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    Categories: MotherhoodParenting

Is Having An Only Child Selfish?

I have a crib in my closet. It’s heavy. It cradled my small child as he grew, converted to a toddler bed and housed his slumbering body until he was too old for it. I placed it in the closet where it sits. He’s seven. He won’t be using it again. It sits in the closet as a reminder. It’s presence seems to demand a decision.

It reminds me how much my child has grown. He was so tiny then. He no longer rests on my hip; he walks alongside me and holds my hand.  He’s come so far. I guess both of us have. I had no idea what I was doing at first. A lot of days, I still don’t, but I can admit it now and I’m not ashamed. My son and I figure it out as we go, growing together.

It reminds me my family is so small. It’s just my son and I. He’s perfect, in his mother’s biased, adoring eyes. It is hard to say our family is lacking, despite its meager size. I have everything I need when I hold him in my arms. But sometimes, I confess, I wonder if there could be more.

I am the oldest of four girls and blessed beyond measure with siblings. I wonder if it’s selfish choosing to raise my son as an only child. I think of the joy and irritation of being a big sister and I wish he knew what it felt like to have someone who knows his secrets, shares his mischief and keeps him safe from schoolyard bullies.

I think of that camaraderie when I downsize things to make more room. It stays in the closet because I haven’t decided yet. I think of the high cost of daycare, sleepless nights, nausea and the logistical challenges of having more than one child. I think about how eleven years from now I could be “home free”, an empty nester at forty-three. I weigh it in my head.

I tally the costs, the sacrifices of parenthood. I look at my beautiful child and I can’t reconcile the two. He is precious beyond daycare bills. The sight of his smile always lifted my heavy eye lids. The only thing unsettling to my stomach is the thought of a day without his love.  He isn’t a scheduling dilemma. He is a child, my perfect, precious child. He is not a balance sheet, and neither would be his sibling.

Every so often, I miss tiny fingers, tiny toes and the smell of baby skin at three o’clock in the morning. I miss giggles and nursing and baby wearing. I miss walking the floor, snuggles and soothing a small person to sleep. I miss lullabies and onesies and magic.

There’s a crib in my closet. It reminds me how quickly my child grew, in the blink of an eye. I always feel like I’m missing things as a working mom. I want a do over so many times for so many mistakes. It reminds me I don’t know what I’m doing and it’s okay because there’s always room for improvement, even for our perfect little family. I don’t know what to do so I just shut the closet door. There’s  a crib in my closet, but the presence of furniture does not demand a decision today.

Alison Tedford:

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  • There are pros and cons to having more than one. I found it a nightmare while the youngest was tiny...and then one day, the two of them magically became buddies and the work of childcare became so much easier because they entertained each other. Then they got a bit older and the bickering began in earnest, albeit as part of a deep, enduring friendship. It's swings and roundabouts, just like anything.

  • I love your final line this piece. It is true, it does demand a decision today. I am a parent of an only child, and often wonder should I give him a sibling. I tally the costs much like you have written here. This was a wonderfully well written piece, and I so related to many of the words. Thank you.

  • We make the best choices we can at the time, right? I have four and love it - most days. And that feeling of missing tiny fingers and all those moments when they are little doesn't go away, even after having done it four times. All the feelings, Alison. So many feelings.