The One and Only…

A few weeks ago, my two year old and I were travelling home from Haslemere on the bus. He was fast asleep in the buggy, as angelic as they come. An older lady, sat opposite us, struck up a conversation of usual bus chit chat. She asked if I had any other children, to which I answered that I did not. Her next question was not unusual, and it’s one I’m getting used to variations of. “So when are you having more then?” I replied, truthfully, that I’m not. You’d have thought I’d told her I was going home to eat Oscar for dinner! I was then subjected to a litany of why I should have more children and how many children she had. This woman didn’t know me. Didn’t know my situation, my background, the reasons for my choice and yet felt perfectly justified in passing an open and very loud judgement on me. I smiled, pretended to listen and was grateful when my stop came into view.

The incident got me thinking, and not for the first time, why this unsupportive attitude exists towards women who only have one child. I should emphasise that I’m not talking about women who’ve had the choice taken away from them. The women who would have liked, more than anything, to have more than one (although without digging deeper, how did the woman on the bus know this wasn’t my situation?). I am in fact talking about women, like myself, who for a myriad of reasons, have chosen to stop at one.

I understand that everyone has a different definition of ‘family’ and quite rightly so. How you choose to form a family is a completely personal decision and one we all take in our lives. For us, one child was enough (hell, no children was enough) to consider ourselves a family. What I don’t understand are parents, of all generations, who consider those with fewer children than they deem ‘enough’, NOT to be a family. Out loud. To my face. Be they thoughtless, throw away comments (“Oh they know I want a ‘family’, not just one child”) or considered arguments, being told my family is not ‘proper’ because of the number of children I choose to have hurts. It’s also unbelievably rude! I would never say to someone who has chosen to have multiple children that I think their decision was wrong, that having to divide their resources and attention is ‘cruel’ and ‘selfish’. Yet it’s somehow acceptable for people to say those same things to me when they learn we only want, only ever wanted, one.

I did consider whether it was a generational thing. Our parents and grandparents grew up in a time when having large families was much more the norm. Did these women grow up in a time when having one child was somehow seen as wrong, shameful, against the norm? I do feel like I’ve seen this attitude from older women time and again. But the more time I spend with mothers of my own age, the more I see it’s definitely not just a generational issue. And that saddens me greatly.

I am by nature an honest kind of a gal. When people ask me I’ve, so far, only ever told them the truth; that having one child was, and is, mine and my husband’s decision. I don’t ever want to be forced into the situation where I feel I have to lie about it. A friend of a friend has spent so long fending off unsupportive and, to be honest, downright hurtful comments when explaining her decision not to have more than one child, that when people ask now she finds it easier to shrug, sigh and say “it would have been nice but…….”. It absolutely breaks my heart that she feels the need to lie, but I absolutely understand why she does it.

So the next time you get chatting to a mother about her children, I would urge you to consider what you say. If you want to ask about future children maybe ask “Would you like any more?” rather than asking when more are planned. And be satisfied with the answer. Unless you know that woman incredibly well it’s unlikely you’ll know all the reasons that have lead to that decision. And why should you? I don’t want to have to go through my entire decision making process with complete strangers, despite sometimes feeling obliged to.

I guess it boils down to mutual respect. I support your decision to have as many children as you want to. And I like to think you can support my decision to have just the one.

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This article originally appeared in the Autumn 2014 edition of the Haslemere & Midhurst NCT Magazine. It has been slightly modified here.

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Comments

  1. I don’t think it’s a question you should ask anyone tbh. I know several people who have gone through hell trying for baby #2 and would never ask because of this. Thought provoking post #allaboutyou

  2. moderndadpages says:

    Good post! It all comes down to you and your husband and it’s nobody’s business how many children you want! My hats off to you! Thanks for posting at #allaboutyou

    • Thanks. It was a really long time in the writing – its the issue that bought me to blogging 18 months ago. It took nearly 18 months to pluck up the courage to say it! I have experienced friends being incredibly thoughtless and almost dismissive of me because of my choice to stick at one. I just think it’s really strange. Glad you enjoyed it.

  3. hannah mum's days says:

    Dude, I hear you loud and clear. What a fantastic post! There’s so many things I want to say in response it might require a full blog post but ultimately I 100% agree with you. But I have to say it seems to go the other way too…there is such a thing as too many kids apparently! No more than 2.4 children. Remember?! When I did a series on abortion back in the summer, one of the stories came from a mum of 3 who accidentally got pregnant soon after having her 3rd. She battled with a decision to have an abortion for a number of reasons as having another was a real strain but in the end she couldn’t. What happened after that, when they told people they were having another, was shocking. The comments people made, including “you need to get sterilised”, horrified me.

