy and birth is not always a beautiful experience. Forcing someone to explain themselves is tantamount to asking someone about their nose job—offensive and really none of their business.
- “Wasn’t it worth it?” Um, of course. You’ll never hear parents say they wish they hadn’t had a child; however, they may contemplate whether they would’ve done it if they knew exactly what would happen walking into it. Most would say they’d do it again in a heartbeat and good for them. Some parents of only children though hesitate, perhaps cringe, or change the subject. Sometimes childbirth is not all bells and whistles with a Hollywood ending where you hold your naked squawking baby against your chest, the planets align, and the universe is one again. Sometimes you have horrific complications that strip birth of its beauty, where the risk factor goes up into possibly fatalities, with lingering health issues for both parties. For some, we are told that this more likely will happen again than not. If that doesn’t want you to seal up the baby factory forever, then you are made of stronger stuff. Childbirth, despite modern science, is still a dangerous gamble. Some people choose not to have more, not to selfishly save their own lives but to spare others the pain they went through when you and the baby were held in limbo. I look at my family of three and feel the need to be there and alive for them weighs much more heavily than making us a four.
- "Your kid will be spoiled.” Spoiling a child has no relation to how many children are in the family. We’ve all seen families with one, two, three or more kids that are absolute spoiled rotten, where the parents meekly say “no” to deaf ears and the little spawns wreak havoc on all around them doing as they please, their demands being met at every turn, parents giving into every whim. We’ve also seen children who act like angels sitting quietly in their chairs listening to their parents, showing manners, empathy, and kindness to others. A healthy child’s behavior has direct correlation to the parents and parenting, not how many children the parents can produce. The only way to respond to this logical fallacy is with, “spoiled by love and attention, maybe.” That usually ends the conversation on a light note because you’re not disagreeing with them blatantly, but simultaneously saying you’re not going to buy your child the world just because there’s only one.
- "You’ll regret it.” These people think they have a crystal ball. They look into your future and see you as being unfulfilled because they can’t imagine life without the rest of their brood. But how can one regret what they don’t know? Parents of an only child will never know what we are missing, so in a sense, why would we regret it? What you could say to these people is, “I’ll get a fur baby.”
- “What if something happens to him?” Um, there’s no proper response to this one that would be polite. The days of an heir and a spare are gone. To ask this a person forces you to momentarily imagine life without your child, which is the most horrific idea you could ever contemplate. Someone actually asked me this and after my stunned expression wore of I sassily replied, “Oh, so if one of yours died, you’d be fine, because you have three, huh?” That will end the conversation quickly, but tread lightly because this person probably won’t ever talk to you again. Anyone who has lost a child would understand how ridiculous this question is. Love is not divisible among children and parents all know this.
- “He’ll be lonely.” This one is hard to tackle but honestly, having a second child just so the first has a playmate has more flawed logic than worrying about loneliness. There are play dates, classes, sports, and other extracurricular activities, and daycare/school. Thinking back into your own childhood, not all fond memories come from siblings, but also good books, loving parents, friends, sport competitions, classmates, pets, etc. There are so many things to do that I doubt any child HAS to feel lonely without a sibling.
- “You’re being selfish.” Yes, yes we are. If filling the overpopulated country with children is a selfless goal, then the “one and done” club is selfish. But we may have our reasons. Some of us want a successful career, to enjoy hobbies, to one day to travel the world. Some of us just want a moment to breathe now and then, a night out with the spouse without being so tired that we fall asleep before midnight. Some of us want to live within our means and the more children we would have, the less likely that would become.