It’s Okay Not To Have More Children

Once you have your first child, everyone just assumes you will continue to have more children. Throughout your first year, you will be asked over and over again, “Is this your first?” Shortly after your child surpasses his or her first birthday, people will begin to ask you “So, when are you going to give him a brother or sister” or the classic, “Are you trying again yet?”

I wasn’t surprised that after the first year, there were many couples getting busy on Baby #2.  We are bombarded with all of these messages about the alleged importance of having our children close together. Two years is preferable. Two evenly spaced years apart. In addition, we are frantic to give our child a sibling. We are told it will harm them if they don’t have a sibling. We think they need to have someone to play with or that only children end up self centered and spoiled.

I have to say I am fairly certain these ideas are urban myths perpetuated by the white middle class.

First, there is no evidence that spacing has any effect on child development. None. Second, there is not any real evidence having a sibling is beneficial to your child or that not having one is inherently damaging. Third, the assumption that only children do not have someone to play with is just that an assumption. There are many only children who grow up surrounded by other kids. Lastly, scores of siblings end up hating each other.

I think many times women and men keep having children because of the societal pressure to do so. They buy into the myth. It’s hard not to.

As you already know, my son is three. People frequently look at me like I have two heads when I tell them that I really don’t know if I want another kid. They make comments about feeling sorry for Gus. They look at me like I am hurting him. They think I don’t like being a mother because I might not have another child.

Here’s the deal. I don’t feel compelled to have another child just because others think I am supposed to. I also don’t feel compelled to have another child because it will prove to the world that I like being a mom and that I love my kid. I love Gus with every part of my being and I love being his mom. I also like how things are right now.

We have a good thing going in our small family. We function well together and we are all relatively well adjusted for the first time since he got here. I have no desire to shake it up again. None whatsoever. Things are good and I like our life. I don’t want to change it. Perhaps after I have had a few more years of sleeping, I will be ready and eager to give it up again, but I’m just not ready right now.  Maybe someday. But not today.

When it comes to having more children, here’s what I’ve got to say.

Take your time and let the decision to have kids be one that is your own. Do it on your timetable. And do it because you want to.  Don’t do it to prove you like being a mom. Do it because you can’t imagine not having another addition to your family.


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44 Responses to It’s Okay Not To Have More Children

  1. Rinky says:

    I understand Mommy Psychologist! We’ve been down this road with our small family of 3. However, after having so many years of infertility and miscarriage, we are thrilled to have ONLY one child! We think that God gives us what we can handle… in our case that is one wonderful sweet baby girl who is now a 15 year old busy young lady who will never find the grass growing beneath her feet! Now I know why one was enough :) She has found her siblings among cousins and life long best friends. Feel no guilt!

    • Mommy Psychologist says:

      Glad you understand, Rinky. I think all the questions about having other children are pretty insensitive to individuals who would like to have more children but can’t for various reasons.

  2. Carolyn says:

    Here here! Well put!
    I can’t understand the “perfect recipe” of X number of children, spaced 2 years apart…. In fact, I think it’s nuts! But that’s just me :-)
    P.S. I especially like the last paragraph!

  3. Jennifer says:

    I think the comments come from people trying to figure others out. If you had married first, you likely would have had several comments on when you were going to start trying.
    My favourite notion though is that there should never be a middle child — either have two or four. LOL!

    • Mommy Psychologist says:

      Just say no to middle children! I’m a middle child and I’ve joked for years that my next book is going to be about the “middle child syndrome.”

  4. Ericha says:

    Whenever I consider having another child I ask myself if I would be able to give the second the same financial support as the first. The answer is no and my answer to myself is stick with one!

  5. Meagan says:

    We are (and always have) planning on having two… Sometimes we think about three. I like the idea of a big family, though I’m not sure I’d like the reality. But. I’m enjoying my (1 year old!!!) baby so much right now. Right now I don’t want another even a little. I occasionally wonder if I ever will. I know he’ll get both more difficult and independent, but the thought of, sort of taking myself away from him (to care for a new baby) breaks my heart just a little, even though I realize how over dramatic it sounds. I know that’s how it will seem to him, though I honestly believe he’ll be glad of it eventually. I’ll be curious to see how I feel about this in another year.

