I never wore my Baby On Board badge when I was pregnant. It was in those early weeks when I felt really tired and nauseous but didn’t look pregnant that I really felt I needed it to get a seat on The Tube. But I hadn’t told anyone at work I was expecting and couldn’t risk bumping into someone from the office. And then by the time it was public knowledge my bump seemed so big to me, I would have felt silly wearing a badge that stated the obvious.
These days I feel the need to wear a “No Plans For Another Baby” badge.
With my daughter at almost 16 months and me still not back at work, people seem to think that having another baby is the natural thing for me to do. I am frequently asked if I am going to have more children. More often than not it isn’t even phrased as a question. It is just implied that now is the time to start working on expanding my family. Or people express mock horror that I am passing on my baby kit to an expectant friend, because I’ll be needing it myself someday soon.
Why does convention make me feel that I am being a lazy, selfish and inefficient parent for just stopping at one?
I may be the only Stay At Home Mother of one that I know – all the other Only Child mums are juggling a career – but I am not lazy. It’s not my fault I got made redundant on maternity leave. I always intended to go back to my job when my daughter reached 12 months and I am working hard looking for a new one. But I am struggling to find a job that covers the cost of childcare and has the flexible hours I need to work around it.
Even if I don’t go back to work anytime soon, being a parent to one child doesn’t mean I am doing any less parenting. I don’t deny it would be harder work running around after my daughter if I had a second baby latched onto my breast, but I am giving motherhood my all. And it certainly isn’t easy.
It appears that a common perception of the parents of Only Children is that they are selfish. I am supposedly depriving my child of siblings. A brother or sister would be a playmate, companion and friend for life. I make sure she sees other children whenever we can. I play with her, her father plays with her, and she is actually very good at playing by herself.
Now, I love my brothers and sisters, I cherish their companionship and I remember playing happily with them when we were younger. But I also remember doing a lot of fighting with them, and we often all played on our own, or with our own friends.
It has been suggested that being an Only Child puts a heavy burden on my daughter when I become old and the roles are reversed. She will have no one to help her when it is her turn to care for her parents. But if I am to become a burden to one child, I surely would be a burden to two, three, five. All I can do is put plans in place to lighten her load as much as I can.
Then there is the argument that being an only child will ‘spoil’ my daughter. Brothers and sisters would teach her to share, to be competitive and understand she can not always be the winner and the centre of attention – all important life lessons. But if I am efficient in my parenting, as I strive to be, she can still learn all these things. And for every spoilt Only Child out there, there are multiple spoilt children with siblings.
If I am truly honest, I would love to have more children. But we have our reasons for keeping our family small. Age, health, circumstance, finances, politics, personal issues. Why should I have to justify them to the world?
My daughter is not my only child, she is all we have.
That is enough for me.
So – enough.