Oh.my.goodness. I've found it. The book…I mean, THE book I have been looking for at least for the past 6 years, possibly my whole life. It is not often that I am truly amazed by someone's writing (unless it's academic…nerd alert). But it.has.happened! One and Only by Lauren Sandler (2013, Simon & Schutzer) both says everything I want to say and tells me everything I have been longing to hear (and she's done her homework…it's not just lip-service). I just started the book and it's already on my top books of all time list. I was wondering how I was going to document all of the quotes I don't want to forget…so I decided to do it here.
I've been open about my struggles being an only child and the tough decision to have only one child (which I still struggle with on a regular basis)…I've even touched on the subject here. It IS a continuous struggle. As my parents grow older (and have life-altering "health events" like my mom's multiple joint replacements and my dad's heart attack and bypass surgery), seeing my friends lose their parents, witnessing my friends with siblings share in parenthood and become friends, hearing my daughter talk about being singled out (no pun intended) for being an only child, wondering how K's life would be different if she had a sibling, hearing the evil/rude/disrespectful/ignorant comments from others about my decisions (both crushing me and insulting me…families are not one size fits all, people!)…. It's a constant internal battle for me.
I've known, pretty much since I got pregnant, that I would only have one child, despite my CERTAINTY I wanted a big family before I actually created a child. I was not a good pregnant person. I felt like crap. I had a c-section that went all kinds of crazy (resulting in a postpartum hemorrhage that went undiagnosed, but that's for another time). Buzz never wanted another child. I did. He didn't. I "gave in" to "only" having one because I figured one child was enough strain on our marriage and he wanted that one. If we had one only because I forced the issue, and our marriage went really south, that would not be good for K or her hypothetical sibling. Plus, I wanted a career. I HAVE an amazing career--but I was still able to spend the years before school exclusively with her, and now I have a schedule that compliments her school schedule so I still have the mommy time she needs--I need.
People call me selfish, but working is something that I need to be a mentally healthy person. I feel like being "together" as a mom (well, as together as I get) is of the utmost importance to being a good mom--and I don't think that is selfish. People tell me K is only as good as she is because I "only" have one--implying my life would be a total disaster and K would be a terrible person otherwise? People have accused me of "not liking" mothering. ON THE CONTRARY!!! Being a mom is my most favorite, most important, BEST part of my life. But, there are still other parts of me--and I think those parts help me be a total person, a better mom.
When I really looked deep at why I wanted another child, it was more of a longing for more of each stage with K (rather than wanting another human in my womb or in my home). I found this blog post recently, which sums up my thoughts on that. Looking back, though I sometimes "wished" time away (mostly because I was single-parenting with a husband in Iraq), I NEVER neglected to stop and soak up the moment. I held her. I watched her. I held her some more (and was criticized I was making her too dependent--people really do need to mind their own business). I cherished every day…I felt (and continue to feel) like the most blessed mommy on the face of the planet. And seeing her grow up warms my heart and breaks it (a little) at the same time. But having another child will not change that… My family is complete.
So, back to the book… Lauren Sandler (who I fully intend to email myself once I am finished with her work of excellence) is both an only child and a mother to an only child. She is a journalist who cites personal experience and research on only children (and the mothers of them). For the first time, I feel like someone gets it…gets me! She does not preach that having an only child is THE thing to do, but recognizes that, as I have said before, families are not one size fits all. She works to debunk the old, OLD (and stupid) myths of the only child. I highly recommend this book not just for only children, but for anyone…it offers a unique perspective to a group of people who have been put down for far too long with zero foundation for the negative arguments. Thank you, Laruen Sandler! :D
Here are the paragraphs that pulled me in (and I am sure I will be back to share more), from the Introduction pages 7-13:
"In surveys that ask young women how many children they'd like to have, ultimately and ideally, no one says they'd choose to stop at one child, he [sociologist Phillip Morgan at the Carolina Population Center] tells me. To me, that's like asking a tween girl what her perfect wedding looks like… Our ideals change in concert with our emerging realities--even more so if, as we develop, we opt to interrogate what we thought we wanted, and why we thought we wanted it.
Here are some things I want: I want to do meaningful work. I want to travel. I want to eat in restaurants and drink in bars. I want to go to movies and concerts. I want to read novels. I want to marinate in solitude. I want to have friendships that regularly sustain and exhilarate me. I want a romantic relationship that involves daily communication beyond interrogatives and imperatives--I want to be known. And I want to snuggle with my daughter for as long as she'll let me, being as present in her life as I can while giving her all the space she needs to discover life on her own terms. I want full participation: in the world, in my family, in my friendships, and in my own actualization.
In other words, to have a happy kid, I figure I need to be a happy mother, and to be a happy mother, I need to be a happy person. Like my mother, I feel that I need to make choices within the limits of reality--which means considering work, finances, pleasure--and at the moment I can't imagine how I could possibly do that with another kid…
Still, I agonize every time I see my daughter doting on a friend's baby, just as my own heart has a tendency to devour itself when I take a new tiny person in my arms… When my daughter was born, after all my anxiety about how I'd never changed a diaper…--well, I held my girl, just moments old, and I simply knew what to do. My confidence and capability stunned me... And yet when I try to imagine doing it again, I feel even greater doubt than I did the first time…
…We need to be more assertive in questioning why exactly we believe our children need siblings. Because if I am going to choose to have another one, while billions of other people do the same, I should be able to know the reason.
And if it's not because I want to--I mean, really want to--have another child, there's a body of supposed knowledge I need to start questioning. For myself. For my daughter. And for the world I brought her into. Instead of making a choice to enlarge our families based on stereotypes or cultural pressure, we can instead make that most profound choice our most purely independent one. It might even feel like something people rarely associate with parenting: it might feel like freedom."
Yes. Just, yes...