Monday, October 30, 2017

is one enough?

'will you have more children?'

a question i am asked often by friends, family, acquaintances, the occasional stranger. sometimes accompanied by a timid 'should i be asking this?' look or a twinge of sadness on their face - as though having only one child is a massive burden for us to bare. and unlike some that are upset or uncomfortable with the invasiveness of perhaps a personal question, it's not one i ever mind talking about. i simply wish i knew the answer.

4 summers ago, we lost roo - at 19 weeks into my pregnancy, his heart stopped beating and i had a late-term miscarriage. two years later, we lost eli through a pre-term stillbirth at 25 weeks. typing that out still makes my entire body go numb, and although i want to believe that could never happen again, life has repeatedly proven to us that nothing is guaranteed. fear and anxiety around the idea of another pregnancy are of course abundant, but (thankfully) not the only driving force in our decision making.

the flip side of that is right now, i can genuinely say we love our life. it's easy to see the merits of keeping things just as they are. finn is now 7 (and a half!), in school full-time, substantially more rational, entertaining, and self-sufficient, and jeff and i can slowly see bits of our pre-kid life creeping back in. i love that we can pour 100% of our time, energy, resources, and love into just him- there is no worry about fairness or sharing or equality, and we have been able to experience so much that we might not otherwise have been able to do with more kids in the mix.

in 1907, the president of the american psychological association said “being an only child is a disease in itself.” a statement that now seems brutally harsh and entirely untrue, but also helps to explain some of the worry and bias directed at single children families. rewind to just 40 years ago and the average american family had four children. twenty years ago, that number dropped to two. and most recently, in 2016, that numbers again declined, now resting at 1.86.

for some, having fewer children is an intentional and calculated choice; for others, the decision was made for them. either way, the list of reasons shepherding the decline is abundant - increased cost of living, heightened consciousness around the environmental impact of having children, people waiting to have kids later in life, the rise of infertility, or simply not wanting to bring more people into a world that is by all accounts a bit of a raging dumpster fire... just to name a few.

but even with a pocket full of really good reasons and the growing prevalence of single children families, the stigma, though not quite as cruel as 100 years ago, is still quite strong. the belief that only children are weird, isolated, unsociable, maladjusted, unable to share, lonely, or spend too much time with adults is common. the number of times i have been asked about any one of the above concerns is many.

our experience has been vastly different from those perceptions though- we find finn to be very sociable because he has spent a lot of time around adults, and typically, adults like to engage kids in conversation. he is more often than not more willing to share (or push a friend's younger sibling on a swing or give away a toy he knows a buddy would really love) because he doesn't have to do it all that often. the expectation of him to share things when he doesn't want to has never been there, so to do it from time to time doesn't feel like that big of a deal to him. we also go out of our way include friends in our plans - inviting them along for outings or adventures or planning family trips together- it makes finn happy to get to have a buddy in tow, and we get more time to talk amongst adults when the kids are having fun together. we can also put finn in both piano AND baseball because we don't have to foot the bill for another kid to do the same- lonely and isolated he is not.

none of this is to say that larger families aren't also super wonderful or that kids with siblings aren't also incredible and well rounded. they are- they ALL are. and that's the point. the choices we make when planning a family are not easy ones and are almost never done lightly. but all we can do is what feels right for our family, and allow others to do the same.

i asked some of my bestest friends, also mama's to single children, to share why having one child felt right for them. i hope that these stories can add to a new, more positive narrative around single child families and continue to contribute to the celebration of families of every size and kind. (also, if you are a parent to a single child and want to add your voice to this post, please get in touch!)

as for our little family, we still aren't sure what the future holds, but surrendering control and shifting my mindset to a place of genuine gratitude for the family i do have - both earthside and in spirit - has been fully liberating.



We went back and forth on whether or not we wanted to have children. I grew up in a small family where there weren't a lot of kids around so having a family was never one of my be-all end-all goals.

At the time we started discussing having a family, my husband was having a hard time - not knowing if he wanted to bring a child into (pardon my French) a bit of a fucked up world. My argument to that was that this is the time, more than ever, for good people to be having children and raising them to be awesome humans - it's what the world needs more of. After raising that point, my husband agreed entirely and we decided we would have one child.

For us, we knew that given our current situation (finances, travel, size of our home, age, future goals, etc) that one child would be the perfect addition to our family. I feel like I also had to be honest with myself about how I wanted to mother - how well I handle life stressors and how I thought I could manage all of those things with more than one child. I'm not saying that moms with more than one child aren't great moms AT ALL, it's just that I knew that to continue to be the best version of myself and raise my child like I wanted to that I would succeed best with one. It's possible I sold myself a little short with this mentality, but often all we have to go by is our gut so that's what we did. I focus all my time and energy into being the best damn Mom to Kai that I can while still maintaining focus on my relationship and, most importantly, myself. I have a bad habit of putting myself last but with a family of 3, I feel like I can balance all of these things relatively well (though some days are harder than others!)

We spend copious amounts of time in a very small VW Westfalia exploring nature and the great outdoors, we have traveled to several countries, we live in a 700 square foot home and we have been able to stay home with Kai during the precious early years. All things which were very important to us in raising a child and that we felt would be best accomplished by having one. I often say that in another life I would love to have 5 children but given where I am at currently in this life, I know that having one child is best. And it just so happens the most perfect little boy any Mom could ever ask for chose me as his Mama so I am over the moon every day about the decision we made for OUR family and I know that you will make the best decision for yours!

(you can follow Lysa and her little family's awesome VW adventures over their instagram - WestyTribe)

Having just one child was something my husband and I had come to agree upon even before we started trying to conceive. My feelings were largely based on my own personal experience growing up as an only child. It was a positive experience for me and I don't recall ever wishing I had a sibling. My husband's feelings on the subject were partly based on a concern about overpopulation. I suppose he also never felt strongly about providing our then future child with a sibling; because although he has a sister who's just one year older than him they were never all that close. Who says siblings are necessary for a full and happy childhood anyways?

When I got pregnant with our son we figured that my husband would get a vasectomy after the birth, but we decided to wait 3 years just in case we changed our minds. I felt that if we were going to have another baby I wouldn't want there to be more than a 3 or 4 year age gap. Well, 3 years passed and one child still felt just right for us. Not once did we ever feel like our family was incomplete. And to be honest, I can't say I've ever felt that "baby fever" that I've heard so many other moms talk about when they encounter someone else's little baby. I'm also happy to report that, at almost 9 years old, our son has never expressed the desire to have a sibling of his own.

On top of all this, a factor that was never really part of our initial decision, but one that has come to light over the years is MONEY! We love to travel and we do a fair bit of it. On multiple occasions, the thought has trickled into my mind that, "if we had another child this would not be happening." I feel like Arlo's life is so enriched by the experiences we are able to provide him. I don't doubt that having a sibling is also an enriching experience, but it's a very different kind of experience. I don't believe there is a real right or wrong here. It's all very personal and it's about what feels right or wrong for you. I can say with confidence that it really feels like we made the right decision for all 3 of us.

(katie shares some of the most beautiful photos of her incredible adventures over on instagram - follow along HERE)