This past summer, I was enjoying lunch with my mother-in-law and her co-worker, a sweet Asian woman in her mid-40s, when the conversation turned to kids, which quickly brought us to the inevitable question: “When are you going to have more?”
My mother-in-law stopped asking some time ago, suggesting that she has lost hope. But she nonetheless perked up when her co-worker posed the question, hoping the answer would be different this time.
Here Comes the Judgment
I don’t mind people asking me about the number of children I hope to birth or if we’re in the process of trying. Sure, it’s personal, but it’s certainly not a secret. The funny thing is, once I tell people that I’m good with one—the one that I have—they almost always get judgmental. “Your generation is so selfish,” the sweet Asian woman said. “Your daughter needs a brother or sister.” She does? Here I’ve been so busy providing my 4-year-old with unrequited love, shelter and food, that I’ve completely overlooked the fact that she requires a sibling to be complete. Thanks for bringing it to my attention!
A stranger at a dress shop once told me that I needed at least two children “because one could die.” I remember snapping to attention, not expecting that one. But it got worse. She told me she had lost a child but was comforted knowing that she still had one left. I can’t pretend to know what it’s like to lose a child, but I was simultaneously sorry for her loss and deeply troubled by her logic.
Confident In My Decisions
I let most of these comments roll off my back like newborn spit up. The same goes for people who told me whether I should breast or bottle-feed. When the choice is between formula and a starving child, I’m going to go with the lesser evil. You see, when you are confident that you are doing the right thing for you and your family, it doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks or says. I’m guilty of asking parents if they hope for more kids simply because I’m curious. I also secretly want to hear their reasoning, hoping they’ll use some logic that I hadn’t thought of.
The “Ideal Family”
Families in general are under a lot of scrutiny right now, not just the one-and-done crowd. Childless by choice, same-sex parents and single parents are all under the microscope because our culture is so set on finding the formula for an “ideal family.” Even my friends who birthed two children close in age must’ve felt judged because they claimed that the second was a “surprise,” as if offering an apology. But a formula doesn’t exist. There’s no right number of kids, no perfect age distance apart, and it doesn’t matter if you have a boy or a girl first. All that really matters is that you can care for your family, whatever that family may look like.
I Don’t Feel The Need To Add Another
We should stop apologizing for our choices, but I still feel that I can give inquisitors an explanation for my decisions. Not because I owe them an explanation, but because I SHOULD have a reason. A pretty damn good one. Having one child allows me to focus on my growing writing career, I can fly home twice a year to visit family and I can continue to live in a tiny, affordable house. I’m not a fan of the infancy stage (i.e. babies freak me out) and I think bickering siblings sound like fingernails dragging down a chalkboard. And then there’s the part where my husband, my daughter and I just don’t feel the need to add another person to the mix.
She Completes Me
These are all contributing factors in our decision, but they aren’t good reasons. Not really. I do have a good reason—the reason, really—and it’s the one I’m going to start using (and please excuse me for borrowing from the timeless wisdom of Jerry Maguire to make my point). Ava completes me.
Maybe down the road I’ll get the itch to expand my family and I’ll change my mind. But whatever I decide to do, I promise not to waste a moment playing the “what if?” game. I know people with two kids who wonder what life would’ve been like with just one, or people with no kids wondering what it would’ve been like with five—all pointless exercises distracting us from being the family that we are.
About the Author
Andrea Goto writes The Culinary Coward, a monthly humor column for PaulaDeen.com about her struggle to become a domestic goddess, or more simply, to cook an edible meal. She writes her own Blog, Mom Without Makeup, which discusses the messy art of modern mothering. Andrea lives and writes in Savannah, Georgia, with her 4-year old daughter (who thinks she’s a superhero), her husband (who is a superhero) and one geriatric cat.