Motherhood

On Having an Only Child

Having an Only Child

How many children do you hope to have? For some families, one is the magic number. So! We asked nine parents about having only children — the pros, cons and how they decided — and here are their thoughtful, funny answers…

Prioritizing Space

Shirim (Eli, 15):

Am I allowed to say we like our two-bedroom apartment and did not want to be cramped? In truth I always grew up wanting two things: to live in an apartment, not a free-standing house, and to have only one child. I have never, ever regretted either.

I have been lucky not to have had pressure from friends or family to have more kids. Economically, it also did not make sense to me. My husband would have liked another, but was a good egg about it. Having cousins live so close has been really helpful for Eli in terms of having sibling-like relationships.

Trusting Your Gut

Erin (Reed, 3):

I guess the main thing is: We feel like our family is whole with our son. People often say the second or third or fourth child was the final piece of the puzzle. I’ve always felt as if we have all of our pieces. 

Chris (2-year-old son):

My husband and I became fathers to our amazing son through domestic open adoption. Is it weird that the phrase only child now bothers me? When people say it, they lean into the only. I am a gay man in my early 40s. Even one child is so much more than I ever expected to have a few years ago, and more than my teenage self would have said I had the right to ask the universe for. Then our son’s birth mom chose us to be dads, and everything changed for our family.

Stacey (Dash, 7):

I was never one of those women who always knew I wanted a baby. My son wasn’t really planned, but we weren’t working hard to *not* get pregnant, either. After having Dash, we’d have brief conversations about more children, but they were mostly around my not wanting to push my luck after having such an awesome kid.

I don’t know about the rest of the world, but here in Brooklyn people love to comment on everything. It’s like constantly being booked on a talk show. My least favorite is when someone says something to Dash like, “Don’t you want a little brother or sister?” Not up to you, person, and not up to my seven-year-old, either! I guess the headline here is there is no right answer, so trusting your instinct is enough.

Raising a Child With Special Needs

Kate (Ocean, 7):

When Ocean was born, we were so in love with him, but it was hard. He was the kind of baby who needed to be held upright and bounced all the time. He didn’t sleep much. Nursing was hard. He dropped off his weight curve around six months. I had concerns about his development. He was so adorable and joyful, but there were red flags. 

When Ocean was one, I remember sitting John down one night, shaking. I was terrified of having sex because I couldn’t go through it all again: pregnancy, but especially that first year. I was worried that John would be disappointed, but he got it.

Our pediatrician suggested physical and occupational therapy, and I began to scramble down the rabbit hole of special education. As Ocean evolved into the extraordinary and challenging person he is, I couldn’t see room in our lives for more. I felt completely fulfilled and completely overwhelmed at the same time. I’ve become his advocate. Our family feels just right.

People did ask a lot at first. I’ve always been ready with one-liners. First it was: “Well, this one was a miracle, so…” Then: “Having Ocean is kind of like having two kids.” Now it’s just: “Yup, one and done!” with a big smile showing off my wrinkles.

Reagan (Piper, 10):

I grew up in a big Mormon family, so I was surprised myself when stopping after one felt so right. It made more sense the more I thought about it, and letting go of that expectation gave me a lot of sweet relief.

My child also has serious physical disabilities that prevent her from being able to live at home with me, so I do sometimes mourn the loss of having a more typical family setup. For a long time, I thought having more kids would help heal some of the heartbreak of what she and I have gone through and what we’ve missed out on, but it feels too scary and uncertain to do.

The pro is that I get to have a very special relationship with Piper, and devote as much time as possible to her. Anything left over can go to my relationship with my fiancé, my career and any projects I feel passionate about.

The decision was also tricky at first because of my Mormon family. When I was little, having children was my main goal in life. There are tons of Mormon kids’ songs about motherhood, and I remember singing this one at four years old: “Of all the jobs, for me I’ll choose no other. I’ll raise a family. Four little, five little, six little babies of my own.” Many of the lessons I was learning at my church heavily emphasized developing motherhood skills — sewing, cooking, organizing, cleaning, crafting, even decorating. It was a challenge to break out of those expectations, versus what I really wanted.

Striving for Balance

Janna (Harley, 3):

My husband and I both come from two-child households, and before becoming parents we talked about having two. And then there was that huge recalibration of life that occurs after you have a child. It took us years to get into the groove where we each got the family time, alone time and social time that we needed to thrive. For us, this balance is what makes us good parents.

With one child, we can be spontaneous. When we take turns being on duty, the other gets to be totally off duty. We’re able to be present for Harley when we’re together — he has all of us. We live in a family-filled neighborhood, so he has playdates constantly. He is very independent, and he’s comfortable with a group of all adults or kids. We also can travel more easily with one child. We went to Barcelona for a week and ate and drank our way through the city, just the three of us. We had a blast.

I do often wonder if I’ll regret not having another child, and there’s no way to know. I’ve sought counsel from older friends who have only one child, and their continued happiness with it makes me feel confident in our decision.

Confronting Infertility

Melissa (Sammy, 7):

It took seven years — and five miscarriages — to have our child. When our healthy baby boy was born, we felt like we’d hit the jackpot. Going through the stress of trying to have another seemed absurd to us. My husband and I felt like our dreams had finally come true. I will say that our son LOVES being an only child and getting all the attention, and actually begs us not to have any more. (I’m 47, so I tell him not to worry!)

Sandy (Margot, 4):

Raising an only child was never my plan. My daughter was born in early 2013, and I conceived her sibling a year and a half later. But as I neared the end of my first trimester, I learned something: my baby’s heart had stopped beating at nine weeks gestation. That little love of mine had let go. I was pregnant one day, and then, without any prior warning, suddenly the next I was lying in an operating room while my uterus was hollowed out by a team of masked professionals. Six months later, I was diagnosed with secondary infertility.

I’ll never forget the moment my next-door neighbor commented on the size of our house, telling me we needed to have more kids to fill up the bedrooms — nor the time when a woman next to me on a plane assured me that even though I’d lost a baby, another one would come soon enough. “No, unfortunately, I’ve been told that won’t happen,” I replied.

As for pros, my daughter gets every ounce of my attention, and I get to bury her in a thousand kisses every single day. My daughter is my heart on two feet, and there’s not a con in the world about getting to raise that sweet person!

I’ve learned over these past three years that grief is anything but linear. I can go weeks with my head held high, and then, out of nowhere, a pregnant woman’s swollen belly or the sight of two car seats in the back of a car knock me right over. 

But never until now have I typed this or said it aloud: I’m just now finally feeling the light of acceptance warming my face. It’s new, it’s unfamiliar, and it’s a beautiful thing.

Do you have an only child? Were you an only child? I’d love to hear your thoughts… xoxo

P.S. How did you know you were ready to have a baby?

(Photo by Harold Feinstein, Coney Island, 1957. Via Land of Women.)

  1. Laura says...

    My daughter is just now three and my husband and I have surgery for permanent birth control measures scheduled for next week (after having cancelled last week haha). I think, for me, permanently getting rid of that “what if” will help me to finally relax and look to the future and fully enjoy being a parent to my daughter.

    It has been hard making that decision to stop at 1 especially because at 29 literally none of my friends have even started families yet.

    I also had traumatic pregnancy experience with extreme hormonal anxiety during, postpartum preeclampsia, postpartum anxiety, broken coccyx from delivery and literally no close family support (sitting alone in hospital wondering if I’d be OK–a wonderful kind nurse did take pity on me and help me feel a bit better though!!) To top it off my daughter got stuck during birth (shoulder dystocia).

    Everything turned out ok thankfully besides not being able to sit comfortably to this day.

    I just don’t feel that potentially going through that again would be worth it for me when I’m already so content. Life’s very short really and I know this feels very peaceful and right for me personally.

  2. S says...

    I always feel connected to these posts, and this one is so comforting. I have the most wonderful kid, and just as we were thinking of another, I was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma. I’m in chemo now, and have no idea what our family future looks like. We had been thinking we might be complete in our family of three, and going through so many challenges together makes me consider how tight we are as a unit. And how grateful I am for my sweet toddler and husband.

    • Dimity says...

      Good luck! Sending you and your little fam all the good wishes and get well vibes in the world xx

    • M says...

      My daughter was almost two when I was diagnosed with cancer at 29. I am in the hospital right now reading this, waiting for my last chemo :)
      Before we had children, we always wanted at least two. After she was born, we decided we would wait at least til she was five to have another and sometimes we also considered that we might be fine with just one. Now when chemo is finished, I will have a fifty percent chance to be still able to have children and we will have to wait at least five years til we try. So I guess life has its own ideas anyway ;)

      When I first heard about the 50/50 (right after the cancer diagnosis) I was like „well, no way I will take the chance of leaving another kid without a mom, so that question isn’t even of relevance!“ but now I am back to thinking about what ifs…

      Anyway: I am an only child, Had a great childhood and never missed anything. Also, we love to travel and be spontaneous as a family and we hit the jackpot with our daughter. So being a family of 3 might just be the right thing for us anyway!

  3. Tanya says...

    I loved reading this post! I’m an only child and I could relate to so many other people’s experiences.

    Of course, there are times when I wish I had a sibling. However, I think being an only child has given me many opportunities. One such example is that my parents were able to provide for my education, leaving me with zero student debt. That in itself is the greatest gift that has kept on giving (especially since I live in a pretty expensive city)!

    Growing up, I was never lonely. I was fortunate to have friends and family surrounding me everyday. In a funny way, I think being an only child molded me into the friendly, helpful, and outgoing person I am today.

    And I owe a lot of my independence to being an only child. From a young age, I realized that I need to work hard to support myself because my parents won’t always be there to catch me when I fall.

    So, to all the readers out there who aren’t only children, please don’t feel sorry for us only kids. We’re not really the sad, lonely, and unadjusted people society believes us to be ;-) And, at the end of the day, we’re just people anyway!

  4. Sara says...

    As a mother of 5 (so far) this was such an interesting piece to read. I am grateful to understand more about single child families from both the parents’ and child’s perspective. I can’t understand how it feels to parent just one child any more that these “one and done” parents can (or want to!) know what it is to parent 5, but it is so nice to hear and appreciate their voices. We’re all in this together.

  5. J says...

    As with so many of your posts, this one was very timely. I am currently experiencing secondary infertility and undergoing IVF. It has been an overwhelming year and a half as I navigate the world (and learn the language!) of fertility treatments. Not only am I hoping very much to extend my family, but I’m feeling the longing for another child from my husband and family members, including my parents and my daughter. She is 3 1/2 years old and I see how badly she wants a baby of her own from watching how she interacts with her friends’ siblings, in addition to the fact that she flat out asked me for one just the other day. I feel a weight on my shoulders…it helps to read about the beauty and complexity of all different types of families. Thanks Joanna for bringing this topic to light…and for giving me the good cry I needed :)

  6. Kate says...

    Thank you for this. My son is approaching two years old, and I’ve gotten a lot of comments re: only kids being spoiled, lonely, etc. and it’s hurt my heart. My husband and I live in an expensive area and childcare is incredibly pricey, so that alone is a factor – but we’re also a bit strung out with the interruptions to our sleep, schedule, etc. Maybe we’re selfish, but I can’t imagine how we’d squeeze another child, at least intentionally. Part of my heart aches for another because I love my son so much, but I feel like we are best prepared financially and mentally for just one. I hope my son understands.

    • Jen says...

      Exactly me. All of it. I’ve never met anyone who shares this experience and sentiment and it’s really comforting to know we’re not alone in this.

    • Chelci says...

      My husband and I are also “best prepared financially and mentally for just one”. Our son is nearly 9 years old now and we’re all perfectly happy with our decision to be a family of three.

    • Your son will be amazing just as he is because he has 2 loving parents who know how to best care for him. I am a 38 year old only child and am raising a singleton son who is 5.5. I was never lonely. People assume only children are lonely but people with 5 siblings can be lonely. Loneliness comes from within-just as happiness does and the number of people around you doesnt dictate that. People make so many unfounded assumptions about only children bc it is so outside the norm. None of them are an accurate picture. Kids have their own personalities and qualities and of course the environment shapes some of that but it does not dictate it. Your son will 100% understand and it’s not ever something you should apologize for. You’re not doing him a disservice. You’re being the best parents you can be which is the most important thing.

  7. Keri says...

    I just had to say Chris’s answer gave me goose bumps. How amazing how far we have come. Excited to see where we go from here :) keep spreading the love Cup of Jo team

  8. Amanda says...

    I’m an only, and I hate that only children get a bad rap. Being an only made me independent and creative. Being “alone” was never lonely. I became friends with my parents. I was comfortable talking with people far older than I, because I was with them.

    That said, at times growing up I wished I had had an older sibling, because I was sheltered, densitive, and didnt quite relate to my peers (hello, high school). Maybe a sibling would have helped those awkward years. Yet overall, I wouldn’t change a thing. I am who I am partly because I’m an only.

    My husband was an only for nearly a decade. We appreciate each other’s need for separate togetherness and me time.

    We don’t have kids, but I suspect if we do, that we will be one and done. It’s what we know.

  9. Emily says...

    I absolutely hated being an only child— it was lonely! All of my cousins & friends had siblings and I wanted that experience. At the age of 5, I wrote a note to God asking for a brother and offered it up to the sky— a gesture I felt in my power to do, as a child. Up until the age of 10 I was an only, until my mom remarried and had my brother. His presence has enriched my life so much, and I couldn’t imagine going back to being an only. I feel I have the perspective of both. Even with the decade of separation, I find there is more we connect on, commonalities, shared background story…I couldn’t image it any other way.

    My husband and I haven’t started to have children yet. I can’t imagine having an only child, even though all I hear is that going from 1 to 2 (or more) is intense. Having children is a somewhat selfless gesture to our family and to the world, and I picture creating a support system for my children, one that will remain long after I do, by having more than one child.

  10. Riley says...

    I’m an only child, and the topic has always been a huge sore spot for me. You wouldn’t believe (well, you other only children would) how comfortable people are saying things like, “you’re pretty normal for an only child!” or, “I never would have guessed you’re an only child, they’re usually so ______.” These comments were so hurtful to me growing up, and honestly, as a 29 year-old, continue to baffle me with their rudeness. I imagine it happens for other birth order positions as well, but OCs really get a bad rap.

    My childhood experience is probably just as rich and varied as anyone else’s… siblings or not. There were pros (traveling all over the world with my parents, having a very tight-knit relationship with my mom and dad, developing absolutely remarkable sister-like friendships outside my family) and cons (not having anyone who can help me reality test the crazy memories from my childhood, going through my mother’s death alone, realizing later than most that the world doesn’t revolve around me).

    The best word I can use to describe it in retrospect is “intense.” It was intense to be the center of attention all of the time, and to be the one to carry the family name and my parents’ expectations. Intense to be the only one in all of the family videos, to be the sole executor for my mom’s will. I didn’t always love it, but at this point, I wouldn’t trade it. It’s an integral part of my story, and helped make me who I am.

    • Catherine says...

      You described perfectly what it’s like to be an only child! Intense for sure, in good ways and not so good ways.

      As many others have said, it’s amazing how often I get comments from people who are shocked that I’m an only child. They mean it as a compliment of course (you’re so normal! you’re not spoiled at all!) but it’s funny that the stereotype is so pervasive. Hopefully that changes with this generation!

  11. Julie says...

    I am also the mother of an only child (4 years old) and feel that having one child is what works for our family.
    I feel like I can give my all to him, and sometimes, I need my alone time (introvert here!)
    My husband and I were together for 11 years before having our son, so it was a big change in dynamic. I echo what others have said here, that I feel like we were really lucky with a stress free pregnancy, and a healthy child. I don’t want to rock the boat.

  12. Jackie says...

    Thank you so much for this story and all the comments that followed. I have reservations about having another child but can’t rule it out completely either. It’s comforting to read in the comments that not everyone know exactly how many children they want to have. It’s also comforting to hear others say that what feels right depends so much on your specific situations. Many of my friends recently had their second kid. My husband also wants a second. Sometimes I feel there is something lacking in me for not having strong yearning for another child. Thank you for helping me feel less alone on this topic.

    • Rachel says...

      Couldn’t agree more! I’m not 100% on either side…but when I think about having another child it’s SUCH a mixed bag of emotions. I truly don’t think I could or want to love another child like I love my daughter…but I know that is a common feeling of mom’s with their first child.. I also don’t love the newborn challenges and have less patience than i thought I would for sleep issues…it’s so hard to make the decision! And now that my daughter is 2.5 life is much easier. Potty trained, big girl bed, no more pacifiers, she’s very vocal etc… hard to imagine starting over!

  13. Sara says...

    I am an only child and I don’t mind it, its all I know. But I am not as independent as I hoped I would be, especially as daydreaming teenager buried in books itching to travel. Mainly because my mother clung to me so tight for her own selfish reasons and because I was naive I let her make decisions for me. I didn’t go abroad in college because it was too far from her, I didn’t elope like I wanted to because she wanted the big wedding. There are so many things I can talk about with a therapist that have ruined our relationship and caused me to struggle in adulthood. Love your kids, but let them be themselves and let them go when its time for them, not you.

    • stacy says...

      I am not an only child but still struggled with the same things growing up (re going abroad, eloping, feeling suffocated by my controlling + jealous mother). There are so many ways in which I feel like I have been “damaged” by my parent. Being vocal about it- whether to friends or to a professional can help tremendously. Sending you lots of healing vibes!

  14. Scarla says...

    I can relate to several of the perspectives. Finding out I was pregnant – though it was not nearly an accident – was simultaneously awe-inspiring and terrifying.

    I come from a very family-centric culture where large families are the norm. My background exposed me to many larger families, and how the joys of parenthood, particularly when children are grown, often outlast and deepen beyond the emotional and financial struggles of growing, school-age children.

