A Journal for Those Stuck at Home

Is One Enough? The Very Personal Only Child Debate

For the last two years, I’ve felt a strong instinct not to have a go at another child. It has been difficult, with some friends having their second and many others asking, “when are you going to have another!?” I feel like a jerk saying I’m not really interested.

I grew up in a house of four kids. We loved each other and beat the hell out of each other, and miraculously we all survived, thrived, and love each other to bits. So how could I, with all those sibs, choose not to have more than one child?

To start, I never felt like my life wouldn’t be complete without experiencing fatherhood. I just understood parenthood to be a different life path.  With my partner and now wife, we decided to let things take their natural course, and Sevan made his appearance ten months later. I know. Speedy Gonzalez.

When I told a friend I was too selfish to have a second child, she kindly said, “Not selfish.  You just know what you want, and that’s a good thing.” At 45, I really do know what I want and what I can handle. Bluntly, here are a few reasons I’m leaning away from wanting another child:

More than just a parent. I love being a dad, but it’s not the only thing I love being, and I have a strong instinct that two or more kids would put me into the camp where my kids’ lives would rule all my free time (for at least the next fifteen years). I don’t think I’m up for that. I want to write. I want to explore. I want to have moments on my own to pause and reflect and not hear screaming kids murdering each other down the hallway.

Room for romance. I don’t want to be in a home where my wife and I are running around endlessly and so tired we don’t even have the urge to hug or talk or share. I married her, because I want to be with her. My cousin has one child, and she gets to sit with her husband and watch her daughter play soccer. As a couple. Together. At the same time. I’ve heard way too many stories of parents having to go in separate cars to attend separate events for their kids (and we don’t even own a car!).

Quality time: I spend a few hours each morning with my son before work and a few solid hours with him after work plus the entire weekend. We have tons of quality time. In the animal kingdom, elephants raise one babe for 5 years before considering another round. Now that’s nurturing. I have a friend who has three kids , and at one point he realized he hadn’t had one on one time with his middle child in years, so he took him out on his own. At the end of the day, his son had said, “Dad, that was the best day of my life.” I want Sevan to feel that way all the time.

My life is complete. I may live in a rental apartment without tons of disposable income, but I feel pretty great about life. On top of that, Sevan is a totally awesome character.

Noise machines. With the grey hair, I have less patience for things that bug me, and fighting siblings have always made me a bit crazy. And it’s usually about the trivial stuff, too. “He touched my side of the seat.” “He won’t give me my toy!” I know. I know. They are working out their negotiation skills, but I figure an only child can do that with his friends – with less rancor. Because, let’s face it, we often treat our friends way better than our sibs. But my point is I really really enjoy quiet. That’s why I’m constantly craving my trail runs. City noise is starting to get to me in my Carlsberg years.

Money. Sure you can’t base your child count strictly on how much you have in the bank, but when you’re doing the math, one kid starts to make a lot of sense if you don’t earn tons of dough. It’s all about options. I want to be able to take the family hiking in Patagonia or to explore a part of the world we’ve never been.

Stress. Tying into the above point is stress. I handle stress horribly. It seeps into my body and mind and thrashes and itches and feels very unpleasant. I have been doing a meditation practice almost daily since 2008, but when I’m overtired and stressed, wow, I’m an ass. No amount of mindfulness practice seems to de-escalate my stress levels. So if I don’t handle stress well, then I have to make extra efforts to avoid it and that includes work stress and, yes, the number of kids I think I can handle being responsible for.

Life at the speed of life: Choosing to live life at a sane pace seems downright sane to me. One child not only means I really get to enjoy Sevan’s company and watch him grow and evolve, but it also makes for the easy trade-off with my wife when something springs up (whether business or pleasure).

Getting older. As I get older, my sense is that I just don’t have enough gas in the tank to do the baby thing all over again. Of course, I would rally, if another one came unexpectedly. But if I had to choose, I would stick with my one beautiful boy, who is a marvel and reveals new things about the meaning of life each and every day.

Health risks. Not getting younger means bigger health risks for a new arrival, which could throw a major wrench in life plans.

Two doesn’t always equal happier. I was curious to know what it would be like to be a dad. Sevan has given me that gift. The mystery has been revealed, so I don’t feel much curiosity toward another.  It has been said that at the point when parents forget how hard the first year was, they want another child.  Unfortunately, I never forgot.  But my love for Sevan is deep, and I would throw myself under a bus for him any day of the week. In Armenian we call him “Hokis,” which means my soul. And I don’t say it lightly, because he is fused to my very being, and I can’t imagine my life without him.

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Of course, it’s not all about me, and I have to seriously consider the implications of Sevan growing up without a sibling (at times, the inner debate keeps me up at night). Recognizing that Sevan may be an only child, we make extra efforts to ensure he sees his extended family often and create many opportunities for him to socialize (he now goes to daycare 5 days a week). Once a month or so, he also does sleepovers at his aunty’s house. I think it’s really important for solo children to appreciate that friends can be family, too. Family, after all, isn’t just about blood. It’s about developing meaningful connections that inspire us to be good people with purposeful lives.

Join the conversation: leave your thoughts, and I’ll be sure to post them below.

3 Responses to “Is One Enough? The Very Personal Only Child Debate”

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    From Karen Mondok:
    I love this piece, Robbie. As you know, I’ve been on all sides of this issue, as a kid raised as an only child by older parents, in high risk pregnancies where the health of my babies was constantly in flux and finally as an incredibly happy and blessed mother of 3! I admire and respect you (and Lara) for giving this decision the serious thought that it deserves. I know otherwise intelligent people who gave more consideration to their next car than to the life altering decision to become a parent for the first, second or subsequent time. These kids have, in some cases, paid the price and will continue to pay for years to come. I sincerely hope that if/when my kids contemplate bringing another human being into the world and nurturing it into adulthood, that they have a partner like you by their side. Sev is in very good hands.

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    Comment from Nicole S:
    We are also parents of one child, now age 12. Although not by choice, the benefits have become clear to us over the years. We have a loving, mature, self-confident child who is a pleasure to be with. we have heard all of the stereotypes over the years. Our daughter is not spoiled, lonely, unable to share or otherwise indulged. We have been able to travel more than we would have had we had more than one child. She has had music lessons, choir and other lessons which we have been able to shuttle her to without challenges. We have had neat experiences together as a family. We spend lots of time with cousins who are the same age and travel with friends who have kids the same age. In the end it has worked out beautifully for our family. Most importantly she lets us know she enjoys her status as #1 receiver of our love!

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    Comment by Sophie Kohn (February 4, 2014): This is lovely and honest and i wish more people discussed their ambivalence and hesitation around having kids. i suspect it’s more common than we’re led to believe. anyway, great read and thanks for sharing it!

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