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When we first got married, we agreed two children would be our ideal number. However, in 2014-2015 I had three miscarriages. It was traumatic, and I struggled with a lot of anxiety and self-blame. I felt like my whole life was on hold. George and I agreed we would try one more time and if the pregnancy did not work, we were done trying. Fortunately my fourth pregnancy ended with the healthy birth of my son. We agreed to wait a few years to try again because I felt like I had spent years trying to get pregnant, then being pregnant, then adjusting to motherhood. I wanted time to feel like myself again.
Now almost four years later, I feel strongly that I want to be a mom of one. While the baby and young toddler phase were overall enjoyable, I much prefer his age now as he is gaining independence. I love watching Ed develop his own interests and helping him learn about the world. He is fun to hang out with, and it is easy just to pick up and go with one. We live in a two-bedroom townhouse in a desirable area of our city with a lot to do in walking distance. Adding another child would most likely mean a move to a less desired area for more space. We have the extra finances to spend on activities and experiences for Ed, which we might not have if we had two children. George’s family lives nearby, and Ed sees his two male cousins who are close in age at least once per week, so he is growing up with family around. I feel like I have the energy to focus on my family and career while still having personal time for myself. George and I both work full-time, but he works more hours than I do with a longer commute. During the week most of the parenting is my responsibility with going to activities and pre-school (pre-pandemic). I love being a mom, but I do worry I’ll be stressed and overwhelmed if I add another child to the mix. Right now the balance is manageable.
After delaying and stalling, I finally had a conversation with George a few months ago about how I truly felt. He was hurt and truly can’t understand my perspective. While he said it is not a dealbreaker for him, he feels like this will be hard for him to get past and it will be his life’s biggest regret that he only has one child. George wants to give Ed a sibling as he can’t imagine life without his siblings. I, on the other hand, while one of four, do not have a close relationship with any of my siblings as we are spread throughout the country. I do not think having a sibling guarantees closeness.
I also strongly feel that with the current leadership in our country, a pandemic, and environmental concerns, now is not the time to bring a new child into my family. I feel this is the responsible choice for me. Am I selfish? I do wonder if I will regret my decision. Sometimes I think something is wrong with me because I do not know other women who feel the way I do. We are in our mid-late 30s so do not have the luxury to delay this decision for years. I worry George will resent me and it will hurt our marriage. I do not want Ed to resent me either when he is older. Most of my friends who have children around my son’s age already have more children or are pregnant. When I share my feelings with my friends, they do not get it and think I will have regrets. Wendy, what do you think? — One and Done?
There’s nothing wrong with you for not wanting a second child, and you shouldn’t allow anyone to make you feel like there is. There’s nothing wrong with only wanting one child, there’s nothing wrong with wanting no children, and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with changing your mind about the number of children you want after you have one and see what the experience is actually like versus what you imagined it would be before you had kids. You’ve laid out so many valid reasons for not wanting a second child, but the best reason of all is that you just don’t want one. And when two people in a couple disagree about making a baby, the right answer is always not making a baby because for as much resentment as someone may feel over not getting a second child he wants, the resentment over feeling coerced into having and raising a child someone doesn’t want is worse and has far more damaging repercussions (like the effect of that resentment on the child).
If George is having difficulty accepting your decision about not having another baby, you can wait and see if time softens that resentment, you can continue communicating with him about why you feel the way you do, you can seek couples counseling, and you can even – when it’s safe to do so – go away for a week or two and let George experience the kind of parenting you typically do each day. For him, that may mean negotiating with his job to shorten his hours in the office, hiring some childcare help, or even taking a week off work to stay home. If anything were to ever happen to you, he’d be forced to navigate parenting on his own, so he should see what doing so with one child is like before he keeps pushing for a second. And experiencing what you do every day might allow him to better appreciate your perspective.
As for Ed, your son, growing up to resent you for not giving him a sibling, the risk of resentment is something every parent has to deal with no matter what decisions they make. Ed could just as easily resent you for having a baby you don’t have the bandwidth or interest in raising and for his having to sacrifice so much of the comfort and routine and attention he enjoys now. He could resent you for something else entirely. He could resent restrictions you impose, expectations you have, classes and activities you encourage him to take, even vacations you bring him on. In fact, the likelihood of Ed finding at least one thing to feel some resentment about over the course of your raising him are pretty high. I bet you can think of at least one thing you’ve felt some resentment about related to your parents. And if you’re like most people, that resentment hasn’t kept you from being a happy, well-adjusted adult, capable of having strong relationships with your parents and other people. As a parent, you can’t let the risk of resentment keep you from making decision you feel are in the best interest of your child. And, ultimately, maintaining a quality of life and a balance of joy and stress you’re satisfied with IS in the best interest of your child (and your marriage!). If the balance tips too far and for too long into the “stress” side of the equation, you aren’t going to have the reserves of energy and attention necessary for the kind of parent and partner you want to be.
Some stress in life is out of our control (hello, Covid!); fortunately, the decision to have a baby is in one’s control, and if you feel like the stress will outweigh the joy and the sacrifices in your quality of life won’t be worth the outcome, you are making the best choice for everyone in your family by quitting while you’re ahead.
Related: “I Desperately Want Another Baby But My Husband Does Not”
Vintage DW (this post was originally published on February 8, 2016)
My fiancé and I do not have children but do absolutely love kids; we have my nieces and nephews over nearly every weekend to stay the night although Julie’s child has never been allowed to join. Julie’s daughter has never had a babysitter outside the family, and any time she has been watched by us or by anyone else it has been for less than an hour. My question is: Am I being selfish by wanting to have a kids-free wedding? Or is she being selfish by refusing to use a babysitter for a few hours? — Hopefully Not a Selfish Bride
You can read my response here.