    I imagine that I myself (mom to one), might I have grown up in a different culture, might be very inclined to choose to have only one child. I had a very difficult post-birth experience, am quite a low-energy person, and worry about finances a great deal. But as a result of my upbringing I am so often witness to the strength and love of the sibling bond and the parent-child bond – in childhood, but especially once adulthood is reached. When I consider how many children I really could manage, I am comforted by the idea that children grow the heart, as well as the capability to feed, clothe, and nurture them.

    • J says...

      Thank you for this beautiful perspective. As an only child who was always certain that I wanted a big family of my own, I have found myself completely rocked by parenthood so far (my son is three months old) and scared of having more. Taking the long view is so helpful to remember when I’m wading through the groggy foggy terrible awesomeness of new parenthood.

  15. Jordy says...

    Both my husband and I are only children and we both lost a parent in our 20s. The weird thing is, neither of us ever really thought about siblings, while growing up or while grieving. You get the life you get and being an only is what is normal. Unfortunately we aren’t deeply close with our remaining parents, but we are really close to each other. Is it weird that I consider my husband to be my brother? We started dating at 19, we’ve really grown up together. 12 years later, we’re starting to talk about having kids and I would be okay with an only child.

  16. Cheryl says...

    I’m an only child, adopted after many years of waiting. Growing up, at times I wanted a sister. Then I saw the squabbling that occurred in my friends’ families and thought, “Nah.” I also had the advantage of being able to travel with my parents and didn’t have to assume as much debt for college.

    Now as an adult, I would love the partnership of a sibling — including someone to share the role of helping parents as they age (a gift and a source of great worry). But I’ve gotten to choose my siblings — I have friends who are like sisters, and I am close to my sisters-in-law.

    I also have one child myself now and am unsure about going for #2, or if adopting or fostering is the right option.

    IMHO, for children, knowing that they are cherished and capable can make all the difference, regardless of family makeup.

  17. anonymous says...

    This doesn’t feel like the right place to talk about my situation, but at the same time, the post called to me in a lot of ways. I have a 4 1/2 year old and a 17 month old. And I feel overwhelmed and most days feel like I made a mistake having more than one. I love my youngest so much and I’m not saying that I wish I hadn’t had him. I just miss the days of my one child so much. I used to love being his mom and playing together, but now feel like I don’t get any joy out of motherhood at all. They are both demanding and the baby has some health issues that make things even more demanding. And I long for the days when things were easier. I know I’ll get there again, but for now, this season feels very rough. I sort of felt like my oldest needed a sibling and I didn’t want to regret not having another, but now everyday I think to myself that I was not meant to be a mother of more than one child. And that feels so hard.
    I’m sorry if this was the wrong place to put this and I hope that I am not being insensitive to anyone that has had infertility issues.
    Thank you for this space you open to the wonderful community you have created. xo

    • Sarah says...

      Sending you love, Anon.

    • Thank you so much for sharing. I feel like that would be me if I went for number two. Obviously this is not from personal experience, but I have heard from SO MANY mom friends of two that the 18 month mark after having their second was where they started to see the light at the end of the tunnel; the siblings started to play together more, the family fell into a good rhythm, everyone is sleeping, etc. Hope that is true for you–if so you only have a month to go! :)

    • cam says...

      Thank you for sharing. Sending you love during this rough season of life.

    • Susan says...

      You are not alone. Don’t be so hard on yourself. Not all of us have those early dewy instagram ready blissful experience with young babies. This too shall pass.

    • Erin says...

      My kids are spaced about the same distance apart as yours, and the year they were 4 and 1 was SO HARD. My mom (who had to deal with the same sibling spacing between me and my sister) kept telling me that it’s the hardest year because what the two kids need is soooo different. I was constantly exhausted … fishing big brother’s Lego out of little brother’s mouth, dealing with big brother’s frustration that little brother couldn’t “really” play with him yet, juggling two fairly different little-kid sleep schedules, trying to feed a toddler who threw EVERYTHING off his high chair while also satisfying a 4-year-old’s food preferences. Oy. BUT … now they are 7 and 4. They love each other. They can both play Snakes and Ladders, and build Lego without anyone trying to eat the pieces. We have hilarious conversations about things like “Where do dung beetles live, Mama?” We’re reading chapter books together. Hang in there, dear Anonymous. It gets better, I promise.

    • stacy says...

      You are so not alone. I DID struggle with infertility. The same feelings knocked me off my feet- I felt like I “forced” the pregnancy (IVF). My son is 3 now, and while he absolutely lights up my heart, I do (still) question my decision.
      Slowly I am beginning to realize that my doubts are just part of who I am. I will always question, I will always dream of a different life. That’s just me.
      We should all love hard, doubt hard, question life, and grow. At some point the balance will begin to shift. The good moments will outnumber the tough ones. It may happen gradually, you might not even realize it.. until one day- you just find yourself on the other side.
      I suspect that many women feel the same. Thank you for expressing yourself and opening the door.

    • J says...

      Sending you hugs. I don’t think I would have had children at all if I were to do it over again. Or at least I would have sold our house and rented a tiny apartment just to afford a nanny. However, for me it is done and I am in it to win it. I just might not be as happy as I could have been.

      I hope you find some ways to make it easier on yourself. Ask for help, find a YMCA or gym with childcare, or whatever it is that would make it easier.

    • T says...

      Big hugs to you, and thank you for sharing. My son will be turning 3 next month and I feel like we are really ready to let go of the idea of another child. I still worry that I will regret it in the long run, but I could just as easily see myself regretting having another child. There is no winning, I suppose.

      I choose to believe it will all be fine in the long run, for all of us. <3

  18. I LOVE this. I hate that “only” one is even a thing. It always striked me as crazy that complete strangers (or anyone) think it is ok to comment on how many children you have or whether or not you have them at all. I just had my fourth and SO many people assume she was an “oops baby”. I’ve been preventing pregnancy since I was a teenager! Why would I have an accidental pregnancy now, at age 40 when I understand all too well how much work raising a child is? How many is such a personal decision and it depends on so many factors out of your control. I think I am so very lucky to have the number that felt right to me (though admittedly, I never even strongly wanted any children – not even one – until I had my first at age 36). I think this post is a great reminder that we should all be more sensitive and let go of the need to have others affirm our life choices/circumstances.

    I recently wrote about adjusting to #4 here http://beatconbini.com/2018/01/15/embracing-chaos-four-five/
    in case anyone is curious about how one family is making that transition.

  19. Kendra Robinson says...

    When my daughter was 3 my husband and I had a wine-fueled conversation about having another child and we we both agreed to “go for it”, and then we both never spoke of that conversation again. Our now 14 year old is mostly delightful, we are a very happy family of three.

  20. Anna says...

    This is such a great article as I am an only child and I love to hear perspectives of other only children! My parents struggled with infertility and had me when they were in their early forties so they call me their “miracle child.” My mom is also an only child and my dad’s side of the family lives about 5 hours and I only see them about twice a year, so it is truly just my parents and I. Growing up, I was very lucky. I was attended private school, my parents provided everything I ever wanted/needed, and my college tuition is paid for, which are all things that probably would not have been possible if I had siblings. I am very close with my parents, but I was pretty lonely growing up.
    However, as I have gotten older things have gotten more tough. My mother has suffered from severe depression and my father has has had a major stroke and substance abuse problems, so things have not been easy for me as their only child. I feel like I am constantly worrying about them and trying to be there for them, while also juggling being a full time college student. I often wish that I had a sibling who could help out with them or just someone else to vent to. I am only 21 but I have always said that I want as many children as possible so that they will not be lonely or have the sole responsibility of taking care of their parents!

  21. I’m the youngest of five girls, three of whom have children, so the pressure has been off me for quite a while. I also have had the pleasure of seeing how they’ve worked through motherhood and how hard it truly is. I haven’t yet figured out if having kids is right for me (I’m 31), or if the timing will ever feel right. At the moment, life has felt so transient and I’m only now figuring out what I want to be and do. I often think that having one child might be the right thing for me.

  22. Olivia says...

    I’m not a mom (hopefully one day) and can’t imagine losing a child but I did just recently lose my dad. It was devastating and this line really resonated with me: “I’ve learned over these past three years that grief is anything but linear. I can go weeks with my head held high, and then, out of nowhere, a pregnant woman’s swollen belly or the sight of two car seats in the back of a car knock me right over.” I feel the same way when I hear a song he loved playing in Whole Foods or when I see an ad that reminds me of him on the subway. Grief is so personal and comes in waves. Some larger than others. I think you’re always kind of wading in the shallow end when boom comes another. I am so happy Sandy is brought such joy by her daughter. I wish her a lifetime of sweet kisses.

  23. Lin says...

    Our only son just turned 21. We originally planned to have two, but life circumstances (a job transition to a rural area with a poorly-rated hospital, being over 40, and financial considerations) changed my mind. Growing up, our son made friends easily – we often had a houseful of boys during his elementary and middle schools years (and two close friends who were a constant), and then as he came into his high school years, there was a steady girlfriend. It seemed he knew he wanted other close relationships and expanded our family on his own! He is a kind, curious, thoughtful, smart (and funny) young man now. We are very close and we not only love our son, but enjoy hanging with him. His new girlfriend is an only child, too, and they seem to have something special. I do worry about what life will be like for him without siblings or close cousins as he ages, but I have a feeling, just as he did when he was younger, he’ll expand his own family.

    • Emily says...

      I just love this! My son is ten and an only but he sounds like your son and I so look forward to knowing my son at each stage of his life.

    • Carolyn says...

      Lin, your experience sounds so similar to ours with our son who is now 22. He was and is this amazing kid — independent, smart, adventurous, curious. When we had him we weren’t yet financially solid and our careers were just getting started. We never really decided not to have more, it just didn’t happen. As a result, we were able to give him what we wanted him to have without being strapped financially or time-wise. We love the person he’s become. When he was 18 he moved to a large city quite a ways from us, and he loves it. We talk and text often, and when the three of us get together it’s wonderful. I never regret not having more!

    • One and done says...

      I am so happy to read these comments. We have an independent, happy, curious 6 year old, and I look forward to having a wonderful relationship with him as he grows.

    • Rachel says...

      I love this.

    • Cari says...

      Thank you so much for this comment! I have a four year old son, and he’s wonderful and all we need to feel complete as a family. He’s great with other kids and loves having friends over to play now (and we love it, too), and I have dreams of our home being the place where he and his friends hang out as he gets older. This is such a lovely affirmation – thank you!

  24. K says...

    Really enjoying reading this and all of the amazing comments! I wasn’t sure that I wanted kids for many years, but now have a 5 month old and have really surprised myself by suddenly wanting a larger family–the idea of 3 kids is always in my mind these days. My husband, however, has had a much rougher transition to parenthood and refuses to even think about another kid at the moment. So even though I want more children, I’m trying to manage my expectations with the reality that he may never want another.

    Also loving all the comments about being an only child, both pro and con–I have a sibling that I fought a lot with but now would never want to be without, and I admit I do worry about my daughter not having a sibling. Not only because I’d love for her to have someone to gripe with and share responsibility with as we get older, but also because she is currently the only baby of her generation on both sides and she gets so. much. attention. I’m all for babies being loved on, but its honestly a bit out of control!

  25. Elizabeth says...

    I’m glad some only children wrote in, because I think our society looks at things from the parental point of view. It’s important to think about how life feels from the child’s pov. My brother is 6.5 years younger than I am, so I know what it is like to be an only child and a sibling.

    There are many variables. We had no extended family near us, my father was much older than my mother who had trouble adjusting to the suburban way of things. I was lonely as a child and yearned for siblings, but my brother and I are very different. The age spread between us is awkward, “it’s like having two different families,” my mother said. I was too young to be a second parent but too old to do the same things he did.

    It’s been a difficult dynamic, but now that my parents are gone I’m glad I have him. (Neither of us has children). I have someone to share memories with and gnaw on thoughts of the people who made up our world. I definitely agree w/the respondent who said that onlies are not spoiled — quite the opposite, as they have no way to deflect parental attention.

  26. Dee says...

    I’m right there with Reagan and Piper. My beloved 14 year old daughter is an only, and it’s only in the last years that I have found my groove with parenting her. She is profoundly disabled and two years ago lost most of the rest of her eyesight, and her autism was diagnosed. She had to go during the week to a live in centre and it was SO hard. Upended my life, emotionally, just the loss of having her daily with me. Also, I still remember the early years, I was so young and her challenges were so serious. She had 15 surgeries her first year and a half. She didn’t walk or talk till age five or six. She is still incontinent. My marriage and the life I imagined, crumbled with it. I judged myself very harshly as a mother until I understood more clearly that it would have been impossible for me to be the kind of mom I had always imagined. It’s been a long old road. I’ve rebuilt since then and my now partner has no children and would ideally like some, though he understands my position. But I’m soon to be 39 so the irony is that if I went for it now, the risk of complications is quite real. I do have days where I feel drawn to the idea, and I know it’s basically now or never. Maybe it would be amazing, what do I know! But every time I’m on the verge of walking myself to the pharmacy for some pregnancy vitamins, I find myself sidestepping the door. I’m so glad to read from others struggling with near daily indecisiveness. I’d almost have one just to stop fretting about it!

  27. Allie says...

    I’ve read through a lot of the comments, and I feel like, in regards to a lot of people’s worries about having 1 or 2+, or their joy in being 1 or 2+ themselves… life is complicated, and people are too, so it could really go either way regardless. For example, there are a lot of comments about the fear of an only child dealing with parental death on their own… well, my mom’s 2 siblings have both passed away (in their 60s), and my mom’s parents are both still living… so even as a person with 2 siblings, she’ll still be the only child dealing with that. And on the flip side, a lot of only children have commented about the closeness of their family unit that wouldn’t happen with a sibling, but I experienced a similarly close family unit with my parents, sister, and myself. And like a lot of only-children, I relish alone time and loved skipping parties to disappear in a book as a kid/still (classic introvert), and my sister is wildly independent, can make friends anywhere, and has been treated (and acted) like a little adult since she could walk. Its not black and white how you’ll turn out based on having siblings or not, there are so many other factors, and people are just complex.

    • Thank you for this comment, I second this. People are complex, situations are complex. I am an only child by a teenage (pregnant with 17), single Mom and the first six years we still lived with my grandparents. My two aunts (my moms younger sisters) also lived there, as did my grandpas mom. (Also lots of animals actually, since it was a farm.)

      When I was at Uni, we played a game called „therapy“ with a few friends and the question was „who do you think had the happiest childhood“ and then you had to rank people. (Haha yeah, the game set up has a lot of conflict potential.) anyway, I was completely and absolutely awed when I got ranked last by everyone! („You know because you’re a single child. With a single mom, no dad, so…“) I was so perplex that people were pitying me that I didn’t even feel offended.

      My childhood was AMAZING!! I have a super close bond with my grandparents, my young aunts (13 and 14 at my birth) felt like sisters to me and I grew up on a FARM for God’s sake. How much better can a childhood get?

      It turned out that everyone playing the game that night thought that their own childhood was the best. Which was so funny because then there were comments like „but your dad is still complicated“. Or „but you guys had to move every 3 years.“

      Well, goes to show: children usually just enjoy whatever the situation is as long as it’s a loving environment. They don’t question their lifes until someone else starts to. So let’s not.

  28. Shwetha says...

    I am fairly new to the blog & I’ve been enjoying all your posts ranging from parenting to travel. This topic resonated with me. I’m an only child coming from a family where both my dad & moms siblings all have 1 child each too! And now I have a 2-year-old and feel our family is complete. Like a lot of mothers have said already I feel like I cannot do justice to myself or my first(and only) born if I have another. Now I get to be a friend, a career woman, go on a solo vacation and everything in between without guilt, since 1 is totally manageable. We also live thousands of miles away from our families who are based in India, besides I always knew I wanted a daughter & what I wanted to name her, so when it happened I felt fulfilled and like a dream come true.

  29. Jane says...

    I’m so grateful for this post and all the thoughtful comments, especially from those who grew up as a single child. There were definitely moments when I’ve felt guilty for having just one because my husband and I are close to our siblings. But I’ve always been committed to being fulfilled in my career, relationships, and creative pursuits in addition to motherhood. I hope that’s not selfish. My kid is 10 and it’s an age when we’re having some deep conversations about all kinds of things, from current events to hip hop. It’s a hoot. I’m trying to hold on to every moment before he leaves the nest, which feels like it will happen in the blink of an eye.

    • Carolyn says...

      I know how you feel, Jane. My husband and I both have 2 siblings and I have, at times, felt some guilt for not giving our son the same experience. But as he’s gotten older (he’s 22, now) I realize it was the exact right thing for our little family. I, like you, had many things I wanted to pursue beyond motherhood, and a busy career that I love and work hard at. It was good for our son to see that, and he has a fantastic work ethic because of it. And I can so relate to the deep conversations you have with your son. My husband says that talking has always been an Olympic sport for my son and me — even now that he lives in another city! Enjoy it because you are right — the time does fly by so quickly and these moments are precious.

  30. BNicole says...

    I’m an only child and, like others, often get the backhanded compliment from people that they’re “surprised” I am one. Just like any family dynamic, there were pros and cons to it. My mom had little money and, in my opinion, made a very smart decision to stop at 1 because she just couldn’t afford it. Now that I’m in my early 30s and married, I’m starting to feel more of the pangs of jealousy for bonds that my friends and my husband have with their siblings – the deep love for nieces and nephews, the sibling maid of honor or best man — all things I don’t have nor entirely understand. On the flipside, I see weird competitive dynamics between my husband and his sister that I’m so grateful I don’t have to deal with. We plan to wait a while to have kids and regularly say we think we’ll just have one child. We’re already getting comments from his family that “we can’t do that to them.” Thanks, guys!!

    • Silver says...

      I find that people with lots of siblings – especially same gender siblings, make far crappier friends. They spend their holidays with a sibling they spend most of the year moaning about, but they an always hang with their siblings – even when they continue to fight. People without close sibling bonds/ no siblings have to ensure they build a secure and loving community through their own efforts. I LOVE only children. My father-in-law is one and I don’t think I could ever love anyone more than him.

