Just the One

Today’s lovely guest post moved me to tears. It’s by one of my very favourite bloggers, Sarah at Grenglish, whose blog you can find here, and who you can say hello to on Twitter here.


‘Just the one’ we say when someone offers us something we consider delicious, indulgent and chocolately.

‘Just the one’ we might insist when someone tries to refill our glass with something chilled and bubbly.

It is a phrase that is used time and time again when we fancy a polite taste of something nice, but without actually scoffing the whole packet of biscuits, or polishing off the whole bottle of wine.

It is also a phrase that I have personally always struggled with, but never more so than when people ask me how many children I have, and I reply ‘just the one’.

My son will turn 4 this year.

We passed through pregnancy with flying colours, but failed our final hypno-birthing session miserably.  Then we survived the first sleep-deprived year with lots of caffeine and Grey’s Anatomy box sets.

The terrible twos were not as terrible as I feared and we escaped with just a few minor battle scars – mainly to my patience, tolerance and very last nerve, which did all take a bit of a bashing at the time but seem to have recovered a bit now.

Recently we graduated into the age of the Threenager, which has certainly been the most challenging stage to date, but overall he brings absolute joy to our lives and we enjoy being his parents very much indeed.

So, people are starting to wonder where his little brother or sister is.  In most cases, not just quietly wondering but asking out loud every time they see us.

Every. Single. Time.

It’s not that we don’t want a bigger family and a couple of years ago that was THE plan.  But, my increasing age and recent Hashimoto’s diagnosis may mean that the decision may now well be taken out of our hands.

This does not stop some people from judging though.

To some, we should be getting on with it already.  Some will waste no time in reminding me that time is running out.  There is also sometimes the underlying suggestion that we are being selfish by having just one child… but, is having an only child really such a terrible thing?

There are certain advantages to us parents, most certainly.

After years of interrupted sleep, we are only just starting to feel the brain fog is lifting.

As cute as they are, newborns are deceptively hard work.  The first 6-months feel like an endurance test with seemingly never-ending night feeds, sleep schedules and nappy cycles.

Our weekend plans no longer need to accommodate an afternoon nap and we are practically equipment free.

I will never again experience that awful realisation, mid-poo explosion, of not having one single baby wipe in the house.

I can shower, use the toilet, and drink a cup of tea without a toddler hanging on to my leg.  Although, obviously not all at the same time.

There is only one little person to dress, clean and negotiate with at any given time.

We have finally outgrown In The Night Garden.

He is old enough to be left with his grandparents for an entire night.  Possibly even a whole weekend…

He will have all my love and attention, just the way he likes it.

I am almost back in my pre-pregnancy jeans.  This statement may be a lie.

We do not need to divide and conquer.  Our family time is spent as such.

Money.  Money.  Money.

But then, to think of him growing up without a sibling to play with, depend upon, challenge, or confide in breaks my heart.

I have three younger siblings and the Greek God(zilla) has two – we have no personal experience of being an only child to guide us.  We both come from big, boisterous families who bicker, constantly talk over each other and like to socialise.

There are times when I think having two children may even be easier – there are only so many times I can race up and down our hallway before getting tired and/or bored.  Yet, my son will charge around for hours with his cousins and friends, squealing more and more with laughter every time.

I try my best, but my interest in cars, trucks and building Lego towers does tend to wane after about 30-minutes.  Introduce another child to the mix though and I find myself with a decent hour or so to catch up on my reading, or more likely, the laundry.

The time has passed by so quickly.

It seems like only yesterday I was squidging his chubby thighs, tickling his belly and watching him take his first wobbly steps.

He will never be a baby again.

I also worry that if I don’t have another child, I will never feel like a real mum compared to those juggling two or more children.

But, I am not certain that I will have another and I think I am ok with that.

Maybe that is just the way it is meant to be.

Just us three.

Grenglish Blog

65 responses

  1. Ahhh you sound like a lovely little family to me. I am dreading these questions…z is now 2 and I’m fully expecting the parenting police to start with all their advice. I wish people would just realise it can so rude and hurtful. We do want another…but obviously there’s a chance it may not happen so in the meantime we’re batting off the “shouldn’t you be thinking about another?”

