I remember being engaged and then newly married and having people ask us constantly how many kids we wanted. My answer would always be the same: three or four. Coming from a big family, that’s really all I could imagine for myself. There’s something wonderful about the madness that is a childhood lived with a bunch of siblings. I guess that’s just what my definition of family has always been. Imagine the confusion then when I got married and realized that life doesn’t always follow the plan you have laid out in your mind and now somehow I find myself married nearly 9 nears with only one child. It’s true that the first 5 years were totally in our plan. We wanted to pursue our careers, travel, and just be together. We did that, and it was really beautiful. But the years since then have felt like they were not in our control and more of us just holding on as life took us on a wild ride. I certainly never imagined that I’d have a 3-year-old who would still be an only child. But this is where I find myself. It’s not a bad life, it’s actually a quite lovely little life that I am getting to live, but it’s not what we had planned and it seems that there are daily reminders that we are “behind schedule” compared to everyone else.
Nobody asks you when you have a 3-month-old when you’ll be having your next child. By the time that little bundle of joy turns one, people start to wonder. When your baby turns two, just forget it. Everyone is weekly questioning you on your reproductive progress and wondering aloud if you’re really going to have only one child. There were times when I had been in tears because I was wondering how we would survive Mike’s illness all while learning how to be a mom and parenting a rowdy little boy, only to run into someone around town and have them ask didn’t we want more than one child and when was baby two coming. My answer just became, “One day,” but I really wanted to say, “You’re kidding, right? I’m drowning here and you want to know if I’m expanding the circus?” Now, I know that people mean well and are just throwing out small talk, but there’s always this insinuation that one child isn’t enough. If I’ve been met with a barrage of these comments and the reason we have just one child at the moment should be clear if you know anything about our story, then I can only guess what moms who have “onlys” because of secondary infertility or, gasp, because that’s just what they have chosen must deal with.
Perhaps just as frustrating as the questions about when you’ll have another are the comments that you have it easy because you only have one child, after all. If I had a dollar for every time I’ve been told how easy my life is with my one little boy, well, I could hire a full time nanny to take care of my “easy” kid. It’s as if I’m somehow considered to be less of a mother because I don’t have two, three, four children. I don’t care if you have one or you’re giving the Duggars a run for their money, motherhood is hard. Lincoln doesn’t say, “Oh, I’m only going to require half the effort from my mom because there’s only one of me. I think I’ll sit here quietly and let her do her work for her business and cook and take care of the house in peace. Also, I’m not going to test my boundaries and press her buttons all day long, because, you know, I hear that having one kid is supposed to be cake.”
I know that portions of life will be exponentially more difficult with more children in the house, but some things will be simpler too. Most of my friends have never had just a 3-year-old. It’s just me and him. All day, every day. It may just be my kid, I don’t know, but he is glued to me constantly because he needs so much interaction and stimulation at this age. He doesn’t just run off and play and let me be, which seems to be people’s assumption. When I try to do my hair and put on makeup, he’s standing in the bathroom talking to me. When I wash dishes or cook, he’s by my feet. When I try to send an email or edit a portrait session, he’s on my lap. There is literally no down time if he’s awake. (Which is why I’m clinging to nap time like my life depends on it. Because it feels like it does. No, you’re not allowed to stop napping just because you’re 3 now!) Telling a mom that her life is easy because she has one child and you have two is like telling an Algebra 1 student that Algebra is super easy because you’re in Calculus now, and clearly, Algebra can’t compare to Calculus. If Algebra is the mountain in front of you, it feels tough! Of course you can look back on it later once you’ve learned those lessons and see that there are more difficult things, but at that moment, it feels like all that you can handle.
I almost didn’t write this blog, but a few months ago, I talked to a friend who graciously shared her struggle with secondary infertility, and although the reasons we both have only children are different, I found myself nodding in agreement through my misty eyes as she tearfully told me how it feels to be reminded constantly that she has “only” one child. After that conversation, I knew I would follow through with my idea for this post, because now I knew I wasn’t alone. So this is for all the moms to one, whether it’s by choice or from circumstances out of your control. And this is for me, on the days it feels especially difficult to not see the story of my family unfolding the way I thought it would.
You are enough. Your family is enough. You are not “less than” any other mom. You do not have “just one” child as if that’s something to be ashamed of. You have one beautiful blessing that many, many other couples would give anything to have. It’s okay to complain sometimes, because your hard is hard. Motherhood isn’t a comparison game to see who is the worst off. You don’t have to have multiple children to deal with chaos; one kid can provide a healthy dose of that. Don’t let anyone talk down to you because you have one baby. Your struggles are as real as the mom who has 5 children, they are just different struggles. If you believe in God like I do, then you know that your family will look exactly like it is supposed to according to His plan and His timing. Small families are fun too. There are things you can do because you don’t have a minivan full. Volunteer, go on that missions trip, deliver dinner to a friend, buy those theme park passes while you only have to buy three of them. Heck, drop your little blessing off at grandma’s for a few days and take a trip with your husband while you don’t have a baby who needs to nurse every two hours. If one is all life has in store for you, it will be enough. Or maybe you’ll be a hero who fosters or adopts orphans and your family will grow that way. Whatever you do, don’t waste these years wishing for what’s next. You have a little one who thinks the world of you and has never once thought that you are less of a mom. Not once. Embrace the season of life you are in now, because that one little one of yours won’t stay little forever. Your arms and your heart can be full with just one.