    • Mommy Psychologist says:

      From what I’ve heard most moms have a pretty hard time imagining being able to love a second one as much as they do the first. But then as soon as the second one arrives, they fall in love all over again. Of course, this is only hearsay:)

  6. I remember this article from Redbook a while back and thought it dealt with the topic very eloquently (as you dealt with it, too!)

  7. It is called “PRONATALISM”! Parents suffer the societal pushing to keep on keeping on! Advertising advances the thought that any product should be advertised with at least two children in the ad. (Always adorable, well behaved and dressed.)
    Can you imagine what I’ve been through choosing not to have any kids?
    To Thine Own Self Be True. It’s my personal mantra and in the preface to my memoir, “Confessions of a Childless Woman”. If you’ve had one child, and feel fine, that’s terrific. And if you have two girls, having the third will never assure you of a boy! You’re right, the only reason to have any child is because you are totally, completely committed to that lifestyle and are parent material yourself. It’s a lifetime commitment and a very demanding career. More power to those who chose it and do it well.

  8. Miranda says:

    Me. Too. Are we sharing the same brain?! My little boy is nearly 4…. and at last people have given up on me and stopped making those silly statements. We *may* have a second, we may not. The thought of having two under two or three kills me – oh the emotional and physical workload!

    One child is excellent. It’s so lovely to have him around!

  9. Thena says:

    Seriously, what is with those intrusive questions! I’m pregnant with my first right now and I’ve already gotten questions about when we are planning on having our second! Let me just spend some time with my first please! I have yet to find a tactful response – any advice on what to say? Also, I have a sibling and we are the “typical formula” – two kids, two years apart – and we haven’t even spoken in over a year. We just aren’t friends & never have been.

    • Mommy Psychologist says:

      Thanks, Thena. Your experience with your sibling is one that I hear all the time. One of my closest friends has two girls who are exactly two years apart and they have been at each other’s throats since day one.

  10. Rach says:

    My labor and delivery with Hannah was so traumatic I couldn’t conceive of having another child for nearly four years. I just couldn’t imagine it and was quite content with our little family of three.

    And then, one day, I wasn’t. I thought about how much I love my sister and love having her in my life, and I thought about what Hannah would do when we were old and infirm and she were the only one to deal with us.

    I couldn’t imagine having another child and loving it as much as I did Han, but thought it was the best thing for our family. And, it was. Who knew? But, it was the right choice for US. I’m not saying it’s the right or best choice for anyone else. The decision to have children or not have children is up to each family and everyone needs to just butt out. I have friends struggling with infertility and those questions–although well-intentioned–hurt.

    Every family is perfect when the parents are happy. :)

    • Mommy Psychologist says:

      Well said, Rach. I have a few moms in my circle who are desperately trying to have more children and having a really hard time getting pregnant. One of them is nearly in tears every time this question gets asked.

  11. Penny says:

    We have three girls, had a two year gap between first and second, then shocked everyone by having our third just over a year later….and I get “gosh you have your hands full…..will you have another?” umm doesn’t the first statement answer the second question?????
    I feel our live is a constant litany of questions…..
    together, when getting engaged?
    engaged, when getting married?
    renting, when buy house?
    house, when have kids?
    three kids, having any more?
    three girls, having a boy next?

    ENOUGH WITH ALL THE QUESTIONS PEOPLE! (Well thats what I think on the inside, instead I smile politely…..”

  12. Violina23 says:

    After having PPD with my daughter (now 2.5) I was unsure about having another one. I was asking myself “Do I WANT another child, or am I just following the logical progression for what I’m supposed to do?” But when I started resigning to the fact that maybe I wouldn’t have a second child — it made me sadder than I thought. I really do want her to have a sibling, and I want to have that kind of round 4-member family. I have a hot/cold relationship with my sister, but I don’t think it’s because of our age difference, but from our personalities (she’s much more aggressive than I am, and I’m too desperate to please everyone, so I tend to get used as a punching bag more often than I want to admit).