  2. Lovely post and beautiful family!

    Totally sympathise, after my first was 1, the questions started, then it was maybe you should go see a doctor. I actually flipped at someone as felt it was none of their business!

    People need to learn to butt out!!


  3. Aw beautiful post this is just brilliant. I am half Greek and an only child. I can assure you I feel I haven’t missed out at all and quite the opposite in fact. I have had the whole love of my parents and opportunities I may not have had had there been another of me. I wouldn’t have changed it for the world and had lots of friends growing up and friends round as children do. Don’t worry yours won’t miss out.

    Hand on heart I honestly don’t feel I have missed out and think I am a social me person and often people say you wouldn’t think you’re an only child (it’s about how you being them up).

    Lovely post and I’m pretty sure I want our boy to be an only child 🙂 I have written a post on ‘the two famous questions’ – have a r was if you get chance as we are asked it often and another qu has just started popping up!! 😦 xx

  4. I have “just the one” at the moment too and have recently seen the constant “When are you having another?” questions escalate as my daughter approaches three years old. Funny that my husband never seems to get these questions. The worst is the look of sympathy when I reveal that I don’t have a newborn hidden somewhere or a pregnant bump under my jumper, just the two year old racing around to deal with. Whilst I do hope to have more children, I don’t know WHEN or IF that will ever happen, and I certainly don’t feel like less of a mum or less of a family for “only” having one child. This is a beautiful post that really touched a chord with me. Thank you. x

  5. I saw that title and just knew this post was written by you. Your pain is palpable and peoples’ insensitivity, unfortunately, all too predictable and familiar, You look so happy though in that beautiful photograph! The irony is that I feel like a poorer mother with having two children than I ever felt with ‘just the one.’ Being able to glory in what you’ve got with your eldest is something that can pass us by when still saddled with the difficult years with the youngest! Que sera sera 🙂 XXX

  6. As an only child, I can say that I loved it! You get to play with cousins and friends and be loud and boisterous… But then you get to go home and have the peace and quiet and your own room with your own things – best of both worlds really :-). I have two children (5 and 1) and I sometimes worry that I’ve taken that away from them by not having ‘just the one’.
    I think whatever you do as a parent youre going to have niggling doubts that you should have done the opposite!

  7. I grew up living over the road from a friend who was a only child who was always so happy, so carefree and so mature for her age. I remember her even now and from time to time I look at Ozzy as I try to fix a LEGO helicopter whilst threading a bead bracelet for Scamp and feel a pang of guilt, totally unnecessary guilt I know, that they’ll never get the attention that an only child would. I hope that makes sense and doesn’t make me sound like a child hater!

  8. Beautifully written. We are 3. 3 was always the plan. Half the families in the UK now only have one child. It’s a cool trend I feel I trail blazed. If anyone asks, why one, which I find rude and they usually get a look which suggests just that – I tell them you can’t improve on perfection. Or if I’m feeling stropy – I look them in the eye and say I’m too old. They usually look embarrassed. I love our balance of 3. X

  9. I definitely think it’s easy to think it’s the next thing to do and sometimes it takes a brave person to say actually I am quite happy with just the one. My sister is due with her first on Wednesday and they are already hinting that this might be their one and only. Our two sets of best friends both have one daughter (one from choice, one from nature’s choice) and I see they have a perfect balance, that it was their destiny to hold one hand each. We are going through the testing time with a two year gap of big brother constantly picking up and jumping on small brother. All I do, all day long is say “get off him, leave him alone, you are hurting him”. It definitely feels like hard work, most days! Our boys were very much planned and whilst I wouldn’t change it for our family 2.4 isn’t the blueprint! Hooray for your trio xx

  10. This is a really beautiful piece. I have two children – two boys – and there is only 23 months between them (seemed like a good idea at the time!) I feel guilty on a daily basis that I struggle to spend specific one on one time with them – especially my eldest who constantly asks for “mummy and aiden time”.As they have gotten older, they are the best of friends, but two is hard work. Mentally, physically..emotionally. I can’t remember the first year of my 2nd’s life as it was mostly a blur of nappies, bottles and screaming(which may have came from me!) Now that both my boys are older (5&3) the dreaded question “when are you having the 3rd – surely you’d love a girl” has reared it’s head. It’s never ending!