    Basically I think people need to stop judging others, what the hell has it to do with me, the lady on the bus or anyone else how many kids you have? Family is a very loose term these days – I might call family being in a shared house with an aged aunt and a farting dog! It’s being with people you love and if that includes 50 kids or no kids, it’s no one else’s business.

    Finally, my two best friends both had a child at the same time as me and are both struggling to have a second. That woman wouldn’t have let up until they had to admit, probably in tears, the awful time they are going through. You don’t need that on the bus. Or anywhere for that matter!

    Thanks for sharing a great post and linking up to #AllAboutYou xx

    • Thank you so much for your response Hannah. I’m so sad to hear it’s not just me who has experienced heartless behaviour when it comes to such a personal choice as how many children to have. Whose right is it to say what’s ‘proper’ anyway? No on can understand your situation, your life and your feelings better than you so why do others insist on laying their experience over the top of it and making judgements based on that alone? It makes me so sad and in turn so annoyed. The arrogance it shows is breathtaking. I’m so glad you enjoyed my post and thank you so much for taking the time to comment so thoughtfully. Xxxx

  4. It’s difficult isn’t it – somehow when it comes to children – how many to have, when to have them, how to raise them, even what to call them – people seem to imagine they have free reign to foist their opinions on you! I think you reacted kindly and well, and eventually we will hopefully all become more mindful of other people’s space and decisions. No judging! Thanks for linking up to #allaboutyou

    x

    • Oh yes everyone’s got an opinion. I’ve found that out about everything to do with parenting! But as long as we set the example hopefully they’ll all start to follow. Thanks for hosting again Zaz! Xx

  5. I suppose this goes for people with kids who tell people that don’t want kids why they should too. It’s all a bit crazy, we are as individual as our fingerprints and so are our family situations. Sometimes I consider the possibility of just Oliver, but ultimately I know deep down I want more. And he’d be a fab big brother. If I didn’t think he would be it would probably put me off and waiting til I feel like he’s ready is one of the biggest factors in my decision (i get told that’s crazy too!). We should never be made to feel bad (or crazy) for making a decision about what’s best for our family.

    • mrssavageangel says:

      Absolutely! I don’t think your reasoning for waiting is mad at all. No one knows you and your family like you do. And no one can tell you you right or wrong for wanting more or none!

  6. I think it might be a generational thing, I had an older lady pass judgement on my little boys behaviour the other week because he was having a tantrum on the bus. I think people are too quick to express their opinions these days without knowing the facts, it’s frustrating and annoying but it sounds like you handled it well. It’s your body, your life, your family, if you just want the one child then that’s absolutely fine. There is definitely no right or wrong answer. )

  7. So rude. I never ask people as who knows. It’s the same as asking someone who has no children how do you know of they desperately want one or don’t want them at all. It’s all personal choice and so rude! Ugh. I’m all indignant on your behalf. I’ve got 2 now but I bet if I went to have a third people would have something to say about it. Thanks for linking with #effitfriday

    • mrssavageangel says:

      It’s unbelievably thoughtless. But people can be. I’m hoping by talking about it honestly, people will think more carefully before running their mouths off in future! Thanks for hosting!

  8. Suburban Mum says:

    It’s absolutely a decision that is made by you and your husband and no one else should have the right to judge how many children you have. Be it none,one or a huge brood! All seem to entail judgement of some sort and I have been guilty of asking others if they are having anymore and actually it’s not really anyone else’s business.

    After we got married everyone asked when we’d be starting a family, then literally months after having E (via emergency c-section!) I was asked if I’d have anymore and now after M I get asked if I’m going to try for a girl!!!!?!

    It does annoy me sometimes (depending on my mood) as hubby and I are actually undecided if we are going to have any more although we would like to there are other factors we need to consider!

    Great news about 5live – is there a way we can listen back to the broadcast? 😉

    • mrssavageangel says:

      Oh we had that too. Before we got married it was when are you having kids. As soon as I had Oscar it was when are you having another. I think people talk without thinking what they’re actually saying sometimes. But some people can be needlessly judgemental. I ould never pass judgement on anyone elses choice over the size of their family, so I don’t understand why anyone would on mine.

      I hope you figure out where your family’s going and you what’s right for you.

      Thanks! I was super nervous. God I hope not! Although Ben says it’ll probably be on iPlayer or something!

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