One of the many joys about being on holiday is not only that I get to spend more time with my husband and son but also that I get to spend more time, guilt free, by myself. When my son is at nursery I very rarely allow myself the luxury of sitting in the garden, reading a book or going shopping, it is all laundry, chores and working from home. On holiday however, my husband and I often take it in turns to play with our son in the pool or on the beach so that one of us always gets some downtime and once we have thoroughly exhausted him from dive bombs and swimming, he might even have a nap which means we both get half an hour off at the same time – yay!
Recently on one such occasion when our three year old was comatose after a hectic morning of sun and swimming, I had just eased myself onto the lounger at our villa clutching The Girl on the Train when my husband romantically called out of the upstairs bedroom window – ‘Fancy a sh*g?’ To which I confidently replied ‘No’. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to have an afternoon bonk, nice idea, but actually what I really wanted more than that was time to myself. When you have little hands pawing at you all day and even going for a wee by yourself can be a challenge then the biggest luxury of all is just to be. Silent. Alone. Chilled. My husband took this in good grace and happily had a nap instead and we all three emerged from our ‘me time’ refreshed and ready for an ice cream and some crazy golf.
Doubtless the tables will turn when he is older when perhaps a sibling would mean that they could play by themselves allowing even longer lounger action but at the moment having one child on holiday appears to be an easier gig than having two. Ditto in life in general. So credit where credit is due frankly to all mothers who reproduce more than once. I have never been an Earth Mother, am not crazy about all the noise and mess and am impatient with a busy mind and soft play (as I am sure it is for most parents) is like having needles poked into my eyes. Repeatedly. But we are all different. As people, as women, before we became mothers, we were all different then and so we are all different now. Consequently people parent in completely different ways and as it is the most intense, emotional, personal thing anyone will ever do, everyone understandably has opinions on how everyone else does it and judges it against how they do it.
And arguably the biggest yardstick of all is how many children do you have? In the plural. Always. This is understandable when you are standing with a child right next to you but I really wish it could be re-phrased to ‘Are you a mother’ or ‘Do you have a child’ rather than the automatic expectation of an heir and a spare because to say that you have ‘just the one’ is often received sympathetically or with surprise. It is incorrectly like admitting to failure in some way. It is either assumed rightly or wrongly that there were some reproductive or personal issues or perhaps that you didn’t or don’t enjoy pregnancy or motherhood when it reality, all it really is, is a lifestyle choice. Of course a lot of people won’t like that because aren’t only children lonely and odd and therefore any mother who denies her first born a sibling, selfish and/or lazy? Well, no. No to only children being spoilt weirdos (that theory was disproven yonks ago) and no to mothers of one being bit**s.
My son is loved beyond reason and he knows it. He has friends, we are out and about a lot and he is sociable and secure. Happy Mum, happy child because there really is a lot to celebrate about having an Only. It is still a minority decision (though an increasing one, if it was even a decision at all) with women settling down and procreating later and while we are at it, enough of the fertility time bomb please; you can’t rush who and when you fall in love, some making us all panic!
So for me, having one child works. It really, really does. I simply don’t have the inclination to have another. I wanted to be a Mum. I am. My child is amazing, job done. Life changes beyond measure when you move from being childfree (a much nicer word than childless, no) to a mother but I figure you can retain more of a semblance of life as it was with one, if you so desire. Other advantages in my mind in no particular order are:
1 – You don’t have to worry about having a favourite
2 – You don’t have to spend less time with your firstborn while tending to a newborn
3 – You actually get some decent down time on holiday (see above)
4 – It is easier staying at friend’s houses as they have to find less space for you
5 – There is only one child to wake you up in the night so the chance of a decent night’s kip are 100% to 200% higher than those with 2 or 3 kids
6 – You don’t have to listen to bickering or squabbles and then judge them, probably wrongly
7 – Your child can freely enjoy their time (especially afternoons) without having to race off to do school pick up or drop offs
8 – You don’t have to go backwards to the newborn phase all over again – I shudder when I see someone sterilizing bottles!
9 – You have more time for them and their constant questions
10 – You only have to be responsible for knowing where one child is at any one given time so don’t need eyes in the back of your head
11 – Family are brilliant at helping out and one is more doable for your siblings on top of children they may already have
12 – Man-marking means one man is spare so one parent can chase a lively child around the supermarket aisles while the other one can zoom round pulling stuff off the shelves as fast as possible. Sad but true – an active child makes the simplest task less stressful when a two man job
13 – Girlie weekends away incur less guilt
14 – You don’t have to worry that you love your child so much that there isn’t enough love left for another
15 – Taking a chunk of time away from your career to be at home is just about doable for 4 to 5 years but increasingly harder if you keep on adding on to that