  31. Rachel says...

    Oh boy. This post has me in tears. Sandy’s phrase “My daughter is my heart on two feet…” hit me hard. That is so very sweet and I honestly feel the same way about my children.

    Thanks for yet another amazing article.

  32. Nina Nattiv says...

    I have twins. But since I was only pregnant once, everyone thinks its crazy that I’m not having anymore. Everyone keeps telling me how much easier it is to have one at a time, rather than twins. But my twins don’t disappear if I have another, right? And I still have a business I just started, and an overworked husband, and friends I barely get to see, and a gym I haven’t stepped inside in 3 years, right? Having a child is no joke!

    The thing that gets me is when people ask , ‘don’t you miss having a baby?’ First, not really. I’m a much better parent since they learned how to talk. Second, babies grow up. All babies grow up. No matter how many children we have, we will have to morn the end of childhood. I’ll do it once, and that’s enough.

    • Erin says...

      “Don’t you miss having a baby?” LOL. Now that my kids are no longer babies, I have realized how much I prefer it when *other* people have babies. Someone I know has a baby? I am so excited! I will bring them board books, muffins, dinner, go to a party for the baby, hold the baby, exclaim over how adorable the baby is, etc. etc. etc. And then I will be so happy that I get to go home with my children, who are big enough to tell me what they need instead of wailing, listen when I read a story instead of trying to eat the book, and put all their poopy in the potty!

  33. Lindsay says...

    I was so excited to see this post go up and I love reading through all of the insightful comments. I have a 16 month old daughter and I wonder if we’re “one and done” or not. I’m currently not at all interested in more kids, but I have to place myself in the annoying “never say never” category because I’m such an indecisive person and often don’t really know what I want or what will “complete” me. I’m also just VERY slow to get around to things: dated husband for 8 years before we married, daughter born 6 years after that and it would have been even longer if the pressure of aging wasn’t in the mix.
    My little story: I never had any interest in kids and didn’t want them, except maybe a little twinge because I did like the idea of an adult friendship with my imaginary grown up kid. My husband was willing to never have kids, but I knew it was something he really wanted and I was curious enough to give it a go. I spent my pregnancy fearing all the worst things — that I wouldn’t love my baby, that I’d be a terrible mom because it had never been my dream to be a mom, that I’d regret it and have to live with the fact that I ruined my life…
    I wish I could go back in time and tell myself to stop all the incessant worrying. I fell madly in love the second she was born, she has been the best thing to ever happen to me/us, and I just had no idea I could love someone like this. It’s all the drivel that pre-kid me would have gagged at, but it’s all true!
    I love our family of three right now and can’t imagine changing it (nor do I have any interest in going through pregnancy and delivery again and dealing with endless fears and worries) but, for me, never say never.

    • I feel like I could have written this comment! My son is two months, and we had him after three years of infertility and almost ten years together. Yet, I was still never really sure about the whole thing until he arrived. The anxiety I felt durIng my pregnancy was too much to go through again. Though never say never!

  34. Jenny says...

    Thank you for this! I’m a new mom – single mother by choice – and he’s only 12 weeks old but I keep thinking about if I’m going to have another or if it’s ok to just have the one (I’m 39 next month so it’s not like I have a ton of time to think about this…) It would be great to do an article about single mothers by choice – when I thought about going for it, I’ve found groups on facebook and in my city… it’s a very interesting topic and all of our stories are similar yet different!

  35. Kelly says...

    I’m an adoptive mom of two. When my first came home, it was such a relief to be ‘done’ after YEARS of infertility and waiting. I couldn’t even think about a second!

    On top of that, my first was (and is!) a ‘spirited’ child. Not a great sleeper, needs a lot of attention…intense and exhausting to parent (though adorable, and adored!).

    One day when #1 was about 3, our adoption agency called to tell us they were re-opening adoption from Ethiopia, and ask if we wanted to try for a second child. We were really just emerging from the fog of adjusting to our first, and not sure about a second, but figured it would take a while so why not get started, as we could decide to stop at any time.

    Long story short, adopting a second from Ethiopia didn’t work out, but we eventually decided we really did want a second, and switched to domestic adoption, and brought home #2 not quite two years ago, when #1 was 5 1/2. She has been our missing puzzle piece and we can’t imagine our family without her!

    I’m so so so grateful that my adoption agency kicked us into gear, as I think exhaustion and stress from #1 might have kept us from going for #2. And we basically had to go back to square one of infancy after FINALLY getting #1 to be an almost reasonable human being who could travel and eat in restaurants and sleep better and all that good stuff – but now that baby is almost 2, and I see the light at the end of the tunnel for the really hard parts of infancy.

    Also – I have 1 sibling – he is mentally ill – we see him a lot but are not close and he creates a significant amount of tension in my family. I’ve always felt like an only for many reasons – just to say, you can have more than one and still not have close siblings!

  36. Aleka says...

    Fascinating post. I’d love if you could do one on single parents, or older mothers, and their journey.

  37. I am currently pregnant with my second. I always thought in theory that I would want two, since my sister and I are super close and I want my kids to have that same close relationship. But it was hard for me to pull the trigger on trying for a second. I feel like I just got my body and life back in order after having our first, and am 100% dreading going back into baby hell again. But then I think about how shellshocked I felt for that first year after my daughter was born, and how I often secretly wondered if I was really cut out to be a mother or envied the lives of friends who were childless. But then of course it all started seeming a lot easier and so fun, and now I am so happy being a mom. So I’m thinking the wisdom of having a second child might also take a year or two to sink in. :)

    • Kitty says...

      I could have written this! It took 5 years to want another child but I am pregnant now with #2. Good luck with your journey.

    • Jennifer says...

      Yep, me too! Also currently pregnant with #2 and my son is 5 years old. I also hesitated , and we spent a whole year “trying but not trying” and every month it didn’t happen I was upset. Then imagine my surprise when I got that big plus sign, and I immediately started crying out of fear! But now that I’m halfway through, I’m getting more and more excited to meet her. But also scared of the newborn stage again!

  38. I am an only child, but never felt like I was missing out on anything while growing up. I was – and still am – close to my cousins and have always had close friends. I still wish I had a sibling, but being an only child is super special. Believe it or not, my boyfriend is also an only child, which I had felt concerned about when we first started dating. I wondered how we’d clash and how we’d resolve things, while he felt that it was one more thing to bond over! I’m happy to say that we are doing great :)

  39. Nicole says...

    Being an only child has made me vow never to have just one kid. It was lonely and I felt stuck between my parents a lot. You become the mediator, an ally, one of them, very quickly. Maybe that was just our family dynamic, but I want my son to grow up with a sibling to recount memories with, to support each other as me and my husband grow old and eventually pass. For my husband and I, the decision isn’t just for us, its for our son.

  40. I am so thankful to you all for putting together this post, and for all of the thoughtful commentators — both from the parent and child perspective. It’s a topic that’s beginning to come up for me … I’m getting married in March and don’t want kids for a couple of years. For many years, I didn’t want kids at all, but more and more I feel a deep yearning for the experience of motherhood. But, on the other hand, I’m a sensitive, introverted, and easily tired person (!) who is very committed to her work. (And who wants to have time to have friendships and just enjoy the world :). So I really resonated with some folks who have written in the comments that having a single child allowed them to have the motherhood experience while still feeling like they have some juice for other things. I don’t want to feel like I’m signing up for two decades of just total chaos all the time. (Is that an exaggeration? I worry that’s how it would feel with multiple children!)

    I definitely worry about the “is it unkind to not give my child a sibling” thing — and while it is so great to read from a lot of grown-up only children that they’re just fine, I also personally know a lot of adult only children who say they’d never have just one.

    But mostly I am thankful for all of the thoughtful points on this!

    • sasha says...

      *total chaos for two decades*
      No, not an exaggeration imho. Two kids, I’m just at the end if those two decades now. So much happiness and fun within that chaos, but chaos seems like a pretty good word for it to me.

    • Michelle says...

      I feel the same way, Katie. I want the motherhood experience but also time for the things that make me, me. I’ve always been the type of person who likes one-on-one time the best rather than groups, which has also made me wonder how much more draining it would feel to have two children rather than one.

      I’m not a parent yet (pregnant now with 1st) but I did nanny for multiple families for several years and it was my experience that caring for one child was easier and more pleasurable across the board. The sibling dynamic between young children, especially those close in age, added another layer of stress, and there was less of me to give to each child.

  41. gk says...

    this post is so timely, since i have recently (as of this week!) starting pondering whether we want to try for another child.

    i am an only child, and have always assumed that if i had kids, i’d only have one. my husband and i decided to take the plunge, and we had a daughter. it was a perfect pregnancy but a traumatic birth. she ended up in the nicu, and she died the day after she was born. we decided to try again – not because anybody could ever replace our daughter, but because we wanted to have that love in our lives on a daily basis and watch a screaming baby actually grow into a child and adult. my second pregnancy was fraught with anxiety, but we had a baby boy who was perfectly healthy! but oh my gosh, he was a screaming baby who didn’t sleep and that first year was hard on me and my marriage – sleep deprivation and going back to work and hormones/migraines. i didn’t think i could handle another pregnancy emotionally. i didn’t think i could handle another newborn phase physically. i’m not getting any younger ;)

    but now, i don’t know. my son is almost 4. he drives me nuts sometimes, but he’s a pretty wonderful kid and the more i see him playing with other kids, the more i think wow – that’s pretty awesome. maybe it would be nice to have another and have that much more love in my life. that little voice in my head has been popping up more and more frequently, and i’m not sure at this point which internal voice is right! a few years ago, i wouldn’t have thought myself/my marriage capable of surviving the crap that life has thrown at us (dead baby!), but we have. i think we’re strong enough to do whatever we want – i just wish i knew what that was. although, maybe part of the problem is that i know life doesn’t always give you what you want…

    • sasha says...

      I’m so sorry for your lost GK. What was your baby girl’s name?

      In my family, I was the baby born after my parents lost their baby girl. I don’t think they ever truly recovered from that loss.

      You sound like such a strong and resilient person. I hope you feel good about whichever choice you make. It’s so true we don’t always get what we want, and what life throws at us can be so hard. Best of luck.

    • gk says...

      sasha, thank you for your kind words. my daughter’s name is persephone.

      i’m sorry to hear about your sister. were your parents able to talk much about her? in our house, we talk about my daughter all the time but i do somewhat wonder what my son will think as he grows up. he’s been to the cemetery way more than the average bear :)

      knowing my personality, i am pretty sure i’ll adjust and feel good about whatever choice i make (famous last words?) – but just your phrasing it that way was lovely and helpful, so thank you. all choices are good – no kids, one kid, more kids. life, and family, is what you make of it.

  42. anna says...

    I always assumed I wanted 2 kids to re-create the bond my (older by one year) sister and I have. It is one of the most important relationships in my life. After I had my first son, I felt shocked that I did not long for another baby or feel like our family was missing something. It felt happy and perfect. I don’t remember a huge shift in thinking but we chose to have one more when my first son was 3. Our second baby is a sweet and happy soul but I never had the sense that we are now “complete”. With 3 or 4, both family dynamics would be perfect!

  43. Robin says...

    I’m an only child (now in my early 30’s), and more than once I’ve received the backwards compliment, “Oh, you’re not like most only children”. There’s an idea that only children grow up to be anti-social and entitled. If anything the opposite is true! My parents joke that I was “socialized” in day care and summer camps. Not having siblings meant I had to go outside my comfort zone and make friends. My parents and I get along incredibly well, too. The closeness that comes from being the one child has now matured into a genuine friendship. Now that I live in my home town again, I’m so happy I can be there for them as they age. We’re a team of three!

    • Johanna says...

      I agree 100% with this comment – I’ve experienced the same things as an only child. My friends are always jealous of the relationship I have with my parents! I encourage folks to update their ideas about only children, instead of treating me like an outlier.

    • This is an awesome comment and gives me so much hope as the mother of an only!! :)

    • Ashley says...

      So lovely to hear you had a positive experience as an only child! Reading comments from other only children, who vow never to have an only child because they hated being one, break my heart. I know every family dynamic is different but I had a challenging pregnancy and my husband and I truly feel like our family is complete with our daughter. Reading some of the other comments made me feel so guilty, like we are punishing our daughter and she’s going to grow up to resent us. I truly hope she feels like we’re a team of three too.

  44. Maire says...

    I am an only child and I think it was the best thing ever! Both my parents are from large families and are the oldest of their siblings, so I spent a lot of time being the only kid around the house and had lots of aunts and uncles that doted on me. Additionally, I always got to take a friend with me if we went places and in turn I spent a lot of time with friends who had siblings, so I don’t feel like I missed out on any social interactions. Now, as an adult, I only wish that I had siblings for the sole reason that I feel like I am disappointing my parents because I do not want to have children. It is hard, because they would be the most amazing grandparents, but I don’t think that having a child would be the best thing for me personally or for my marriage. I feel so guilty for denying them the grandparent experience when they get to watch all their friends and siblings become grandparents. Ultimately though, I know that I have to do what is best for me and my family of two (plus a very ornery tuxedo cat.)

  45. Steph says...

    My only child will turn 2 this week and I feel like I’m just now getting a grip on life as a mom. I am finally working, working out, seeing friends, and sleeping in amounts that keep me healthy and mostly-happy. And I enjoy my time with my family. Things are good and I don’t want to disrupt the balance. But my partner is also a woman and wants the experience of being pregnant like I had. She also came from a larger family than mine so 4 kids is normal to her (instead of the 2 kids from my family). Pregnancy and postpartum were exceedingly hard on my mental health; I wonder how different (how much easier) it would be if I wasn’t the one with the hormone roller coaster? I actually know how to care for an infant now, and the perfectionist in me wants to put my hard-earned knowledge to work a second time around, but that’s not a good enough reason on its own. My wife is of the mind that right now will be hard but in five, ten, twenty years we’ll be happy we had more than one. But I’m not necessarily sold. But then I hold friends’ newborns and I want. a. baby. right. now. Biology is strong…

  46. Sarah says...

    To Sandy: my, what a fine writer you are, and what an extraordinary person and mother you sound like. Your story had me in tears. I’m so very glad that the relief of acceptance may be with you.

    To CupofJo: thanks! Per usual, you guys read my mind as to topic. I needed this post, as we’re in the throes of figuring out “our number.” Still no idea :(.

  47. Lauren says...

    I’m an only child and didn’t particularly enjoy the experience. People assume that when you’re an only child you get whatever you want, and while I definitely benefitted from being the sole focus on my parents’ attention (and money), I actually had less toys (and probably less fun) than most of my peers. My parents did their best to play with me, and probably went above and beyond (like my dad devoting hours to Barbies :) but everyday things like holidays and family vacations were lonely and boring (especially ones that involved long car rides), and when I was young I often felt overwhelmed in the presence of my many cousins (they didn’t live close by so I didn’t see them that often). I’m very outgoing, which is likely a result of needing to connect with peers, but I miss having the relationships/connections I see siblings have, and wish I had someone other than my husband to vent to about my parents. I am also worried about the future when they become elderly, and all responsibilities will fall solely on my shoulders. I will do my best, but I wish I had siblings to help.
    I always said I’d either have two kids, or no kids, and now that I’m 33, my husband and I have decided on no kids. I know my parents are disappointed, and I feel guilty for letting them down, but I can’t make such a huge life decision based on guilt. It’s hard being the only one to shoulder the expectations, responsibilities, and guilt.
    I’m not trying to discourage anyone from only having one child, I’m just sharing my own experiences.

  48. Britt says...

    I know there are already so many comments but…this was awesome! I too have one kid. For my husband and me, it’s by choice. I read every single word of this eagerly and loved it. Obviously, based on the amount of comments generated, this is a deep well of material to be explored. Would LOVE if the only-child parent perspective/thoughts/experience could be a semi-regular feature of this blog!

  49. Meghan says...

    I am a mama to a just-turned-three-year-old and my husband and I have spent the last two years discussing whether we should have another child (for all of the reasons people feel they should). We dote on my daughter and both adore her more than we expected was possible since neither of us are particuarly maternal. We are immensely grateful for the experience of raising our little bug but more isn’t always better. I said to him recently, I feel like having another child would be like having just hiked 10 miles of a 20 mile hike and being told I have to start over again at the beginning…”but, why? we’ve already come so far!!” I’m 38 and he is 45 so we just sort of drifting into the answer that was maybe inevitable.

  50. Julia says...

    Similar to Melissa, after three miscarriages and eight years of trying to conceive, when our last round of fertility treatments finally resulted in our son, we felt so incredibly lucky. To have our one little guy feels like the most fantastic gift in the world. Family and friends asked almost instantly after he was born whether we would try for another, and it was flabbergasting. It took so much physically and emotionally, not to mention financially, to get to where we are. Trying to conceive and coping with infertility is all-consuming, and I don’t want to take any time or attention away from my son to focus on a likely impossible second child. It pains me because I love my siblings dearly, but I know this is right for us.

  51. meghan says...

    This post is lovely, thank you. I read it last night and could not wait to come back and read the comments. I have a son who’s eight and although at times I often wonder if I’ll regret not giving him siblings, I embrace the experiences we are able to give him (travel, attention). When he was two and I was still trying to convince myself that only-one was okay, I asked a lot of only-child adults how they felt – my favourite comment was from a friend who said: “you don’t miss what you never had”… Sure there are times she wishes she has siblings but everyone wishes they have things they don’t have. That’s life.

    • yes! im an only child-37 years old and raising an only child who is 5.5. 100% agree with what your friend said.

    • sasha says...

      I agree too. I have two much older siblings, and we’ve never been close. I wish for sisters, for someone I am close to and feel I have something in common with.

    • Ashley says...

      Yep! I think the grass is always greener. I do have a sibling, a brother 2.5 years younger than me, but we are not close. I love him, but I’ve always been envious of friends who had sisters because they always seemed so close.

