“I Adore My Baby, But I Don’t Want Another One”

"I Adore My Baby, But I Don't Want Another One"

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by Grazia Author |
Published on

Angela Buttolph had always assumed that having an only child was cruel, but as new statistics reveal that one child families are now the new average, here, she explains why she has changed her mind…

I’m in my local cafe, watching my friend Ann’s 18-month-old twin boys take a break from destroying the place to give each other a sweet little hug. My daughter – the same age and the twins’ best friend – reaches her arms wide and enthusiastically joins in the embrace. But as my friend says, ‘Ahhh!’, I feel a small tweak of heartache, because I know that my daughter is never going to have siblings of her own.

It didn’t take long to realise that my first baby – my wonderful, funny, beautiful little girl – is also going to be my last. Because, after always assuming I’d have the classic 2.4 kids, I’m now choosing to stop at just one. It seems ‘onlies’ are the new 2.4 children anyway. Figures from the Offi ce for National Statistics showed that more than half of British families will have just one child by 2022. The number of single-child families has grown by 12 per cent in the last decade alone.

Two years ago, these stats would have horrifi ed me. How selfi sh are these parents? Don’t they care about their kids being lonely? Is it all just a lifestyle choice so you can keep buying expensive handbags?

Before I became a mother, I used to endlessly nag my brother to produce a sibling for my niece (more babies for me to snuggle). My brother’s answer? ‘Right now, we’re balanced – we still have some semblance of our normal lives. If we have another, everything will be about kids, kids, kids, 24/7.’ See? Selfish.

Then something changed. I had a baby. She’s one and a half now – exactly the age when people start asking endlessly about whether we’re planning a sequel. And the answer is most definitely no.

Let me be clear: I adore my daughter. I mean, just look at her! She’s also sweet and kind and funny and smart. She isn’t difficult or super-naughty. She’s healthy and happy and everything I could have hoped for. So I ask myself, why don’t I want another – especially as I have a brother of my own who I get on well with? Who else totally understands my upbringing, and all the stupid in-jokes?

Well, because I didn’t know how mind-meltingly, back-breakingly lifeinterruptingly tough having a baby is. People tell you that but, naturally, I didn’t believe them. And, God forgive me, I was wrong. Parenting is tough. It’s 24/7. It’s emotional. The stakes are so high, holding in your addled, sleep-deprived brain a list of 1,327 new pieces of information to STOP YOUR BABY DYING (no pressure).

Angela and Mike are happy with their three person family
Angela and Mike are happy with their three person family

At 43, age is a factor, too. My husband Mike is 10 years younger than me but, like a lot of first-time mothers, I’m at a point where, if I want another baby, I’d really need to get on with it. And I’m just not there yet. I can’t help thinking, ‘How much less sleep could I have?’, ‘How much less head space?’, ‘How less often could I wash my hair?’ I already fall into bed at 9pm most nights. What does the next level of exhaustion feel like? Plus, having another at my age carries much higher health risks for myself and for a baby.

Fortunately, my husband echoes my brother’s views on the subject that having a second baby and a bit of time to oneself sometimes would be ‘impossible’. I sense he also feels, as I do, that another baby might not do our relationship any favours. That’s not selfish, that’s survival. Plus, we love our daughter so much that having ‘just her’ hardly feels like a compromise.

Friends have had mixed reactions to our decision. We’ve had lots of good-natured ‘you’ll have another!’ finger-wagging from those with multiple kids. And the very sweet ‘but your daughter is so gorgeous, it’d be a crime not to have another’ – usually from those with none.

Another friend, a mother of two, bluntly told me at a wedding that it would be ‘cruel to leave my daughter alone’. This really hit home. And while friends who are only children tell me they are happy in their own company, can talk to anyone (‘after always being surrounded by adults’) and have carefully cultivated circles of friends as pseudo-siblings, many of them also admit to a dread of dealing with their parents’ deaths on their own. We’ve got life insurance policies and a child pension so that we know our daughter’s financially secure, but I can’t reconcile my worries for her after we’re gone with my dread of bringing up two babies at once.

Photograph by Jonny Cochrane

I try to put a huge amount of energy into giving my daughter everything she needs in terms of attention and care. We read for hours, we have plenty of group activities and play dates. It would be impossible to replicate that with another baby. I’d also have to drop work entirely or go back to work full-time in order to pay someone else to look after her. I’m certainly not wishing this precious time with her away but, with only one child, it won’t be long before nursery beckons and I’ll have the flexibility to resume my former life/ career/friendships – and, who knows, maybe I’ll even get around to writing that novel.

And as we watch friends scrabbling to buy properties with more bedrooms for their growing families, I’m happy to think that we won’t be financially crippling ourselves. Parents spend £9,610 a year feeding, clothing and educating each new member of the family, according to a 2010 report. That’s £201,809 by their 21st birthday. For me, this is about knowing we’ll be able to provide for our child.

We’ll easily have a fund for her to go to university (if she wants to), can take her to see her grandparents in Australia, and won’t be struggling to provide her with sociable experiences in her free time.

My brother finds my U-turn hilarious. But my niece is now a confident, polite, intelligent, kind, funny, interesting, laid-back, creative 13-year-old, so I’ve seen that it’s possible to buck the lonely narcissist only-child stereotype. One only-child friend complains that, if anything, her parents were extra-strict to stop her turning into a brat. There are studies that show that onlies can feel more pressure to achieve, partly because their parents have just one chance at being good parents. But my husband and I are hardly Tiger Parent material.

Best of all, it seems it could even be better for our daughter to grow up without siblings. The University of Texas’s Population Research Center studied only children in the US and China for more than 30 years and found that, if anything, only children have an advantage when it comes to self-esteem, motivation and academic achievement. Or as one (siblinged) friend points out, ‘Some of the coolest people I know were only children.’

Of course, I can understand that people will think I’m being selfish – I used to agree. But I feel like I’m making the right decision for our little family. This way, our daughter will grow up happier, with the full attention of happier, lessstressed parents. Wish us luck!

Do you think it’s cruel to have an only child? Let us know at feedback@graziamagazine or by tweeting us @Grazia_Live

Family image courtesy of www.kelibrown.com

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