    So we are currently starting to try for #2, but I’m still a bit nervous about PPD again. But I’m taking it one step at a time, and after talking to my psychologist, I am likely going to stay on a low dose of an SSRI antidepressant (which a recent study said had low risks) for the duration to help keep the anxiety at bay.

    – Heather

    • Carolyn says:

      Heather sweetie, I had PPD and PPA with my first. I know exactly how you feel about being scared to have another… Then one day a few months ago it just hit me. I REALLY want another baby. I didn’t enjoy my son until he was almost a year, and didn’t love him for a few more months…. so I’m very scared about how things will go for #2. I just found out I’m pregnant with #2, and we have also decided to stay on the SSRI during the pregnancy to keep my anxiety in check. Good luck! and you are not alone :)

      • Violina23 says:

        Thanks Carolyn! It always feels good to know that others are going through the same thing. It sounds like we had similar experiences — it wasn’t until full fledged toddlerhood that I really started to relax and enjoy my daughter. She was a needy infant — wanted to be held ALL. THE. TIME, I was exhausted both physically and emotionally. But the more we thought about it, the more we realized we want it, so hopefully the fertility gods are with me :)

        Did you get any grief for staying on the meds?

  13. just me says:

    I’m not sure that the comments about trying for a child are so much about stereotypes or pushing you to have another child as they are people in a different stage of life trying to find something to say to show they care about you. Perhaps this is just the way I think because I have social anxiety and social skills are something I study, but I have learned the typical questions people seem to use to show they care and I recite them to other people. (e-cards are sometimes wonderful how-to’s)…This skill has helped me, but maybe I need to rethink my approach if these comments are hurtful.

  14. ElectraDaddy says:

    I couldn’t agree more. I have two kids, but that’s because they are twins. No more babies for me.

  15. Julie says:

    I’m so glad to see so many people who agree. I have 2 (I always wanted 2) but since having my son have been having second thoughts about having any more even though we always talked about having 3. I just don’t think I can handle it or give my current children the love and attention they deserve if I have more, even though when they are older they may (emphasis on MAY) appreciate having an extra sibling. And I am really struggling with my patience and temper and lack of sleep, because my second is an extremely hard baby. And I had PPD with him and relationship problems that we’re just starting to work through. Believing that you have to have more children to live up to others’ expectations seems silly, and it seems even sillier to have more so that “Western society doesn’t die out,” which is my husband’s only argument. I intend to only have more children if I think my family will be better for it. And if I can handle it as a mother. And by the way, I’ve been on my SSRI all the way through both my pregnancies. It’s better for the kids if the mother is sane, trust me. :)

  16. Kit says:

    My ten year old step-daughter (who we have sole custody of and to whom I am a full-time mother) begs us for a sibling. Often. I can’t have children so for us its a question of adoption. I get so much external (and a little internal) consternation about raising an only child that mimics the ‘concerns’ you listed in your post. And if I vocalize even a mild interest in adopting, the alarm is then transferred to the fact that there will be a ten+ years age difference in our children. And you know what? I dont care. I dont give a crap what others think of our life, as it is, in fact, OUR LIFE. Ultimately, 100% of the decisions we make for our family are products of our own beliefs and goals. But here’s the part I grapple with: Are my reasons for not wanting a second child completely selfish?
    I love children. I didn’t realize how badly I wanted them until I learned that I couldn’t produce one. And then my husband and my daughter came into my life and everything just came together for us. So years later, amidst all the invasive questions, and a biological clock that, amazingly enough, keeps ticking away even though there isn’t any ‘clockwork’ left to speak of, the Second Child Conundrum is presently front and center in our lives. Despite all the societal pressure and mourning the loss of an infant that I never had to raise, we always answer the Conundrum with a resounding “No”. No, we’re not going to adopt another child and No, we are not going to “give our daughter a sibling”. Two very clear reasons: 1) Adoption is exceedingly expensive and exhausting, both financially and emotionally. With the direction we’d like to see our family take, this isn’t something we feel we can afford (again, I’m not just talking money here). 2) In just a couple months, our daughter will be eleven. In less than ten years, she will be preparing to embark on Her Own Life, and we will be preparing to support her in that tremendous transition. If we bring another child into our lives now, that child will be eleven, right around that same time. We would have to do everything, exclusively, Twice. Twice the family vacations (I can’t imagine my 20-something year old daughter wanting to tag along as we recreate the Disneyworld experience for her much younger sibling, anyway). Twice as long to save for college tuitions. Twice as old until we are able to redirect our primary focus towards ourselves, as a couple and as individuals. So while these reasons empower us to be resolute in our decision to not increase our familial population, I can’t help but wonder; Are they the most selfish reasons ever to not bring another child into our family? Is THAT the true ‘disservice’ we’re doing to our daughter; denying her a chance to experience life with a sibling because of our own (selfish?) whims??
    Sorry so lengthy; I dont know how applicable this comment is to this particular post, but I couldn’t help myself. Love your blog. :)