  52. Tristen says...

    Thank you so much for this post and discussion. It warms my heart. I always assumed I would have two (I have three of my own siblings so two seemed like a small family) until I had one. My mom died when my son was 3 months old and I don’t know if I will ever be able to separate those two events in my heart. I just don’t think I could do it again, and I don’t want to do it without my mom. The rest of my family thinks I will change my mind but I just can’t wrap my head around it. Second babies, to me, are like the space-time continuum: I know, in theory, that they exist, but I have no idea how. We would have to totally re-think our lives (starting with leaving San Francisco) and we just don’t want it badly enough. We love it here and would rather have one child in the city than more kids somewhere cheaper. I can only hope that my son finds in friends, books, and the rest of our crazy family the character-building companionship that I found in my siblings.

    • Lauren says...

      YES! I think there has been a huge shift in the number of people that have only one-child (or no children) as people try to stay in cities longer. It seems way more possible given limited space and expensive childcare, school, etc. when you only have one. I also feel like it makes me feel less guilty about wanting to be a working mom.

    • Molly says...

      Tristen – I’m sorry to hear you lost your mom. Simiarly, when my now 14-month old was just over 2 months old, my dad died after a random fall down the stairs. I still don’t think I’ve had a moment to really process it and accept that he’s gone. I hear you. It’s so hard. I never sent out my birth announcements because it didn’t feel right. I will say, though, that my son has brought me immeasurable joy, even while I grieve. And I’m grateful to have siblings, especially when they share memories of my father that I’ve forgotten.

  53. Jen says...

    I have one daughter and love her to bits. It was a very difficult pregnancy and both of us nearly didn’t make it. I’d love to give her a sibling but fear I would not survive another pregnancy. We’re still up in the air and as Im in my 40s my choice will be taken away soon. It’ll be ok though, Im so glad we’re both alive that Im fairly sure the three of us are enough. We’ll see :)

  54. Whitney Carter says...

    I knew pretty quickly that one child was the right choice for my family. Though I/we sometimes romanticize having another child, the reality is that I know my limits as a mother, as a wife, as a friend, as well as in my career and as a responsible citizen of the world. I love all of these roles in my life, and with one child, the “balance” feels manageable. With one, I honestly feel like I get the profound experience of being a mother, while also being able to give my time to the many other things that make me complete and whole. Loved this post -thank you so much! xo

    • Well said. I can relate.

    • Julia says...

      This makes so much sense, and I am so glad to see other women writing so honestly about their decision making around parenthood. It feels like we are supposed to 1) want to have kids; and 2) want to have several kids. Discussions like these feel like a breath of fresh air because you see mothers–good, doting mothers–being up front and honest about how their own selves matter in their ability to be good, doting mothers. Being a fulfilled, well-rounded person with time to care for her own needs and wants is crucial to having the energy and resources necessary to be a good parent.

    • Maryann says...

      This is the wisest thing I’ve read in a long time. Thank you so much for this comment.

    • Lauren says...

      This is everything I feel. Thanks for putting words to it!

    • Andrea says...

      I completely feel the same way. We have a two year old daughter and before she was born we were pretty confident that we only wanted one child. We had a really hard first year with her that affect our relationship as husband and wife and my own emotional state. Now, things are finally starting to settle. We’re getting in to a great groove. And I can’t imagine going through all of that again. Naturally I worry that we should have another but I think that’s more of a society pressure I’m feeling (or maybe that’s just my hormones talking). One thing I’ve learned is that it doesn’t matter what decisions you make as a family, someone will have an opinion on it. So you just have to let that stuff go the best you can and do what’s right for your family.

    • One and done says...

      Some well put! Before having a child, I wanted a few. Now, knowing my limits, I am so happy with one. I feel I can give a lot to my other roles as well.

  55. Bridget says...

    I am one of 5 kids- the middle one and cannot imagine being an only child. I don’t think I would have survived from the attention of my parents and I adore my 3 sisters, they are my best friends. I have 4 kids and it feels great. I planned each one and had no surprises. Yes, we live in a crowded house and our kids shared bedrooms and bathrooms, and I am loving as they are leaving for school and having adventures and my house quiets for a few months. I think our oldest would have been a fantastic only child and my husband and I joke that he is each of ours from different relationships. But I am so glad that my daughters have sisters. My younger son (16) and I were talking about that yesterday- he was glad that his older sister (18) had a younger sister (14). He joked that she would have been crazy without one. Life is crazy- with 4 kids, one kid or none.

  56. Selby Shlosberg says...

    i was an only child, and as desperate as i was for other kids to play with, it taught me at an early age how to be comfortable having a conversation with and being around adults. as i grew up, people commented on this more and more. i have a very small family and i hope i marry someone with siblings so i can be an aunt.

  57. sasha says...

    I’m giving up that term *only* child. I think it implies too much judgement.

    Thank you to all of the mothers and dads in the post for sharing, and commenters too, what an enlightening and heartfelt post. Love coj so much for this kind of sharing.

  58. L says...

    I am 41 years old with an incredible seven year old boy who is the absolute light of my life. For years now, I have been in a struggle with my husband over my deep desire to have another child and his avoidance of the issue. It is not a problem I can discuss with many people….I know he has his reasons and I understand his position in some ways. We run a small business that while successful, takes up nearly all of his time, leaving me to not only work for the business, but to also be almost solely responsible for raising our son. I live every day with a silent sadness that I am not sure how to recover from. I have a growing resentment and ache that I worry will affect my son and marriage. I come from a full family of three sisters who I talk to nearly every day and I never imagined my son being an only child. I worry daily about him missing out on the sibling relationship…and I worry constantly about something happening to him. At 41, and with no change in my husband’s mind toward the matter, I am forced to come to the conclusion that I will never again experience being pregnant or being a mother to another child. I try to focus on the fact that I have an amazing relationship with my little boy and he does not seem to be missing out on anything…he has lots of friends and cousins close to his age and I know he will be just fine. But, just wondering now if the ache will ever lessen for me…..

    • Silver says...

      I hope your heart ache will dim – so often I see something beautiful in the relationship between a mother and her son – and he will have friends and you can open your world and your heart to the lovely people your son collects along the way. Your world will expand as he grows.

  59. wow i want to read every comment on here! i am an only child, raising an only child. i knew before my son was born that i only wanted one and my husband was totally on board. i have so much to say about all of this-and i love this community of people who have posted their stories and experiences. i had a wonderful childhood and shared many of the experiences others posted about-attention, reduced financial burdens with education, family vacations, etc. i am also very close with my parents-and even now as my mom suffers from chronic health issues i dont think, well i wish i had a sibling to help. it just doesnt occur to me-however a friend said to me today, my sister and i take turns dealing with my mom when shes driving us crazy. how do you do it alone? made me stop and think for a second-but you only know the life you live and you do what you need to do. people always say comments-with regards to my son who is a singleton-dont you want him to have someone when he gets older to help support you-and doesnt he need a companion, etc. and i look at people and think-how many adults do you know that dont speak to their siblings? nearly every single one of my friends-between the wife or husband-has a sibling they either barely speak to or dont speak to. there are no guarantees in life-so to have a second child to give your current child a future relationship is the most illogical thing ive ever heard. i believe people should have as many kids as they choose (1 or 3 or 15) because it makes them as parents happy and fulfilled and complete-not b/c it makes the kids happy and fulfilled and complete. kids need to be able to find happiness within-siblings or no siblings. just my thoughts.

    i also know mentally that having a second kid would just not fit with my personality-having one kid is very easy and simple. i look at my friends with 2 kids (or more) and wonder how they do it without losing themselves. my husband and i both place a high priority on being able to do things for ourselves, take trips, home improvements, etc-and i dont feel guilty about that one bit. happy parents set the stage for a happy child-so im being the best mom i can be by being truthful with what i need in life.

    having 2+ kids is just whats expected in society-just like people feel pressured to get married or have kids at all-when those choices may not really be right for them-its just “what you do.” i have friends with multiple kids that say they wish they had one, but felt like it wasnt an option. and i look at friends who had one, then a second, and the second put them over the edge. we need to cultivate more acceptance for peoples choices-no kids, one kid or 10 kids. as so many have said, it is deeply personal and requires a true understanding and acceptance who you are as a person. i know i am a much better mom to one child than i would be to 2 children-so how would having a second kid-just to give my son a buddy or a support system later in life-help either of them if their mom isnt able to give it her all? i hope people who are struggling with the decision look at the decision from this perspective-what is best for the parent(s)?

    • Kathryn says...

      thank you for your thoughtful answer. I am very very attentively reading all of these comments. we have a 3 year old, and probably will not have another. my husband is an only child and has always wanted only one – for financial, environmental, logical reasons – and then once we had our son and our day to day was rocked so completely, it really confirmed that 1 was all he wanted. I have a sister who I’m very close with – and always assumed I would have 2 children. But, with my husband’s strong feelings, and my own fear of losing myself again (I had a very rough time as I chose to stay at home with my son, and only recently got back into some part time work), it seems that 1 is probably best for us. However, I still feel I need to read these kinds of posts and comments for reassurance, since our cultural norm certainly seems to feel an only child is not the way to go…

    • gk says...

      jordana, as a fellow only child, i can relate to everything in your first paragraph. i had a wonderful childhood. i was able to take friends with me on vacation/tag along with friends on their vacations. my parents were able to pay for my college education because they worked hard, saved a lot, and could do that with just one kid. i think i learned to find contentment with what i had – i do not recall ever wishing for a sibling. in my 30s now, i’m very close to my parents.

      it has never once occurred to me to be sad or wish that i had somebody else to share the burden of caring for my parents as they get older. from what i’ve witnessed (with my extended family, in-laws, friends’ families), no matter how many siblings there are, caregiving often falls on one person. i know it’s just going to fall on me, so i don’t expect anything else – and i can’t be bitter if nobody else helps out!

    • Whitney Carter says...

      Well said. I’m not close at all to my brother and contrary to the biggest argument I hear about having one child – that she will need someone to help when her parents die, I just think – well, my brother won’t help me when my parents die. Bringing another person into the world for some future hypothetical (i.e. being “close” to their sibling) never made rational sense to me. Thank you for this perspective! Everything you said here resonates deeply with my decision to have one child. xo

  60. Lisa says...

    We have two, but I see the appeal of one. We struggled to conceive our first, so having any children felt like a bonus, and when I found out I was pregnant with our second, we had only just found our feet after having the first, and I was so worried about what it would do to my relationship with my son.
    We’re good – my son and I are still very close and the second feels less of a shock than the first, and I have no regrets about having more children, but I do see the appeal of one

  61. Nadine Thomare says...

    This article is so close to my heart ! I had gorgeous, healthy baby boy 2 and a half years ago after 2 years of trying and a difficult pregnancy so needless to say I felt so lucky I did not want to push our luck. Part of me felt immediately like our family was complete yet when my son was still a baby, I kept dreaming about a second child. But I was 40 and knew if anything went wrong with a second pregnancy, I would have this sadness in me forever so we decided against it and end on a high: we are a very happy threesome and I would not change anything now! I feel so privileged to have Gabriel in my life and to get to be his mum, I am/ we are complete, it feels right, kind of it was meant to be!

  62. Jessica Yu says...

    It is amazing how often I get comments about how I am hurting my child by not giving her a sibling. I vacillate between fed up and sad. When I explain that I am an only child also and feel good about it, people continue their monologue about how much better it would be to have a sibling to help with aging parents. I think it is hard for people to understand an unconventional life choice and actively try to change your mind on the spot.

  63. t says...

    I have twins and if we had only had a singleton there isn’t anyway I would have had a second child because pregnancy was so hard and that first year was so hard.

    However, I can honestly say that had I been an only child I don’t know if I would have survived adolescence. My sister was my saving grace.

  64. I know this must be totally random, but I find it fascinating that most of these only children are boys. Did anyone else notice that? Do you think that mattered at all in having a second child at all?

    • at all.

    • Katie says...

      Kindly, I think this is an observational bias (meaning–if you really looked at the data, only children are probably the same distribution of gender as any other type of family). That said, I think you raise a good question about if gender mattered in a second child choice. I myself (with a single daughter) wonder if I would have wanted a girl badly enough to have a second).

    • Emily says...

      I am noticing a common thread as well–not just that many of the children are boys but that many of the mothers suffered traumatic births and PPD. I am beginning to wonder if these three things are all related and certainly believe they impact a woman’s choices about having a second child.

    • Totally. I hope I didn’t sound insensitive. My heart breaks over the traumatic births and infertility and miscarriages. (My husband and I haven’t started trying for children yet and I couldn’t even imagine.) I’m sure that has more to do with the choice than the sex of a baby. I’ve just noticed a lot more male only-children in my life than females… and then felt that reiterated here.

    • Whitney Carter says...

      For what it’s worth – I didn’t have a traumatic birth, we have a daughter, and we are very happy with our decision to keep our family small and happy :)

    • Katy says...

      I think this is an interesting question. I thought I would only have one child, but I also feel like I am meant to be the mother to a daughter. I now have an adorable six month old son – and I am at a loss as to whether we should try for another or how to even try to make that decision. When our darling boy was born I was genuinely surprised that he was a boy, although I am well aware of the mathematical odds, which resulted in mixed feelings of overwhelming love for the little man but a little bit of mourning for the little girl that I thought I was going to raise.

    • Katy, that’s exactly how I feel! I have dreams about this daughter I will have. I have this little girl presence that comes and goes in my life and I’m like, “yep. that’s my someday daughter.” But I only want one child. (That is if I’m lucky enough to be able to have kids, when we start trying.)

      So interesting. Do you think you’ll try again??

      Whitney, thanks for chiming in! Good to know!

  65. Daria says...

    I’ve been waiting for such an article for so long! So thank you! We are also a unit of three (with the almost-5-year-old Adam) and I’ve been slowly coming to the realization that I do not want another child. It’s been a long and hard process – at first I allowed myself to postpone all thoughts about a second child, due to a rough pregnancy and a challenging first year of motherhood (mostly because of my own mental/physical struggles, though Adam was not an easy baby). Time passed, but I still found myself cringing away from the thought of going through a second tough pregnancy and a hellish baby period again – and at the same time shaming myself for having such thoughts, because who wouldn’t want to be a mother again, if given the chance, and what if I felt the need for a second child further on down the road, but could not conceive (due to various medical conditions with my husband, Adam is kind of a small miracle, which probably won’t happen again without significant efforts). And was I not depriving my son of something significant in his life? I myself was an only child until the age of ten and never had any desire for siblings, although I am grateful for my brother now. So I am slowly making peace with myself that it is OK to be perfectly content with only one child. The thing that bothers me most, though, is that I feel I may be depriving not only Adam of a potential sibling, but also my husband of a second child. He has broached this subject before, stressing that Adam needs someone in his life, although he has been really understanding of my position/fears and the fact that both financially and relationship-wise one child makes much more sense for our family. And I cannot understand whether he himself really has a need for a second child, or is just conforming to the norm – one child=good, two children=better. I don’t really think he knows the answer to this one either… In the meantime, we are happy as a threesome, I only wish that at some point I could also say like some of the ladies here, We are really content with OUR choice to have only one child..

  66. I am an only child, and am always quick to tell my friends who are debating having a second how much I loved it. I learned later on in life that my mom would have been open to having more kids, but my mom didn’t have me until she was 36 and my parents divorced a few years later. But as a kid: I loved it. And even now, I’m so grateful for the experience. I learned how to entertain myself from an early age, particularly the joy of reading and writing. I never yearned for a younger sibling or felt like anything was missing. Having a dog and a cat was plenty of companionship for me, then and now!

    • Rachel says...

      It’s funny because I’m an only child and felt the complete opposite! I always wanted a sibling and still do. When people have the debate with me, I always tell them to have another child if possible. Though sometimes things can’t be helped, as was the case with my family…

  67. Anna says...

    I needed this post so badly! Sandy, I especially appreciate you sharing your story. I too had always “planned” to have two kids – I’m super close to my sister and as my son got older (he’s now 4.5) I was so excited thinking about him as a big brother. I got pregnant right around the time he turned 3, but lost the pregnancy at 18 weeks after early pregnancy testing revealed a slow growing but very large cancerous mass in my chest. I’m coming up on what would have been my baby girl’s first birthday, and even as I continue cancer treatment, the grief over our loss continues to be the most difficult part of this journey. While I have reason to hope with regards to my health, the likelihood of another pregnancy seems low and my gut tells me that adding to our family via adoption or other means doesn’t make sense. It’s such a hard thing to make peace with, especially as so many of our friends and peers are having second children. Living in a space of wanting to celebrate their families while also feeling heartbroken over the loss of what I thought our family would be is hard. I am so grateful to you for sharing your story and so glad that you are reaching a place of more peace for yourself.

  68. Stacey B. says...

    Holy moly – what beautiful stories these parents shared. Thank you. Sandy’s beautiful writing knocked me sideways. I can relate so powerfully to the sentiments she expressed. Hugs, Sandy. As soon as I read your piece, I clicked on your link and followed you on Instagram – you’re someone I want in my orbit!

  69. Mary says...

    My parents come from two very different cultures and religions. Navigating that as a child was challenging. My dad also struggled with mental health issues and substance abuse. I had in many ways a wonderful childhood, but it was tumultuous. I love my parents and I’m at the point in my life where I feel very grateful for the many positive things they’ve given me, and made peace with the less positive things. But I am also so, so, grateful every day of my life for my siblings. I can’t imagine what it would have been like alone. Even today, things come up with my family constantly and I am so glad I don’t have to deal with it by myself. I don’t have to wonder if I am crazy, because they are living it too. They know me in a way that no one else does- not even my partner of 15 years or my best friend of 20 years. They are like a second skin in that when we are together, we don’t need explanations. We just get it. We share a sense of humor and sensibility and values. I am so thankful to go through life with them. I have three children of my own, and their relationship gives me joy every day. I would love to have another baby, but I worry that I wouldn’t have time to fully enjoy the onesI have, so I think we are done. I could see us being very happy as parents of a singleton- sometimes I wish I could have that time and focus and alone time with my older one that we used to have. But our other two have brought our family incredible joy. There is no right answer.

