What not to ask families with “just” one child

*I am so pleased to share this post from local Raleigh mom, Lynn Iannucci. We all have a story, even if it often goes untold. 

“Just the one?” It’s a question from a fellow parent. “Yes,”, I answer. I try really hard not to fill the blank space with a reason. I want to say, “But I can explain!” Like having just one child needs an explanation.

I get this a lot at school functions when meeting someone new, where it’s common for everyone to ask about each other’s kids – so it’s not a surprise that I get this question. But it still hurts, nonetheless.

They are asking, innocently enough, if my son is my only child. They don’t know how those words cut through me like no others. How could they? They don’t know my story, and how I sometimes want to shout out, “Yes, he’s my only – but you don’t know how hard it was to have him!”

They don’t know about the years of heartache, doctor visits, medical procedures, the hundreds of injections (most I had to give myself), the tests, and countless emotional ups and downs – both within myself, and together with my husband – as we were so desperately trying to have a child.

Sometimes I will add, “Well, it took years to get him, so I am blessed to have him.” That usually lends itself to a subject change, except on a rare occasion where I find myself talking to a fellow infertility sister, where we immediately bond and exchange our stories.

The journey to parenthood was not an easy one for my husband and me. 4 years before we were blessed with our son in 2007 through in vitro fertilization (IVF), we actually got pregnant on our own. I suffered a miscarriage early in the second trimester. Then we spent the next four years trying to conceive again – with countless tests, drugs, procedures, and surgeries (including one resulting in a punctured bladder – but hey, at least I know what it is like to pee standing up). And finally – a positive pregnancy test result after the IVF, and a full term baby. And even though our journey was the hardest thing I have ever done, I would do it over again and again, for him. My only child.

And so I get defensive when I hear things like, “Only children are so spoiled.” or “You’re not really a parent if you only have one.”

What?  What does that even mean?

Does it mean that just because I don’t have to break up sibling fights, that I don’t know the real meaning of parenthood? That I don’t know what it’s like to comfort a sick child, or be incredibly proud of my son’s accomplishments, or know the joy that my son brings to my life? Is that what defines parenting – being able to break up a fight between kids?

At the same time, I find myself with thoughts of those that are raising more than 1 child, that are not fair to them. Things like, “You don’t love your kids as much as I love my one, since you didn’t have to go through what I did to have him.” And that’s not fair to those parents either. I don’t know your story, and I have no right to judge. We all love our children in our own beautiful way.

I have found lots of stories in the last couple of years about raising only children vs. raising multiple children. Some of the content is wonderful and useful, and I especially love reading all of the articles from parents of only children. I feel a sense of camaraderie with them. We are bound by this special thing we all share – this special relationship with our only child that only we know. But sometimes I want to just make these articles and these differences disappear, and wish we could just be seen as parents – not parents of an only child, or parents of multiple children, or parents of only boys or only girls, or parents of adopted children, or parents of special needs children, or whatever your situation may be.  We are all PARENTS. And everything that encompasses.

Is there a part of me that wishes I had more than one child?  I will admit it – yes. Most of the time it’s a very small part. That part aches for my son, knowing he will never know the love between brothers and sisters. But that part quickly fades after spending time with my only child – and knowing that I am able to give him my love and attention, and knowing that he is becoming this incredible, independent, loving, capable, kind soul, that I was meant to raise. My faith assures me that this was the child meant for us.

Sure, there are challenges with having only one – I’m both a parent and a playmate. I can’t just say, “Play with your brother.” But there are some wonderful bonuses to having only one child. Going on vacation? Only 3 plane tickets to purchase! College education? Only 1 to pay for! My son has an event he’s in? Both parents can be there!

READ: Down in the dirt mama

At the same time, it terrifies me to think about something happening to him. I don’t know what I would do. And this whole parenting thing? This is it. This is my one shot to get it right.

I fail miserably at it sometimes (yes, he’s 8 and can’t ride a bike). But I think I do ok for the most part (he has an incredibly kind heart).

I am grateful for the things I have learned along the way. That love between a husband and wife can grow stronger than ever when facing challenges together. That support from family and friends can get you through more than you think. That a true friend will talk to you countless times about cervical mucus and basal body temperature. That there’s nothing like the first time you hear your newborn cry. That you can never catch up on sleep. That a child’s laughter is contagious. And that every family’s story is precious and beautiful.

READ: My husband is my parenting partner

I think we’re all in this together. Parents of all kinds. So let’s be kind and encouraging and loving and supportive. Together.

And for me – here is my hope. The next time I get asked the question, “Just the one?”, my answer will be, “Yes! And I love it.” And maybe, just maybe, just the one is just enough.

What not to ask the parent of one child



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  1. Melanie says

    Thank you so much for this article. I am (by my complete choice) a mother of an only child.

    She is currently 3 years old, and the amount of times I hear “So, when is she getting a sibling?” is unreal. Family, friends, complete strangers… When I respond with “never” (I’m pretty blunt with people), I always get the look – and sometimes the lecture – that I’m doing a disservice to my daughter by not providing her with a sibling.

    Why is one child not enough? Could I have another child? Sure. Is there enough love in my heart for another child? Yes. Is there enough room in my home? Yes.

    Does that mean I need one? Or that she needs a sibling? No. People also tend to forget that there are many individuals out there that have siblings and have absolutely no relationship with them in their adult life… me included. To me, that’s more heartbreaking than not having a sibling at all.

    Plus, let’s not forget that as she gets older, it will be much easier to plan holidays and get togethers with only one schedule to work around. ;)

  2. says

    From one ONLY mother to another, I agree with everything you’ve said. In fact, some of the EXACT same words have come out of my mouth. And I written about it on my blog too (which led me to be a guest on HuffPost Life to talk about “spoiled only children.”

    I didn’t plan it this way. It’s just the way that it happened (for different reasons than yours but still…). And honestly, when I meet another mother of one, I feel that sense of camaraderie as well. I’ve got your back!

  3. Twosenough says

    I get similar questions and I have two!
    I work in health and the vast majority of people who have one child, that I come across has usually been for fertility reasons. As if having one child makes you less of a parent. Often you have battled and sacrificed to have that one child. All the best

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