I spoke to the Sunday Times this week about S being an only child. Apparently families with only children are on the rise, and at present 47% of families have only one child.
I know lots of people who have taken the decision to have only one child, for lots of different reasons. Personally, I have now come to terms with the fact I won’t have more children.
These are my reasons for not having more children
1. I’m single!
At the risk of stating the bleedin’ obvious, even if I decided tomorrow that I wanted to have a baby, it takes two to tango! After my experience with S’s father, I would be extremely cautious of getting into anything with anyone, much less the life-long commitment that comes with producing a child together.
2. Lightning doesn’t strike twice!
I have been supremely lucky with S. From day one, she has been an absolute gem. She rarely cried as a baby, never suffered with colic… heck, she rarely even did a poo when she was small! She never had a nappy rash. Her teething was soothed by Baby Jake. When she refused to clean her teeth, I just left it a few days and she changed her mind. She wakes up with a smile, and her tears are always short-lived. There is no way in the world that I could be this lucky twice – and I’m not sure I could cope with a child whose temper was less even than S’s. In fact, I doubt I could have coped with S if she had been less of a dream to parent.
3. S cannot be replaced!
There is a big chance, however careful I was and however much I talked to her, that S would feel pushed out or replaced if I were to have another child. Because she doesn’t have a father around, I am all she has. We have a very close bond; she still sleeps in my bed (after a brief foray into her own bedroom), and we spend a lot of time together. To add a man to that would be difficult for her to accept, but another child could be really traumatic. I know a lot of other people have dealt with situations like this and been just fine, but I can’t bear the thought that S should feel like I have moved on or replaced her in any way, or that she had been pushed aside (and out of my bed) to make way for someone else. S has only me to look to for support and comfort; I don’t want her to feel that she has to compete for my attention!
4. My health
S was born almost 3 years ago, and I am still struggling with physical problems brought on by my pregnancy. My hips and back are still sore, and I have an umbilical hernia which is aggravated by the slightest little thing. My pregnancy with S (physically, at least) was easy and uneventful (until she was born 5 weeks early, at least) – but I don’t think I would fare so well a second time around! I’m 33 now, and although my mother was around 10 years older than me when she had my youngest sister, I’m not convinced my body would take too kindly to another pregnancy.
Also it is hard to know how much of the mental anguish I suffered during pregnancy was down to the ex, and how much was hormone imbalance or my natural tendency towards depression. I am solely responsible for S and cannot afford to knowingly put myself in a position where my mental health could potentially deteriorate to how it was when I was pregnant with her. There is no way in the world that I would be capable of caring for S, were the same to happen again.
5. I like things my own way
If I were to have another child, his or her father would be around and I would have to negotiate on how we brought the child up. Having been on my own from the beginning with S, I would find that hard. I have very strong opinions on how I parent S and do not allow anyone to dictate what I should or should not be doing with her. I would no doubt be the same with a second child, and that would cause arguments with the father.
6. A second child would not be so well cared for
S was breastfed on demand until she was 17 months old. She was carried everywhere in a sling, and I didn’t leave her for more than an hour until she was almost a year old. She sleeps in my bed; I sit on the floor and play house with her. If I had a second child, both that child and S would have to deal with my split attention as I dealt with the differing needs of an older and a younger child. Other mothers manage this just fine; I doubt my ability to do so!
I make no secret of the fact I rely on benefits at the moment in order to make ends meet – and I have received my fair share of “my taxes paid for your…” comments too. I never planned to have a child and rely on the state. I could not in good conscience bring another child into the world without enough income to support us all. That said, even if I had all the money in the world, I can’t imagine that I would decide to have a second child.
I have absolutely no problem with other people deciding to have more children. In a different situation, I might have had more myself. I would say most of my friends have blended families, step children, half siblings, whatever else. I know families who rely on benefits to survive, and families who have huge age gaps between children. I think they all do a fantastic job. My doubts are not about them or their situations, but me and mine.