Most mothers I’ve spoken to knew how many children they wanted long before pregnancy.
Some say two – the traditional family of one boy and one girl. For others, the magic number is three, or even four maybe.
Another friend of mine, who is the most maternal person I know, once told me, “I’ll keep having babies until God decides I’m done.”
I am the mother of an only child. My son will soon be 7 and he is an amazing young man. Not only is he extremely funny and smart, but he is compassionate, kind-hearted and an old soul. He doesn’t have a sibling, and most likely never will.
When my son turned two people started asking questions.
“When will you have your next?” “Are you trying for another?”
And next came the statements:
“He needs a sibling.” “You can’t raise an only child.”
I’ve always been pretty good at letting things roll off my back. I didn’t feel pressured to get pregnant or give my son a sibling just because others felt I “had to.”
My answer to them was always the same – “My family is just right the way it is.” And that’s the truth.
When my son, my husband and I are together, it just feels right. I don’t feel like anything is missing. I can’t imagine our family any other way.
My son amazes me every day with his humor, adult vocabulary and insightful questions. He’s curious, always on the hunt for knowledge. He asks me questions constantly, sometimes to the point where I run out of answers. But the question he’s never really asked is, “Why don’t I have a brother or sister?”
My girlfriend and I were pregnant at the same time – our friendship actually blossomed in the waiting room at our ultrasound appointments. Her son was born exactly two months after mine. She tried for her second when our boys were four. She jokingly asked me if I wanted to be pregnant together again. I politely declined.
But, I was convinced that when my son saw her pregnant, he would begin asking for a sibling. I thought for sure he’d want to know why his friend was getting a new baby and he wasn’t.
But he never asked. He enjoys playing with the new baby. He’s affectionate and gentle. But he never asks for his own.
When I decided that I was done after having only one baby, it was a decision I made for myself. I know my limitations. I know what I can and cannot handle. But that doesn’t mean it was an easy decision to make.
I was raised with the ideology that once you become a mother your life is about sacrifice – sacrifice for that child. If I truly believed my son needed a sibling to flourish, would I be willing to sacrifice and have another?
The answer is no. But let me tell you why.
I would go to the ends of the earth for my son. I do everything I can to make him happy, make sure he feels safe and is living a fulfilling life. The only reason I am able to do those things for my son is because I take care of myself first.
I am a firm believer that you can’t take care of anyone else if you don’t first take care of yourself. I make time to exercise because it makes me feel good and healthy. My husband and I go on dates because we need to stay connected in order to co-parent. I do the things that foster who I am so that I can do the same for my son.
With that being said, I know that I am not prepared to have another child. I would be sacrificing something too great to make others happy. I would regret my decision and resent those whom I felt pressured me to make it. And that would create an unhealthy situation for everyone.
I do think siblings are a beautiful thing. I have a brother and though we had a rough childhood together, we are very close now. I don’t see him often, nor do we talk often. We both lead busy lives, but I do know that he is there if I need him. And yes, that is a comforting feeling.
On the other hand, my husband has a sister with whom he no longer talks. Money and family disagreements led to estrangement. He doesn’t see his nieces and my sister in law does not see my son. The entire situation causes a lot of people a lot of pain.
I have friends with worse stories of families being torn apart over marriages or petty arguments. I’m not saying that this happens to all siblings because it doesn’t. But just because someone is born into the same family as you, it’s not a guarantee for a beautiful relationship down the road.
Because my son doesn’t have a brother or sister, we spend a lot of time together. I’m an expert at playing make-believe, hide and seek and board games. We practice soccer outside, take walks and cook together. Yes, there are days I wish he had a sibling to better occupy his time, but I’m also okay with being his playmate.
He’s asked about getting a dog. I think that might be a possibility down the road. It would be nice for him to have a companion (his fish doesn’t really do the trick).
We spoke about responsibility.
He wants a large dog – a labrador or a Weinheimer. I explained that having a big dog means big responsibility. We did some research together online, looking up the best leashes for large dogs, dog food for large breeds and even the grooming needs for large dogs.We talked about walking the dog, even when the weather gets cold and rainy.
I want my son to understand responsibility. He already has compassion, so I know he would love and nurture anything we brought into our home.
If I’m being honest, I do feel guilty about not giving my son a sibling for one reason – he would make an unbelievable big brother.
I watch him with other babies we encounter and he is in awe. He watches them, listens and sings to them. He always asks first, “Can I touch their feet?” He is purposeful and gentle. He is protective. He would guide his younger sibling in life, teaching them the difference between right and wrong. He is a kind soul.
But because I’ve made the decision to only have one child, my son will never experience being a big brother. And I need to live with that.
But I also know that my son is a happy child living a healthy, well-rounded life. I watch him flourish and grow every day. And I know that all of his compassion and love will one day be used to raise beautiful children of his own.
He will be an amazing husband and father, and I look forward to that day.