An Open Letter
Dear Casual Acquaintances, people I've met while waiting in line, fellow gym members I've encountered in the locker room, friends of acquaintances of friends, and anyone else who seems to think they know me well enough to tell me how many children I should have:
Why, thank you. It had never, ever occurred to me that my daughter might be lonely as an only child. It is absolutely news to me that, years from now, it might be easier on me if she had a live-in playmate. I never once thought about the fact that two (or more) children would multiply the amount of enjoyment we get from one. Both my husband and I have siblings, as do many people we know, but we never stopped to think about the benefits of having more than one child. And we never would have if you had not taken the time to enlighten us.
I mean, that's it, right? Obviously we don't know. Because the alternative is that we do know. We know better, and yet we still chose to deprive our daughter of the opportunity to relate to another child, have another close relative once we die and possibly a close friend for life because hey, that's just how we roll.
Well, you got us. Obviously, we've decided to stop at one because: A. We're selfish. B. We really, really want to raise a spoiled brat because all only children turn out that way. C. I'm worried about ruining my figure, which, let me tell you, is stunning. (Despite the picture here, I would be very surprised if you had gone so far as to call me a witch, or anything that rhymed with one, but you don't know how hard it was to find an appropriate illustration for this post.)
Those are the only reasons, right? It couldn't be that we, or people like us: A. Have a shaky marriage where the absolute last thing we need is another child; B. Went through hell just to conceive one child and have neither the financial nor the emotional wherewithal to conceive or adopt another; C. Have been trying, but are now resigned to the fact that there will just be one, but thanks for making us feel better about it!
Now, before you go running off with this latest bit of gossip, I should can the sarcasm for a moment to say that none of those reasons are our reason. But (turning sarcasm back on), on behalf of the people I know -- and those I don't know -- who fall into those categories, thanks for understanding. It reminds me of a story my friend told about her Aunt Rose (name changed). Rose was in her mid-30s and married when a woman at a party told her how selfish she was for not having kids. Rose and her husband had been trying for years, but how was this woman supposed to know? I mean, what was she supposed to do, take Rose's feelings into consideration before speaking?
It couldn't be that having a baby at 38 -- even an easy, non-colicky baby after a smooth pregnancy and long but relatively uncomplicated delivery, who slept through the night at just over two months -- is hard, could it? It couldn't be that, maybe if I waited until this one is out of toddlerhood and in pre-school or elementary school and I finally felt like I maybe could do it again that I'd be over 40, right? It couldn't be the fear of another crippling bout of post-partum anxiety and depression, right? Or the fact that we have virtually no real support network here?
I mean, other people handle stuff like that all the time! And every single one of us has the same capabilities, right? I, for one, have never in my life met a depressed mom whose children did not wake up each morning to days filled with sunshine and lollipops. Everybody I know who had more children than they really wanted deep down, every one of those children turned out absolutely fine and their mother was never resentful for one second!
I also realize that, naturally, by having only one child, that automatically means I am critical of you and everyone else who has more than one. I mean, I definitely think my life is better than yours and it is absolutely my business how many kids someone else has. I mean, if my procreative habits are your business, then the reverse clearly applies. (Of course, that woman with the octuplets, we can all go ahead and pile on there.)
Oh, I see where you're going. That's it. I'd be willing to make those sacrifices and more for my child (children! I mean children!) if I really wanted what was best for her/them. I'm just not a good enough mom. Throw in the fact that I'd still like to work, and that makes me selfish again, I know. Because no one ever has children for selfish reasons. And, frankly, if you are selfish, then the world definitely needs more of you.
I hope we can maintain this close relationship. After all, if I can't somehow follow your advice, my spoiled, lonely, maladjusted daughter is going to need all the help she can get, and I'm sure your perfect children are just the ones to guide her.
I don't know what I'd do without you to educate me about the optimal size for my family, just as you have told me how I should deliver my baby, whether I should find out the sex beforehand, how and for how long I should feed her, what kind of diapers to use and so many more helpful bits of information that clearly you should not only offer an opinion, but pass judgment on.
I know you just want what's best for me. You care like that, which is why you ... oh, yeah, my name's Jeanie. Yours?
This is an original post to Chicago Moms Blog. Jeanie is still trying out this blogging thing, so you can only read her here. She isn't always this angry or sarcastic.