One and done: What it’s like having an only child

I recently wrote a piece on Savvy Mom about what it’s like having an only child. The thing I’m always surprised about with writing is what happens after you throw your ideas out there. Because of the questions and response I’ve gotten, I’ve decided to share our path towards parenthood and how we ended up having an only child.

Having an only child
We three.

Having an only child

If I’m being honest, I wasn’t all that jazzed about motherhood to begin with. I was never one of those women who couldn’t wait to have kids. I also never had any plan for having an only child.

All I knew was that I loved my job that had me travelling to Europe on a monthly basis. I knew this lifestyle wouldn’t be sustainable with a baby on board, so I wanted to milk it for as long as possible.

We had agreed to try and conceive a year after getting married. When the time came, I wasn’t ready. My husband wasn’t fussed, so we extended that by a little over a year.

Getting pregnant happened within a few months of trying, and I was fortunate to have an easy pregnancy. Eve turned breach in my last few weeks of pregnancy, so it was a scheduled C-section for us. She was a totally chill baby, but it was still a MAJOR adjustment for me.

One thing after the next

When Eve was three months old, I felt I had it together. That lasted all of two weeks. I remember, because suddenly, my father died.

His death was somewhat predictable (he’d had heart problems for years), but my mother’s grief was not. I don’t know what I was thinking, but I didn’t expect her to be blue for what seemed like an eternity.

She eventually got her mojo back towards the end of that summer, and we had this lovely pocket of time taking my daughter on little adventures in the sunshine.

baby helping make cookies
Baby Eve and Grandma loved making cookies together

When I was pregnant, my husband had a job opportunity in London. We decided to take it, but with the time it took to secure work visas, we knew the move wouldn’t be until Eve was halfway through her first year. When Eve was nine-months-old the work visas came in, and we made our final moving arrangements. As soon as we booked our flights, mom was diagnosed with Stage IV Cancer.

We still moved. I ended up seeing my mom as much (if not more) than I would’ve had we stayed in Calgary. After her diagnosis, she lived another two years despite being given only months. I think my daughter had a lot to do with that.

Shortly after Eve’s first birthday, The Huz and I had the conversation. Should we start trying for baby number two? We were both in the unequivocally no camp. A baby, a death, a move to another country, a new job, mom’s illness…it was all too much.

mom and daughter on a dock
Taking a moment of reflection shortly after my mom passed away

Life in London

Then Eve’s second birthday came. Mom’s condition was stable and controlled. The timing was right, except that it wasn’t. The Huz’s job was going off the rails. His world was nuts and he asked for a reprieve. I was more than happy to give it to him.

I was loving life in London. It was exciting, fun and so very family friendly. London is like a collection of dozens upon dozens of little villages. The community spirit and support were fantastic.

We made friends. We had a fantastic weekly routine with playgroups and fancy ex-pat lunches. We went to France on weekends. I wanted to wring every ounce of pleasure out of our time there and that I did.

Then Eve turned three. By this time, my mom was failing fast. There was no way I could handle her palliative care, a toddler and a new baby. We were moving back to Canada, too. We had too many major life events going on in too short a time. Baby number two was once again put on the back burner.

Coming to terms with having an only child

After my mother passed away, I went back to work full time. I managed to snag what I thought was my dream job. It felt so good to dust off the cobwebs and challenge my brain in a way I hadn’t since having Eve. It was finally the right moment to try for baby number two. And we did try, but after two months, I pulled the plug.

girl in a field wearing glasses
Eve tell us she actually likes being an only child

We were finally in a stable, happy place and I was scared to rock the boat. More importantly, I didn’t really want more children. The biggest reason I could think of for having another child was to give Eve a sibling. But is that the right reason to have another baby, I wondered? 

I wish I could say that was the end of it, but it wasn’t. I’ve wrestled with this decision for years. I felt like a bad parent, like some completely selfish person for having just one kid. After much soul searching, The Huz and I admitted we’d missed the window. We were too comfortable and happy in our way of life.