  11. We are a three too. We love being a three. We might have had another but breast cancer the day before my son was born made us rethink and we didn’t want to risk it coming back so we’re sticking with being a three (four if you count our dog). Our son is three years old now and we’ve never regretted our decision. He is our one and only, our miracle baby and I feel blessed on a daily basis to have such a wonderful one.

      • Looking back I’m not sure how I did it either. We just got on with being the best new parents we could be and took him everywhere with us, he got very used to hospitals during his first six months! x

  12. What a beautifully written, powerful post. It also shocks me why everyone & their Nan (or Yiayia in our case) has an opinion on our lives/ choices. You are an amazing mother and in my eyes have the perfect family. I feel for friends and family who can’t have one child and are badgered constantly about it. It becomes all the more painful. I too think what will be, will be and remember reading a while back that only children were the happiest. Lots of love to you, always x

  13. I am an only child, never felt I missed out on having siblings as I made an effort to make friends when I started primary school, of which I am friends with still today 30 years on!

    Both my parents had siblings. My mum is from a family of 14 no less, and ironically most of them went on to have just the one or none at all.

    Recent statistics on the news have indicated that the rise of one child families are on the increase and that’s not a bad thing at all.

    I have two boys, as I personally wanted more than one, but we waited seven years after the first and I constantly had the same questions directed at me, one actually confided the other week that they were surprised I had another as they didn’t think I would after all this time.

    The constant questions grates at times and I think people shouldn’t assume in any case, what if people found it hard to conceive second time round? People sometimes say things without thinking, although I wish I could be blunt with my answers sometimes, but I just bite my lip, at the end of the day it’s none of their business!

    Sorry for the lengthy comment. I wish you well whatever you decide in the future, but from my experience as an only child, I loved it!

  14. You have a lovely little family and you sound so happy – don’t let other people pressure you or think you have to live to their expectations. Sometimes it’s just a harmless curiosity question, with no implied expectation meant. For those who mean it with expectation – just ignore them. Recent statistics show that most families nowadays only have one. The average of 2.4 has dropped to 1. something now.

    Also – is there really a hurry to decide? If you can’t conceive naturally, there are still tens of thousands of children waiting to be adopted. There is no age limit on adoption applications. I have three children and am struggling with being told I’d put my life at risk if I had any more. But adoption has crossed my mind. I’m definitely not ready for more for at least another 3 years, but it’s nice to know there are options if I were to decide on more.

    Relax and enjoy your gorgeous little man xx

    • Thanks Emma, all options worth looking into if we decide to extend and are unable to do so naturally. I am sorry to hear about your health, must be quite scary and put enormous pressure on you to make the ‘right’ decision, whatever that may be x

  15. This is both funny, lovely and touching 😉 It’s amazing how tactless people are when it comes to asking about children; how many, when, where, do you want a boy or girl next… blah blah blah… from the moment I got married it’s all anyone ever asked me about… like that’s the rule… lol all that matters is what you want, what you have and screw everyone else eh :))) x Love this post xxx

  16. We decided we only wanted one child before our son was born and have never hidden it. George is one year old next week and I know we have made the right decision. No regrets.

  17. I really appreciated this post too. Why is it that people need you to choose whatever it is that they chose, as if their choice can’t stand on its own? So if they have children, you need to have them too; if they have more than one, you need to have more than one too. In a sense this is more about the questioner’s insecurity than it is about you and what’s right for you as an individual and as a family. There’s nothing wrong with having only one child – as you point out, there are advantages and disadvantages in all types of family. I was brought into the world because my mother thought it wasn’t fair on my older brother to leave him as an only child: he and I spent the first 15 years of our shared life trying to tear each other limb from limb. We are very close friends now, but there’s no doubt that he and I would have been better off as only children when we were young. It all depends on what your children are like and how they get on with each other, and that’s not something you can control. There are lots of advantages to having just one child, and if that’s what you decide you don’t have to justify it to anyone. I know children being brought up in big families who are much more difficult to manage and self-absorbed than some delightful only children of my acquaintance.

