I've written before about all my reasons for not having more than one child. Actually, when I say "all" the reasons, mostly I mean the sleep. It's always the sleep. I am inhuman when deprived of sleep. I'm probably also inhumane when deprived of sleep. But whenever I've written about it, it's always been in a rather defensive manner. As though I have to justify why I only want one child. And that's probably because I've been defending the decision to myself, as much as to anyone else. Just recently, all those defensive thoughts have been triggered again with the news that one of the last* of the "only child brigade" from our original ante-natal classes has taken the plunge with a second pregnancy. I am genuinely delighted for her, and yet now find myself isolated in my only-child-ness, and tempted to dive back in to defending myself, explaining the post-natal depression, the anxiety, the sleep-deprivation-hell, the strain on my marriage, all the terrible things that stop me having a second child. As though more than one child is the promised land, and I have to explain away my refusal to accept two children as my salvation and remain aetheistically one-childed.
Instead, I am going to celebrate all the reasons why having only one child is lovely, and is working for me.
- When LittleBear charges into our bedroom and clambers into bed with us, if I don't have to go to work, I can stay there playing for as long as he likes, making a den under the duvet, chasing dinosaurs across the pillows, building imaginary Lego or holding a birthday party for a cuddly cheetah. We've been known to play in bed until 9:30 before the rumbling of my LittleBear's stomach drives us downstairs for food. It is one of my favourite parts of the day.
- After lunch, LittleBear and I curl up on the bed together and read. It's called "Cuddly Story Time", and I invented it to replace naps, when naps were abandoned but Bears were still tired. We read whatever LittleBear wants, for as long as he wants. Usually it's about an hour of uninterrupted reading, with my warm, snuggly boy tucked under my arm. There are no arguments about what we read, no wrigglings of bored children who want a different book. Just me, my bear and happiness. And a cup of tea, in case I start nodding off in the warm coziness of it all.
- When LittleBear learnt to ride his bicycle it was with both his parents standing by, watching, admiring, picking him up, launching him off and giving him our undivided attention. When he wants to go out riding round the village for no particular reason, we can just jump on our bikes and go.
- LittleBear has never appeared at the top of the stairs with blood welling up on his arm because his younger sister has scratched him.
- I have never had to wear a baby almost constantly to prevent LittleBear from smothering it with a pillow**.
- I never have to negotiate who gets the pink plate, or the orange cup, or the first slice of cake, or to sit in the front seat, or to lick the spoon, or to ride on the blue swing, or any of those other negotiations that multiple children require.
- I don't have to worry about doing untold psychological damage to LittleBear because he starts to wonder if I have a "favourite" child. He can always be my favourite.
Essentially, I can give my son all the undivided attention that I want. I can be the best mother I know how to be, by being a mother to only one. And just because other parents can, and do, handle all the tough parts of having more than one child, doesn't make them better than me, it just makes us all different. There are indubitably joys to having more than one child. But today, I am going to stand up and be proud of the joys of having one child. This is my path, this is my son, this is my family. And we're having a lovely time being us.
* There remains one other "only-childer", but it is not through her choice or intention, only a very sad set of circumstances, but it is her story and not mine.
** Really. I haven't made that situation up. It was awful for the family involved.