There’s a new sport in which I have unwillingly been participating in for the last 6 years. It’s dirty, it’s mean, and it makes rugby look like a leisurely Sunday stroll. No matter how hard I try, I’m stuck playing for pretty much the rest of my life.
Even if you’re not a parent, you probably know some parents and you know what I’m talking about. The conversations you overhear probably go something like this:
Parent A: “Little Madison was such an easy baby. She started sleeping through the night at 3 months old and could feed herself by the time she was 8 months.”
Parent B: “Really? That’s wonderful. My Ryan was sleeping through the night at 2 weeks, could feed himself at 5 months, and was potty trained at 10 months!”
Parent A: “Yeah, we had some trouble potty training but Madison could read War and Peace by the time she was 2 AND wrote and published a novel at 4.”
It goes on and on and on. It’s painful and unnecessary and I hate it. Yet there are times I feel compelled–against my anti-competition nature–to participate. Then I feel shamed that I even bothered because I understand that my kid does things at her own pace and makes her own progress, and getting her to compete with the progress of others is unfair to do to her (even if she doesn’t know it). I didn’t have a child to win some race or medal.
Some parents clearly use their kids to fulfill some deficiency in their childhood or as a way to feel superior to other parents. It’s sickening, actually. And it extends to everything–academic, social, developmental, and achievement (you know, the “my kids are all-stars in every sport and Eloise is a piano prodigy and Morgan is an accomplished artist” type stuff ) based competitions. It doesn’t stop there. It even extends to moms competing with each other over the NUMBER of kids they have. There seems to be an overall attitude that the more kids you have, you are automatically a better mother. And after working in social services for 10 years, I call bullshit on that. Quantity does not automatically trump quality.
So there’s that.
Competing over the number of kids we have makes me want to tear my hair out because really, who gives a fuck? Yes, mom on the cheer field or soccer field or at the gym or wherever I run into you, you have more kids than I do. I’m happy for you. I really am. You’re a very lucky, blessed woman. But the fact that I only have one does not make me any less lucky or blessed than you. And when you say these things to me, it makes me want to punch you right in the face:
“You’re smart that you only have one.” I really don’t know how my intelligence is any reflection of my reproductive choices. Quite frankly, you don’t know the reasons I have one child and I can assure you, none of them have anything to do with whether or not I’m smart. But if you’re asking and putting me on the spot and making me uncomfortable, maybe I’ll make you uncomfortable and tell you that I have secondary infertility and cannot, in fact, have more children. And even if I had one child by choice, that’s my business and you have zero right to comment on it. Imagine if I told you that having 3 or 4 kids made you stupid. You’d be pissed, right? Same concept.
“Now try doing (fill in the blank) with 3 kids”. I’m sorry, what?! Yes, I acknowledge that not having to split my time between different schools, homework, bedtimes, and activities is easier on my schedule. However, having one kid does not mean that getting places on time, getting homework done, paying for activities or anything else is any easier. I still work. My husband works full-time and part-time. We have no family around to help us when we both have to be somewhere work related and the child needs to be somewhere else while you might have an aunt or uncle to drive your kids in that situation. We don’t get a date night without paying a fortune in a babysitter while you might have grandparents around to provide free babysitting. Certain circumstances don’t change based on the number of kids and guess what, mom of 3? You might just have it easier sometimes.
“She must be so spoiled because she’s an only child”. Fuck you for even thinking that. Having one child may mean that we might have a little more discretionary money to spend on her but you don’t know my financial situation so why even say that? Assuming my child is spoiled is just wrong and also kind of rude. And mean. Because I can assure you that my only child is way less spoiled than a number of children with multiple siblings.
“What do you do all day when she’s in school?” Work. I work. Having one school aged child does not mean I am exempt from all of life’s necessities like money, laundry, cooking, cleaning, or the dozens of other agenda items that need to get ticked off every. Single. Day. Life still goes on even with one child. And what if I homeschooled? Would you still say that to me? No? Then don’t say it now.
And lastly, the nonverbal look of pity because I only have one child. Pay close attention. I am perfectly happy with the way my chips have fallen. This is the way life has turned out for me and I wouldn’t change anything. I don’t need your pity. So take it on down the road.
I can see how, on the surface, life with an only child might seem easier to a mom with more than one. And maybe in some situations it is. But the bottom line is that we’re all mothers. So let’s stop competing and start supporting each other.
P.S. Whether you have one kid or 14, it is NEVER okay for one mom to tell another that having a c-section means that she did not “have” her child.