    I would also add that not having any children at all can also be a positive choice, though it is still viewed very negatively. There’s no particular achievement in populating the planet: the achievement is in living an engaged, interesting life, brightening the days of those around you and leaving something positive for the next generation, whether you have children or not.

    • My sister and I used to fight all the time too, although we are the best of friends now. It took us a long time to get there and did not really happen until we lived seperately.
      The last paragraph of your comment is spot on. That is of course, what life is really about 🙂

  18. People are so judgemental sometimes , I have three lively children and I have people gasp in horror when I say three . I’m 35 but I am fortunate to look a lot younger – some say mud/early 20s , I still get asked to prove my age I occasions when buying a much needed bottle of wine lol. People assume I’m younger so are shocked I have three children
    What they don’t realise us it should be four as I lost my little girl back in 2011 at 10 hours old
    Story here – http://bizzimummy.wordpress.com/2013/04/04/keira/
    So I’m grateful and happy for the family I have no matter what anyone else thinks x

  19. What a lovely post:) I can’t believe people ask you that. How rude! I have MS and walk with a stick. Most people don’t judge but some do even out loud. Poor children with the disabled mummy…. and how selfish of me to have children when I have MS. I got it in my 2nd pregnacy so didn’t really have a choice. You sound and look like an amazing family:) Again great post:)


  20. Hello Sarah! This was such a fantastic post and really, really, really struck a chord with me. I am 42 now and after all the birth trauma I experienced I just don’t think I could have another – I just can’t risk going through all that again – so it’s pretty much a foregone conclusion that we will be a three too. Little A is a very happy, confident and thoughtful little girl and I know she is going to be okay which is actually borne out by research that says that only children tend to do very well in life ,in fact a pyschotherapist friend once told me the world needs more only children. But I really empathised with your words, ‘I also worry that if I don’t have another child, I will never feel like a real mum compared to those juggling two or more children’, that some how I’m not quite a proper mum, not up to the task, not as strong as other mothers for only having one! But I am also happy that I am now through the whole baby and toddler stage and life is getting back to normal. I too think that Little A, Younger Dad and me are meant to be a three. And we can always get a dog! X.

    • I’d love a dog! Sadly I am married to a cat person… 🙂
      I am sorry you had such a horrific birth experience, mine also was not too great so I can totally understand where you are coming from there x

  21. This is beautifully put. I have several friends with one child or none through choice. Sadly people do question what feels different to them, as well we know.

  22. This post really resonated with me. I had got to the point where I thought we may be three forever, despite me wanting to be four. Our second son was born in November. There are 3.5 years between them. I wanted to touch on your point about seeing your son being an only child and not having siblings to play with. I wanted this for my eldest son too, but now I often think, by the time littlest is old enough to play with him (3 ish) he’ll be 6.5 and probably not interested and just wanting to play with kids his own age anyway! I always said, if it never happened for us, I wouldn’t lament the fact we were three but would enjoy it, and I stand by that. Much as I love being a family of four, three was fabulous. As the song goes ‘ Three is a magic number’. :0)

  23. Many of these are sound arguments for when/why to stop no matter how many children you have – as are some of the emotions you feel. It’s really, really hard to call it a day. When I next get broody I will reread your post! All brilliantly put. 🙂

  24. We’re another three. I like Gemma’s take on it, that three actually bang on trend! I always imagined we’d be four, but it took ages to get to three and the last bit – a failed hypnobirthing experience with a near dead baby thrown in for good measure – left emotional scars. And almost needless to say, getting to four isn’t happening any quicker than getting to three did, so the decision is likely being taken out of our hands! I totally empathise with your thoughts about being a parent to a single child making you feel like you’re not a proper mum, I’ve said those very words. I’ve also worried about our daughter not having a brother or sister. But I agree with what Mummy Plum said on the siblings playing together thing and I have also read similar things to Sarah (Older Mum in a Muddle) about only children doing very well in life. Then there’s the stuff that people say about only children being spoilt. But my oldest friend is an only child and one of the loveliest people anyone could ever wish to meet. That said, I do know of another who is the opposite of that, the archetypal spoilt madam. So, I am very conscious of ensuring that our daughter isn’t spoilt and overindulged. Ultimately, there aren’t many of us who have a life that pans out as we planned it to. The real sadness isn’t about it not going to plan, the real sadness is if you can’t enjoy it for what it is. I couldn’t love my daughter more if I tried, nor could my husband, she lights up our lives and if we never get to four, we will be extremely happy to be three.

