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only child

When You Know That You Don’t Want Another Child

Portrait of a little boy having fun on grass in park or garden. The boy is standing on hands. Sunny spring or summer evening.

It started, innocently enough, with an omelet.

I love eating them for breakfast, so I had posted a note on Facebook to see what kinds of fillings my friends like to use in them. Quickly, I’d gotten some responses. Not necessarily about what to add to my eggs, but mainly a sense of shock and awe from several friends from college who couldn’t believe I even had time to make eggs in the morning! Wasn’t I getting my nearly four-year-old son ready for daycare? What was he eating? How do I manage to make myself a healthy breakfast with all the chaos of the weekday morning?

To be quite frank, mornings in my house are fairly uneventful. My husband and I have worked out a pretty simple system: one of us, still in PJs, gets our son dressed and downstairs to eat breakfast while the other showers and gets dressed. When the other is dressed, that person takes over childcare and brings him to school, while the first spouse goes to get ready for the day.

That means on some days when I come downstairs, our son is already fed and his lunch is made. He is off playing with his monster trucks or superhero capes, and I can make myself a quick breakfast.

But the system works because there’s only one kid to take care of. All of the moms who wondered just how the heck I do it have two or more each. And that’s how an innocent breakfast question discussion wandered into some emotional territory for me. I was the first one to point out that two parents taking care of one kid in the morning is a lot more efficient than one parent watching two kids or more. And then my heart went back to the small, quiet place that aches to have another child while battling the logical and rational awareness that it is not the right thing for me or my family. It’s head vs. heart.

So many parents say they knew they wanted to have another child because their family didn’t feel “complete.” Or they had always known how many children they wanted. My husband and I each have a brother. Every sibling or cousin we have has at least two children.

Yet I don’t feel eager, at 38 years old, to be pregnant again. I don’t want to be even closer to retirement at my second child’s college graduation. Financially, having a second child would make our budget even tighter than it is. We wouldn’t be able to enjoy our regular dinners out, our frequent trips to Bubbe and Zayde in New York, or be able to plan for sending our son to Jewish day school should we decide that’s what we want.

I’m also hoping to go back to school for a doctoral degree. I know many women who have made it work, but I just don’t see starting classes in the next year being pregnant or taking care of a newborn, and I wouldn’t want to put the majority of responsibility for a baby on my husband.

And personally, I get drained easily with the energy of a bouncing, always-on-the-move preschooler. As an introvert, I value my precious alone time. Whether it’s doing my nails, taking a bath, or binge-watching Netflix, when our son goes to sleep I finally get to relax. Starting all over with a baby means less time for me. Call it selfish if you will. But I call it necessary for survival.

This morning, while I was eating my egg concoction (with guacamole and topped with Trader Joe’s Everything But the Bagel seasoning), I sat at the table and watched our son happily guzzle down his milk. I looked at the empty seats and tried to envision another child there, but the picture didn’t materialize. Instead, I felt a sense of conviction that despite my moments of longing, this is the shape of our family.

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