As regular readers know, I have a four-year-old daughter who is equal parts amazing and terrifying depending on just how many cookies her Nana gave her before handing her back over to me. She's an angel, sure, but so was Lucifer and look how well that turned out when he took a snit just a bit too far. All joking aside, I love my kiddo with all my heart.
There's an annoying aspect of having a single child that I continuously forget about. It happens at least once a week, and it pisses me off every time, yet by the time I get here to the rant box it's usually gone from my mind. It goes like this after mentioning or seeing my kid.
"So, just the one child?
"When's the next one?"
Now, this may seem like a really innocuous question, and being that I am a person that wrote more than 1,000 words on how Powerpuff Girls was secretly a communist plot, I know that I am prone to overreaction. That said, I can hear subtext loud and clear.
I differentiate between stay-at-home parents and professional parents. Stay-at-home parents are lovely, and if that is a path you want to walk and have the means to do so then by all means get marching with all my blessings. These are people who take a great deal of pride in maintaining a home and family life full-time, and that's a noble task that an industrial society slowly strangling middle-class wages to death doesn't often allow.
Professional parents, on the other hand, are annoying as hell for the same reason all Type-A personalities are annoying as hell. These are folks that approach parenting as both occupation and competition. Their goal is to "win" parenting, which is stupid because no one had ever, EVER won parenting in the history of the practice. Children are mercurial human tornadoes that may win a Nobel Peace Prize in a discipline you hate JUST BECAUSE YOU HATE IT! Zowie Bowie grew up, changed his name to Duncan Jones, and became an award-winning filmmaker based on a movie that turned the idea of a romantic space man into a nihilistic, cold, and distant nightmare.
The way that most professional parents measure their sales quotas and earnings by quarter is by setting increasingly arbitrary rules as to what is "real" parenting and what is not, conveniently placing their practices in the "real" category and leaving things that others do as the not real category. This includes stuff like making your own baby food, and enrolling your kid in Mandarin classes. Stuff like that.
More than anything else, though, is this idea that having one child doesn't count as being a parent as much as having another child. I fully acknowledge that taking care of a house full of kids is harder than me and my one, but that doesn't make me any less stressed as a parent or any less of one for that matter. Yet people can be pathologically attached to the idea at least a nuclear family that balances out nicely to four. Hell, as someone that's spent a few weeks playing with the Obamacare website I can tell you for a fact that as far as society is concerned you have a family of four or more, or you're basically single. No real middle ground.
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I only ever wanted one kid... unless I can convince my wife to let me name a boy Umaro and I'm more likely to be the next Doctor Who than I am to pull that off so let's stick with my single child and the reasons.
I believe that single children get more parental resources than siblings do, and that translates to higher test scores and stuff like that. Love is infinite, but human time is not.
I believe that there are too many people in the world and we need to trim that number down some,
My wife and I went through a tortuous and expensive process to have a child through IVF and we're not keen to go through that heartache again.
I don't like to be surrounded. Flanking fleeing prey is the best way to capture them, and NEVER give them allies.
Finally, I'm happy and I feel complete with my daughter.
Look, this isn't the 19th century. I don't have to have five kids because three of them are going to be taken by the plague before they're 12. I don't subscribe to the weird Biblical idea that God loves those whose birth organs most resemble a prison license plate stamping machine either. I especially detest the people my wife runs into that like to imply that being in school pursuing a career and not at home passing a sibling for the Kid With One F is a dereliction of her womanly role. Her womanly role is whatever the hell she wants to do with her life.
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Of all the stupid questions I get none tops, "Doesn't she want a sister to play with?" Yeah, she probably does. She also wants to have a troupe of rats in petticoats to serve as ladies in waiting, a pony named Poop, and a Tardis. She's got a daycare with friends she's known almost all her life, an apartment complex full of kids, cousins and friends of the family, and a manchild for a father that would much rather build a pillow fort than do actual work. She's not alone just because she doesn't have a younger version of herself to bribe into being the lookout.
When you automatically ask someone if they're going to have more kids (More specifically, taking it for granted and asking when), you really have no idea what kind of door you're opening up. Maybe my wife had a traumatic birth that resulted in a full hysterectomy. Maybe we both lost our jobs and can't afford to have another kid right now because that's literally the first thing people say of people that go on public assistance, that they had more kids than they could afford.
Or maybe, just maybe, it behooves us to not just assume that the every single family must adhere to some weird, outdated '50s stereotype. That's also an option.