    • Fertility, pregnancy, childbirth, parenting… all such sensitive topics, which depending on our own personal experiences do have the potential to leave us quite emotionally (& sometimes physically) scarred. I’m so sorry you had such an awful time. It does stay with you. I had an emergency c-section and would not want to repeat that again in any circumstances, but we have our beautiful boy and he is lovely and as you said, I could not love him any more. If we are three, then that is more than good enough for us 🙂

  25. I have been getting this question since G was a year and a half and ranted about here http://www.fromfuntomum.com/2012/02/so-when-are-you-having-another-baby.html

    I love us being us, she’s 2 and a half, we’ve gone back to travelling as we used to, long haul, jet lag and all. With one child all is fairly simple when it comes to travelling, going out and general life. I am frankly scared of becoming 4. It was so easy to have her that I am scared to try for another in case it might happen straight away. In my head 4 seems great, but in my heart 3 is so nice and complete.

    I’m still debating this dilemma in my head and whichever route we all choose, 1 or 10 kids, it is NOBODY’s business FFS! Rant over.

    Great post as always Sarah x

    • Thank you lovely. I do sometimes wonder how I will ever cope with two, but then I wondered how I would ever cope with one so I am sure something just kicks in and you get on with it. I imagine being on your own with 2 would be much harder, especially if they are both really little x

  26. Great post – and a new blog to follow! (plus a couple of others from the comments section). I am 41 and currently have just the one. I would like two, and I am hoping, but I am realistic that it might never happen, and also very happy with just the one. I have been thinking lots about the pros and cons both ways. In many ways I can offer more to just one, but if there was a second they could offer more too. I agree that it could be harder with just one rather than having a live-in playmate, and a challenge to ensure that ‘just the one’ learns to share and cooperate with others and isn’t overindulged. On the other hand there would be no squabbles, and we could do more…

    We have what life gives us – the important thing is to love what we have. It sounds like you fully appreciate how lucky you are with one, as do I!

    Incidentally, I was an only child for the first 10 years of my life too – then I got sisters, so I saw both sides. I was very happy when they came along, and wouldn’t be without them, but I was happy with just my mum and my dad too. Also, during my own research into this over the last few months I found a statistic that almost half of UK families these days are one child families – so he wont be the only one!

    Thanks for sharing your story

  27. We have 4 children and people are asking WHEN we’re having another, not IF. Just curious – do you get asked about it more than his Dad? And totally get you about The Night Garden. Our 4th is 17 months old and so far we have managed not to find any of the DVDs. Where could they have gone? Like your writing by the way!

  28. A wonderful post, beautifully put. We are a family of three, my son is now 17 and is a complete joy. He doesn’t seem to have suffered being an only child, like his father before him, and has grown into a self-assured young man.
    Interestingly, it was my husband who got all the flack from people – he is a GP and had no end of patients asking when we were going to have another. It stopped after a while because the photos on his desk of our son at different ages looked like we had a whole squad of kids at home!

  29. Not sure how I missed this but I did and am glad I’ve now caught up. Beautiful post Sarah. As an only child with no family nearby I was terribly lonely, especially in my teens when my parents thought everything I did was weird and abnormal instead of what I have since learned is normal teen behaviour (well, teens are weird and abnormal by definition!) so I was determined I’d have more than one. It didn’t work out that way and I have one beautiful child. There are of course many benefits to the one (as you already outlined). And although she is one, not one of several, because of my childhood I know that her behaviour now that she’s 15.5 yo is completely normal!

  30. Pingback: Just the One

  31. Pingback: Guest Post: Who Will Love Your Children? « dorkymum

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