  70. Kelsey says...

    Reading these words was very moving, as are the comments. Thank you so much for the open-hearted posts about parenthood on Cup of Jo.

  71. Bethany says...

    Thank-you Sandy for sharing. I have one daughter and lost two pregnancies after her – one miscarriage, the other an ectopic pregnancy. Having one child was never my plan and working through the grief has been stormy – cold and wet with glimpses of powerful, beautiful sun. I will say I now am comfortable (and even recognize the benefits) with being “one and done” and my daughter is the light of my life. But like you, I often feel the gut punch of not being able to make the choice myself.

  72. Mother of One says...

    Oh my. Thank you for this post, Jo. We have an only child, by choice. When people asked if we were having more, I felt compelled to justify all the reasons we weren’t: a prolonged and traumatic labor, resulting in my baby going to the NICU; struggling so intensely with postpartum depression; enduring the hardest year of my life; doubting myself as a mother constantly…

    But now, she is 3. And I am stronger. When people ask now, my answer doesn’t feel like it needs to be justified. I say, “Just one. Our family feels complete as it is.” And I am okay with that.

  73. Leah says...

    I know I’m in the minority here, but I don’t find questions about family planning to be offensive, as long as they are QUESTIONS and not unwanted comments or advice. As a social species, I think there’s almost no topic of conversation more natural than family and offspring. I struggled for years with infertility, and when friendly people asked questions about our plans to start a family, I either clued them into our struggles or simply said “when the time is right.” I’m not remarking on anyone else’s approach, but I can’t imagine getting very bent out of shape by friendly/curious questions about my desired family size.

  74. E says...

    I so appreciate reading these different perspectives, especially from others who have been through secondary infertility. It’s a unique situation to be in– of course I feel insanely grateful to have been able to have one child when others struggle for that. But in the odd way it can be difficult to go through the world when you’re struggling with infertility– pregnant women and babies at every turn– there’s this constant reminder right there in your own home of what you want so badly and what you’ve lost. Every new milestone that my son crosses is so profoundly exciting, but if I’m being honest, it also is a constant reminder of the six pregnancies I’ve lost since he was born. It’s a very strange thing to look at your own child, who you love more than anything in the world, and see a kind of ghost. I get pregnant very easily, but have some health issues that cause me to repeatedly miscarry in the late first trimester or early second trimester. We can’t afford to hire a gestational carrier so we keep trying again and again, and adding more and more drugs and injections to my body with each new pregnancy, in the hopes that one of these babies will survive. But we have put ourselves through the wringer, financially/emotionally/physically, and we are trying to not let our grief for the family we dreamed of prevent us from accepting and celebrating the family we are lucky to have. Some days we are better at that than others.

  75. Sandy, I don’t know you – but I know your story as it is the same as mine.

    I sit at my desk in tears; mostly happy tears, the others still sad over your story in CupOfJo. You comforted me and I am grateful for the small moment of camaraderie.

    Secondary infertility commands my mood every day as I am sure it has – and maybe still does – for you. I admire your courage and candor and wish I was as vocal and brave when approached about my “small” family.

    “I’m just now finally feeling the light of acceptance warming my face. It’s new, it’s unfamiliar, and it’s a beautiful thing.” My husband and I are on the cusp of this and hope one day to be at peace.

    Thank you for helping us get there.

  76. Thanks for this! I”m getting to the point where we are thinking about trying for a child and while I’m fairly certain I only want one, I fear that my child will have a lonely life. I’m not close with my cousins, my brother doesn’t have children and my husband’s sister only has 1. I mean, I know I shouldn’t worry about it until I HAVE a child, but I still do…

    • Alison says...

      Speaking as an only child, do NOT worry about your child being lonely! I learned so much from time spent alone and developed a great love for reading (had plenty of adventures that way!). I also believe my independence as an adult is tied to having to always pave my own path as a kid – not having a sibling to rely on or show me the way. I also take turns going on “dates” with either of my parents (this started in middle school, I’m now 29!) so we have developed SUCH a rich relationship where we now know each other as individuals. It’s hugely rewarding and while my mom loves the big family she came from, I think she wishes she’d had this same opportunity to have more one-on-one time with each of her parents. I also joke with people that I didn’t need a sibling because my dad was such a kid at heart!

      The fact that you’re worried means you’ll do a great job getting them involved in arts programs, or sports, or the neighborhood where they’ll meet people. It doesn’t need to be family. Just watch out if they’re an introvert and like their alone time to not over-schedule them!! :)

  77. lacey says...

    My heart skipped a beat when I saw this post yesterday and I will keep coming back to it to read the comments, as I feel super lonely in my motherhood journey questioning whether I will ever *want* another kid.

    My husband and I got married at 29 and 32, right as I completed graduate school and my husband started a new job. A year later an urge to have a child overwhelmed me- while almost all of our friends were married with multiples at this point, I hadn’t anticipated the desire to come on so strong when it did. We were lucky and got pregnant quickly.
    I had been undecided about staying home or working and decided to just test things out. Well, we went SUPER broke with this arrangement, but I just was not ready to leave her. At 6 months, I went back part time but daycare was so expensive either way, what was the point? My husband looked for a better paying job for 2 years and I kept trying to make this arrangement work. We blew through our savings and I was getting super depressed.

    Finally over the summer I made the leap to going back full time. My husband FINALLY got a new, better paying job. Daycare is still effing expensive, but we can actually go on a date again. I can buy a BOTTLE of wine instead of just box wine (!!!). It’s been so freeing to admit to myself I needed to not stay home with my daughter.

    So…. as my friends are all having their second/third babies, I am facing this question ALL THE TIME. Just as we are finally able to breathe again, how can we add another child to the mix? I am terrified to ever stay home again long-term with a baby and we can definitely not pay for 2 children in daycare without going through the same thing we just got out of.

    I like to have nice things sometimes. I’d love to go on a real vacation. I like to be able to have a savings account again. Maybe this means I am selfish, but those things would be darn near impossible with another kid. I am just not wired for “making it work” as friends with multiples have told me is the answer to all my questions. :) I just don’t know if its in the cards for me. Fortunately my husband is supportive (though I bet he’d be open to it again in a few years).

    I will say, the hardest thing is feeling alone in my choice. A lot of my friends don’t get it. Even strangers seem baffled when I say I don’t know about another. It’s hard not to question yourself. I hope I find more moms who I can relate to in this way. Thanks for creating a sense of community here CoJ! :)

    • Jessica Yu says...

      You are not alone. Two kids in daycare in LA = mortgage money. We went back and forth on the second baby debate a lot but in the end one beautiful, amazing kid was all I could handle while maintaining my sanity. Knowing what works for you and taking care of yourself is not selfish. Now I just need to work on being less defensive when answering family planning questions from friends and strangers.

    • I feel the same way. The desire for some financial security is not selfish. You never hear people say they’re not having another child because they can’t afford it. Which is strange, considering how expensive raising a child is! If I had endless money I very well might consider a second. But that’s not the reality.

  78. Louisa says...

    We planned on just one child. We had a baby, and as she outgrew each little outfit I would happily pass it on, giving away toys, bottles, diapers, etc. I had no second guessing.

    And now she’s three and I absolutely ache for another baby. It’s not about her as an only child. It’s about me. I can’t believe it’s over — being a mom to a baby just came and went so fast. I loved it and miss it and want another.

  79. Aura Parks says...

    I grew up solo, only getting half-brothers when in my teens. I loved the time, quiet and independence, but also relished having both little boys around until I left for college.
    As a young adult, I never even envisioned having children. Only when I met and married my husband did that urge kick in. And having one son at 34, I was almost completely sure that would be it. Life was full and happy. Somewhat surprisingly, we had #2 when our first was 5.5 years. I don’t regret it, and love that kid to pieces, but life is certainly much more challenging now. Some white-knuckling through the first-year and the post-partum depression that descended like clockwork.
    I say, to each entirely their own… and when I discuss children with anyone, I try to focus on being present in the moment. In what is NOW and not what will or won’t come in the future.
    And one is never only. It’s a child, full and complete and beautiful.

    • Omaya says...

      “And one is never only. It’s a child, full and complete and beautiful.”
      Such a perfect statement! Thank you!

    • That is one of the most lovely sentiments I have ever heard “one is not only-it’s a child full complete and beautiful.”

    • Kathryn says...

      thank you for the beautifully perfect last line

    • Loesie says...

      This made me cry. Thank you.

    • Loesie says...

      Sorry, I just now realize my comment may sound weird. What I meant is that your last sentence made me cry, in a positive way. Truly a wonderful sentence in so many ways. Thank you for the insight it’s provided for me. All the best to you! XO

    • Faith says...

      Beautiful! I hope Jo features your comment. :)

    • Emily says...

      Thank you for this, Aura. With your last two sentences, you have validated my entire only childhood in a way I’ve never felt before.

  80. Ann says...

    My only brother died when I was a teenager. Now I’m in my 30’s and still get comments about being an “only child.” (I take it and try to change the subject; bringing up my deceased brother seems to paralyze others with awkwardness and discomfort.) There are many reasons why size of family is not a matter of choice. I am definitely more sensitive to commenting and asking about family size as a result of my experience.

  81. Sonja says...

    For me growing up as an only child made me fiercely independent and a lot of whom I am. From my exerpience you absolutely do not miss not having siblings while you are a kid. I always knew I would have more than one child as a mother. I miss that my children do not have aunts or uncles. I also tell people the best gift a parent can give an only child is to plan their funeral. It is a chore that an only child should not have to do without the support of a sibling.

  82. Omaya says...

    As an only child with Palestinian and Mexican heritage, my singleton status was unusual, and I knew it from a very early age. My parents, especially my father, were pressured often to have another child. No one could understand why they didn’t want to even “try” for a boy. More recently my mom told me that she overheard my father once counter the vocal pressure by telling family members that I was worth all their sons put together. Needless to say, my life with them as my parents has been magnificent.

    • Laura says...

      Omaya love that story about your father.

    • Your dad is AWESOME!

  83. Erin says...

    I am an only child, as is my fiance. We both were close to our cousins growing up and never felt that we were truly missing out on anything. I certainly had many benefits to being an only child – having my education fully paid for as one example. However, as we got older and started to think about our aging parents, this has become a concern – we have 4 parents that the two of us alone will have to care for. That is a bigger burden financially and emotionally than those with siblings may have (I say “may” as I know from my mothers experience with her 4 brothers, siblings are no guarantee that all children will help out aging parents equally or at all). In addition, with all of the focus on you parents can be overbearing and stifling at times.

    As well, as we are now talking about having children of our own, the comment we constantly receive is that we absolutely MUST have more than one child because without siblings or cousins our child would somehow be unacceptably lacking in family relations of their own age.

  84. Kate says...

    I am reading this just after finalizing the first round of contracts with our surrogate. We are only doing one embryo at the transfer on the advice of our fertility doctor. We can only (barely) afford one surrogacy pregnancy, so this will be our only attempt. When I heard the doctor recommend just one embryo, I have to admit I was slightly devastated as I was hoping to have twins. As we are older, I am worried about this child (if we are lucky enough for this to work!) growing up without siblings. I have been sort of obsessively worrying about it and we aren’t even expecting yet. So, this article has come at a great time for me as I am very heartened to read that many of you are very happy with one child and that your families feel complete. I am going to hope for this and do everything I can to give them a great life, but I know I will always mourn a bit when I see large families with several children.

  85. Madeleine says...

    I am 36 weeks pregnant with our first child and although my pregnancy has been amazing so far, I am adamant that 1 child will be just perfect for us, purely because I know how we are as a couple and I know what we enjoy and what our priorities are. It took me a very long time to decide on having a baby because I was so scared of the “chaos” it would throw our lives and psyches into. I love a good/rigid routine and thrive when things are orderly and well managed. I cannot imagine what life with 2 or more children would do to my mind/marriage/finances/home/routine/body. It may seem incredibly superficial and selfish to think this way but to me, life with only 1 child seems ideal and “controlled”. Maybe the idea of a big “clan” seems appealing in theory and I’m sure it is a lot of fun but I firmly believe that it all depends on our individual personalities and ultimately what kind of lifestyle we are comfortable/prepared to deal with.

  86. Emily says...

    Speaking as an adult only child – I never “missed” or wished for siblings when I was growing up. I was able to go on more vacations and was always allowed to bring a friend which led to many close relationships that have lasted my entire life. BUT as an adult, I have felt the void where a sister or brother might be. My parents are not married and everything falls to me to take care of. All this lead me to have two kids of my own and watching their relationship develop has been one of the greatest rewards of my life. I loved being an only child! But am also so happy to be raising siblings. Thank you for posting, as always.

  87. Thanks for posting this! I’m a 28-year-old “only child” and loved it when growing up. My parents were both from huge families, but none of my parents’ friends had children, so I was always treated like a miniature adult (picture a quiet 8-year-old having a martini ready for her breadwinner mom when she got home from work on Fridays.). I never wanted siblings because I had books and animals, and lots of friends and cousins.

    Then, when I was 9, and again when I was 11, I found my father unconscious on the floor, after suffering two strokes. I suddenly felt so isolated, because I couldn’t explain to my friends the immense changes going on at home (from a strong, dependable dad to one who often needed my help applying deodorant—I applied his deodorant before needing to wear it myself!). I had a lot of self-confidence and all of my parents love and support, but I was traumatized by those experiences and didn’t—couldn’t—talk to anyone about how my dad’s strokes affected me. My lifelong best friend didn’t know that he was in a wheelchair because he had had strokes until we were 23. I couldn’t talk about it until then.

    I think my parents always loved having one child and pouring everything into me. I know taking care of aging and sick parents is really hard at any age, but it is excruciating to have to do it alone. It was traumatic at 9, when my dad survived his strokes, and the caregiving and grief was even more difficult to bear in my 20s, as his health declined further. I was 26 when my dad died, and none of my peers or my partner or even my cousins, who knew him their whole lives, understood what it was like. I felt like I couldn’t just feel my grief but also had to articulate it, because I needed others to understand. Being an only child is great when things are going well, but I wish I had someone in my life who knew and loved my dad in the same capacity; someone on my team who had to navigate the same field.

    My husband and I are starting to discuss expanding our family, while one child makes the most sense for us, I sort of cannot imagine inflicting those eventual caregiving burdens (or even just the feelings of needing to carry and protect one’s parents) on a single person.

  88. Carrie says...

    I am so torn on having children! My husband and I have been married for almost 3 years…we are SO happy, life is just perfect. I just worry we will mess with the ideal life balance we have found if we add children, but I also know from being an aunt, just how amazing children are and how much love I have to give. I love to mother my nephews, it’s very fulfilling. I know one of my own would probably feel even more awesome. I’m almost 32 so I’m starting to panic about my “time” running out. How does one decide what is right?

    • Karen says...

      Carrie, take a deep breath. You have plenty of time. My husband was really really worried about being a parent. He didn’t want to “mess up” a kid. He and I both loved our alone time and together time and he was afraid about bringing a child into the mix. And I had worked with children in different capacities for years and was fully aware that it was not for the weak. We were on the fence for the longest time & then @ 35 it was literally like an alarm went off and I knew I wanted a child. At 40 I was pregnant & a few weeks after my 41st birthday, my son was born. Now, we could not imagine our lives without our crazy, brilliant, beautiful little dude who we adore but also drives us nuts (mostly in a good way). I think we did it exactly right for us. We traveled extensively in our 30s, bought a house, etc. etc. I was so worried about not getting pregnant by 40 and then, when it happened, I wondered why I was so worried.

    • Carrie says...

      Karen, your reply was perfect. I read it a few times! Thank you

  89. Shannon says...

    I’ve seen a few of my friends struggle to have their second child (miscarriages, etc) and I’ve seen friends struggle with this decision too. Like Reagan I come from a big Mormon family, so I’ve sometimes been the person who asks that sort of rude question about having another. Now that I’ve seen (second-hand) the challenges of creating a family, I get it. Having one child is still a ton of work! And it’s just right for a lot of families.

  90. Jane says...

    These responses are beautiful. My husband & I aren’t sure if we’ll have kids and if we did I think we’d be OK with having one. So these stories are comforting to me. Thank you for this post.

  91. Liz C says...

    I have two children (and lost a baby in between at 15 weeks). I was out with my family when an older gentleman, who strikes me as being a pervert, asked if I was “still adding to the population.” What a despicable way to ask a woman of she hopes to have more children.

    • Celeste says...

      I’m sorry Liz. I once had to inform a financial guy who started his pitch ” when you expand your family, you’ll need…” Um, I was 2 and done. Goodbye.

    • Liz C says...

      Yes!! I feel the same! I’m happy with two children only. But that man doesn’t have the right to pry into my personal business! There are so many nosy/judgmental people out there…

  92. Woah, that ending! “I’m just now finally feeling the light of acceptance warming my face. It’s new, it’s unfamiliar, and it’s a beautiful thing.” Talk about bringing on the water works. Such a beautiful post. A someone who doesn’t know whether they want or will have children, it was inspiring to read about having just one. The pressure for women to not only have children, but have more than one, is so overwhelming sometimes. When I think about what my life would look like with kids, I always imagine a van full of children. Maybe I’ll try imagining just one; try to take some pressure off.

  93. Lele says...

    I have one child, a son, who is 27. I planned on having more children, but was divorced when he was 2 and it was never in the cards. I used to tell him there are advantages and disadvantages to being an only child. The advantage is that you get all of the attention. The disadvantage is that you get all of the attention :-). Now that he’s grown and a father himself, he really appreciates the accuracy of that statement!

    • Emily says...

      Love this!

  94. Really enjoyed the perspectives from this post. I don’t have kids yet but my husband and I have talked about having two but who knows what will happen once we start trying. Thank you for sharing this!

  95. Katie Stansky says...

    Thank you for this post, Joanna. I’m the mother of a 20 month old little girl, and my husband and I feel that our family is complete. I find myself searching for validation everywhere, though truly, in my heart, I know I don’t need it and that the shape of our family is a whole. While out on a walk with my husband and baby in the early days, completely sleep deprived, we turned to each other—a revelation—let’s have just one, ok? Yes, one. Yes. We can do this if it’s only once.

