Explaining an Only Child: When You Are One and Done



Everett turns two in October. We know he will be an only child. We are one and done. While not a unique occurrence in 2016, being an only child does come with benefits and drawbacks—and raised eyebrows from others. 

  • I worry that one day he’ll ask us why he doesn’t have brothers and sisters.
  • I’m scared we will leave to him the burden of taking care of us in our old age.
  • But I also celebrate the fact that we’ll never have to choose another child’s soccer game over his.

Still, being a mom to an only child comes with a barrage of questions, such as “Why just one”?

I know we are not alone. Research shows that families are indeed shrinking, despite the popularity of the ever-expanding Duggar clan. Danielle Paquette of the Washington Post explores this in a recent article, “Why American women are having fewer babies than ever.”

Some reasons for the drop:

  • Women are waiting longer to have their first child. (I had Everett at 40, for example, after 11 years of marriage).
  • The availability of birth control, the stagnant economy, and the increasing cost of child care are other reasons.
  • Still other women are concerned about the effects of the population on climate change, and the lack of paid family leave.

Many people say money should not be a reason to limit the size of your family; you’ll never have enough. Others say you might end up with a spoiled child if you stop at one. Still others say you are “selfish” for denying your child the opportunity to become a sibling.

If you’re curious to learn how much it costs to raise a child, check out the latest figures from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Most of us didn’t think about the quarter-million-dollar bill for the first one. Add the cost of college to that figure and you might wonder why anyone has one child. It’s time to start playing the lottery very seriously.

But beforeonly_child_text you ask a fellow mom why she isn’t having any more children, consider the variety of reasons that might be in play.

  • She started her family later. As the age of first pregnancy increases, so does a family’s ability to pay a mortgage and save for college and retirement at the same time. While Hollywood stars are carrying babies well into their 40’s and seem to still live in mansions, that’s not the reality most of us live in.
  • She had a tough time getting pregnant in the first place. Age and infertility often go together, but sometimes they do not. Women can pay up to $30,000 for a chance that sperm and egg will connect and result in a live birth. Often it’s not affordable to go through more than one IVF cycle for those who do not have premiere insurance coverage.
  • She had a really rough pregnancy. Some women experience morning sickness; or worse, gestational diabetes. They don’t want to risk their health again.
  • She had a horrific childbirth experience. Two years later, I can still feel the pain. My body has still not completely healed and the thought of going through childbirth again makes me cringe.  
  • She has a child with special needs. Special needs can run the gamut from major physical and developmental disabilities to a child with high emotional needs who needs undivided attention.

Sometimes it is about her needs; and that’s for none of us to judge.

  • She loves her career. Many women love working, and having additional children does not allow them to break the glass ceiling without a ton of outside support. As gender roles evolve, more and more women are the family “breadwinners.” They simply cannot take time out for pregnancy, recovery, and the activities that go along with being a parent to several children. Not to say that you can’t have more than one child and balance family and career, but it is harder.
  • She loves her hobbies. Not every woman finds her passion in the walls of her office. For some women, running, biking, crafting, singing, and/or playing music provide that extra spark in life that they need to soldier on. Having additional children would limit the time she is able to spend pursuing her own passions.
  • She just knows her family is complete. Call it a gut instinct, but most of us know our limits and our capacity to love and nurture. When my pet count once climbed to three cats, I felt overwhelmed. (I am in no way suggesting cats should be compared to children, of course!) Still, two years later, I am amazed by my toddler’s growth and feel like I don’t have enough quality time with him. Adding another child to our lives would tip the balance. 

Because we are “one and done,” I know I will both celebrate and mourn each milestone. After all, I will never have the chance to watch an infant grow up to be a toddler again. It sometimes makes me sad, but deep down, I know we are making the right decision.


  1. It’s taken 6 years for me to be ok with just having one. Due to infertility, the choice was taken out of my hands. We will make sure he is close to his cousins, friends and other family. We will get insurance that will ensure he isn’t having to take care of us in our old age. We are doing what we can to make sure he isn’t “spoiled”. He loves our attention and has never asked for a sibling. I’m growing my business and we are able to do more than if we had more children. I would have loved another but am so enjoying the one we have. No one dares ask why we don’t give him a sibling!? Only you guys know what is best for your family, everyone is different. You’re doing great!

