A few weeks ago, a co-worker was telling me about his grown children. There was a big age gap between his second and third kid, which he explained was OK because the youngest child “really completed the family, you know?”
I didn’t know. But I smiled. Because as he spoke, I was thinking about my own little family: my husband, our 3-year-old son, and our fluffy orange dog–all of us piled into our queen-sized bed as we giggled side by side.
My family is complete. My husband and I never had the agonizing debate over when to try for a second child; we were confident there would be no second child. We are, as the shorthand goes, “one and done.”
I have no brothers or sisters. Neither does my husband. We earn enough money to live comfortably in our small New York City apartment, but not enough to put multiple kids through the colleges of their dreams. Neither of us misses having a newborn, and as much as I love meeting my friends’ new babies, I’m more than happy to hand them back over after a few minutes of cooing.
Eli is a classic extrovert who chats up strangers right and left, and bosses around kids triple his size, so I don’t worry he’ll be left without anyone to hang out with. He plays independently for long stretches, and I look forward to a lifetime of not having to break up sibling squabbles or multitask homework, bedtimes, play dates, and so on.
And yet, as my circle of mom friends expands from fellow first-time moms to moms venturing into unchartered territory of second and even third children, I feel the same weird quiver of emotion every time a friend announces a new pregnancy: joy for her, relief for me, and then a sharp tinge of jealousy and regret.
I don’t want another child. But there are times–like at a recent book club meeting with a dozen other moms when I looked around and was startled to realize I was the only mom of “just one”–I wish I did. Somehow my lack of baby fever makes me feel defective, deficient: I can barely handle my one child. How can every other mom be so capable of adding more?
I know I don’t want another baby–or another child to raise, for that matter. But maybe what I actually want is my baby all over again–the chance to go back and relive his infancy without the overwhelming terrors of first-time motherhood, the chance to squeeze his chubby thighs, and stroke his soft, fuzzy hair. The chance to watch him grow into the person he’s become.
Being one and done by choice is, I imagine, a little bit like living your whole life in Philadelphia, and then being offered a fabulous job in Boston. It would be a wonderful adventure, a chance to start fresh in a cool new city that’s not so radically different from the one I’d be leaving behind–a horizon full of new opportunities.
I’d like to be the kind of person who wants to go on a wonderful adventure with another child. I’d like to be the kind of mom who isn’t afraid to do it all over again.
But being one and done isn’t a decision we made out of fear. And the truth is, our life already is a wonderful adventure.