  17. Chelsey says:

    I’m an only child. I’m spoiled. I get what I want from my mom. But I’m also sensitive, empathetic, friendly, and very well-adjusted. As a kid, I wished for siblings…but I also realized that I loved having all the attention. I had pets. I had friends. I had cousins,and I had lots and lots of things to do. If I had siblings, I don’t know if I would be as close to my mom as I am; she’s my best friend and we talk everyday. Now that I’m in my 20’s and will be having babies (someday), I’m thinking about whether I want to have only one child, or more than one. And I realize that there is absolutely nothing wrong with either option…I will be happy with my family either way.

  18. Rion says:

    Thanks for the article! I’m perfectly fine with only having one kid, but have been feeling the pressure from society. So it’s good to hear your views on it that reinforce how I’ve been feeling. Our son is also three, about to turn 4 and I’m pretty happy with how things are right now.

    I’m an only child and I think I turned out fine. Everything just feels good like it is right now.

  19. Thank you so much for this! Just what I needed to hear!

  20. Lana says:

    Not sure how to make this short but I’ll try :) Hi everyone! Great post & after reading some other blogs here are some of my own conclusions based on experiences I’ve had. As an only, it’s possible we might have all dreamed of having a larger family (usually one longs for if they’ve never had it) but there is a reality check that all of us (no matter how many children we have had) need to consider & that is the most basic one: the happiness & health of the mother & the happiness & health of the child/children. Everyone (on many different posts) seems to be very much concerned about their child missing out on sibling experience, about their onlies having to deal with parents’ death all on their own, about not having enough friends; yet would a child/children be really happy if the mother is not the best she could be?
    I had HORRIBLE PPD that completely blind sided me & no support whatsoever for a long time. Looking back & only really, 2 years into it, falling head over heels in love with my toddler, I shudder to think of what he might have to witness if I have another baby. My husband wants another child, mostly because of all the perpetuated myths but I don’t. I don’t because I’m having a ball being happy & enjoying all of my sons’ firsts. I wouldn’t miss it for the world! The happy, laughy mode I’m in has set me free to finally enjoy family life as it was meant to be. If a marriage is already on the rocks, will it really be better with a stress of another baby? Would I really want to have 2 children be the product of divorce & multitude of babysitters? Would I want my only to give up his years of learning to become a little adult at helping me manage the new baby? (they all want the puppy but who ends up taking care of that puppy?!) We put more thought in whether to have a dog or not, because it potentially might make our lives messier & more stressful, than into popping out another kid, just to make sure our only has enough sharing experiences. No one knows what’s going on or what one went through, be it infertility, miscarriage, stillbirth or PPD. And no one has a right to question your decision or push you into something you just know you might not be able to handle. One happy child is a lot better than 2 miserable ones. To conclude, really only parents of onlies might like this but I found this funny response on another blog: We (or I) are such awesome parents we got it right the first time! :) Thanks for reading.

  21. JP says:

    Thank you for this essay. My son is 2 and I feel like a failure for not wanting a second child. I adore him – every single part of him makes me smile. I never had the urge for children, but my hubby did. So we had our son. It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done but I don’t regret it. I’m a SAHM and had PPD/PPA. Since I didn’t have the biological clock ticking in my head the first time, I’m not surprised that I don’t have it this time. But part of me wonders if I’m doing the right thing. It’s so hard to know what the right thing to do is for me and my sweet family. So very hard. Your piece and the comments have helped me feel less odd for having mixed feelings.

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