    • Cousins are a great blessing for sure! Everett is lucky to have a cousin only seven weeks his junior, although that cousin lives five hours away. Good idea on the insurance coverage – LOL. I think kids are pretty resilient, and thankfully, most get involved with sports and other activities so it feels like they are around other kids a lot. Good luck on your new business! Very exciting for moms to pursue their passions. Thank you again for your comment, Kristina!

  2. Another great article for mothers who feel they may be the “only one” with this concern. I have met many “only” children and most of them were very happy with their status. These children will form other loving relationships outside their family and and grow up to be well adjusted.

  3. I am an only child. I find the stigma of being an “only child” disturbing. No, I am not spoiled. Yes, as a child it was harder to learn to share because I really didn’t need to. But, I had friends and that is how you learn.

    Friends can become your family. My best friends are like family to me.

    Yes, being “burdened” by being the only one to care for or make decisions for an ailing parent is difficult. I had my husband and friends to lean on. And no siblings to quarrel with over the decisions, like another friend did.

    Having more than one child will not guarantee that the siblings will get along or be friends as adults. It’s okay.

    To parents of only children, you don’t owe anyone an explanation for your choice anymore than a parent of four owes an explanation for their choice.
    Love your child and enjoy the ride. He or she will be fine.

  4. Another great one Krysten! You hit so many good points. As the Mom of two children only 17 months apart, I was still asked if I was having more by mere acquaintances. Never mind that it was rude to ask, but my second pregnancy left me with permanent nerve damage in my dominant arm after 3 surgeries (carpal tunnel started at 8 weeks pregnant) and prodromal labor, meaning when I went into labor with #2 at 33 weeks and it had to be stopped by drugs, #3 would try to come earlier. Too big a risk. And, more importantly, not anyone’s business. People mean well, but a woman shouldn’t have to explain. No one asks the men! ?

    • Thanks for reading, Nicole, and thank you for your comment. Childbirth is no walk in the park, that’s for sure. Interesting that people always ask if you will have more, even if you have more than one child.

  5. I don’t feel the need to explain anything. Everyone makes their choices based on the opportunities given to them. We need to stop judging others based on our own realities, assuming that everyone’s is the same.

    • Agree, Amy. Everyone’s personal, financial, emotional, and familial needs are different. Thank you for your comment!

  6. Thank you. After an easy pregnancy we were hit with multiple surgeries and infertility and then a total hysterectomy. I get “you are so great with kids, why don’t you have more? You should really have a bigger family. Just adopt” all the time. I feel like I relive the grief of not having more children every time I get these questions. We are not ready to adopt bc our family isn’t ready for that and the possibility of it not working out. Thank you for writing this.

  7. I am an only child, and I have only one child. The biggest drawback for me, and I’m seeing it in my daughter, is not having another child around to play with as often as she likes. I try to get her around other kids as much as I can, but she still suffers from loneliness quite a bit.

  8. We are one and done for a few reasons. The older my son gets the more I find women similar in age that are done at one as well. The cost of childcare even in my neck of the woods is outrageous, plus the school system has deteriorated so badly we decided we will put our son in private school. We wouldn’t be able to afford it with another kid. The US is lacking severely in the childbearing and care department and really needs to improve, otherwise women will no longer have kids. Pretty soon our population just may start decreasing. I don’t see this getting better any time soon sadly.

  9. I love this post! Im almost 39 and have one almost 4 year old daughter. We did try for more but it didn’t work out (twice). We also experienced the loss of my father in the last year which was a huge blow. I feel tired and overwhelmed and don’t want to take more on at this poIsn’t and feel ready to move on in order to be more fully present in enjoying our one incredible daughter…thus probably no more kids. I’m getting better with answering the “do you have any other kids” question and feeling confident in just saying “nope!” and not feeling like I have to explain myself. Something I’ve realized just lately is that having only one child makes it a little easier for us to lend a hand to other families by offering to have one or more of their kids over to play and to give them a break. It’s a win win because our daughter gets a playmate and those parents get a little rest. There will always be pros and cons, but I’m going to choose to focus on the pros in light of our particular life situation!

    • Thanks, Susan, for your comment. My father-in-law passed just days before we found out we were expecting our one. Sorry for your loss. It is a great feeling to be engaged with your child and fully present in the moment with them. Thank you for your comment and for reading. Much love to your daughter!

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