Occasionally I regret our decision. When Eve was nine-years-old I finally felt ready. Really ready. I could’ve happily welcomed a new baby at that time, but I didn’t think it would be fair to bring up the conversation yet again. Also, I’d entered my 40s and felt that could be pushing things.

The only other time I feel pangs of regret is during Christmas. I’m from a family of four and miss those big, boisterous days. My daughter, however, loves our quiet Christmases, and bristles whenever we visit or host other families during the holidays.

Jody Robbins Xmas
I try distract myself during the holidays by filling up our calendar.

If I’m channelling my inner Oprah, what I know for sure is that there’s no perfect family. Most people don’t have a straightforward path to parenthood. You can’t predict timing or personality. All you can do is make the most with what you’re given.

I’m curious, did your family turn out the way you expected it would?

About The Author

16 thoughts on “One and done: What it’s like having an only child”

  1. Tara Gauthier

    I thought I would have more than two kids and there were times where I wanted another baby but I am content with the two that we have. Our firstborn was an easy baby after we got over some feeding issues. He slept and we never baby proofed, he had some bad ear infections and speech delays but worked with a speech therapist and things got better with his speech.. We had baby #2 and she was diagnosed with hearing loss at birth and fitted with hearing aids, then shortly after that my father in law passed away. Things grinded to a halt, I had just had my post c-cestion (which was an emergency) follow-up when we found ourselves travelling to make funeral arrangements and clean out his apartment. My husband was a wreck emotionally for a couple months and we still had the hearing aids to get used to with a baby and started speech therapy which would continue on a weekly or bi-weekly basis until she started school. During those years we also realized our son was having difficulties once started school and was developmentally behind his sister in areas at one point in certain domains. He was diagnosed with adhd and anxiety with other comorbid diagnosis’s at the age of 10. We knew we were done and had enough on our plates at that point and were content. When I hear of people have more kids, as many as 7 that I know I just think that we feel overwhelmed enough with keeping things together for our two. It’s just enough for us and everyone is different.

    1. Thank you for sharing your story here. It’s always fascinating to me the factors that come into play when figuring out the size of your family. Wishing you and yours my very best.

  2. We finally made the decision that our daughter will be our only child. I knew that would be the case but coming to terms with it has been hard hitting. I still need to settle down in my career I’m 37 and I hardly can mange one. My husband has always been clear with it “that window has passed” and because it will rocking the boat. Thank you so much for sharing your story. I just googled “coming to terms with having an only child” and your post came up. It may seem silly but reading this gave me great comfort that there are others in similar situations and it’s okay to regret once in a while but we need to do what works for our family.

    1. I totally get it. I do still feel the pangs – even now that my daughter is a teen, but I think it’s best for our family. I think two kids while lovely, would’ve been too much for us. The timing just never worked. I take comfort thinking things happen for a reason. And having one child does make life a lot easier. Thank you for sharing the your story and taking the time to comment. It’s nice to know I’m not alone.

  3. Hi, thank you for the post. I also have an only and I am mostly at peace with our decision and feel it is the right one for our family, I still have occasional pangs. So many parenting narratives you read are so definitely “yes” or definitely “no”, and my parenting journey has always been somewhere in the middle, seeing a path with or without children as a valid one. I appreciate the acknowledgement that pangs still exist and always might, and that is okay. I do also see that advantages of having just my son, and in some ways how it is the best of both worlds.

    1. I like how you put it, “best of both worlds.” For us it is what it is, so might as well embrace it. Thank you so much for sharing your story with me.

  4. My ten year old son is the best thing that ever happened to us. It took 2 rounds of artificial insemination, and I was pregnant with him. My mother and her sister my aunt always told my sister and I to have two children. My aunt died unexpectedly while I was pregnant, and my mother died unexpectedly when my son was three months old. I really feel that I would have had a second child if they were here. We had and still do financial issues- sometimes I wonder what would have happened if we had twins- we would have had to deal with it, but I can’t imagine how we would have survived. I am so thankful to have my amazing, beautiful son, and I have friends that wish they had one child, but my son, my husband and I all wish we would have had a second child. All of my son’s cousin adore him but they live far away and are much older than him. We try our best, but every rainy day, we regret the choice we made. I feel that a sibling is a gift that you give to your child- I can’t imagine life without my sister, and I wish I could turn back the clock. I know I am lucky to have one instead of none- maybe I am selfish, but I don’t feel comforted by that. I hope that my son doesn’t resent us for not giving him a sibling. I will always regret it, and I hope someday I can make peace with it.

