When’s the Next Baby?? Worry ‘Bout Yourself!

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

“What are you waiting for?”

That’s what the woman behind the cash wrap was asking me. She had just finish complimenting me about my kid. She said he was super cute and an absolute sweetheart. Listen, lady, who you tellin’?

After the kind words came the one-two punch:

“Is he your only?” she asked, still giggling and cooing at him.

Yes.

“You should have another baby. I mean, what are you waiting for? It’s not fair. Hurry up and have more babies!”

I didn’t have an answer, because I was stunned. This was not a virtual, but a real deal stranger telling me that I need to quit waiting around and have another baby, since it was not fair otherwise.

Hol’up. Not fair to whom? My son? Me? Her? The world?

Worry ’bout yourself! That’s what I should have said, if I’d thought it through quick enough.

IMG_6018

I know what she meant. And I know she wasn’t being malicious. However, the number of people (read: white men in suits) who are all up in a woman’s reproductive rights, negotiating her choices for her, is outrageous. Let’s not even get into the various policy efforts still driving the continued assault on women’s overall health.

Whether to have one, three or no children is a heavy decision for a woman and her family. It’s no secret that I’ve grappled with the question of adding another cinnamon bun to the basket for a long while. I’ve read quite a few books, articles and blog posts defending the only child. On the other side of things, NYTimes Op-Ed columnist Frank Bruni recently wrote this lovely and loving piece on The Gift of Siblings.

I enjoy having siblings — meaning I really like them as people and friends in addition to the unconditional love part and sharing blood, genes and history. It’s those close relationships that were the main pull towards possibly having more kids. I wanted my son to experience what I have with my siblings.

But my life is not his life. And there are other factors — important ones — that needed to be weighed in this longstanding, internal debate. Recently (finally), I hopped off the fence and landed on a side that feels right for me, right for us. Free to be three, that’s how we’re rollin’.

So it was good to read author Laura Sandler’s opinion piece over the weekend about this very thing (listen, that I was able to read the Sunday paper — a small part of it, anyway — on an actual Sunday deserved its own victory dance). Sandler, whose upcoming is called One and Only: The Freedom of Having an Only Child and the Joy of Being One, gets into many of the “negative assumptions” about parents who go the one-and-done route.

“If a child doesn’t have siblings, it’s generally assumed that there’s a hush-hush reason for it: we don’t like being parents (because we are selfish), we care more about our status — work, money, materialism — than our child (because we are selfish), or we waited too long (because we are selfish). When have you heard someone say an only child is better off?”

She also uses scientific studies and data to dispel some persistent ideas and quasi theories about poor-poor, lonely, suffering only children.

“[E]ndless research shows that only children are, in fact, no more self-involved than anyone else. It turns out brutal sibling rivalry isn’t necessary to beat the ego out of us; peers and classmates do the job.

“Nor are only children lonelier. Toni Falbo at the University of Texas and her colleague Denise Polit … findings suggest that solitude is not synonymous with loneliness and often strengthens character. [O]nly children tend to have stronger primary relationships with themselves. And nothing provides better armor against loneliness.”

Basically, the only child? Relax, mama/pops. That kid’s fine.

I’m definitely down to read Sandler’s book. The NYTimes book review (also read it on Sunday!) for it was promising.

Now, if I can just get through the Travel section by today’s end, then we’re talkin’ boogie wonderland ’round here, people.

2 Comments
  • 1
    Amanda R. says:

    Hi, I found your blog through Balancing Jane. I’m an American writer in China and I talk a lot about the evils of the One-Child Policy and it’s negative effects here. However, I’m not against the idea of anyone having only one child by choice. I don’t care if people have one child, no child, or five children. Every person has to decide how many children are right for his/her family. Reproduction is a natural human right. My problem with the One-Child Policy is that no government has the right to dictate how many children are right for every family – that is a personal choice. If you do decide to have more children, awesome. If you don’t, good for you. Don’t ever let anyone else try to dictate what is or isn’t right for you and your family.

    • 1.1
      Ms. Mary Mack says:

      Amanda! So glad you stopped by the blog. And that Balancing Jane is so kind for including me in her list of bloggers to check out.

      As an American living in China, hearing from you about the One-Child Policy is so valuable. I wonder if you could email me… get.msmack@gmail.com to discuss more.

      Thanks for the comment!