    I learned through pregnancy and delivery that an athletic, organic lifestyle could not control everything, and I’d be disingenuous if I said that the residual trauma of her early arrival (and subsequent ambulance transfers, NICU stay, and close monitoring for the first several months of life) weren’t part of our decision. But that makes it sounds like we’re done growing our family out of fear, which isn’t true. At its core, it’s a decision about knowing ourselves. Knowing that we need a great deal of downtime, knowing that we’re not great multi-taskers, knowing that we like quiet, travel, financial security, knowing that this kiddo’s going to be ok because we’re good, earnest people, will teach her how to plant her feet on the ground, and make sure that she knows that though she’s be the center of our hearts, she’s not the center of the world.

    Ultimately (as I’ve described to my well-meaning sister-in-law when she asked one too many times if we’re SURE she shouldn’t save the last of her baby stuff, JUST in case), it’s a deeply personal and extremely emotional decision, and one that should be respected, honored, revered. To quote another favorite motherhood mantra I’ve seen on Cup of Jo—great for her, not for me. Remember that, friends!

    • Lisa says...

      Katie, your post really resonated with me. I too had a preemie and it was a harrowing time. And she didn’t even have any issues other than prematurity! I cannot imagine what it would have been like if she had developed issues like so many of her fellow nicu babies. I always wanted at least two if not three kids, but I’m struggling now with that. I wish things were clear. Best of luck to you and your family. I hope your daughter is thriving!

    • lacey says...

      loved this comment, too- especially the reminder “great for her, not for me” – I had a disastrous nursing experience which led me to a really dark place for several months – and the thoughts of “why would I go through THAT again?” The thoughts of “going through that again” became less to do with the nursing experience and more to do with just not being sure if I saw myself with another child…. cue my similar continued search for validation that again made itself known when my heart skipped a beat at this post!

  96. Anne says...

    REAGAN IS ENGAGED!!! I’m so happy – I think of her and Piper often.

    As for having one kid, we’ve thought about it. If we were to venture down that path of parenthood, that would be the goal number. I grew up as an only kid and loooooved all the attention. As an adult though….I’ll just say, remember that your kid is a separate human being from you. ;) I do worry now that my parents are older and feel like it’s all on me.

    • H says...

      From another angle – I’m the youngest of 3 and I feel like it’s all on me now that my mother is older,and my older siblings don’t think or worry about it at all.

  97. I loved this post. Thank you. Also, that picture–WOW. It made me stop and stare. How absolutely heart-stoppingly gorgeous. There’s such a relatability in that photo. It’s that closeness and total visceral love felt in early motherhood.

    • Sarah says...

      I feel so moved by the photo too. My baby girl is just that size (8 months) and she is the most delicious thing on earth.

    • Sarah, my baby boy is 7 months, and I know exactly what you mean! I study him when he’s awake and ponder him when he’s upstairs asleep. I just can’t get over him. He’s spectacular, and being a mother is so much cooler than I ever thought it would be!

  98. I’m an only child (28 yrs old now) and I love it now. Growing up I think I always wanted a sibling, my parents were good about always being a team so if I was mad about something it was usually one against two! haha, but now looking back that made me really strong and able to stand on my own when I firmly believed something. I am soooo close with both my parents and I can’t even imagine our family dynamic if there was another person. It’s funny, our family has always been no drama and my husband has 4 brothers and divorced parents so there is always something going on with someone. It’s nice to have the balance and I truly feel like I have siblings with my brothers and sisters in laws. I am also super close to my cousins and growing up that helped a lot. I always consider it a compliment when someone tells me “I would have never guessed you were an only child”, I guess meaning I don’t come off as spoiled most of the time. My husband likes to point out when that side does come out! It does, I can admit it! But looking back, my life would look so different if I had had another sibling. I probably wouldn’t have gotten to go to my dream college debt free, wouldn’t have been able to travel and study abroad in college, living in NYC for the summer with unpaid internships, which have led me to my career that I love and would have never been able to get into otherwise. There are definitely a lot of positives and negatives. A negative being that I’m on my own with helping them as they age and that does wear on me as all of my grandparents have spent a lot of time in nursing homes. But they have made arrangements already with long term care insurance to help lift the burden off of me, which is so nice and I feel like a very “parent of an only child” thing to do! My parents were joking the other night about remarrying if one of them were to pass away and my mom said “oh your dad would probably marry a woman and have another child” and I shocked them by saying “I do not support that. That ship has sailed for me! Step siblings would be fine though.” haha I guess that is my only child coming out in me. My dad did say that even if he had another child, he thinks I would still be his favorite. haha So there is definitely a special bond that parents can have with their one child that they can devote everything to and I’m very content just being the 3 of us!

  99. Emily says...

    I am mother to an only child who is ten years old. His traumatic birth and my suffocating post-partum depression plus his colic nearly ended my marriage and, if I’m being completely honest, my life. My husband is the person who said one was enough. It took me many years to stop resenting him putting his foot down so firmly but with a decade behind me, I can say he was looking out for all of us. Our family is happy and life runs smoothly. Most of my friends have two children and their lives don’t have the same kind of ease that ours do. Yet, weekly I am questioned about having an only or subjected to remarks about only children-even by some of my closest friends. There remains such a stigma about the only child. While I am biased, surely, because he is MY child, of his many friends, my son is the only one who doesn’t require constant entertaining on the weekends. He is content to draw in his room or read for hours and he easily finds and makes plans with friends. He can command a room of adults or kids and he can read a room of adults or kids and know when his energy should be more subdued. It is very interesting to me because my friends with multiple kids frequently comment on my child’s ability to find his entertainment and his increased independence at a fairly young age. I do believe he is independent and emotionally capable because I have had the ability to focus on how I wish to parent him and maintain the focus on what sort of person I hope to shape and how I wish to send him out into the world. The only little nagging I have in some dark recess of my heart is that he will be the only person who knows what it was like to have us as his parents and he will have no one to commiserate with when his crazy mother is driving him up a wall. However, my husband has a sibling with whom he has no relationship so a sibling doesn’t guarantee a child anything. I have many friends who are only children and I see in them a deep capacity for establishing connections beyond their families. Deciding how many children to have is such a deeply personal choice. And many of the nuances of the decision are outside of our control. It is odd to me that even today, when there is so much science that supports why having one child makes environmental, economic, social, etc. sense, the idea that one is selfish or entitled, etc. still persists. Thankfully, the older I get and the older my child gets, I no longer care what others think of my family planning choices. Now if someone dares to ask me why just one I wink and say, Why try to improve on perfection. It always quiets them.

    • “Deciding how many children to have is such a deeply personal choice.” What a perfect response to someone who questions your choice! I’m going to hang onto that one.

    • Rebekka says...

      Thank you for sharing this! I have a three year old and leaning towards being one and done and can’t believe how much people have to say about it, which in turn makes me doubt our decision. Hearing stories like yours brings me so much comfort.

    • Amy says...

      I am the mother of an only child who is 9 years old. So much in your comment resonates with my feelings, experiences and thoughts too, although I am not as articulate as you! Thank you for sharing.

    • t says...

      I have two children and I completely agree that only children are often much more independent and able to play on their own. They are often more outgoing as well.

    • Alison says...

      Your comments really resonate with me as well, Emily.
      I have a similar response to friends, co-workers, and strangers when they ask about having another child..
      “Why!? .. We nailed it the first time!”

    • Dani says...

      Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts, Emily! As the mother of a 3-year-old, I deeply relate to your experiences of a traumatic birth and postpartum depression (with suicidal ideation, etc) and fear that I may not survive a second pregnancy. Your son’s emotional intelligence is admirable — something that would be much more difficult for you to impart had your attention been divided between multiple children. Also, your comment that ” a sibling doesn’t guarantee a child anything” is so true. My mother-in-law is dealing with her own aging parents, and her younger brother happens to have special needs; therefore, her burden is multiplied. I think that many people assume that siblings will contribute to the caregiving responsibilities, but it is not always the case. In some families, it only complicates matters. Finally, as you point out, the environmental and social implications should not be forgotten! With one child, we consume less and are able to contribute more to charitable causes.

    • Emily says...

      “There is so much science that supports why having one child makes environmental, economic, social, etc. sense”—YES. Thank you for saying this. I’d love if more people acknowledged this.

  100. Kayla says...

    Thank you for sharing these perspectives. Sandy’s story particularly touched me…well-meaning people can be so hurtful. It’s a good reminder to keep your judgments to yourself because you never know what’s under the surface.

  101. Laney says...

    I am the mother of an only child (boy, 5) and I know that is the right choice for me. It was never in my “plan” to have only one, however, I can recognize that it works well for my son, myself and our family. I do not operate well in high stress, limited resources (time, money, space) and adding more children in to the mix would have made me feel depleted and subsequently anxious. With one, I can be the mother I really think will most benefit my son – attentive, present, balanced etc.
    I read the book One and Only, Lauren Sandler and enjoyed it. It has a lot of data to disprove many of the myths surrounding only children – I recommend it to anyone that is grappling with the choice (or lack of choice…) about how many children they have.
    Like all decisions, it really is about taking an HONEST look on what works best for you and your family and the life you are trying to create.
    Also – not all siblings are close siblings. So I think it’s a somewhat unfair assumption that a child is missing out on the “gift” of a sibling.

    • Emily says...

      I enjoyed One & Only also. I also feel a I am a very capable mother to one and am not sure I would feel that way if I had more than one.

  102. Brier says...

    i’m an only child and one thing I’ve always found odd is how people seem to look down on it. As a kid I always got asked “wouldn’t you like a brother or sister?” as a teenager it was “don’t you feel like you’re missing out?” My parents used to get comments from teachers etc about how I wasn’t a “typical” only child (aka stuck up, self centered, spoiled, weird) and that always seemed so odd to me. Just because I don’t have siblings doesn’t mean my parents couldn’t raise me right, or that I wasn’t properly socialized. If anything it was the opposite, I got to have playdates constantly and belonged to many clubs/teams.

  103. Maria Christina says...

    This post made me cry. I always wanted 3 to 12 children (I couldn’t make up my mind) but after a complicated labor (my son’s heart stopped beating twice resulting in me being rushed to the OR for an emergency C-section. The last thing my OB said to me before going into the OR was, “I am sorry. I know this is not what you wanted but if you want your baby to live, we need to do a C-section) and a very difficult first year of motherhood (I had PPD) plus us being in our forties as well as not being economically ready for more kids on top of that, we decided that it’s best for our little family unit to just be 3.

    However, for a really long time, I felt such guilt about it (He has no playmates! When we’re old and dying, he won’t have siblings to lean on and make decisions with! Etc. Etc.) but I am slowly coming to terms with it. I love what the last mom said about her daughter being her heart on 2 feet because that is exactly how I feel about my son.

    So thank you VERY for this post. It is very timely.

    • Emily says...

      xoxo that sounds like the birth of my son–and the resulting PPD. I don’t know how old your child is but my son is 10 and I’ve grown more confident in our decision as he gets older. One thing he is so good at is making friends and finding his community. I know many adult only children who have similar skills and they don’t feel alone or lonely even with aging parents. I’ve observed friends who are in big families struggle in dealing with aging parents b/c they also have to deal within their sibling family and things get really complicated.

    • Tina Crisas says...

      So much this! I feel you so much…. :( (I posted below similar sentiments to yours).

  104. Lisa says...

    I’m struggling with this decision right now. I have anot incredible 14 month old girl who is my heart. She was born at 29 weeks after 80 days of bedrest (most of that in hospital) via the most traumatic emergency c section (due to a bad epidural it was unmedicated and the anesthesiologist panicked and gave me oxygen instead of putting me under…I actually felt her come out of me while I screamed). Then I developed an infection and had to be rehospitalized for another week. They almost had to take me back for more surgery bc they thought it might be flesh eating bacteria, but thankfully the fourth antibiotic worked. Then I developed severe PPA. I was so scared of my preemie getting sick I would scrub my hands until they bled. She did nor sleep for longer than 3 hours well, ever. We are just now trying to get her to sleep longer. So I’m all tired. Also she had colic and screamed for 2 months. Oh and during that time my dad died. And so did our very beloved dog. Anyway, I know I will never be pregnant again. We are looking into surrogacy but my husband isn’t totally on board. I’m not on board with adoption. So we are at a crossroads and nor sure what to do.

    • Emily says...

      Wow. You’re such a survivor. Sending love and admiration for all you have been through and courage for the road ahead. xo

    • Loesie says...

      Dear Lisa,

      I don’t know what to say to you other than that your story sounds so, so difficult. Sending many warm hugs and cups of hot chocolate filled with marshmallows, puppies and sunshine and all things good your way. I truly wish you all the best and I think you are such a brave person.
      XO from the Netherlands.

    • Lisa says...

      Thank you so much Emily and Loesie. It’s a funny thing, I never considered myself particularly brave or very strong, but after what I went through I know better. My pregnancy was about as bad as it can get with the exception that the baby was healthy. I literally looked like I had been in a war zone and was skeletal due to hypermesis gravidarum (forgot to mention that…oh and I had gestational diabetes as well). My mom and I will occasionally bring up something from that time (just tonight I made eggs and she remembered the absolutely awful omelets the hospital made and how I would eat them only to vomit them right back up). I kept my daughter alive when my amazing doctors kindly sat on my hospital bed with me, rubbed my back, and told me the odds were not good. She would likely not make it to viability. But I did that. She’s here and perfect and so so smart. Sorry for the off topic post, I just wanted to say thanks for acknowledging my strength. It’s been a tough road and I know I’m strong enough for whatever lies ahead.

    • Tina Crisas says...

      Oh my goodness, Lisa, you sound like such an incredible woman and an AMAZING Mum. Sending you many hugs all the way from Greece.

  105. Katie Larissa says...

    I thought for a while that I might just want one child. I grew up in a family with 6 kids and VERY few “extras.” I thought “hmm, wouldn’t it be great to be able to give my child anything he/she wants or needs?” (A few of my siblings needed braces and that wasn’t possible.) But then, my daddy was diagnosed with cancer, and through his subsequent suffering and death, I was so incredibly grateful that there were 6 of us to shoulder responsibilities, to make each other laugh on the hardest day, and to always be available to cry with when needed. It completely changed my outlook on children, and I want to have at least 3.

    However, I get that everyone doesn’t feel that way, and it totally caught me off guard when a woman I barely knew asked me “so when are you going to try for another?” when my baby was five months old! That just isn’t a good conversation starter! Haha.

  106. Jen says...

    I’ve always assumed I’d have children and my future spouse and I have discussed how we would have 2 kids many times, as it’s expected that we will have kids and we’re both from 3 which seemed like too many, but even though I’m now 33 and we’re getting married in June it doesn’t feel like the right time yet, and it may never feel that way.

    I recently heard someone on a podcast say, about delaying kids, “we’re just not the most excited about hat right now, we’re still more excited about travelling and our careers and being together as a twosome” and that really resonated with me.

    I think I thought everyone was indifferent but they did it anyway… but now I’m thinking there are people as excited about raising kids as I am about fruit season at the farmer’s market or a trip to Patagonia and I. am. not. I love other people’s kids but maybe my best path is to continue to do the things I’m most excited about and be a really great aunt?

    • Anne says...

      I was in the same boat. I got married at 33, and just assumed i’d try around 35. But then adventures kept happening. I’m now 35 (almost 36), and was in full panic mode when i realized, “Wait…what if I just decide NOT to have children?” It was like all the weight was lifted from my shoulders.

      So, we’re still not trying. (The questions are relentless though, which is tough to navigate.)

  107. Sue Harris says...

    We have an only child, who is now 28. When she was little people would ask her if she wanted a brother or sister and she would answer “I want an older sister.”

    No real regrets here, we felt pretty complete as a family of three and we were able to provide our daughter with a first rate education and many opportunities we would not have otherwise been able to afford. She has cousins and a circle of friends who would do anything for her, as she would for them. My husband and I both come from families with five children, but having siblings doesn’t always mean you will be close after you grow up. So, no real regrets here.

    • A says...

      Thank you for this! My husband and I are both the oldest of 5 and have a 20 month old daughter. He is dead set that she will be our only (I’m hoping for a “whoops”). In all seriousness, I’ve come to terms with her being our only and am always interested in hearing experienced parents’ perspectives. We are not too close with our siblings mainly due to geography, but that’s really my biggest fear is that our daughter will be sad to have missed out on that experience.

  108. JB says...

    Being Canadian (with healthcare!), it always amazes me that the American birth rate isn’t lower based on the cost of health insurance and the risk that if something goes wrong for mum or baby, it could bankrupt a person! No criticism at all to America or really a comment on politics, I just think that personally, it would really scare me away from having a big family.

    • Amanda says...

      This is one of the reasons I don’t want to have a second child and one of the reasons I worry endlessly about my first child.

    • sara says...

      Hi! Less health insurance can mean more children because people can’t afford / don’t have access to contraceptives.

    • It’s a horrible broken system – and our maternal care pr, post & during labor/delivery pales in comparison to other developed nations. I’ve spent close to $20K out of pocket for 3 births + an emergency DNC post birth.

  109. Esti says...

    I am an only child, so is my mom, and so is my mom’s mom. Being the only child (and grandchild!) felt normal in my family, I never really longed for a sibling myself. Interestingly, my husband, my dad and my mom’s dad all come from bigger families, and they all have estranged relationships with at least one of their siblings.

    My daughter just turned one and we agreed that we will decide within this year if we try for a second. Based in our experiences, we are leaning towards stopping at one. I had two losses before my daughter and we know that even if we try for one more there is no guarantee of success.

