I Don't Have "Just" One Child


by Victoria Fedden

I Don't Have "Just" One Child was originally published on Babble.com and has been reprinted with permission.

I don’t get upset when someone asks why I only have one child. I just smile politely and explain to them (usually in a little more detail than they bargained for) that a million different variables simply didn’t add up in the right place and the right time for us to have a larger family.

It really is as simple as that. We didn’t plan it this way; in fact, we planned a lot differently. When my husband and I were dating, we spoke often about having a few kids. We’d even chosen their names. But life can often blindside you, and I learned a long time ago that over-planning anything, even a family, often leads to disappointment, or at the very least, unmet expectations.

Like we did, you can have one child and plan for more only to find yourself in the midst of an array of unexpected difficulties — health problems, financial loss, family drama, legal disputes, infertility to name just a few. Or some people simply change their minds, thinking they wanted a big family until confronted with the reality of sleepless nights, medical bills, lack of alone time, and the toll that small kids can take on a marriage.

I won’t get into the details about why we have an only child here (unless of course you stop me in the Target checkout line and demand to know), but most of the time I am completely fulfilled, and exhausted, by parenting a single 5-year-old. There are times when she is so spirited and filled with energy that she feels like the entire Brady Bunch packed into one 40-pound body.

Sure, I’ll confess that there are other times when I worry that she will miss having siblings or that I will one day mourn not having a larger family (though I really don’t think I will). But I don’t beat myself up about it, as it’s natural to wonder about what might have been and to question every single choice we make as parents.

As an eternal optimist, I like to focus on what I’ve got instead of what I don’t. I say I have one child, rather than “just” one. I feel abundance all the time for the girl who is with me singing and leaving a debris of Shopkins across my clean floors, not an emptiness for the children I might have had but never quite made it here.

I’ll admit, before I even had my daughter, I made a vision board. I pasted photos of kids on it, along with pictures of big families around tables, running through grass, everyone with their heads thrown back in laughter, grinning. I imagined that one day I would have a house filled with children. I could already hear the screen-door slamming, little ones chanting rhymes in my backyard. I could practically smell the cookies I would bake for them. I pictured girls with the trains of too big dress-up gowns trailing behind them in the grass, raucous games of Candy Land, and movie nights in jammies on the couch with gigantic mixing bowls overflowing with popcorn and everyone singing along with the main characters.

That was a long time ago, before we were one and done. But guess what? My wishes all came true anyway. I have the house full of kids that I always dreamed of. It just didn’t happen in exactly the way I’d figured it might.

Remember what I said about life blindsiding us? Well, it does that with good things too. Unexpected circumstances don’t always have to be tragic.

From a very young age, my daughter showed a knack for making friends. She was a born connector, an extrovert who lived to entertain. She wasn’t meant to be just the life of the party, she was born to be the host too. She’d meet a kid on the playground and instantly want to invite him over, along with ten other children, for a masquerade pizza fiesta. She gets this outgoing drive to entertain guests from my mom and grandfather who were the exact same way, and I love this about her.

I let my daughter have friends over whenever she wants. My house has become the go-to stop for the neighborhood kids, and I’m definitely that mom who babysits for everyone. Yes, you can drop your brood off on my doorstep anytime, and as a matter of fact, I did just bake cookies (not from scratch, but who cares).

Want to come play in our backyard? Absolutely. Everyone is welcome in our home, and we love it that way. We have the pizza parties, the movie nights, the dress-up teas with teddy-bear guests, and hordes of youngsters playing in our sprinklers. I couldn’t be happier.

Besides my daughter’s friends and the neighborhood kids, we have lots of cousins too. While most of them now live far away, we make a point to visit as often as possible and my home is almost always open to out-of-town guests. Those connections are important, so I welcome every opportunity to bond with family. The kids are too little now, but I envision future summers where the cousins can come for extended visits and I can’t wait.

Our home is filled with the life and playful energy of kids that I’d always hoped for. I may have experienced only one pregnancy, but I truly do have a lot of children. They may not be mine in the way that my daughter is, and they don’t belong to me in the way they belong to their parents, but each of them holds a special place in my heart, and I cherish them each uniquely. My life may not have worked out exactly as I’d once planned, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.

More from Babble:

“Your only child needs a sibling”

I am not missing out because I never had a daughter

I never want to be my daughter’s best friend

We need to create a “new normal” for our daughters

The world doesn’t owe me anything for having kids

Victoria Fedden's website is victoriafedden.com.