Stop Telling Me to Have More Children
Your baby is adorable," a woman ahead of me in the grocery line said. "Is he your first? When's the next one coming?"
I stared. It wasn't the first time I'd be asked such a personal question. But a complete stranger inquiring about my procreation plans in the grocery store line-up? Really? I decided to respond honestly.
"Actually, we're done," I said. "Our family is complete."
The woman visibly winced. "Oh no!" she gasped. "You must have another. For his sake, at least!"
I continued to protest, listing reasons why I was "one and done." Yet she pressed on, finally sucker-punching me by going Biblical.
"You know, God wants it," she said, touching my arm. "Don't stop at one."
While friends, relatives, and strangers have all butted into my reproductive business, using the "Baby Jesus will cry" argument was a new one. Since my son was born 18 months ago, several people have not only asked when I will spawn a second but also publicly berated me after I've revealed my decision to call it quits on the fertility front.
Unfortunately, women's privacy and autonomy are often invaded like this. Even in 2019, women can't win: we're judged for having too many babies, not enough, or none at all. Our wombs are open for public critique and everyone has an opinion about what we should or shouldn't be doing with our ovaries. On the flip side, my husband has never been "baby-shamed" in public or asked by some rando if he plans on getting a vasectomy. It's a non-issue for men. People respect penis privacy, while lady parts are policed.
It's absurd that I must issue a PSA that it's no one's business what I do with my reproductive system. I don't owe anyone an explanation. But given the number of baby-pushers that have accosted me in recent months, I'm taking a "time-out" to explain why I've decided not to have more babies—and why you should stop telling me to have more children.
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Firstly, it's insensitive as hell. There are good reasons to avoid asking about a person's procreation plans: I could be struggling to get pregnant, had a miscarriage, or trying IVF. I might be pregnant already, but not telling anyone (especially nobodies at Food Basics). Or maybe I've been advised not to have any more children for medical reasons, or I'm calling it quits with my partner. The bottom line: asking such a personal question can unearth an avalanche of emotions, and it's not a casual topic of conversation.
However, none of the above apply to me. My decision to stop at one child is deeply personal, philosophical, and rooted in science.
On the personal side, I crave romance with my husband. With the birth of our beautiful boy came joy—but it also cooled our passion. These days, we crash into bed at 10:30 p.m. every night, too exhausted to muster the energy to do anything besides sleep. It's an unsexy time, which is temporary, and our days of playful flirtation are around the corner. A second baby would delay our romance reboot, and mean even less time for each other. I'm not willing to give that up.
I'm also being honest about my capacity as a parent. Those sleepless nights and breastfeeding battles were tough—I don't want to do it again. Plus, raising a child is expensive, and as a writer, I'm not exactly rolling in dough. For us, one child is more manageable.
I've also got environmental reasons for shutting down the baby factory. Research indicates that the greatest impact individuals can have in combatting climate change is to have one fewer child—saving 58.6 tonnes of CO2-equivalent emissions per year in developed countries.
Now, I'm not shaming anyone with "largish" families. Having fewer children helps, but cannot reverse the demise of the earth alone given that 100 companies are responsible for 71% of global emissions. However, it is a factor in my decision-making: I feel a twinge of guilt every time I toss a diaper into the trash. If having fewer children makes a move towards a greener planet, I'm listening.
Lastly, I'm constantly confronted with the stereotype that only children morph into self-absorbed social misfits. I've heard this cautionary tale from both family members and other parents, who argue gifting a lifelong playmate to your child will help them turn out "normal."
However, myth-busting studies indicate that only children are no more self-involved than anyone else and tend to have just as many friends as anyone else. Only children also tend to have more self-esteem and demonstrate higher intelligence and achievement.
Plus, there's an assumption that siblings will get along. Last week in the grocery store, I saw a haggard-looking father hanging onto a toddler while trying to pry apart his two fighting kids.
"You guys are driving me crazy!" he yelled. "I've had enough!"
With one kid, that's a situation my husband and I will never encounter. So with all these touted benefits, why are parents like myself who choose to have one child deemed "selfish" by society? And what is wrong with being a little bit selfish anyway? There's an old saying: "If mama ain't happy, ain't nobody happy." I need to feel like a happy human to thrive as a mom, and that means making space for other things I love: my friendships, career, and travel.
What seems self-indulgent is for me to have a second, third, or fourth child when I don't want one, for the sake of fulfilling a social norm. There's nothing selfish about stopping at one, nor is it anyone's business. I don't know what's right for you and I'm certainly not the boss of your body. But I do know that whether you're having none, one, or ten kids, the Baby Jesus doesn't give a damn.