By Dani Jansen
Once I turned 30, it felt like people I barely knew started asking when I would have a kid. I was married, so the next logical step was to get pregnant. Never mind that I was still paying off student loans. Or that we wanted to travel. Or, most importantly, that it was none of their bloody business. One woman at my bus stop was so pushy that she’d touch my stomach anytime I wore something flowy and ask if I was pregnant. I was too polite to swat her hand away, though I did fantasize about it. Instead, I started taking an earlier bus to avoid her. Totally adult solution, right?
When my husband and I finally decided to try for a baby, I wanted to scream at people who kept asking when we were going to get pregnant. We were trying. It wasn’t working. Thanks for bringing it up, stranger. Worst of all, after the miscarriage, I spent precious emotional energy trying not to cry anytime someone asked if we wanted kids.
But then I got pregnant and it stuck! I felt sure that people would stop with the intrusive personal questions. Oh, how naive I was. People love nothing more than to ask about your birth plan, about your baby’s sleep patterns, about your baby’s weight. And, just a few months into parenthood, about the next baby.
The next baby? Are you kidding me? I can barely take care of this one! The plan all along was to have just one kid. The sleep deprivation just confirmed that was the right decision for us. Yet again, though, instead of laughing in people’s faces when they asked me intimate questions about my life plans, I smiled and said something noncommittal. I was basically taking the earlier bus again. I’d inconvenience myself rather than point out the other person was being rude.
I know I shouldn’t be ashamed of choosing to have just one child. I’m livid anytime someone insinuates that people who are childless are selfish or unfulfilled. I roll my eyes at anyone who makes snide remarks about big families. So why can’t I stand up for my decision? Even when we know social conventions are complete hooey, it can be hard to shake the feeling that maybe we are doing something wrong.
Honestly, I worry about how being an only child might affect my kid. I don’t want him to be spoiled or lonely. I’m a little sad that he won’t have a sibling who’ll completely understand just how annoying his parents are. But these aren’t good enough reasons for us to have another child. We have other concerns, other reasons for making this decision that I’m not going to share because I shouldn’t have to justify such a personal choice. No one should.
So to the cafe owner who told me the greatest gift I could give my child was a sibling: I think the greatest gift I can give him is a parent who loves him and teaches him that he has the right to make his own decisions about his life.