    1. Here’s hoping the expression time heals all wounds eventually comes true. You’ve been through the ringer, but as you say, you do have your son. We can’t change the past, but we can enjoy the future. Thank you for taking the time to share your story.

    2. Stephanie I feel the exact same way. Basically by the time I regretted not having a second child it was too late. My husband had already had a vasectomy and refused to reverse it and I was about to turn 40. I’m now turning 42 and I regret it so much that it hurts. I think I will always feel this way. And like you all the positives of having only one and knowing that some have none does not comfort me. My son is 7 and I hope he doesn’t resent us later for not giving him a sibling.

      1. I don’t think your son will resent you later. My siblings were minimum 10-years older than me and I didn’t resent not having them closer in age. I know a lot of kids who don’t like their siblings. To me having a sibling and having no relationship with them is way worse than what only children will face in their adult years.

  5. Hi.. we have one son who is 6. We had a miscarriage 3 years ago and had been trying since then. On our way to ttc our second, we faced various hurdles like my husband injured himself and things like that. Finally we decided to try iui after much hesitation from my husband. On our second try , we did get pregnant and it ended up in a chemical pregnancy. My husband is 41 and I am 37 and he does not want to try anymore. He says to accept it as God’s will and move on. I am finally coming to terms with the decision but still feel the pangs sometimes . I felt guilty of being selfish but my husband feels it’s not selfish to choose a stress free life for our family at this time. My husband feels my son is one of happiest and most social kid he knows and does not feel he will be lonely. Time will only tell but for now we have moved on and feel less stressed.

    1. I feel for you. It’s a tough decision no matter which way you roll. Your husband sounds a lot like mine. I can honestly say our family does feel complete. It took until my daughter was about 10 or 12 for me to finally feel comfortable with that. Thank you for sharing your story.

  6. Kathy Richardier

    Kathy, April 18, 2020
    I wanted only one child and hoped it would be a daughter, and it was. I was so happy and she turned out to be perfect!
    Her father and I were pulling apart when she was born, but he was a great father, so it worked out very well.
    Then we divorced and now she is perfect with my new husband and his sons, and she lives and teaches in another part of the world
    and thank goodness for video chats, it’s like we’re in the same room.
    She and my current husband are the best things that ever happened to me.

  7. Colleen Lanin

    Jody – Thank you for sharing your parenthood journey. I suppose I usually assume that parents with one child just wanted one and that it wasn’t such a difficult decision. It’s always helpful to get insight to other people’s struggles because it makes us realize we’re not alone. We all do such a good job of acting like life is easy.

    As for my family, we had always planned to adopt a child. In fact, we went to adoption conferences and almost didn’t have our second child (by birth) because we were considering adopting a child who needed a home instead. But after lots of thought and conversations, we decided we should try to have a second biological child while I was still young enough to do so, and I gave birth to my son when I was 34. We figured in a couple of years, we’d adopt a third child. But then the mortgage industry, in which my husband works, collapsed. After years of struggling financially, finally we gave up our dream home in San Diego and moved to Arizona for a lower cost of living and to be closer to family. I only wish we’d done it years earlier before we burned through all our savings!

    We were struggling so much financially, it didn’t seem reasonable to add another child to the mix. And then when things did stabilize for us, we both felt we were too old to expand our family (my husband is six years older than me, too). Plus, parenthood had gotten easier and our two kids had moved onto new life phases.

    Do I regret not adopting a third child? Sometimes. Do I still think I might adopt an older child someday? Sometimes.

    1. Thank you for sharing your story. It’s funny how families never quite turn out the way you expect, but you always make it work depending on your circumstances.

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