    My biggest concern of stopping at one is that my daughter will grow up lonely, as we will have to move internationally at least once during her childhood so she won’t be able to keep a close relationship with childhood friends like I did. However, our family feels right at the moment, and I really fear regretting having one more child. Even though they say you never regret having more children, I fear putting our family in a situation where one of us feels that we would have been better off if we were just three…

  110. Sally says...

    As an only child, I was often accused by cousins of being spoiled because I had all of my mother’s attention. However, I also felt a huge responsibility for her (it was only the two of us). I felt that I couldn’t leave my hometown for college or a career. It is still difficult as an adult not to have a sibling to share the responsibility of caring for an aging parent.

    On the other hand, I was independent at an early age, well read, and mature. As an adult, I can easily go out to eat, visit a museum, or go to the theater alone. In fact I crave alone time and purposely carve it out.

    When it came to having kids of my own, I definitely overcompensated — we have 5. Having twins first took care of that initial decision for us and after that, our single children were pretty easy.

    The size of one’s family is deeply personal. I cannot imagine interrogating anyone about how many, if any, children they have.

  111. Sarah says...

    I have a 3.5 year old son and my husband and I have decided to forgo a second bio baby in order to adopt domestically (in Ontario). It’s a long and unpredictable process, but we hope that in a year or two we’ll be adopting a two or three year old when my son is around 5.

    Getting to this point where the “plan” is somewhat clear has taken several years and been emotionally difficult. It is so hard to weigh the risks and what-ifs when it comes to babies and family.

    I wanted to chime in, though, because adoption, along with being IMO one of the most worthwhile things a person can do with their life, really opens up options in terms of timelines. I believe there are pros and cons to everything and, while this path we’ve chosen will have its challenges, I’m pretty thrilled at the prospect of expanding our family without going through pregnancy, labour and delivery, the newborn stage, paying for 2-3 years of childcare…

    Anyway, all the best to everyone, but if you’re not sure how you’re going to get your family the way you want it, please consider how adoption might work in your life.

    • Cooper says...

      I love your comment and heart for adoption! I’m frequently surprised that more people don’t consider it. My husband and I hope to have one biological child and then adopt at least one child (maybe more) at some point. You’re right, it is really freeing to not have to worry so much about traditional fertility timelines, paying for two kids in daycare at the same time, etc! My parents adopted a ten-year-old when their other four kids were 20-26, and it’s been amazing to have that bonus sister.

    • J says...

      Unfortunately adoption is so difficult in the US. We fostered twice with the intentions of adoptions and both times the courts opted for reunification with a bio parent. We then tried private adoption and the birth mother changed her mind at the last moment. We have spent tens of thousands of dollars and are emotionally drained.

    • Sarah says...

      J – I’m so sorry, that is heartbreaking. I admire your ability to handle being a foster parent so much – on behalf of those kids and essentially the whole world – THANK YOU.

    • Sarah says...

      Cooper – sounds like we are on the same page! So sweet to hear about your “bonus” sister. My son now talks to people about how we’re looking for a brother for him who doesn’t have a family and we’re going to be his family and it makes me ridiculously proud of him. I’m totally open to a girl but apparently he is less so haha.

    • Emily says...

      I have one biological daughter and completely agree on adoption as an option! I love the idea of how it could expand our family “without going through pregnancy, labour and delivery, the newborn stage, paying for 2-3 years of childcare…” I’m hoping to get my husband on board (he was adopted himself) so we can start looking into it…

  112. Shira says...

    Pregnancy after loss is so hard. It’s emotionally and mentally exhausting, lonely, socially isolating. I used to want to have 4 kids, always talked about having a big family. But after losing my son at 23 weeks and miscarrying my second at 7 weeks, I’m not sure how many times I can do it.

    When you ask a childless woman when she’s going to have a baby, or you ask a mother of one when she’s going to have a second – no matter how well meaning this question is, I have to wonder now if it’s OK to ask. You never know what a woman is going through to try to grow her family, and to a woman struggling with infertility or who has experienced pregnancy loss this question hurts like hell.

  113. Meg says...

    Thank you for this. We have one child and are done and it’s not what I ever envisioned for myself. I always imaged having more but life’s circumstances sent us in another direction. Our daughter is more than enough for me — she completely fulfills me — but I worry that our little family of three isn’t enough for her. I have two siblings and when I think about the things she won’t have — she won’t have nieces and nephews, she won’t have a sibling to share the burden when her dad and I have grown old — I feel devastated. She’s given up now, but when she was younger she used to ask for a sibling, which would break my heart every time. I feel lucky that there are several families in our neighborhood who have only one, so she doesn’t feel different than her peers in that regard. And I feel comforted by articles like this one. So thank you for it.

    • Emily says...

      Meg, don’t worry about all your daughter is “missing out on”… she won’t know the difference. As an only child, sure, she’s missing out on the sibling experience, but she’ll never even know what that means. She’ll have experiences that you missed out on: a rich relationship with you and all your undivided attention, financial opportunities that your family wouldn’t have with multiple children, and the opportunity to have neices and nephews with her potential partner’s siblings (or as an “aunt” to friednds’ children). I have loved being an only child, especially once I was a teenager and my parents began treating our relationship like I was simply the third adult in the house (I’m 32 now and my parents are in their 70s). Is my life and our relationship perfect? No, but I don’t feel like my life is any less rich for not having a sibling relationship. I’m so fortunate that my parents are able to travel to see me regularly (and I them). I’d encourage you not to miss out on enjoying and relishing what you have because you’re mourning something you don’t – your family is small but mighty.

    • Allie says...

      Emily, thank you for those words of encouragement as Meg’s worries are my own. I’m desperately waiting for the light of acceptance Sandy wrote about and your comment opened the window to a few rays.

    • Alexandra says...

      As an only child, and now the parent to what will be an only child, an enthusiastic YES to everything Emily said here.

  114. I live in Israel and here it seems that even perfect strangers often have an opinion on the most personal of decisions, including how many children make for a ‘complete’ family. My daughter Annie Jo is just about to turn 4, which is the age I originally envisioned feeling ready to have another one. But truthfully we’ve really found our groove as a family with one kid – and she brightens up our home all on her own. I was still deliberating on this when I recently found out that I have a genetic mutation which requires having my ovaries removed. Needless to say it has placed a lot of pressure on making the decision as soon as possible. I’ve never regretted anything in my life and I’m sure that whatever we decide I’ll end up feeling content… but still, it’s encouraging to read the comments that were shared for some fresh perspective.

  115. This topic is so interesting. I have three kids, most of my friends have two, but somehow almost all of the kids in my daughter’s kindergarten class are only children. I hear a lot about the comments that parents of only children get, but I get the opposite! People are shocked that we have SO MANY CHILDREN, which makes me laugh because three doesn’t seem like a huge number to me. We do live in an expensive area of a big city, which obviously factors in.

    My favorite part of the family size discussion is hearing people’s reasoning for their choices. Everyone has such strong, thought out opinions on the matter and they’re all so different but equally valid! I didn’t even want to have kids when I accidentally had my first but once she was here I wanted all the babies! I still do! My third is six months old and I would happily have one or two more (but I won’t, we’re done). My reasons: we live far from family so this is kind of it for my kids, I’m really close with my sisters and I wanted that relationship for my kids, and I just really enjoy being around children. I have a great on paper but very unfulfilling career, so I get a lot of my sense of purpose and fulfillment from motherhood. Those things all felt very urgent and obvious to me, but I can also see how people would feel differently!

    (I will concede that while I love having a bigger family and being around kids all the time, I do occasionally have a pang of jealousy at the relative freedom of my one-child-having peers.)

    • You are my TWIN!
      We have 3 (4, 2 1/2 and 10 months) and I’d totally go for another. I had always casually mentioned to my husband (even pre marriage) that I just wasn’t totally on board with having kids and then I had our first and in the hospital holding her, I looked at him and said “I want 5!”. It was so euphoric, I was completely unprepared for the smack of love that hit me X the hormones. I had great pregnancies and birth experiences, so of course that lends to wanting more, maybe? We live in LA and it’s a fortune and most of our friends have 1 or 2 – a few rare families in our school have 4 or 5. I’m one of 2 and was always fascinated by my friend’s large families growing up – the chaos, drama and dynamics of it all….I knew that’s what I wanted. Essentially to never be left alone :) haha. I work full time and I love it. But yea, my friends who are trotting around the globe with so much freedom, it looks lovely….but I’m in for the long investment and a really big thanksgiving turn out :)

  116. Musilla says...

    Having made an (easy for us) decision to stick to one, I was asked, very confrontationaly, by a doctor, while she was inserting an IUD, had I not liked being pregnant. With all the scathing judgement she could muster! I summoned up all possible dignity and control to say ‘yes, I did, and I love being a Mum, to one.’. Seriously though, from a doctor?!? Even if not liking being pregnant was my reason (which it wasn’t, I found pregnancy very easy)I was paying for a well thought out procedure. Needless to say I went elsewhere for a follow up, check up. I’d have opted for sterilization but practically inaccessible in Ireland, especially under the age of 35. It’s a wonderful place to have children, not a great place to make a choice not to have more

  117. Beth says...

    It’s always amazing to me that people obsess about only children, but no other number. My husband and I are a little bit older and far away from our parents (who are older and can’t help). We live in an expensive city where childcare is pricey and we both like our jobs. We also both have a sibling that we’ve ended up having to take care of at one point in our lives or another- there’s no guarantee that your family is close and that your children are best friends. We don’t have a village or support system emotionally or financially- it’s just us. Our daughter completed our family, but she’s also all we could handle!

  118. Gillian says...

    I’m an only child and my whole life I knew I wanted to have two children. I felt a huge weight of responsibility towards my parents and now that I am a daughter a frail older Mom (who is a widow) sometimes I feel like I’m the one holding everything up.
    But then I got pregnant and I cried and cried and cried. WTF?! I felt like I was grieving for my daughter. She would miss me so much. I would miss her. I kept thinking how I would feel to share MY mum!
    How could I ever love this baby as much? Right up until 8 months after he was born I struggled. I still don’t quiet understand sibling dynamics and guess what – there’s no book on this topic. Believe me I looked!
    But now I look at my babies and I see that they belong to each other. They love and hate each other in equal measure but they have a bond that I will never experience. It’s amazing.
    Don’t get me wrong, I think being an only child is wonderful. You become independent and so happy in your own company and have an amazing bond with your parents. It’s just presented lots of challenges for me as I go through life. It’s so nice to hear from other “only” children here in the comments section.

    • Avalanche Lake says...

      Gillian, there is a book called “Siblings Without Rivalry.” I haven’t read it but I’ve seen it widely recommended, so you might take a look!

    • Margaret says...

      I agree with so much of this! I’m an only child and it’s just me and my mom left on my side of the family. I’ve always been great at entertaining myself but also wished for siblings to share memories with and, to be honest, take some of the spotlight off me all the time. I have 3 kids of my own, teens and beyond, and I love our family/team. Right now it’s exhausting being my mom’s only child and emotional support and it would be nice to be able to share the load and commiserate with a sibling.

  119. Yolanda says...

    Thank you for this post. It took a few years, a few miscarriages, a pregnancy where I was sick and exhausted the entire time, and a few months of some post-partum depression and anxiety, but we are so in love with our little 7 month old. I feel much trepidation at the thought of going through all of that again, especially the post-partum emotional rollercoaster. I’ve all but come to terms with having only one (it helps that my brother and his wife who live nearby are having one soon – sister cousin!), but the difficult part are friends and neighbors who make all-knowing comments about how “you’ll see,” “it’ll be different with your next,” and who they know one person who easily had a second after difficulty conceiving the first – so of course it will be exactly the same for me. The implication with all these comments is that there’s something wrong with only having one child. And it’s also rude.

  120. Sarah says...

    I love this article. My mom is an only child after my grandparents tried for years and years to have her, and she was indeed the light of their lives. In addition to friends-like-family and neighbors, her in-home buddies were her parents, and they were thick as thieves. The misconceptions around only children have always baffled me, because she is anything but spoiled. My twin sister has special needs, and my mom is the most steadfast and unrelenting parent to her, now 32 years in. My grandparents, without other grandchildren around, were able to devote their time to our family, especially as a loving friend to my sister and a constant behind-the-scenes support for my mom. When my grandparents were in hospice, the love and care between their special family unit of three was so incredible to witness. Families are so beautiful, no matter what size they are!

  121. Anna says...

    My daughter is 3 and a half and at this point many of her peers already have younger siblings. I would be open to another but my partner has been a firm “no” since the beginning. In the back of my mind I’ve always still thought there would be a chance for an “oops” second baby perhaps, but am just now coming to terms with having one and feeling good about it. Living far away from any family and imagining the daycare costs for another baby certainly make it easier to think “we are good with one.” This post has made me conscious of how unintentionally I often ask others “Will you have more kids?” I’m going to quit that now. Thanks.

    • H says...

      Yes to everything you said – except the oops. I always thought it in the back of my mind, maybe. But definitely YES to everything else, my thoughts exactly.

  122. E says...

    Any Mom’s of twins on here that are having a tough time with their twins being their first and last? We welcomed twins after IVF and three years of infertility. I feel SO incredibly lucky that we have our kids because for a long time I wasn’t sure we would since it was a long and complicated process. I ache for another baby all the time. My husband thinks this is because we had two at once and does not want to try for a third. I’m not saying that twins are anything like having one since we obviously have two kids but I can relate to many of the comments below since our twins were our first and last. It’s very hard and some of these comments have brought me to tears.

    • J says...

      I have twins and absolutely don’t want more. Our twins were such a strain on our marriage that first year that it wasn’t even a discussion as to whether we would have more.

  123. Thank you for this post. Over the years I’ve thought about having a second, but I’ve never felt strongly enough to act. With our daughter, I knew without a doubt that I wanted a baby. And I discovered that having a baby is incredibly hard, even when it’s something you are 100% sure you want, and that baby is 100% healthy. I feel lucky that we have a healthy, happy daughter. Life is good. I don’t want a second child badly enough to upset the apple cart, you know?

    • Avalanche Lake says...

      Amanda, I feel the same way. I had a wonderful pregnancy and my son is totally healthy. He is one now and man! This first year was so tough! I can’t imagine doing this again, and with another kid in the mix.

      It’s hard to feel so ambivalent about something that I always thought I wanted.

  124. Love the article! It really made me think about having a child.

  125. JB says...

    These are wonderful perspectives! I am an only child, and if I’m honest, I always hated it growing up! I longed for someone to play with and for a family that looked like “everyone else’s.” But now when I reflect on my strengths, like my resilience, independence, ease making friends, and sense of self, I think these were nurtured by being an only child and now, I feel grateful for that experience. I will say, being an adult only child is hard at times, there can feel like a lot of pressure to succeed and thinking about being the only one there to care for my mom as I get older makes me feel overwhelmed.

  126. Liv says...

    Thank you so much for this post. We are new parents in love with our daughter and while I always imagined having more children, the prospect of another round of emotionally difficult fertility treatment and being unable to imagine fitting another little person into our life, leaves me thinking that there will not be another baby. Perhaps adoption in the distant future? These stories are reassuring to read. Thank you!

  127. Alyssa says...

    I have loved nothing more than being an only child. People consistently asked me when I was little if I was lonely. But instead of being lonely, I had a wonderful imagination, excelled at individual play, and most importantly, had the opportunity to be around my parents grown-up friends. I can relate to so many people now because I was around older people my whole life. I love it! And I love my relationship with my parents too, because it’s allowed us to be extremely close. I feel very lucky.

    • SKE says...

      This echoes my sentiment exactly! I’m an only child and, although I sometimes wished I had someone to play with, I loved traveling with my parents as well as being with people of all ages. I also have many memories of playing in the woods for HOURS by myself. Totally sculpted my creativity, imagination, and ability to find strength in solitude.

  128. janine says...

    I have an only child. We are “one and done” for various reasons – some intentional, some less so. And some of the reasons are VERY private/personal, so I don’t always feel sharing the details with strangers who ask about it! One time, at a party, another kid asked my son why he didn’t have any siblings. He responded, “My mom can’t have any more – but she’s getting me a puppy!” (It’s true – we did get him a puppy, who he calls his “brother”).

    • My daughter also has a “little brother” which she adopted at a rescue event.

  129. i’m an only child and never felt the need to be something else. when i was asked if i’d rather have a sibling the honest answer was i don’t know. this is the only version i know and, although i have always had friends to play with and was always glad to share (an introvert willing to share toys!), now that my parents are older sometimes i find myself thinking that would be nice to share the responsibilities, the worries. does it make sense? my husband is also an only child and we do not have kids, so our (sibling-related) realities are quite similar and we do not have a plan. well, i’m almost 35 and I feel that i am not ready to have a child (but i guess he is) – i still feel young/not competent/not ready. we have 2 cats so that will do for now :)

  130. txilibrin says...

    So, I’m not a baby person, BUT my husband is. But I cannot say no to something that I haven’t tried (does it make sense?). So I got pregnant super fast, and here the baby is! I’m a single child and always felt lonely (no pets, my parents didn’t play with me, no nephews, nada) so I want to have another one. They will always be there (hopefully) for each other.

  131. Trisha says...

    This was nice to read today. When I was young (before I knew ANY better about anything) I thought I wanted 8 kids. Then as my teenage years hit, I thought, none! Then I got married and knew me and my husband weren’t right for each other (damned hindsight….). When I got divorced I kept thinking how lucky I was that I did not have a child with him. I got with my current partner and we never *not* tried. It just didn’t happen. So we always joked and just thought we couldn’t have kids. Seemed like the universe’s way of telling us just how things would go. Then, one February I missed my period. After 9 years. 9 years! I w as pregnant! It was the sweetest surprise I could have ever imagined! I couldn’t believe how instinctual and ready I felt! And my guy was over the moon. The first year was so hard, and all the things I said I’d do I didn’t, and all the things I said I wouldn’t, I did. ha! Life is funny. Now we talk and watch our 2 year old girl Sonny and think, how could anything get any better? We hear about how she needs to have someone to play with and she’ll be lonely and spoiled. We get in the floor and play with her. We do spoil her. But she is a good kid and we are all happy. When we lay down at night she grabs me and my guy around the neck and says in the sweetest voice “we’re together!” like it’s the end of a long day and she’s so happy. I feel completely content. And that’s all I could ask for really.

    • JB says...

      This is really lovely! Life is funny and great.

    • Trisha says...

      Thanks JB!!

    • “We’re together!”
      best line EVER.

  132. Callie says...

    Gosh, I have been waiting for this since you mentioned it before Christmas and I’m so glad you wrote about this! I have a beautiful 19 month old daughter and while I love, love, love her I find it so hard. My partner does ten times what other friends husbands seem to do and yet, it’s still such an intense job, parenting.
    I know deep down that really just one is the best choice for me and my life but what if it isn’t for her? I hope you know lovely Jo that voicing these lived experiences actually help. I feel like it’s permission from the universe. The void is shouting “One baby and now a cocktail”

    • Meghan says...

      Same

    • lacey says...

      Ah! the same, the same!

    • Tristen says...

      Same!

  133. Cynthia says...

    There is nothing wrong with having only one child. I have two daughters because we wanted two children. Whether a couple has one, two, or none, it’s their business. I am always amazed at the rude remarks others can make. After our second daughter was born, someone made the comment, “I guess you’re going to try for a boy next.” I said, “No, this is it. Two are enough for us.”

  134. Lisa Terwilliger says...

    Yes, yes and yes – brilliant post. I think it’s lovely to celebrate families that are big or small for so many different reasons. Having one child is so “right” for me and my husband and over the years we’ve weathered all the accompanying comments of “When are you having another?” and “Doesn’t she want a brother or sister?” (We got her a dog instead! Hee.) As with all topics related to parenting, it’s time for everyone to give each other – and ourselves – a break and acknowledge that we’re all just doing the best we can.

  135. Thao says...

    I think it’s interesting – and discouraging – how much social stigma exists against only having one child. It’s as if that decision suggests some kind of carelessness or selfishness on the part of the parent – and in my case, I feel it’s the opposite! I love our dynamic as a family of three; it makes me feel expansive and generous with my time. Most importantly, it simply feels right – complete, as another commenter said. I’m an only child and I get a lot of unwanted feedback suggesting that I missed out on an experience of a sibling, that I’ll be sad and lonely in my old age, that I could have turned out better if I’d had children. Children with siblings miss the experience of being only children – which, in its own right, can be magical and full, its own singular experience – but we never malign parents for not “gifting” them that existence.

  136. Louise says...

    I always pictured having what I had in my family growing up: a two parent household and two kids. Fast forward and I find myself at 40 realizing that all of my knights in shining armor were really jerks wrapped in tinfoil, and my fertility window closing fast. So I decided to try to have a baby on my own. Three years and 8 IUIs and 3 IVF rounds later, my son was born. He was and is a blessing to me every day. While I have had a hard time letting go of have another, I know that for me, it wasn’t going to happen. One child on my own pushes all of my limits, financial and emotional, not to mention the space in my apartment. I’m not sure I could get pregnant again. But I know that one is the right answer for me. He is five now and as much as I am sad he won’t have a sibling, I know that I’ve made the right choice.

  137. ALV says...

    I am an only child, of (on one side) an only child of another only child! So it is common in my family. My husband is one of 4, and though he doesn’t want that many, he would probably like 2. I’m pregnant now with our first and I’ve (already!!) had so many thoughts about if I want another or not- and this baby isn’t even here yet! I liked being an only child, but now as my parents are older and taking care of them falls to me alone, I wonder about the benefits of having a sibling and support, not to mention friendship. But of course there is no way to know if you will love or hate your sibling. My mother has a brother she hasn’t spoken to in 35 years. Like most of parenting, as I am coming to see, these are choices you must make for what works for you and your family and not worry about other people. They don’t have to live your life!

  138. Jenn says...

    I am my parents’ only child, and they are THE relationship of my life. When I got married, I told my husband it was a package deal. I don’t remember wanting siblings as a child, although I’m sure I did. As an adult, it’s lovely.

    I chose not to have children due to lack of interest. It is a somewhat lonely thought to contemplate what the end of my life will look like after my parents are gone. When I die, that’s the end of the line. The fun part of thinking about this reality is contemplating to which charities my assets should be donated. Hopefully that day is a long way away.

    In any case, I love and have loved being an only child.

  139. Elise says...

    My heavens what a wonderful, interesting topic to explore. The main feeling I get is : Everyone’s decisions are personal and private. I have never understood why people feel the need and permission to comment on how many children one has. Or have chosen not to have. Thank you everyone for commenting and to Joanna for opening this door.

  140. Mandy says...

    I am a mother of a four year old daughter. My second child, her sister passed away almost two years ago at three months old. My daughter is an only child by circumstance not by choice. This post was equal parts comforting and devastating to me as I read the comments, especially from only children. I really appreciate the honesty from all who shared and found it helpful for my particular situation, so thank you.

    • Arielle says...

      I’m sorry for your loss. It must be very hard for you

    • gk says...

      mandy, i am so sorry for you loss. i know how hard it is to have the world see a family of three when you there is somebody missing that you can’t get back. wishing you peace and comfort.

  141. Jillian says...

    I always thought I would have two, but our lives were so full of transitions that one day, I looked up and my daughter was five! We started thinking maybe one was right for us. Now, my daughter is 7, and I sort of wish we had had a second when she was two. I always joke with my husband that if someone left a four-year-old on my doorstep, I would take them in a heartbeat! I just don’t want to do the whole pregnancy/childbirth/baby thing again.

    My only child is wonderful, though! And she’s such a skilled friend-maker. As a kid, I always had my older sister to hide behind, so it’s pretty amazing to see Ruby’s confidence with other children. This morning, she asked me to take her to the park after school. “I always make a friend there!”

  142. It’s interesting to see it from the parent’s perspective. As an only child myself, I think it is better to have siblings to help learn from, carry the weight of aging parents, and to just play with. As a parent, I have two children and would have more if I could. The world 40, 30, or even 20 years ago was not built for only children. We were considered spoiled, socially awkward, lonlely, and all the articles about birth order never considered an only child. Maybe that will change for this next generation.

  143. Honestly I think the hardest part about being the mom of an “only” is answering to all the sanctimommies out there who looove to “throw shade”. As Amy Poehler says “good for you, not for me.” Having multiples is great for some families, just not mine. I am an only, and always assumed I’d want to have a big family when I grew up. Then we had our daughter and I realized my own mama was right(!) all along to have just one. So when other people (usually moms, let’s be real) ask if we’re having more, we smile and say “nope.”

  144. Thank you all for your comments! After a 6 year struggle with infertility, losing 1 baby (twin) along the way my 1 and only love fills my heart with such joy!! I’m so grateful :) During the quiet moments at night I tell her about her brother or sister and how much I loved them!!

  145. Nathalie says...

    When I was 25, we had our first child and I decided I was done (my husband was open to more but accepted my choice). At 29 I had an unplanned pregnancy. It took me weeks to come to terms with being pregnant but I started imagining all the positive things about siblings . . . and then I miscarried. I felt so disappointed (and guilty because I wasn’t joyous from the get-go). We decided to try for another baby and at 31, I had her. While I wouldn’t change a thing, I do find that I get easily overwhelmed. There are so many more dynamics between 4 people as opposed to 3 (or 2).

  146. karen says...

    Thank you for this post…uncanny really, after the conversation I had with my mother last weekend.
    I had finally come to peace with our decision that one child was the right thing for my husband and I (our daughter is now 5)…but then my mother brought up the subject of us having a second…she wanted to make sure I wouldn’t have any regrets and encouraged me to think of my daughter’s future because “having siblings means you’ll always have someone at your side, even more so later in life”. I know my mother only wants our happiness but somehow this all sent me down the guilt trip again…I know 3 is the right choice for us, for a bunch of different reasons. My problem is the guilt I feel… or rather the fear of potentially depriving my daughter of something important in her life.
    Anyways, thanks a lot for this post, I take it as a sign…and also a reassurance that only children can indeed be very happy!

    • lacey says...

      I wonder about those things myself – but then I think about my relationship with my brother (we are both in our 30’s) and we hardly see each other and have never been really close, even when we were kids. I joke with my husband that his own brother who lives 7 hours away has seen our 2.5 year old more than my brother who lives 45 minutes away!

      You just can’t plan out whether siblings will be close, or whether your siblings will outlive your parents (my dad is 1 of 7 and his 94 year old mother has already lost 3 sons). But it’s still so hard not to wonder “what if?”

  147. Chelsea says...

    I have had only one child, now five, but am a stepmother to two in their teens, who are my son’s half-siblings. The kids love each other without distinction, and use the words brother and sister. As someone said to me about his own half-brother, ‘Lots of people seem to need to make the distinction that my brother is my half-brother, but every time I look at him, he looks pretty whole to me.’
    The only times I’ve considered more children were when the questions by others were posed, and I tried to think through whether I should, could, ought to have another. The idea for me seemed driven by obligations and or guilt.
    My husband was happy with our family. I was happy with our family, and I didn’t feel like anyone was missing.
    I love being a mother and a stepmother. We are a split family but a whole family nonetheless. At times my son has an only child experience (the big kids split school term and holidays fairly equally and fluidly between our house and their mum’s), but then he also has siblings, albeit ten and twelve years older, and while he will have a more solo period at home when they are at university and he is still at home, they will all be adult siblings together.
    So I guess technically if you ask me whether I have an only child, the answer is yes, but no…

  148. Tina says...

    This article has come at such a pivotal time! I would love to have a second child. My sister and I grew up together at 18 months apart in age and I keep recalling late nights in our bedroom talking and playing until falling asleep or just in general having company 24/7. That said, I gave birth 9 months ago to a healthy baby girl, at age just shy of 43. No infertility problems etc. and with easiness to conceive. However, I don’t know how attainable it will be the second time around at 43. and a half years old. I’m feeling guilty, torn and so many emotions regarding what if I am not able to offer her a sibling? The thought of her not having siblings and having (much) older parents upsets me so much. My experience with family friends who have an only child is that I see that they often get lonely or it seems like their parents need to constantly entertain them, especially when they come round for a visit and the child craves attention and fun….I’m feeling so anxious seeing I feel that it is not in my control. :(

    • Tina says...

      I’d like to add that we live in Greece. A country where it is hard to get ahead financially, career wise, socially and so on. There are no parks where we are situated, no “Mummy and me” type of classes or any such fun activites to take a baby or toddler to, the roads are atrocious- so even taking a leisurely stroll is debateable, play dates are not the norm and so many other negative aspects. Which is why a family unit of more than three sometimes is the only comfort in Greece. Were I raising my daughter in say, Australia which is where I was raised, I don’t think I would feel such pressure (on myself) so as to be able to offer her a sibling.

    • Amy Madeline says...

      A lonely only needing extra parent playtime has not been my experience!I I am the parent of a very well-adjusted, social, KIND almost 13 year old son, who I had after a very comfortable pregnancy (although with pre-eclampsia which is a serious threat) at 38. I was astonished to enter the “parent club” and discover I am only a marginal entrant with ONLY one child! We are fortunate to have a loving, healthy child, and live in a community with many families nearby which we are very close to. My son has MANY close friends. In fact, other moms say my son is their son’s BEST friend. I am an at-home mom so certainly have an advantage, particularly having an only, to support and develop friendships. Our home is also conveniently close to the public schools in our neighborhood, easy to walk to. So grateful for our small family of three (also our charming small home) and feel very fulfilled. I waited a long time for this phase of my life! After my son, my husband and I could never imagine actually having another child, although I have some daughter envy at times! (But I never realized how sensitive boys are and how sweet and loving their friendships are. Please watch “The Mask You Wear” about how our society constricts the emotional and social development of our sons.)

      I have a dear friend, an only child herself and mom of one son, who is very vocal about her opinion that only children (and multiple pets!) are the way to go. She is incredibly supportive and kind and has maintained life-long “sister” friendships. Truly, her friendship skills are remarkable. She is a committed support to her parents, and is herself supported in this by her husband, son and tremendous network of loving friends and family.

      On spoiling: I have seen that any family of any number of children (married, divorced, wealthy, struggling, easy or complicated pregnancies) can be prone to spoiling their child. My own family included. I try to be very aware of that, and am always working to further develop gratitude, generosity, and kindness in myself and and my son.

      Lastly, I didn’t notice anyone else mention this issue, but in Northern California I am very aware of population increase, the preciousness of water, and resources that are not limitless. I am seriously concerned for our future. I feel that it is a responsible, forward thinking choice to have 1, 2 or no children. (This feels like a preachy thing to say, but I feel it deeply, and am seriously concerned about how we are tragically mismanaging our stewardship of our world.)

  149. How Ironic, I literally posted a blog post last night about why I have chosen to not have a second child. Life circumstances can also play a big role in decisions you make, and for me it did. I am fully content with my son and happy that I can give him my undivided attention. One child is just enough for some.
    Laura

  150. Mother of One says...

    Thank you Joanna for this article. I’m 35, married to the love of my life for ten years with an only child. I’m typing this because I will never be able to truly tell all of this to any one person.

    We’re stopping at one for so many reasons. Some I’m more ready to say out loud than others.

    1. Financially things are pretty tight
    I’m the main breadwinner and felt very very sad when I was the only one in my mothers’ group that needed to go back to work after maternity leave.

    2. We are both low energy people
    Call it lazy or just homebodies but we both need our sleep and just like chilling. Having one parent be able to be off duty is a privilege we are not willing to give up.

    3. We are low capacity people.
    We are both low achievers with low capacity. We are not ambitious and don’t enjoy being stretched. Even with the precious cuddles and kisses we would never trade away, we can’t imagine going through the newborn stage all over again for more cuddles and kisses.

    4. Not sure if our marriage would survive.
    I put this one down because my husband actually said so (albeit in anger) when our girl was under a year old. I’ve forgiven him for it but can never forget it. And personally I don’t think it’s a responsible decision to stress test the marriage for the sake of a child who hasn’t yet been created.

    5. I wouldn’t be able to deal if my second child had special needs. This speaks volumes about my own selfishness.

    Putting all this down breaks my heart. I don’t think of others this way but it is truly a personal opinion. I’ve never had good self esteem. And all these feelings are a confirmation of what I’ve always believed of myself – that I really am just not as good/strong/natural of a person/mother as others.

    Thank you for reading.

    • JB says...

      Just wanted to thank you for your honesty! We are a childless, married couple and one thing we really struggle with in deciding to have kids is your reason 2! Everyone I talk to about it says you “adjust” or you “survive” and that just sounds horrible to me! My mum admitted she became a full on insomniac after she had kids and 30 years later, she still never regained her ability to sleep and it’s terrifying! Whether it’s selfish or not, it’s so important to flesh out these fears.

    • One and done says...

      Thank you for your honesty. In my case, I also don’t think my marriage would survive, if we had one more. My husband is an amazing guy, but didn’t help during the baby stage as much as I thought he would. He’s so much better now, our son is 6. I’m glad we didn’t put the stress test on our marriage either.

    • Lindsay says...

      Thank you for your honesty in posting this. I think having the self-awareness to know what works for you is incredible. Don’t underestimate your ability as a mother just because you don’t want to have more kids. Hugs!

    • Bvv says...

      This really resonated with me. I’m really a low energy person too, masquerading as an alpha at work in a high stress job. This was doable when we didn’t have children. With 1 child that was very colicky as an infant, and super high energy/”colorful” as a toddler, its felt like a stretch. There have definitely been times where I feel like we’re just “surviving” each day rather than actually enjoying life. And others where I feel very resentful towards my husband because he’s been able to surge ahead in his career, while mine has stalled. We are finally now 3 yrs later at a point where I’m not constantly anxious/exhausted or feeling resentful towards my husband, so the thought of starting all over again, or risking the possibility of a child with special needs…I don’t think I could handle it.

    • Amanda says...

      I just want to say I don’t read any of your stated reasons as a negative reflection of your strength or worth as a mother at all! In fact, they suggest the opposite. I share many of these concerns and many of them are the reasons I don’t want to have a second child. I don’t know if my marriage would survive. I don’t want to put my family in an untenable financial situation. And, I also worry about having a second child with special needs, which I think is a very legitimate thing to consider. Obviously I don’t know you, but all of these reasons sound like you are making decisions based on what is best for your family and your existing child, which is far from selfish.

    • Annie says...

      Not selfish. Self-aware. That is a good thing to be.

    • M says...

      I think your honesty and self-awareness makes you a wonderful mother, to be honest. Knowing yourself, your limits, preferences, and whatnot will benefit your child. We have one daughter and I am pretty sure I want more, but the biggest concern for me is my marriage. My husband is lovely in many ways, but he has not proven to be particularly helpful in the parenting department. Part of this is circumstance, but I’m realizing part of it is his personality and his strengths. At least at this stage (she’s not yet one year) he is struggling. It puts a lot of pressure on me–and our marriage. Good for you both for recognizing this and owning it! That’s hard.

    • Carrie says...

      You are amazing!!! So much self-awareness, I love it. With so many in this world having children because they lack exactly what you have in spades, I think it’s incredibly un-selfish to know exactly what you are willing and able to handle. I can’t tell you how much I appreciate this post. I can relate so much.

    • Yes, I am right there with you on a lot of these points! Don’t know if my marriage or my mental health would survive. I wrote a post about this just a couple weeks ago, if you want to read. Might make you feel more “normal.” :) What’s interesting is when I posted it on my FB page, a lot of my mom friends–even moms of 4 kids!–said they agreed with a lot of it, or felt that way at some point, but never felt they could say it out loud. Honesty and truth are such game changers!!
      https://netanya.wordpress.com/2018/01/08/when-you-can-only-handle-one-child-and-thats-ok/

    • There is you in every one of us – believe me. Selfishness, low capacity and chilling are what we all love – secretly or openly. Thanks for sharing and being so dead-on.

    • Emily says...

      Perfect reasons! So smart and honest—you know yourself and should be proud of it. Thanks for voicing what’s deep inside; a lot of those reasons are others’ too.